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I have always loved the Old Testament. Maybe it is the stories of how God constantly reaches out to mankind, or the great miracles to prove to the world that God is who he says he is, that inspire and encourage me.

I also like the stories about the men and women who were faithful to God when it would have been easier to go along with the crowd. One such story is found in 2 Kings when the young king Hezekiah decides to put his nation back on the straight and narrow path. He knew that before his nation could experience revival, certain things needed to be removed from their lives.

2 King 18: 4 says: “He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.”

The bronze serpent that is mentioned in this Scripture goes all the way back to the time of Moses as recorded in Numbers 21. The Bible tells us the people were complaining about everything, even the food.

God sent snakes that bit the people and people repented of their sin. God instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent, place it on a pole and to tell the people to look up to it to be spared. It worked. To say the least, the bronze serpent was a good thing, and the people were grateful to God for his forgiveness. When the crisis was over, the people took down the serpent and kept it as a reminder of looking up to God for forgiveness.

Approximately 700 years had passed from the time of Moses to Hezekiah and the bronze serpent was still around. As a matter of fact, it had been placed in front of the temple in Jerusalem for people to see and remember what had happened back in the wilderness. But something strange happened when the people walked by and looked at the bronze serpent.

Instead of praising God for his forgiveness and seeing the serpent as a tool, people started to worship the serpent. Yes sir, a good snake had gotten a bad name. Something that had been intended for good for the people had been turned into something bad and misleading. A tool to help people had turned into an idol for people to worship.

I believe there is a lesson in this story for us. In our lives God places tools to help us worship and know him better. The tool can be a building, a chair, a room, a pew, a person, etc…, anything to help us in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Sometimes the tool can be a tradition, and before you know it, the tradition becomes what is important instead of honoring God. The tool starts out good and is useful to the individual, but then something happens and the tool is changed into the object of worship. This process doesn’t take place overnight; it can take years before the tool is transformed into an idol.

Have you ever seen a good snake gone bad in your life? Have you ever let a tradition or a tool take priority over what the tradition or tool was supposed to honor? If you have, do what Hezekiah did, and remove the object that has taken the place of God. Hezekiah did something else to remind the people about the actual value of the brass serpent. He called it a “Nehushtan,” meaning a “mere piece of brass.”

The people had taken a mere brass object and made it into something divine. Hezekiah destroyed the serpent and told the people to get a grip, its only brass.

These are the first steps to renewal, and making sure that a good snake stays good. Remember, don’t give in to sin. Think about it.

Vince Hefner is pastor of First Baptist Church in Cherryville.

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