Breaking Up Old Snakes (2 Kings 18:1-5)

2 Kings 18:1-5

1Now it came about in the third year of Hoshea, the son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah became king. 2He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. 3He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. 4He 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. 5He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.

Today, I listened to a solid message presented by Dr. Chad Brand, professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary. Dr. Brand taught from 2 Kings 18, an obscure text where Hezekiah destroyed the bronze serpent that Moses made in Numbers 21. Back when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, God sent snakes into their camp as a judgment for their rebellion. God also showed grace by allowing Moses to craft a bronze snake upon which the people could simply look and be healed by God. Seven hundred years later, Hezekiah destroyed the bronze serpent because the people of Judah had begun to worship it, as though it had the power instead of the God who commanded Moses to make it..

Dr. Brand rightly pointed out that there is a great danger when we confuse the form of power with the source of power. There is a great danger when we begin to believe that the power of God is captured inside a particular tool or strategy. We need to remember that no program, strategy, or style is the particular thing that has the power. God has the power. He uses all sorts of different tools to accomplish his will. We need to seek him, and not to give into the temptation to look to an old tool as if it was what made the difference.

To think of this practically, imagine a church that grew greatly during a series of revival meetings in 1985. Today, that church is struggling, and the members want to see God do a work like he did back then. If they look back to 1985, remember the joy and glory of that time, and let that encourage them for the present and future, that is a good thing. However, if they look back at 1985, and think that the way to have the same experience is to repeat the exact same program steps, bring in the same speaker, have him preach the same messages, use the same music, etc, they have missed the point entirely. It was God who brought revival, not the speaker, not the musicians, not the “revival” meetings. It is time for this church to stop living for 1985, and to start living for today. It is time to let 1985 encourage them to seek God anew, and to have the confidence that he will meet with them again, but perhaps in a different way than he did in 1985.

Now, none of this is to say that we turn away from the things that God has made clear. For example, the Bible is not an empty tool like a bronze snake or a particular program. The Bible is the inspired revelation of God. It is central to everything we do. The preaching of the word with boldness, honesty, and passion is vital to the ministry of the church in all generations. The same can be said for prayer, worship, and Christian love and service. These are not programs, and we always turn to them. So, let us turn to them today, and not live our Christian lives focused on trying to recapture a moment from the past, but instead, let us live for a fresh encounter with our God.

To download and listen to Dr. Brand’s message, as well as many other great messages from Southern Seminary’s chapel services, click here.