When Moses and the Israelites were wandering the wilderness, they faced the judgment of God for grumbling. The Lord once sent fiery serpents into the camp to bite the rebels. But, the Lord also provided a solution to the problem. He commanded Moses to craft a bronze serpent, set it on a pole, and command the people to look at it to be healed. Jesus later used that imagery to help us understand the concept of salvation by grace through faith in him.
Once the serpent problem was over, however, the people of Israel did not get rid of the bronze serpent. Instead, they continued to keep it with them. Eventually, the people actually began to dishonor the Lord and use the snake to do so.
We find out about how messed up this all was when we read about the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah in 2 Kings 18:3-4 – 3 And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. 4 He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).
Hezekiah had to destroy the bronze serpent, because—get this—the people had begun to worship it as an idol. A simple thing that the Lord used to call the people to turn from their sin and trust in him became, in the hands of sinful men, a tool for disobeying the very first of God’s commandments.
We should remember that this is human nature. Sin is often the taking of a good thing that God has given us and then twisting or perverting it to make it into something that brings upon us the wrath of God. People do this in just about every area of life. It can be done with food or drink, marriage and sexuality, denominations and organizations.
So, as your day moves forward, ask yourself where you might be tempted to take a good thing that the Lord has allowed you and twist it into something that dishonors the Lord. Where are you holding onto a thing that was a tool and making it something it was never intended to be? Where are you bowing to a creation rather than the Creator?
I think I have to give some examples for this to work, though I am hesitant, because often we hear examples, do not hear our particular thing, and then excuse our sin because the preacher did not mention us specifically. Please do not do that.
How about family or children? Children are good, a gift from God. But what happens when a parent makes an idol of the little ones? Can you not see how a parent might take a good gift from God and then allow that gift from God to usurp the place of God in their life? This is dangerous.
How about an organization. There are some great ministries out there. Many of them have been useful to the church in years past as they have been solid voices for the word of God. Many have brought solid, biblical teaching to places that individual churches may never get to go. But, what happens when those ministries become enamored with their own success? What happens when they take on issues that are not gospel issues? What happens when they start doing things to make the organization look good more than to make Jesus be glorified?
Friends, may we be careful to keep the Lord and his word primary in all that we do. May we never take a good gift from him and elevate it to a place where we dishonor him with the gift he has given us. May we not make an idol out of a tool from the Lord.