The traditional symbol of the medical profession, the serpent on a pole, is commonly known as the staff of Asklepios. This was the name of a Greek physician of the eighth or ninth century BC. And it involved one of the most anomalous events in the Bible. Yet the roots of the serpent and pole symbol go back farther, to the Exodus from Egypt around 1200 BC. When the children of Israel were plagued with venomous snakes, Moses was instructed to “……. “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard (pole); and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live (Num. 21:8, 9).”
What happened to the brass serpent after this incident? The Bible tells us how the Jews in the eighth century BCE – a half millennium later – were burning incense to it in the Jerusalem Temple. Finally, King Hezekiah “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord … and broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made.
2 Kings 18:3-5 “He (Hezekiah) removed the high places (pagan worship sites) and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah (female deity). 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.. He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel…… For he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him…”
This serves as proof of just how easily such images indeed lent themselves to idol worship.
THEY BEGAN TO WORSHIP A THING
I found it very interesting that the name given to the serpent on a pole was Nehushtan, which means “A thing (object) of brass.”
We need to remember that God can use anything He wishes to accomplish his purpose here on earth. When Moses was commissioned to confront the mighty Pharaoh, King of Egypt, Moses sheepishly says (paraphrased) “Ahh, what if they don’t believe that You sent me?” Then God must have looked around and asked, “What is it that you are holding in your hand?” Can you imagine Moses replying “Ahh, it’s a rod , Lord (which was no more than an old dried out, crooked stick that was found on the wayside), why?” And my friend the rest is history (read Exodus 4).
In like manner we are told in Num 22, that when Balaam the hard headed, wayward Prophet became so insensitive to the voice of God that the Holy Spirit had to literally use a donkey to speak a message of warning to him.
May we be careful to never fall into that old trap of exalting a person, place or thing above Almighty God. Holy Scripture reminds us of the gullibility of our humanity in Romans 1:25 “For they exchanged (very bad trade – writers insert) the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen.”
God presents us with this challenging question, “To whom will you liken Me. And make Me equal and compare Me, That we would be alike (Isaiah 46:5)?” My personal response would have to be, absolutely nothing can compare with Him who has all power.
For it’s because of His divine spiritual intervention, that we have our places of worship, our recovery meetings, and even our hospitals. God has created these sanctuaries for His beloved children and I am so grateful for them, for they have brought me and countless others so much healing. But without God breathing life into these things, they would become like a lifeless corpse needing to be buried.
When it all comes down my friends and the dust settles, no-thing can compare with Him, who is our Heavenly Father, Savior, Friend, Provider, Righteous Judge, the Bread of life, and the Lover of my soul. You see I still can remember the insanity of when my life had spun out of control and when on my medical chart I read the words chronic heroin addict, and as a young man the Judge telling me ” I feel sorry for you, cause in all my years on the bench, I’ve not seen many people escape the merciless grip of drug addiction.” Those words became engraved in my mind and I began to believe that this undignified life style was my destiny.
But God had another plan (read Jeremiah 29:11 – God’s speaking to you!). It was after years of torment and falling to the lowest point of my life that all Merciful God heard my cry and showered me with His Amazing Grace.
AT THE RIGHT TIME
The Bible tells us this “While we were still helpless (entirely ineffective), at the right (proper) time Christ (Messiah) died for the ungodly (destitute of reverential awe towards God – Rom. 5:6).” Yes it was at the right time that God opened my eyes to see that in Him I (we) live and move and have our being (fulfillment) and that He loved me unconditionally. In fact His Love for you and I is so great that He sent His only begotten (one of a kind) Son, Jesus Christ, to die as the substitute for us, thus giving each of us the promise of eternal (if we claim it for ourselves) life.
Remember the serpent on the pole? Look what Jesus Himself says about that subject. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up (i.e., crucified on a cross); so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life (John 3:14,15).”
Beloved, are you ready to let go of all your things and step into your God created destiny? Some may ask, “What must I do?” Well we are told of man, a prison jailer who asked the same question, “…Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe (trust, have confidence) in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household (Acts 16:30, 31).”
Now, may the Lord bless you in all you do and thank you for allowing me to share my experience, strength and hope with you all.