By Henry Mahan
2 Kings 18:1-8
King Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he began to reign over Judah. He reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem.
Compared to that of his father, Ahaz, and others, his was a good reign.
v. 3. 'He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his ancestor David did.'
v. 5. 'He trusted in the Lord God of Israel.' None of the kings of Judah, before nor after him, reigned so well.
vv. 6-7. 'He clave to the Lord and kept his commandments, and the Lord was with him and prospered him.'
In this account of the good reign of Hezekiah, one verse stands out above all the rest and demands our special attention. Verse 4 declares that 'Hezekiah removed the high places, and brake the statues, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made.' The Jews say that he ground the brazen serpent to powder and scattered it to every wind, that there might be no remains of it!
In those days 'the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, married heathens, and worshipped their gods, serving Balaam and the groves' (Judges 3:7). The high places were temples and shrines built on mountains for idol worship. The statues were, like the golden calf, idol gods. The groves were wooded areas dedicated to idolatry, where altars were erected to gods. Jupiter was worshipped in a grove of oaks and Apollo in a grove of laurels. Hezekiah destroyed all of these high places, groves, and statues, something his father and other kings of Judah had not dared to do. But he also utterly destroyed the brazen serpent which Moses had made in the wilderness (Num. 21: 5-8). The Israelites had brought this serpent into the land of Canaan; and, being made by Moses, they imagined it might be of some service to them toward God.
Some say they did not worship it but only burned incense to it and used it in religious activities. Hezekiah knew they were ensnared by this memorial and even drawn into idolatry by it- so he destroyed the serpent, calling it 'nehushtan, a worthless piece of brass.'
I can understand a person's interest in that brazen serpent. It would be extremely interesting to see the serpent which Moses made and lifted up. Our God used that serpent as a type of the crucified Redeemer (the Lord Jesus, himself, referred to it) and on that occasion healed all who looked to it. It would be interesting to see the rod of Moses, the tables of the law, the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, and the smitten rock. But interesting is all--certainly not inspirational, nor edifying, nor of any spiritual value, nor of any consequence where our relationship with God is concerned. In the worship of God, Christ is all (John 14:6; 1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:12-20; Col. 2:9-10).
Believers believe, love, and worship God in spirit, not in form, rituals, nor with visual aids. They rejoice only in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3). True believers have no superstitions regarding days, hallowed places, religious relics, symbols and signs, nor ancestors (Phil. 3: 4-10) . Christ is our sabbath, our sin offering, our High Priest, our altar, our mediator, our prophet, priest, and king. By his blood we ourselves are made kings and priests to our God. We bow before no man, make pilgrimages to no place on earth (our God is everywhere) , carry no religious symbols, and place no merit whatsoever in religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter.
The Lord had given his church two ordinances to observe until he returns--baptism and the Lord's table. In baptism believers confess faith in Christ alone and identify publicly with him in his death, burial, and resurrection. In observing the Lord's table with the simple elements of bread and wine, we show forth his death until he comes.
I am confident that the religious, superstitious Israelites were shocked when King Hezekiah destroyed the brazen serpent which Moses had made, called it a 'piece of brass,' and declared it to be of no value in the worship of God. But if we could find the actual cross on which Christ died, it would serve no purpose and must be called a 'piece of wood.' The grave in which Christ lay is but a 'hole in the ground, ' and the winding sheet in which he was wrapped is but a 'piece of cloth.' Idolatry is such a subtle thing of Satan and must be avoided at all cost.
God is a jealous God and will not share his glory nor the worship and affection of his people. We trust, rest in, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and abhor any effort to rob him of his preeminence. The lands around Jerusalem may be called 'Bible lands' or whatever, but certainly not 'Holy Land.' Let us be done with crosses, religious-pictures of our Lord, shrines, and uniforms of religion; and let us worship God in spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in this flesh. Christ, by his perfect obedience, has imputed unto us a perfect righteousness; and by his death we have the atonement. We are accepted in the Beloved. Nothing needs to be added to his person and work to bring us to God!