My Snake Handling Sermon

July 26, 2012, 0 Comments

Yesterday I had the opportunity to preach during the chapel service at LifeWay Christian Resources. Having worked here over the last few years, I was honored and a bit intimidated to do so. The people at LifeWay are gracious and godly. And, they know the Bible well. I thought I would share with you the salient points from the message in the hopes that it might be helpful to some.

I spoke about the bronze serpent in Numbers 21:4-9. Now, Marty Duren calls this my “snake-handling sermon.”

The passage tells of the Israelites complaining, God’s judgment and their plea to Moses for intercession (again). I made these three points:

1. Impatience: Our impatience often births our rebellion.

2. Rebellion: Our sin never occurs in a relational vacuum.

3. Methods: God’s methods of ministry are often unexpected.

Then, I asked everyone to turn over to 2 Kings 18:1-4. In this passage, we are about seven hundred years into the future for the Israelites and Hezekiah has become the king. In doing what is right in the sight of God, he tears down the heathen places of worship and sacrifice. In doing so, he destroys the bronze serpent Moses made in Numbers 21.

Why would King Hezekiah destroy such an important historical artifact from Israel’s history? Because the people were worshiping it. The people of God had begun to worship the method of God rather than the God of the method. Sound familiar? It does to me, which is why I made a final point.

4. Idolatry: The tools God uses for ministry in one generation often become idols in the next generation.

In the end, Hezekiah sarcastically referred to the idol as Nehushtan – which now makes him one of my favorite figures in the Bible. The word “Nehushtan” simply means “a bronze thing.” He wanted to drive home the point that there was no more to this object than its base parts. It was just the tool in the hands of God, not something to be venerated. It was only a thing.

My challenge is to identify the Nehushtan that is in the way of God working today. Have I held on to a method, style, program, or ministry from the past that God is no longer using? We find comfort in methods because they are a way to control circumstances. So, what is the Neshushtan in your life, church, or ministry that needs to be cast aside so you can embrace what God is doing now?

I’ll leave with a few of the other statements that I hope might provoke some thinking in your life today.

Idolatry is our attempt to domesticate deity.

We don’t have a problem with the Golden Calf. Our problem is the Bronze Serpent.

The unexpected nature of God’s methods reaches its pinnacle in us, the church.

Zealous leaders destroy what stands between the people and God.

In Christ, God uses execution to kill death.

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