By George Kirkpatrick
Vital Words to the Body of Christ
Proclaiming the Everlasting Gospel of the Kingdom
Vital Words to the Body of Christ
Freely We Have Received, Freely We Give
"Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer." I Corinthians 10:9-10
Paul wrote that we should not tempt Christ (the Holy Spirit) as Israel tempted Christ in the wilderness and were destroyed by serpents. Nor should we murmur as they murmured and were destroyed by the destroyer, the serpent. They allowed satan to enter into their midst and God had to bring judgment.
Paul went on to say that these things happened to Israel for an example to us upon whom the ends of the world have come, I Corinthians 10:11.
Israel, being delivered from Egypt, is an example of our walk in God. Egypt is a type of the world. As Israel was delivered from Egypt, so will we be delivered from the sins of the world. We will be delivered from the powers of darkness as we begin to walk in the light. As we walk toward our promise land, the Kingdom of God, we will encounter many of the same set-backs Israel encountered in their walk to their promise land.
All those who walked in unbelief died in their wilderness experience. These examples are for our admonition. The word admonition is the Greek word NOUTHESIA and means "training by word." This training can be by encouragement, reproof, or by objective learning. Paul used the instance of Israel being destroyed by the serpents in the wilderness as an example of objective learning to teach us how we should walk in this time, as we stand in the end-times of this world.
In Numbers, chapter 21 we are informed that Israel faced a great enemy in the wilderness, King Arad, the Canaanite. Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord and said,
". . . if thou wilt indeed deliver this people (Canaanites) into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities," Numbers 21:2.
God heard their voice and wrought a great victory for Israel. After this great victory, Israel continued their journey toward the Red Sea to compass the land of Edom. As they journeyed, they became discouraged because their way was hard. Many times we face a difficult path or hard decisions. We become discouraged. As Israel, we begin to murmur against God.
"And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread, And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died." Numbers 21:5-6
When things did not go their way, Israel began to murmur and complain against God and the leadership that God had set. They complained because they were not being taken care of in the way they wanted to be taken care of. Israel spoke against God and against Moses saying that their soul loathed this light bread. The light bread was the bread they made from the manna that God supernaturally supplied every morning, except the Sabbath. Without the manna, Israel would have had no bread.
As many do today, Israel acted as spoiled children. When things did not go their way, they got angry with God and began to pout about their circumstances. They stated that their soul loathed the light bread. The word loatheth is GUS and means "a deep, emotional reaction of repulsion." The light bread had become repulsive to their souls, their innermost being. It went beyond the fact that it tasted different, or that it was of a different texture than the bread they had been used to. What did Jesus say about the manna in the wilderness?
"Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat." John 6:31
The multitude who followed Jesus wanted to see a sign. They reminded Jesus of the manna in the wilderness, calling this bread the bread from heaven. Jesus answered and said,
". . . Moses gave you not that bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world." Then Jesus said, "I am that bread of life," John 6:32-33 and 48.
The bread that came down from heaven was Jesus. When Israel partook of this bread, their soul loathed it. When we come into rebellion and disobedience before God, our soul (our fleshly man) loathes the things of God. We would rather that God `bug off' and leave us alone.
So Israel walked in this same place where we may have walked in times past, or may be walking in today. One thing we can be sure of: God must - - - and will always - - - judge disobedience and rebellion. Israel is our example.
"And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died." Numbers 21:6
God wrought a great judgment against Israel by sending fiery serpents to bite Israel in the wilderness; where there were neither hospitals nor poison control centers. The word fiery means "poisonous." The fire occurred when the snake injected its poison, causing a tremendous burning sensation. When the venomous snakes bit the people they died. God's judgment was harsh.
Many times, when we speak against God, His leadership or His supply, we believe that God will understand. He knows we are just having a bad day and that He will wink at our disobedience and rebellion. These are the times we need to remember that Paul wrote these things for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world have come, I Corinthians 10:11. The people came before Moses and confessed their sin.
"Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that He take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people." Numbers 21:7
When Israel repented, Moses prayed for them. Moses was a priest before God, an intercessor for the people. God told Moses to make a fiery serpent and put it on a pole. When the people were bitten, if they would look upon the fiery serpent, they would live. Jesus used this example to foretell his death on the cross.
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:14-15
This goes beyond the actual event of His death on the cross. The cross is our example of life. Many view the cross as a symbol of death. It is our symbol of life. Praise God! All who looked upon the fiery serpent lived. All who accept the finished work of the cross, live.
"And I, (Jesus) if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me," John 12:32
Jesus stated, "I will draw. . .". Many well-meaning people are trying to push, coax, beg, bribe, threaten, scare, and coerce people to Jesus. All man needs to do is to lift Jesus up and point the people to the cross, and Jesus will draw them unto Himself. Paul stated:
"For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified," I Corinthians 2:2
As long as our eyes are upon Christ Jesus, we shall live.
As we examine the Scriptures, we discover this same serpent on a pole in the book of II Kings, when Hoshea, Son of Elah, was King of Israel. This was approximately 681 years after Moses had made the serpent in the wilderness. The writer of II Kings tells us Hezekiah, King of Judah, began to destroy the idols out of Judah.
"He removed the high places, and brake the images. . ." II Kings 18:4
We are told that he broke in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made, because the children of Israel were burning incense to it. And he called it, Nehushtan. The name Nehushtan means "a piece of brass." Brass is the symbol of sin. This serpent had become sin in the lives of Israel. They were burning incense unto their Nehushtan. They had made a God out of a serpent on a pole. They were bowing down and offering up prayers and praise (incense) before this dumb idol. People make gods out of things they deem holy. When Paul wrote to the church at Rome, he related that they served and worshiped the creature more than the Creator, Romans 1:25.
The murmurers and complainers of Israel began worshiping the serpent on the pole. They knew that God said they would not die because of their sin, if they looked upon this serpent. Israel worshiped the creature (the brass serpent) more than the creator (God).
We sigh a sigh of relief and say "Thank God we do not worship idols and have not made idols unto ourselves. We have no Nehushtans in our lives." Maybe, just maybe, we should look around to be sure we have not made any Nehushtans in our lives. Have we taken the things of God and made them an object of worship that would be idolatrous in the sight of God? Shall we look at our list of religious objects to see if we have made Nehushtans out of any of them?
One of the biggest Nehushtans God's people have made is their church building. Many do not go to church because of the message they hear. It is not the fellowship, because generally there is no time to fellowship. They still continue to go to that building. Even though the message might have changed drastically, they continue to attend, proclaiming "This is my church."
This is true of both the denominational structures and non-denominational structures. They worship the structure more than they do God. When there is a split because of disagreement over doctrine, and a new structure begins, they label the new work with the same label the old denomination had; promulgating the old order of precepts and doctrines of men.
Many believe a building, or organization, to be the church. The building, no matter how palatial, is only four walls and a roof to keep the elements away from the church that meets inside. Our allegiance is to be to Christ. It is not to the church building and organizations which have become a bastion of separation and a stumbling block for the people in their search for God and His true worship.
We need to take a good look at this Nehushtan idol and ask: "Am I being pointed toward Christ, or am I being pointed toward man's system?" The building we meet in should serve one purpose; a place to which we can come to be taught to worship God.
There are other objects that have become Nehushtans in the religious system. The cross, itself, has become a Nehushtan. God's people worship the cross more than they worship their God who died on the cross. The cross has become "their sign" to the other people that they worship the God of the cross. We were never told that we would be known by the sign of the cross. God told Moses that the people were to look upon the brazen serpent, not the pole.
How are we to recognize those who are walking with God? Not because they have a cross around their neck; but it is by the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, Galatians 5:22-23. It is by these fruit, we are to recognize our brothers and sisters in Christ. Unfortunately, many must see the cross. It must be on the building. If the cross is not on the building, how do we know it is a Christian building? The Bible says, "The Spirit knows the Spirit." It makes no difference how many crosses or religious symbols the church displays, if the Spirit of Christ is not there, it is not Christian. The same is true of the people on the inside of the building. If Christ is not dwelling in them, they are not Christian, no matter how many religious symbols they display. Many will say, "You are judging." I am judging by the Word.
". . . if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His," Romans 8:9.
Those who have not the Spirit of Christ can worship as much of the Nehushtan idolatrous system as they desire, but it is not acceptable before the Father. Any idolatrous act of man is rejected by God. If it is the cross that has become an idol, then it is an abomination to God.
Many believe that being crucified on the cross was created only for Jesus, but crucifixion was used by the Romans for hundreds of years. Thousands died by this form of capital punishment. Without the Spiritual awakening of what the cross means in our lives, it would only appear as a cruel, inhumane, sadistic form of death. Jesus went to the cross to fulfill the Scriptures. His death on the cross was foreordained by God before He laid the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8.
This was God's plan to renew His relationship with His creation so He could grant mankind eternal life in Him. This was only possible through the cross. We must realize the eternal truth of the cross. We must know that the work that Jesus accomplished on the cross was to bring us into a Spiritual relationship with God that had been lost in the Garden of Eden. Hallelujah!
God never intended that His people should worship the cross, but to praise God for the work that was accomplished on the cross. Nevertheless, many of His people have made the cross their Nehushtan.
Those who desire to hang on to the cross need to `look up'! It is empty! The purpose of the cross is fulfilled in our lives; forgiveness of sin is fulfilled, and the work to be accomplished at baptism is fulfilled when we are baptized. There is a work that goes beyond the cross. It is the cloven tongue baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who brings forth the fruits of righteousness in us. It is by and through the Holy Spirit that we will stand complete before our God, without spot or wrinkle.
We must remember that the cross did not change Jesus. Jesus changed the cross. That, which was only a picture of ugly death, became the object of our glorious eternal life. Hallelujah!
Many other religious relics have become Nehushtans in people's lives; the dove, the fish hook, and the fish are only a few. But one of the most outstanding Nehushtans is the mustard seed encased in plastic. Necklaces, bracelets, and brooches were made from this supposed symbol of faith.
Jesus said that if we had faith as a grain of mustard seed, we could move mountains and cause the sycamine tree to be cast into the sea, Matthew 17:20 and Luke 17:6. Jesus used the mustard seed to demonstrate how our faith should be. Many encase their faith in hard plastic and hang it around their neck. This is certainly not what Jesus said to do with our faith. Jesus stated that the kingdom of God was like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and cast into his garden, and it grew into a large tree and the birds lodged in the branches of it, Luke 13:19.
This is our example of using our faith that it may grow and become great in the sight of God, instead of wearing our faith as a symbol. When we incase our faith with plastic, pride, or unbelief, it can not take root and grow. It will never be allowed to sprout and become that beautiful tree that God desires to see in each of our lives. We need to release our faith into fertile soil and let it grow.
Our lives should be our example. If we have to wear symbols for people to know we are a Christian, we probably are not. Our quiet, simple approach to life should be our witness, not religious symbols that do nothing but detract from our godly expression of life.
Another religious Nehushtan is pictures. No one knows what Jesus looked like, but we do know that Jesus did not look like the Roman's conception. We also know that we are not to worship His earthly appearance. We must worship Him where He is today - - - and that is at the right hand of the Father.
At Christmas He is viewed as a baby; at Easter time, the cross and the open tomb are worshiped. If we look closely, He is in none of these. These worldly celebrations have become Nehushtans. They bring no glory to the Father, but rather glorify the flesh which is the enemy of God. That, which does not glorify the Father, should not be part of our lives.
The religious systems have made Jesus' flesh a Nehushtan. They worship His pictures and participate in worldly celebrations. In Jesus' words: ". . .we are to worship Him in Spirit and in truth . . . John 4:23-24. The religious system still worships Him in the flesh. If we do not recognize Jesus as the risen Lord of our lives, then our faith is vain, and we are still in our sin, I Corinthians 15:17.
It is time to deal with these fleshly Nehushtan idols, and begin to let the Sun of Righteousness arise in our hearts, so that we may see Him as He is and worship Him where He is - - - at the right hand of the Father.
Yet another Nehushtan idol is people's clothing. Clothing has become their religious uniform, so that they will be recognized by man. Their righteousness is in their clothes. Many churches have spoken, or unspoken, dress codes. Suits and ties for men, preferably long, black dresses for women that fit tightly around the neck, with sleeves to the wrist. Some churches allow jewelry. Some do not. All dress codes are precepts and doctrines of men.
Samuel was found guilty of looking on the outward appearance instead of Spiritually discerning the heart of God's chosen people. God spoke to Samuel that it was the heart that He looked upon. Yet, when those who are less fortunate, and cannot afford the dress requirements come into our midst, they are not welcome. They are shunned and looked down upon. James wrote:
"For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:" James 2:2-3
James addressed this, and yet dress codes for God's people are still practiced in many assemblies today. The Nehushtan idol of clothes is very much a part of the religious system today. While God is still looking on the heart, man is still trying to make the flesh look good enough for God to accept. We know by God's Word that no flesh is going to enter in to the kingdom, no matter how well-dressed it appears. In speaking of John the Baptist, Jesus said:
"But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in king's houses," Matthew 11:8.
Clothes do not change the heart of man. Clothes generally change his head. He thinks more highly of himself then he ought, Romans 12:3.
When God clothes us in His glory, as He did the lilies of the field, we will be more gloriously clothed upon than Solomon and all His glory, Luke 12:27. We need to change what we see when we look upon those who are less fortunate. We are to see what God sees. His need is not better clothes. His need is a blessing from God; not a change of clothes, but a change of heart.
We need to cast out this Nehushtan idols obtained from the racks of well-known department stores, and begin to change our heart toward God who will supply our needs - - - and not fulfill the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, I John 2:16.
It has been approximately 4400 years since Moses raised up the brazen serpent in the wilderness. Hoshea, King of Israel, brake it in pieces. But modern man has put it back together, and is worshiping the serpent on a pole.
This is the sign of the medical profession. Again, God's people are bowing down and giving their praise unto Nehushtan. They have forgotten, or they never knew, the healing power of the great physician, their Lord Jesus Christ.
A great portion of those who call themselves Christian do not believe in healing at all. They get around their unbelief by saying all those things passed away with the apostles and the early church. They fail to realize that our healing was accomplished in God before Jesus went to the cross. Peter, who was given the keys to the kingdom, quoted Isaiah 53:5.
"Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." I Peter 2:24
We were healed by Jesus' stripes. They were applied to Him before ever going to the cross. If Jesus had not died, our healing was secured in the stripes. Man's doctrine and theology will never render the stripes of no effect. The stripes will speak for themselves.
We also need to see that we are not healed by our faith in His stripes. We were healed when the stripes were applied. The only faith we need to have is that His stripes have already healed us.
Yet, those who cannot walk in this knowledge have raised up the snake on a pole. As they wander in their wilderness of confusion, many will not leave home without their doctor's office number, his home number, along with that of the emergency squad, and local hospital. They have made the medical profession their god. They worship this Nehushtan idol. They live their lives in fear and comply with the curses placed on them by their Nehushtan gods.
Along with the medical profession comes medical and dental insurance, major medical, medicare, medicaid, and all the other medical programs - - - all, of course, supplied at our expense. These have brought nothing but fear. They have replaced the faith that God's people had at one time in Him. The insurance companies have become rich by using "WHAT IF." There are no "what if's" in God. We have His promise: God will not put the sicknesses of Egypt (the world) upon His people. Yet, God's people depend upon the medical laboratories instead of the promises of God.
Many Christians serve this Nehushtan god very well. They go without food to bring their offering unto this god. If he is not paid, the next time he will not see them, nor have time for them.
There could be no better symbol for the medical profession than that of Nehushtan. They certainly expect people to bow down to it, and burn their incense (praise) to honor them as gods.
There are many other Nehushtans in people's lives. Many today place their bodies as their Nehushtan idol. Their time and money is spent to make the outside look and smell good, while the inside is as black as sin. Houses, cars, and worldly possessions can all become Nehushtans in our lives as well.
As many read this, they may think that all these things are wrong. It is not this writers intention to indicate that these are wrong when they have been placed in the proper perspective in our lives. But when they replace God, they become an idol.
The cross is a beautiful symbol of our new life in Christ. We know that buildings are necessary to come out of the world to worship our Lord. Clothes are needed that we may be decent. And we realize there are many godly men in the medical profession. None of these things are wrong in themselves. But all these should not replace our belief, trust, and hope in God.
Our priorities must be set in order. Who or what is first and utmost in your life?
Paul said that what happened to Israel was for our admonition and that we should not tempt Christ. We serve a jealous God. We can have no other gods before Him, Exodus 20:3-5. This is the Day of Separation. We are not only to be separated from the things of the world, we also need to be separated unto God. God desires, with His whole heart, that we serve Him with our whole heart.
It is time we break in pieces all the Nehushtan idols in our lives and only look to, and serve, the living God.