A Mere Piece of Bronze
Marybeth Whalen

"He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan)." II Kings 18:4 (NIV)

I used to have a quote, cut from a magazine article, taped above my desk. I can't recall the exact quote, but the gist of it was that while our children are gifts from God, it's easy to let them become little idols. I remember the shock value of reading those words printed on the page. My children? Idols? It sounded like heresy! But as I allowed the words to sink in, I realized that the person who penned those words was right. Most anything can become an idol in our hearts -becoming more important than our relationship with God, taking priority over His place in our life.

In Numbers 21:8-9, God told the Israelites to raise a bronze snake on a pole and look to it in order to be healed. Seven hundred years later, the Israelites had gotten off track. They had turned that snake - something that was God's idea -into an idol they worshiped. In our verse for today, we see Hezekiah destroying the snake in an effort to turn the people's hearts back to God. The word Nehushtan in the verse means "a mere piece of bronze." The bronze snake was not the answer to the people's problems. They had attached too much significance to it. Hezekiah had no choice but to refocus their attention where it needed to be by physically removing the idol.

Idols can take many forms in our lives. Family members and friends can become idols. Doctors and medicine can become idols. Work and hobbies can become idols. Entertainment - movies, TV, music, games - can become idols. Food can become an idol. An idol by definition is anything that we place our trust in, anything that takes precedence over God. While we may not pray to it and burn incense to it, it becomes more important than anything, including God. Just like God designed the snake to be a good thing in the lives of His people, so He allows us to have good things in our lives. He just doesn't want us to get things out of whack, as we are prone to do. It's not that the thing itself is the problem; it's our attitude about that thing.

God showed me that I needed to destroy any idols in my life. For me, I had to spend a lot of time refocusing my priorities. I started with how important I had made my husband and children. Yes, my family needed me. Yes, I needed to spend time with them. Yes, I loved them dearly. But they couldn't take the place of my relationship with the Lord. I had to put them in their proper place and renew my perspective. This can only be done with intentionality and continual heart work. God gives us good things to enjoy - family and friends and work and food and hobbies and entertainment. But He has also given us Himself, opening the door wide for us to come before His throne. May we keep good things in their place and keep God on the throne of our lives.

Dear Lord, please get my attention when I get distracted. Help me to keep the good things in my life where they belong and to keep You first. Help me destroy any idols I have placed ahead of You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Pierced by the Word by John Piper

The Reason We Speak, General Editor Marybeth Whalen

Visit Marybeth’s blog - Cheaper by the Half Dozen, and find out more about her other resources here

Application Steps:
Read Numbers 21:8-9. Think about the difference in how the snake was created versus what happened with the snake 700 years later.

Is there something God is bringing to your mind that was a good thing that has gotten out of whack in your life?

Power Verses:
I Timothy 6:17, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (NIV)

John 3:14, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up." (NIV)

© 2009 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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Blogger Cara Putman said...

so true. I remember in one of Beth Moore's studies that she talked about anything that takes the place of God is an idol. Even the good things. Ouch! Such a good caution!

God is just so Awesome! Just this morning in my devo time, I was reading in II Chronicles about Hezikiah destroying the idols. I even looked up online what the Asherah poles were. Then I went to my email and found this devo from you talking about the same thing. Too cool!

I am a grandmother of two sweet young little ones. They live 6 hrs away, so I miss them and their parents so very much. I am a family lovin kind of gal and found myself at one time thinking only of what I had lost when my daughters and families moved away, rather than thinking forward on what purposes God had created in me to do next. I put God on hold per say when I refused to think forward and dwell on what God wanted from me today. God has shown me that I too must be careful to keep all things in balance and that even our family can become a form of idol worship. (eeww-that's hard to even say) But done God's way, I can still be the family lovin kind of gal, but also be all God wants me to be and do.

Thank you Marybeth for your wise words straight from the Lord today.

Keeping in balance for the Lord,
Lee Ann

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. This was exactly what I needed.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I printed out this one with the thought of sticking it in my husbands bible! This has been a problem in our marrage. We are a blended family and his children are with out a doubt his idols. I want to write him a letter with it and asked God to give me the words. I don't even know my place within my family when it comes to him. I have always been a God first, spouse second and children third thinker but his is the complete opposite! Pray with me PLEASE! - Leigh

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