It might interest some people that God did authorize a graven image. Not only that, but Christianity has likened their messiah to this same inanimate object. Although intended to be a method of quelling protests amongst the Israelites, it outlived its practical purpose and became an abomination. Its destruction by a righteous person gave us the practical road map that many of us are following today.
Let’s take you back in time, to about 40 years after the covenant was given at Mount Sinai, to a place where the Israelites defeated the Canaanites at Hormah, which is today located in southern Israel. The Israelites were doing what they had been doing for the last four decades – roaming and complaining. The Torah records them complaining at least twelve times while wandering in the desert; Exodus 15:22, 16:1-4, 17:1-4, 32:28, Numbers 11, 12:1-12, 14:1-10, 10, 16:1-4, 41, 20:1-5 and finally Numbers 211:5-9. As before, the Israelites spoke against God and Moses. God’s retort was to send poisonous snakes among the people. Realizing that this was a consequence for their behavior, the Israelites went to Moses to rectify the situations. Moses prayed, and God told this Israelite leader something astonishing. He told Moses to make a snake and put it on the end of a pole for the people to look towards. Wait a minute! This is against the second commandment, Exodus 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself a graven image…” Why would God do this?
It is very simple; this was an act of faith. Obviously, looking on a copper snake could not heal anybody of anything. The idea was that if you believed God could heal you, you would be healed. Additionally, the snake was not an idol; it represented the consequences of their sins: death. In verse nine we see that the snake works and there doesn’t appear to be much else said about it.
Yet, if we fast forward over 700 years we will find in 2 Kings 18 that not only did the Israelites keep the copper snake, but the people began to worship it (V4). Obviously, this was taking it away from its intended purpose. Israel’s new King, Hizkiyahu (Hezekiah), had the snake destroyed along with other pagan idols. For this, and for being faithful to God, God was with King Hizkiyahu (V. 7). So the bronze snake, given by God as a conduit to Him, was destroyed in the end because man began to worship it instead of God. Not only that, but the man who destroyed this idol curried favor with God for doing so.
Now, for those that own a Christian Bible, open up to John 3:14 (just two verses shy of Christianity’s famous 3:16 verse). Here John tells us:
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,”
So, the Christian apostles liken their Jesus to Moses’ copper snake. This would imply, like with the copper snake, that when this symbol becomes worshipped it has become an idol. Thus, those that turn away from it, like King Hizkiyahu, are doing God’s will. Many of us today have spent decades looking towards this Christian copper snake, the whole while denying God the praise that belonged to him. With the boldness of King Hizkiyahu, we removed this idol from our vision so that we could worship the ONE and only God.