In John chapter 3, Jesus had reminded the folks that the brazen serpent had been a powerful type of the Messiah. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:” (John 3:14)
He referred to the twenty-first chapter of Numbers, where the people of Israel complained against God, and against Moses. So the Lord sent fiery serpents into the camp, and many people died. When they repented, God commanded Moses to make a serpent of brass on a pole. Whoever looked upon the brazen serpent would live, and not die. (Num. 21:5-9)
Jesus said that that serpent was a type of his Crucifixion—that he must be lifted up on the cross to bring life to a lost and dying world.
- God commanded Moses.
- Moses obeyed.
- People were saved from death.
- It was a type of Christ, and salvation by faith.
But 700 years later, when Hezekiah became king, he commanded that the brazen serpent be destroyed, in order to drive out idolatry from the kingdom. He called it “Nehushtan,” a thing of brass. (2Kings18:1-4)
Religious tradition had caused the people to burn incense to the brazen serpent!
- It had been a gift from God.
- It was a type of Jesus.
- It was an agent of healing.
But religious tradition turned it into something evil—something wicked—into an icon of idolatry!
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Col. 2:8)
Nothing is so calculated to bring a person into bondage as religious tradition.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1)