“….and he called it Nehushtan….”
By Bro. Chuma Okere
In 2 Kings 18:4, we read that “..He (Hezekiah) removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan…” While some things can be said of the circumstances surrounding Hezekiah’s coming to reign in Judah, suffice to say that the driving force, what motivated his life and disposition was to do ‘….that which was right in the sight of the LORD…vs 3’ to the end that the scriptures testify ‘…that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him….vs 5”. Against this brief background then, it is noteworthy to examine what it was that Hezekiah did and determine how this applies to us today as we seek to have Him work in us that which is well pleasing in His sight to the glory of His name.
Hezekiah did four fundamental things that, for import and emphasis, require itemization: first, Hezekiah removed the high places or in other words, he removed the pagan shrines that the people of God had erected in the land. Secondly, he brake the images, a reference to the sacred stones and pillars, another practice that was copied from the idol-worshipping neighbors. Third, he cut down the groves or the Asherah poles, and finally, he brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had, under God’s directive, made in the wilderness. A cursory look reveals that of these four, the first three were associated with the worship of Baal and Asherah which the people of God had copied and assimilated from their heathen neighbor nations. In other words, they were clear cut symbols or idolatrous practices that needed to be summarily dealt with as it were, because they essentially had no place in the history of the descendants of ‘…the church in the wilderness….Acts 7:38’. The LORD had clearly warned them concerning the people of other nations surrounding Canaan ‘..do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces…Ex 23:24” and also, ‘…break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles…Ex 34:13”.
It is the fourth act, the breaking of the brazen serpent that Moses had made in the wilderness that is a different story and which constitutes the main burden of this nugget. The context of this brazen serpent can be found in Num 21:1-8. The brazen serpent was used of God to bring deliverance for a season and should, therefore, be legitimately associated with their lives. As a matter of fact, the presence of the brazen serpent didn’t appear to be a problem to them since they continued to pay ‘special attention’ to it by burning incense to it even after they had entered Canaan…the land God promised unto them. They apparently didn’t see anything wrong in the burning of incense unto the brazen serpent…until a HEZEKIAH (“God gives strength”) came on the scene to identify and call the practice what it really was: idolatry! You see, the word Nehushtah which means “thing of brass” contains a Hebrew pun… the first three letters, NChSh, meaning “serpent” and the final two, ThN, mean “dragon.” The serpent and the dragon! Hence, one can say that Nehushtan may represent that which is legitimate and, even may have been used of God, but which ultimately takes away from the worship, adoration and glory that is due to God, albeit in a very subtle manner. Herein is the real and present danger of Nehushtan….idolatry in a very subtle manner is still idolatry. What saith the scriptures? “…the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field….Gen 3:1”. The spirit behind Nehushtan therefore, one can safely say, is that same spirit that was at work in the very beginning, beguiling the soul of man to go against his Creator. It is the spirit that seeks to share of that glory which ought to entirely belong to God. This is the reason why it is ‘subtle’ and requires a measure of understanding and discernment to know and call it by its name: IDOLATRY. It is the spirit of divination, it is the spirit of idolatrous exercising of ‘control’ in spiritual matters, it is the witchcraft spirit in the church; and the manifestations are almost limitless.
We will recall that Lucifer (Satan) the embodiment of the serpentine and dragon spirit was a son of the morning until he said in his heart “…I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the cloud: I will be like the most High…Is 14: 13,14”. As we consider the impact of these scriptures, we need not look too far to begin to, by the grace of God, identify the things, persons, brethren, teachings, doctrines, ministries, situations etc that God in His mercy had used as a means of blessing and deliverance but have turned to become Nehushtans or subtle and legitimate of objects of idolatry in our lives….to the end that the total worship of God is compromised. What does one say of seeking to superintend and direct the affairs of the church that should be the prerogative of the Spirit of God? Or the separation of the clergy and laity? And need we add the ‘reverends’ in the midst of God’s people when it is clear that ‘..holy and reverend is His name…Ps 111:9. The list is long and needs not be documented here. The burning of incense speaks of idolatry and taking the glory due God, and it generally arises from a mindset that is different from the mind of Christ. In this matter, methinks, both he that gives this glory to another man or thing thinking it is to God, and he that willingly or unknowingly receives glory from man because of images graven in the hearts are both subject to divine dealings. Therefore, there is great danger in this matter of subtle ‘hero’ or ‘idol’ worship amongst God’s people since Is 42:8 is clear that “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images’. At the root of dealing with the Nehushtan spirit is a realistic understanding and appreciation of how and why it is an issue to God. This probably accounted for why burning incense to the brazen serpent continued on for generations before Hezekiah called it by its name. It is instructive that a few verses further down of this Isaiah 42 scripture (verse 19) there is mention of blindness amongst and deafness amongst His people ‘…who is blind but My servant, or deaf as My messenger…’
As we consider these scriptures, there is a need to cry out to GOD for an opening of eyes to see the subtle manifestations of idol worship, the things and people that constitute Nehushtans in our lives first and foremost and then, by extension to the church which is His body. This idol or spirit of the dragon/serpent from the beginning seeks to dwell or sit ‘….in the sides of the north…Is 14:13,14’. From scriptures, we understand that ‘…the sides of the north…’ refers to ‘ mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King…Ps 48:2’….the place of God’s habitation, even the soul of the Church. It is in our souls and mind that the enemy continues to exercise some control, this soul is also the womb of the Church where the seed of Christ has to be planted and bring forth after its kind, the soul is the site of expression of graven images, of corruption and all its works as well as mindsets that perpetuate idolatry of people and things that God has used. We must therefore cry out for the spirit of the SON for wisdom, understanding and for help… knowing that HE will be for ‘….strength to them that turn the battle to the gate…..Is 28:6”. That the LORD will be for strength for such a ‘…turning of the battle to the gate…’ of Nehushtan worship is aptly reflected in the fact that the name Hezekiah means ‘God gives strength’. May we receive the strength we need to identify and smash graven images, manifestations of Nehushtan in our lives first and foremost, and for the city of the Great King that is ‘mount Zion’…the CHURCH. He alone is worthy of all worship, adulation and adoration.
Let us be thus minded that ‘…as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so MUST the Son of man be lifted up…Jon 3:14…’ but for the singular purpose ‘…that in all things, He might have the pre-eminence…(Col 1:18), knowing that when HE is lifted up from the earth (speaking of all that which manifests in the flesh), He will draw all things unto Himself (Jon 12:32). Finally, brethren, let these words be true in our lives ‘…wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we HIM no more…2 Cor 5:16”.We pray the LORD God to enlighten the eyes of our understanding to spiritually discern, and like Hezekiah, be strengthened of God to call out and cast down the Nehushtans of our lives to the glory of His Name, amen. Dear God, have mercy upon Thy people…