Here is my latest entry for Our Daily Journey, where near the end I abandon the wisdom of my teachers and experiment with allegory. In my defense: 1) If you are going to experiment with allegorical interpretation, then a devotional seems to be the place to try it; 2) Technically I’m only reappropriating Jesus’ allegory–so he did it first; and 3) Allegory may not be as bad as we think–see David Steinmetz’s classic essay, “The Superiority of Pre-Critical Exegesis.”
read >Numbers 21:4-9
So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed! (v. 9).
Martin Luther King famously said that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. He meant that white and black Christians worship in separate churches—which often is still the case, but recently I have noticed a new kind of Sunday morning segregation. It is increasingly common for churches to divide according to worship style, holding traditional services for older folks who love organ powered hymns and contemporary services for younger people who enjoy choruses led by praise bands.
Churches do this because it works—many grow exponentially as they meet the felt needs of their worshippers—but something about this practice doesn’t feel right. Shouldn’t Spirit-filled Christians be willing to worship together? Your style may not be my preference, but why can’t we appreciate our differences and sing each other’s music?
Our problem may be old-fashioned selfishness, but I fear it might be worse. Could it be that we have created an idol out of our worship? Are we unwilling to allow Jesus to meet us in fresh ways?
We may be like the Israelites who were so impressed by the bronze serpent which had healed their poisonous bites that they began “offering sacrifices to it” (2 Kings 18:4). There was nothing wrong with the bronze serpent—centuries later Jesus will use it to refer to himself (John 3:14)—but it was only a tool.
You may have heard God’s voice while singing “Amazing Grace” or felt particularly alive during the chorus of “As It Is in Heaven.” Thank God for that. But remember that the bronze serpents in your life are never meant to be ends in themselves but to lead you to Jesus, who, when he is “lifted up…will draw everyone” to himself (John 12:32).
Real worship focuses on Jesus and waits on neighbor.
more > Read John 9:24-34 to see how glorifying the past (Moses) can blind us to God’s work in the present. See 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 to learn how bronze serpents divide the body of Christ.
next > Bronze serpents don’t appear only in worship but also with favorite pastors and Christian authors. How can you tell when your honor for God’s minister turns into idolatry?