If you’re not a fan of snakes, then read ahead carefully!

Journey back in time with me to Jerusalem around 2,700 years ago. Hezekiah, aged 25, has just become King and he immediately launches a spiritual clean-up operation for the nation of Judah. Idolatry is everywhere, but Hezekiah is a God-loving guy and so he smashes false altars, cuts down idols, and then – wait for it – breaks in half a bronze snake, called Nehushtan.

If the bronze snake doesn’t ring a bell, then let’s jump even further back in time.

At least another 500 years before Hezekiah was born.

Here we find Moses. Leading the Israelites out of their Egyptian slavery. Doing his level best to put up with their incessant complaining. In the book of Numbers Chapter 21, we’re told a story of how these cantankerous grumblers are attacked by a horde of poisonous snakes and so suddenly – what a surprise? – they quit their whinging and cry out to God for help.

Because God is forgiving and gracious, He instructs Moses to make a bronze snake and then hold it up high for everybody to see. God tells the people that if they look up to the bronze snake then the real snakes will skip the county and those suffering from a nasty bite will be fine.

It’s a weird instruction for sure, but it’s actually a prophetic picture for what happens over a thousand years later as Jesus is lifted up on the cross for all to see and be saved (See what Jesus said about this in John 3:14 during a late-night chat with a religious fellow called Nicodemus).

Fast forward five hundred years from this Moses moment and we’re back with Hezekiah, in the book of 2 Kings Chapter 18, and we see that one of the first things Hezekiah has to do is break that bronze snake which is now being worshipped, and it has its own name – Nehushtan!

How did this happen?

After the amazing Moses moment where the snakes are scattered and everyone is well, it seems that someone secretly grabs the bronze snake, clearly thinking to themselves ‘I might need this in future’. And this bronze serpent is covertly passed from generation to generation, building up its own mythology, until after 500 years, in Hezekiah’s day, it’s fully worshipped as a god.

Why am I sharing this?

Because it’s a powerful reminder about how easily we can become attached to the wrong things. How we can end up idolizing methods, systems, approaches – even the past – rather than being open to new things? Nostalgia can put a lid on new possibilities.

Worst still, for those of us of faith, we can end up worshipping the tool that God has used in a particular moment, rather than the God of the tool. The amount of ‘hate mail’ I received when we changed the name of Crusaders to Urban Saints back in 2006 was a clear reminder of this.

So let me ask you – are you holding on to something that’s actually holding you back from something better? Is there a Nehushtan in your life that you need to break? Is it time to stop looking back and start looking forward? In life, in leadership, in faith?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we all probably have a few sacred cows and bronze snakes knocking around. Maybe it’s time, in this crazy global moment, to be brave and be bold and let go of what has been, and embrace what is to come?

As the French Critic Charles Du Bos once said ‘The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we would become”.

God give you wisdom, courage, and favour as you figure out your next step.