Does the word, Nehushtan, ring any bells with you? Probably not.
But it was the name of the brass idol King Hezekiah broke into pieces and destroyed after he ascended to the throne of Judah. Yet, Nehushtan was not created as an idol.
Seven hundred years earlier, while on their wilderness journey, Israel sinned by speaking against God, Moses, and also complaining about the food. God sent fiery serpents among the people to get their attention. Many died, causing the others to ask Moses to seek the Lord. Moses prayed and the following two verses were the results:
And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21:8-9)
Okay, put on your thinking caps for a moment.
Were the Israelites healed because of the brass serpent’s healing powers or because they obeyed the words spoken by the omnipotent God?
Obviously, the answer was their obedience to God.
Now, let’s look at the Civil Rights Movement here in America.
Did the 1964 Civil Rights Act come about because of the many marches, bus rides, and speeches or because God’s hand was on the Civil Rights protestors?
The answer is simple: God’s hand produced the victory.
The unwavering belief that we were doing God’s work became a daily source of faith and courage that undergirded our freedom movement. (Coretta King)
When Rev. Jerry Falwell studied the success of the Civil Rights Movement, he overlooked the three hundred years of prayer, fasting, and crying out to God for deliverance by generations of black people. He did exactly what Israel did with the brass serpent, Nehushtan. Falwell looked at the end results and latched onto the vehicle of God’s deliverance for African-Americans, which was government.
Why did Falwell choose to emphasize the political arena rather than prayer and fasting?
Here’s my guess, which comes from twenty-nine years of experience: It is a lot easier to get people enthused about laying the blame on perceived enemies, like politicians, judges, the media, and so forth, than it is to get them to fast and pray, seeking God’s will and ways on issues.
(Continued in Part 6)