This morning I woke up without the slightest idea about what I would blog about. Then one e-mail from this morning gave me my subject. Some months ago, I had left a comment talking about the bronze serpent that Moses lifted up on a pole so that any snakebite victim who looked up at it would live. What Hezekiah did to it is recorded in 2 Kings 18:4 –
He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)
Something that God had made to save people had become an idol that destroyed them. It’s recorded that Hezekiah did what was right in God’s eyes, so his action of destroying Nehushtan was met with God’s approval. When God ordered the creation of the bronze snake, it was never meant to exist for all time as a testament of his mercy; let alone another god-image to worship. So it had to go.
I used this metaphor to explain how things that God orders to be created in the Bible are not necessarily meant to exist for all time. Christians would agree with that statement when it comes to the teaching about Jesus having fulfilled the demands of the temple worship system which is why the commands of the Old Testament do not apply, we can eat shrimp, we can wear mixed fabrics, and we don’t put people to death for various infractions. Scripture says that while the people went through their motions, their hearts were far from God. Hosea 6:6 puts it this way:
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
But the person who left the comment used these verses instead:
Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.” – 1 Sam 15:22-23
Houston, we have a problem. This user had just responded to that comment by telling me that my disobedience was nothing short of rebellion and therefore I was committing a form of idolatry. I had made up a Jesus is my own image and to my own specifications and was not worshiping the genuine article.
Usually they’d point out John 14:23-24, “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”
You see, anything that is less than total obedience to the commandments of Scripture isn’t just rebellion, but proves that I don’t love Jesus. If I say that I do, then I must be lying.
This is his or her Nehushtan – the idol of obedience to Scripture. They have made a Jesus who only cares about the people who obeys his commands – and not all of his commands either, just specific ones that already agree with what the believe to be true. The ones that do not were cultural and don’t apply. Which is why so many Christians see no contradiction when it comes to their beliefs that the right to bear arms or our constant need to go to war are in accordance with Scripture, for example.
Because it’s not really about total obedience. If it were, then Christians would be feeding the poor wherever they’re both found. They’d see to it that no child goes to school without a good coat, good shoes, or every single school supply; that all of them had a bed to sleep on and enough food for their next meal. They’d run every orphanage and have a hard time finding enough kids to place with willing families. They’d provide pro-bono lawyers and support doctors as they do whatever it takes to save lives. But what are Christians known for? We have deep ties to the Republican Party, we boycott Disney or Proctor and Gamble at the drop of a hat, and we seem to rally behind people who tend to be at one extreme. We have a well-deserved reputation for being judgmental, legalistic, and hypocritical.
So after all of that, the person who left the comment said that “Not everyone who believes in Jesus will be saved, but only those who obey Scripture: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matt 7:21
So obedience to Scripture is doing the will of the Father? Wait, Didn’t the temple worshipers obey Scripture and yet failed to do His will? Didn’t the Israelites obey His will by creating Nehushtan and yet failed to keep the Scripture? How is it that suddenly, two thousand years later American Christians have it all figured out how to completely obey the Bible in accordance with His will when our ancient counterparts could not? Isn’t this a works based idea that by our own personal obedience that we can get into Heaven? Then why is this verse in the Bible at all?
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. – Romans 5:18-19
Let’s not forget that Christianity has a big spectrum of beliefs, some of them like to section themselves off as the gatekeepers to the one true faith, but in the process they’re judging the rest of us as idolatrous rebels for not thinking the way they think or acting the way they act. I used to have a Nehushtan about obedience to Scriptures, but it never grew so big that it overshadowed the truth of what Jesus had done. Jesus was the only one who could be perfectly obedient and that’s why I don’t worry about my fate. After all, God desires mercy and acknowledgement, this is the quote that Jesus used from the Old Testament; not the other one.