“He removed the high places and broke the images and cut down the groves and broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made, for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it and he called it Nehushtan.”
When Hezekiah (my strength is Yah) was born his great-grandfather (Uzziah) was the out going king of Judah and his grandfather Jothan was the incoming king. He grew up in the royal household of men of whom it is recorded that they did right in the eyes of Yehovah but not according to the ways of David. These men gave a nominal attention to the religious practices and observances but they left the high places where the people could sacrifice to the gods of this world. Ever since the death of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, the nation was permitted to adopt the pagan rituals of the people of the land, which Yehovah God forbade them to do, and to worship them in whatever manner seemed appropriate to them. When Jehoram took the daughter of Omri, king of Israel, to wife, the sin of Israel was incorporated into the practices of the Kingdom of Judah and when Athaliah rose up and slew all the king’s sons so that she could reign, she departed not from the sin of Jeroboam. Her father, Omri, “walked in the ways of the house of Ahab for his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly” and his daughter followed in her mother and father’s footsteps (II Chr. 22:2-10).
The manifestation of this decay, according to the inherent nature of Adam, was more treacherous than the sin of Israel for Judah saw the wickedness of her sister and did not repent before the Lord. Even when the nation of Israel was taken captive by the Assyrian army, Judah continued to deal in deceit before the Lord; “and yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned unto Me with her whole heart, but feignedly, said Yehovah” (Jer. 3:10).
This was the way of life for young Hezekiah and although subsequent kings attempted to make an outward show of obedience unto the Lord, yet these high places and groves continued to flourish in the land. By the time Hezekiah ascended to the throne, he had experienced three kings who had strove to do good in the eye of the Lord according to that which their father’s had done. Yet as each administration came and went the acceptance of idolatry, spiritual adultery and illicit sacrifices made unto pagan deities increased without objection. Hezekiah, however, was given to walk after the Lord in the manner of David his father (II Chr. 29:2).
This twenty-five year old man began to reign in Jerusalem just six years before the fall of the ten northern tribes and in the first year of his reign he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired the doors. He re-established the order of the priests and the Levites and charged them to put away the filthiness of their ways for it was put in his heart “to make a covenant with Yehovah God of Israel that His fierce wrath may be turned away from us” (29:10). The fathers before him had allowed the temple to fall into disrepair and had even closed the doors which prevented the observances of the ceremonies for the feast days and the offerings. But according to the eternal will of God, the Law of God was written upon the heart of this child of grace and he was given the desire to return to the patterns given in the mount. He was assigned the station in life of authority and power as the Lord raised him up but none of the good works which he did converted one person in Judah or dissuaded them from the uncleanness of their ways.
“Then Hezekiah answered and said, Now you have consecrated yourselves unto Yehovah, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of Yehovah; and the congregation brought in sacrifices and thank offerings and as many as were of a free heart, burnt offerings” (II Chr. 29:31)
When the work of restoration was completed to the Temple, the King called for the people to return to the order of worship ordained of God as acceptable in His sight. Even now, though, after the building was restored, the priests were in place doing their jobs and the doors were open, not all were made willing to come forth and present the offering for sin. They were all willing to come to the church festival and make a show of piety, but not all had their hearts set free to bring the burnt offering. Sin was conspicuously apparent and the apathy of Adam toward God evident but the acknowledgement of sin was not forthcoming; for at the same time as this great pageantry was being manifested so also were the offerings in high places and the whoredoms in the groves and the worship of venerated objects ramped.
The nature of man has been made inquisitive from the beginning. God has put the things of this world into the hearts of man for him to search and research in his attempt to understand himself and his place in the cosmos. This insatiable desire for wisdom and understanding has enabled man to scan the heavens and his ignorance has provided him with enough speculative reasoning to develop the worship of the creation rather than the Creator. Star gazing and sun worship have drawn the attention of the natural man and enormous sums have been expended to satisfy this thirst for knowledge. But these have not displaced the equally sincere quest to explain the world man lives in and the seas which surround this ‘terra firma’. Nor has the ignorant way of man limited him to the deification of the heavenly bodies alone for Adam has been given the ability to venerate and worship anything rather than the God of the Universe.
Man is also very ready to call out for change. Adam was not content with the things which God had made for him or the garden which He planted. He did not accept his station in life, even though he fulfilled it perfectly, he desired to improve his lot and advance his position with God. Therefore when Eve looked upon the fruit, seeing that it was good to eat and desirous to make one wise, she took and ate; her children are no different today.
Real change however cannot be initiated or actuated by the creature. He did not create himself; he did not assign his lot or the labours he must perform. Though the philosophy of man may differ, he cannot cause life to begin or end it before the appointed hour and no man by either worry or by clean living through daily exercise and the so-called proper diet can extend his days or improve that which has been decreed necessary for him by God. No amount of social initiatives, economic programs or urban development can ever change the nature of Adam for the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit, who is the Way the Truth and the Life.
Hezekiah did not survey the current condition of Judah and Jerusalem and sitting down with his advisors devise a set of programs to improve society. He was moved by the Breath of Yehovah God to attack the abominations of the people even though they were highly esteemed among men. Only one who has been taught of the Spirit knows the uncleanness of the ways of man. Only one who is born of the incorruptible Spirit knows the corruption and true meaning of the total depravity of Adam and only those who have “the Anointing in you, the hope of glory” know the warfare of the flesh lusting against the Spirit. The children of the King do not decide to change the world by cleaning up the man for they know in themselves, that is in their flesh, dwells no good thing. Hezekiah was not instituting new legislation to outlaw the high places, nor was he following public opinion in the matter of the groves; he was moved by the nature within and the power of the Spirit to do “right in the sight of Yehovah according to all that David, his father, did”.
Therefore he caused the high places to be overthrown as an obvious demonstration that the gods of these places had been deposed by Yehovah God. He indeed had suffered the hearts of the people to worship these abominations as He gave them the curiosity to explore the heavens and the imaginations to conclude and venerate the objects of His creation; “professing themselves to be wise they became fools and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man” (Rms. 1:22). God had ordained that these false gods be set up and adored so that he might shew forth the power of His name and manifest His will. He set up Dagon and when the Ark of the Covenant was placed before the idol and he was prostrate before the type; “and when they arose on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of Yehovah and the head of Dagon and both palms of his hands cut off upon the threshold; only Dagon was left to him. Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor any that come into Dagon’s house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day” (I Sam. 5:4). The gods of the high places were deposed just as Dagon (the fish) was deposed yet man continues to worship and adore these stumps of vanity.
He also caused the trees of the groves, wherein the children of Israel committed whoredom against God, to be beheaded. The people thought that because of the density of the woods no one could see what was being perpetrated there and if man could not see, certainly God could not see; “understand you stupid people and fools when will you be wise? He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? And He that formed the eye, shall He not see? He that chastens the nations, shall He not correct that man who teaches knowledge?” (Ps. 94:8ff).
Hezekiah caused the authority of these escapades, which was the cover of darkness, to be removed which caused the deeds to be exposed. Everyone who does evil loves the darkness and hates the light because the light makes the deeds manifest for all to see, therefore the natural man does not come to nor seek the light for he loves the darkness. Hezekiah, as the type of the Anointed One, brought the light into the arena of the wicked deeds of the people by decapitating the head of darkness, that wicked one called the devil. He rebuked Him, has cast the accuser of the brethren out and, declaring the righteousness of God, reproved and rebuked the deeds of the people (John 3:19f).
He also caused the images of idolatry to be shattered and smashed. These images were the result of God giving these people over to the vile affection, whereby they took the stump of a tree, fashioned by the woodsman and covered in gold by the smith, and said these be our gods. This was an outward demonstration of the inward need of man to see, feel and command tangible items. They call these things their gods and fall down before them but indeed they are an expression of the desire of man to rule over everything, even that which he has declared divine. The servant of God whose strength is Yehovah pulverized these statues and figurines into a fine powder just as Moses had done at the base of Mt. Sinai when the children of Israel made the golden calves and proclaimed them to be their gods. Thus the Word of Yehovah was that Israel was not to be contaminated with the people of the land, lest they be drawn away after the gods of those people; “but you shall destroy their altars, break their images and cut down their groves” (Ex. 34:13).
Natural man in his religious endeavours makes veiled gestures of obedience in these areas but always in a manner that brings praise unto the man and not unto God. He will take up an oath to reform the dust of the earth by refraining from people, places and things which he has been told are not holy. He will enter into a form of denial of the will as he attempts to purge the leaven from the man but he cannot change the fact that he is a son of Adam, born of woman and completely carnal, sold under sin. Hezekiah caused these acts to take place swiftly and decisively because “My strength is Yehovah”.
“Nehushtan” – a brass thing.
The children of Israel made a wonderful expression of the unthankful nature and the discontent of their father Adam when they murmured against Yehovah in the wilderness. They complained about the accommodations and the food and had a great desire to return to the Egyptian bondage. This was not because they enjoyed the oppression or the labours; man is a creature of habit. They became accustomed to the daily routine because there was a certain sense of assurance. The taskmasters were not going to starve their workers lest the tally diminish and the work cease. Even the constant attention of the overseers whip gave the impression of care.
The wilderness journey was one of faith which cannot be seen. No one could have imagined or even speculated that the water would be bitter in the land let alone predict that it would come forth out of the Rock. The eyes of the flesh saw a waste howling wilderness wherein was no food but the hand of Yehovah provided the ‘what is it?’ from heaven (Manna). “He had commanded the clouds above and opened the doors of heaven and had rained down manna upon them to eat and had given them corn from heaven; men did eat angel’s food; He sent them meat to the full” (Ps. 78:23f).
But now the familiarity of the provisions and the ever present cloud of fire the children began to complain about the route they were following. No ‘Rand McNally’ maps, no ‘GPS’ and no road signs left the nature of man in a frenzy and as doubt and fear mounted, the back seat drivers began to speculate that they were lost; “And Yehovah sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people and much people died” (Num. 21:6). When Moses made intercession for the people, God instructed him to raise up a brass serpent upon a stake and whosoever, being bitten, looked upon the serpent of brass, he lived.
The children of Israel, instead of being reminded of the nature of Adam which precipitated this event, began to worship the object. From the time this came to pass until the time of Hezekiah may have been over eight hundred years and whether or not this was the actual artifact is uncertain, nevertheless, in full display of the inherent nature of man, the children of Israel not only venerated this monument to corruption and disobedience but “unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it”
This icon was not only a dramatic symbol of the ignorance and rebellion of man but it represented the manifestation of the sacrifice for sin. Jesus told Nicodemus that “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so must the Son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14). Now the serpent does not represent the Anointed Salvation of Yehovah but the conduct of the children of Israel certainly gives an accurate portrayal of the Adamic nature in everyone for whom that blood was shed.
This symbol was also a glimpse into the mystery of the gospel for, contrary to the nationalism of the time, Jesus said; “and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto Me” (John12:32). As the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness because of the transgression of Israel so the Son of man is lifted up for the sin of His people, which are not limited to the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for in Abraham shall all nations be blessed. The chosen people of God are the eternal incorruptible seed who, from before the beginning of time, have been cleansed from all unrighteousness in Adam by the blood of the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world.
Yet even with this wondrous testimony and manifestation of the grace given unto the house of the redeemed of Yehovah in the Anointed Salvation of Yehovah “before the world began” (II Tim. 1:9), the corruption of the mind of Adam causes him to continue to worship the creature rather than the Creator. The religion of the theology of man weeps over that ‘Old Rugged Cross’, venerates the spot on which it stood and preaches to defend the very place where our Lord was crucified. John, however, in the revelation of the Anointed salvation of Yehovah, called this great city, “which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt” (Rev. 11:8). And the Lord Himself pronounced the conclusion of this place when He said; “Jerusalem, Jerusalem that kills the prophets and stones them which are sent unto you, how often I would have gathered you together even as a hen gathers her chicks under wing and you would not! Behold, your house is left to you desolate!” (Matt. 23:37). But after all these years, man continues to venerate and sanctify the tangible things of this world to satisfy his hunger for assurance. This is contrary to hope; “we are delivered by hope, but hope that is seen is not hope, for what a man sees, what does he yet hope for? “(Rms. 8:24).
“And such were some of you, but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:11).
It is not time for harsh admonitions or shallow exhortations of how these things should be removed from the lives of believers in Messiah. This is the nature of Adam and the way of the habitation of this dwelling and although this way is unclean and unacceptable before the perfect righteousness of God (being identified as a pile of unwashed menstrual rags) yet has it been ordained, addressed and attended to by the strength of Yehovah. He was delivered up for our offenses and raised again for our justification.
The hope of glory is the resurrection of Messiah from the dead. He is risen up in testimony of His triumph over sin, death and the grave and His children each “have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1217). He is ‘Alpha’ the first and the beginning and He is the resurrection and the life of His people (John 11:15). In Him, the first resurrection, are all His children raised up unto newness of life (Rms. 6:4) and seated together in Him in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:6). Here they sing the praises of He who alone is worthy for He was slain and is risen up to the glory of the Father. This is the same glory that He had in Him before the world began and it is identical to the glory of His Beloved in Him. Unto her it is granted that she be adorned in her glorious wedding dress for the marriage of the Lamb has come and her “fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of the saints” is because the Arm of Yehovah has put on His strength. He has cut out from beneath the pride (Rahab) and wounded the great dragon, “that old serpent called the Devil and Satan, which deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). He alone has drunk the cup of the fury of God at His hand and suffered the contradiction of sin against Himself when he who knew no sin became the sin of His people.
This same Salvation of Yehovah was expressly and openly “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead” (Rms. 1:4) and His children were also declared to be the same, being risen up in Him; “And the graves were opened and many bodies of the saints which slept arose and came forth out of the graves with His resurrection and went into the HOLY city and appeared unto many” (Matt. 27:52). Therefore, brethren of hope, “behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the Sons of God; therefore the world does not know us because it never knew Him. Beloved, now are we the sons of God and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as he is” (I John 3:1-2).
The lust of the flesh continues to desire those things which are tangible and can activate the senses but the Redeemed of the Lord have not so learned the Anointing. His feet appeared unto John, Daniel, Ezekiel and Isaiah as being fine brass like as unto being brandished in the furnace. Fear not brethren, that piece of brass, Nehushtan, which is of the weight and sin which so easily besets the children in this habitation is under His feet and as He was tried in the furnace of affliction and proven to be pure, holy and faithful, so is the Israel of our God.
The Refiner is the Father and the fire is the strength of Yehovah according to His great love, wherewith He loved us and gave Himself for us. He is removing the residue of Edom (Ob. 17) and exposing the wood, hay and stubble of the works of man. He has deposed the god of this world, exposed the sin of His people in Adam and shattered the graven images of idolatry. He has also pulverized the serpent and the stake treading upon it in open manifestation of His sovereign rule over all things.
“And I will bring the third part through the fire and will refine them as silver and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on My name and will hear them and I will say, My people and they shall say, Yehovah my God” (Zech. 13:9).
Your servant in Christ,
(Elder) Chet Dirkes
January 8, 2017