Numbers 21: 6-9 – “ So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. Then the people came to Moses and cried out, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.” So Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord told him, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” 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!” – NLT
The caduceus is the traditional symbol of Hermes and features two snakes winding around an often winged staff. It is often used as a symbol of medicine instead of the Rod of Asclepius, especially in the United States. The two-snake caduceus design has ancient and consistent associations with trade, eloquence, negotiation, alchemy and wisdom.
Perhaps the first appearance of a similar symbol, especially in relation to healing, is found in the Jewish Torah, after the Exodus in approximately 1300 BCE. The Torah states (Numbers 21:5-9)
We are going back to church, in the midst of a global pandemic. The church that we see when we get there will not be the same. We will have to refrain from hugs and handshakes. We will have empty rows between us and our usual friends. We will not have bulletins, and many of us will be wearing masks. Through it all we are still the church.
The church has never been about a building, but it is about a group of people willing to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with each other and with their community. In the story of Moses in the book of Numbers, we find the people of God were overcome by a group of venomous snakes. Anyone who was bitten by one of these snakes died. Much worse than the pandemic that we now face, yet similar. The people had turned away from God and even spoke poorly of God and Moses. In a time before the grace shown by the sacrifice of Jesus, the people needed a sign. God ordered Moses to make a brass pole with a serpent on it and anyone who looked upon it would be healed.
Jesus became our snake on a pole when he hung on a cross. When we look upon him we find ourselves being healed. There will be a physical death for each of our earthly bodies, but through our snake on a pole, Jesus, we will not die but experience life eternal in heaven.
I pray that this month you will find life getting back to normal, yet you will not forget the lessons learned during the pandemic quarantine. Slow down. Take this world a little less seriously. Focus on the things that matter to our eternal home.
We can still be the church without the physical touching. We can still share the Gospel without physical interaction. We can still love one another the way Christ loved us first without regular meetings in person. God gave us that freedom when he created us, and it is up to us to use it wisely.