Saturday, May 28, 2011

World's Largest...Fiery Serpent??

When you drive across the three prairie provinces of Canada (that would be Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta for those of you not familiar with Canadian geography) you find an interesting phenomenon in a surprisingly large number of small, rural communities. What is this phenomenon you ask? It’s the “world’s largest” or “Canada’s largest” or “North American’s largest” or “just a really big” statue phenomenon. Need a little more explanation? OK, let’s name a few:

1.       Gladstone, Manitoba – has the “happy rock”      Gladstone...happy rock (get it?)
2.       Flin Flon, Manitoba has the status of Flintabbatey Flonatin (try googling that one for a historical explanation)
3.       Elm Creek, Manitoba (my home town) has the fire hydrant. (Talk about dog heaven!)
4.       Canora, Saskatchewan has the Ukrainian lady
5.       Beiseker, Alberta has Squirt, the skunk (not sure why you’d choose a skunk for a mascot)
6.       Torrington, Alberta has the statue of the gopher named Clem T. Go-Fur to commemorate the location of the Gopher Hole Museum (a very unique tourist attraction that has to be seen to be fully appreciated!)

I could go on and on...and on, but you get the point. An astounding number of rural communities have their “claim to fame” statue.  Apparently erecting statues isn’t restricted to our time. The Israelites also had a statue of sorts, although it wasn’t erected for fame, fortune or as a tourist attraction. It was erected at the direction of God to save people’s lives!  

In Numbers 21:4 the Israelites are complaining yet again about their circumstances. Rather than appreciating the fact that they’re freed from slavery in Egypt the Israelites are whining about the manna they have to eat and actually go so far as to accuse God and Moses of bringing them into the wilderness to die. To teach them a lesson God sends “fiery serpents” (which is another way of saying poisonous snakes) among the Israelites and many become sick and die from the venom. Needless to say, this quickly brings the Israelites to their senses. They ask Moses to pray to God for forgiveness and to remove the snakes...enter the “snake on a pole”. God tells Moses to make the form of a snake and attach it to a long pole. He says that anyone to looks at the snake will be healed. The bronze snake is placed in a prominent spot in the Israelite camp and anyone who trusts in and believes God’s word, looks on the bronze snake and is healed.

We could leave it there but the bronze snake is mentioned once more in the Old Testament.  In
2 Kings 18 Hezekiah has come into power in Judah. He loves God and is disgusted with the idolatry going on throughout the territory. He begins to clean up Judah’s act by destroying the idols the Israelites are worshiping and what do you thing he has to destroy? 2 Kings 18:4 says, “...He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.” The Israelites took what God meant to serve a specific purpose, refused to discard it when it no longer served that purpose, carried it with them throughout their years in the wilderness and eventually began to worship it!

The giant statues we visit as tourist attractions are a fun diversion from the monotony of long distance driving. I’m not saying these statues are idols, but I think we can all examine our lives closely to determine exactly what has become an idol that eats up time that could be God’s. Is it the television, computer games, your job, your volunteer work, money, or your busy schedule? There may be other things that come to mind for you. Perhaps it’s time to “clean house” as Hezekiah did and break up the idols we’ve been dragging around with us for the past few years. What are some of the statues you've seen in your travels? What are some of the things in your life that have become idols? Click on "comments" below to share your thoughts.


Chris Cowley said...

As a Western Gal Carol I am surprised you did not mention Vegreville, Alberta's giant Ukranian Easter Egg! Good post :-)

Carol Henders said...

Thanks Chris. I have actually driven by the Vegreville Easter egg but haven't actually stopped to take a picture of that one. Thanks for the comment.