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CHRISTIAN LIFE IN LONDON | JUNE 2022 EDITION
Look! Snake!
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Published May 2022


Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash

By Ronald Clarke

I recently had a peculiar experience which proved to be profoundly providential. I was sitting in my car patiently waiting for the traffic to move and there, right beside me was an ambulance with a logo of a snake wrapped around a pole emblazoned on the door! Two weeks earlier I had been researching several articles that trace the historical roots of this medical emblem going back 2400 years when a healing god called Asclepius was worshiped by the Greeks! This insignia which, incidentally, also features on the flag of the World Health Organization, had caught my attention for two reasons: First, I had read a fascinating article From Snake to Savior in which Dr. Randall Price examines the symbol of an uplifted snake toward which Moses' people were instructed to look with faith as recounted in John 3:14-15, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

Secondly, this Asclepius insignia called to mind an image of a 'sacred' serpent that I had seen three years ago prominently displayed beside a sketch of the Lalish temple in Sinjar where Yezidis have worshiped their deity for the last 800 years! Ever since I looked at that snake image in the living room of my Yezidi friend, I'd been curious to know what this snake emblem signified according to their religion. Not only so, two days after my unusual observation on the ambulance door, I was invited to a special new years celebration involving several hundred Yezidis. Interestingly, they described it as their 'Easter celebration', just as a way of identifying with Canadian culture. No doubt, this adaptation was easier because they traditionally have colourful eggs prominently displayed at each table along with many other special food items.

The symbol of a snake entwined on a pole raises a question: “How on earth could God glorify himself using a strange metaphor like a snake?” Allow me to answer with a question: “Why do you think God felt it was fitting to include an oracle given through a pagan magician as part of his prophetic plan of salvation?” (Numbers 24:17ff) Indeed, why does Scripture mention the High Priest Caiaphas' predicting that it was good for one man (Jesus) to perish instead of the whole nation? (John 18:14) Interestingly, God also used a donkey to rebuke Balaam. (Numbers 22) For what reason? Obviously, God deliberately did this to show that Balaam was a fool. He used a donkey – known for its stupidity – to underscore Balaam's foolishness. Likewise, God strategically transformed Moses' rod into a snake while commissioning Moses to confront Pharaoh. In fact, God showed he was sovereign, outwitting Pharaoh's 'wise magicians' using a crafty creature which epitomized their magical arts! God glorified himself in an unexpected way. Elsewhere Scripture underscores how God's foolishness 'destroys' and 'outwits' human wisdom. As it is written in 1 Corinthians chapters 1-3;

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Cor. 1:19-20)

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” (1 Cor. 3:19-20)


Make no mistake, God (in his wisdom) decided to use the uplifted snake in Numbers 21 (& John 3) as a thought provoking way to point people to spiritual healing and salvation. In fact, those who were bitten by a poisonous snake could now look at it impaled on a pole, no longer a threat but captured, overpowered, so to speak. In this way, they found healing and deliverance. I suggest that you read and ponder the fuller article, Serpent to Savior. May you be greatly inspired as you see God glorifying himself through this remarkable imagery.

It is no secret that serpent symbolism in Christianity and Islam correlates with Satan. Understandably, therefore, snake imagery can be a very sensitive, even provocative topic. And yet, on the other hand, it is not uncommon to see the emblem of a snake entwined around a pole on the logo of health organizations such as the flag of the World Health Organization. For these reasons, I no longer feel awkward or uncomfortable asking friends (including Yezidis or Muslims) a question like; “Have you ever wondered why health agencies often have a snake wrapped around a pole on their logo?”

Using thought provoking questions such as this one can be an effective way to 'season our conversation with salt'. (Colossians 4:2-6)

Curiously, the snake symbol surfaces in the Yezidi religion – a spin-off from Islam in the 12th century. But if we want to grasp the fuller meaning of Christ's redemptive analogy in John 3 we need to examine the backstory involving the Egyptians and several Canaanite cities in Moses' time which venerated snakes. In fact, serpent cults have persisted through human history, e.g. Yezidism. Do you recall back in 2014 how ISIS launched genocidal attacks against Yezidis? And why? DAISH accused them of worshiping the Devil because they venerated a mythical Black Serpent and the Peacock Angel as divine manifestations.

Christians, however, do not despise Yezidis, but rather, seek to free them from Satan's snare, being confident that Jesus fulfilled God's promise to crush the serpent's head! (Genesis 3:15) You can read a fuller discussion in the article, Serpent to Savior, which is available online. How fitting and beautiful that this article concludes by quoting John 3:14-16, “God so loved the world …”

From the author, Ronald Clarke... May this article arouse the curiosity of many unbelievers to think deeply and then as they gaze in wonder at the image of a disarmed, powerless serpent. I also pray that their spiritual eyes will be opened to see God's Messiah as heaven's heroic rescuer deserving all the praise and glory!

Click HERE for a newly published summary of Clarke’s article "Serpent to Savior."






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