These “cute” little viruses were drawn by me in 2020 using my iPhone’s Notes app.
And the LORD said to Moses,
“Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole;
and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.”
THE SCRIPTURE from the Hebrew Bible read in many churches this weekend is an account from the book of Numbers wherein God instructs Moses to craft and mount a bronze serpent on a staff as a sign of healing and salvation to the people. From the bites of poisonous snakes!
A snake, it turns out, is useful in the manufacture of antivenin (or anti-venom) for the curing of snake bites. This is an age-old remedy. Which no doubt led to an age-old counterfeit remedy: snake oil. Don’t buy it.
Dummies like me
I read an interesting and easy to understand article (for science dummies like me) at USATODAY.com on the production of COVID-19 vaccines. The manufacture of the vaccine begins with the raw genetic material found in the virus itself. As with antivenin, the cure is contained within the toxic property itself. Those little spikes on the surface of the virus that account for its capacity to gain a deadly hold in your body also provide the pharmaceutical scientists a handle on the cure.
And of the snake-n-staff that Moses held up? It was hoisted high as a standard for morale and hope against death. I don’t know how that works because it’s not exactly science. But neither is the practice of medicine. It is science, and more. Which is why healing is also referred to as an art.
I personally believe the story in Numbers has a lot to say about the power of symbols. Yes, trust the science, but use your artful imagination to see beyond science! The snake on the staff has been a symbol for the medicinal arts since ancient times. And it has been adopted as part of the logos of the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization, which I’m glad to say the U.S. has rejoined!
Hope against death
JESUS referenced the story of Moses and the serpent symbol because he was having a private conversation with a man (named Nick) who was a devout biblical scholar and follower of Jewish scriptures. Jesus knew he’d be familiar with the story. Most people reading the Gospel of John today may be far removed from the particular story that Jesus was referring to, which is why it continues to be read. Just what did Jesus mean?
He had a way of dropping cryptic comments into his conversations, and this is one of them:
“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)
In other words, like with Moses’ snake, he will also be hoisted up on a staff, he said — to bring hope against death.
Thank you for the people who invented medicines,
like penicillin and vaccinations;
for all the medicines that stop you dying from things
like measles and smallpox and chickenpox.
Please allow people to make more medicines
until every single illness can be cured:
bacteria illnesses and virus illnesses.
I know you made all this amazing lovely universe
but I would like it if the dying rate could go
down very slowly, year by year. Amen.
Andrew Hood (age 6)
from Pocket Prayers for Children, Christopher Herbert, ed.
Church House Publishing, London