|Photo by Mark Lemmon|
On a recent hot summer morning at our favorite beach I began my day with a private swim in the pool. The cool blue water exhilarated me as sunbeams danced along the shimmering aqua surface, as if fairy dust sparkled all around me, perhaps a glimpse of how magical the light will appear in Heaven.
As I start on my first lap, I am momentarily startled by what looks like a giant python barreling through the water, headed straight for me! But then I realize that it is only a reflection of the tall, thick, straight palm tree at the other end of the pool, its serpentine appearance an illusion created by the waves my swimming makes in the water.
Although this is the first time I have experienced this python effect, I have often noticed how this palm tree resembles a cross, with one frond going straight up from the trunk, and two at right angles to it, growing in a cruciform structure. When the sunlight shines behind it from my viewpoint, as it did on this day, it resembles images of the empty cross on which our Savior was crucified, the brilliant light symbolizing the power of His resurrection.
How strange that the reflection of this powerful symbol of eternal life could be transformed into an evil, deadly serpent! It brought to mind how our perception of God’s Word, truth and promises can be distorted by our external and even internal environment. We may be discouraged by storms and trials, or guilt and regrets from our past may haunt us, shrouding in gloom our understanding of God’s truth (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Once we are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we believe in our heart that God is Who He says He is and will do what He has said He will do. He cannot lie (Titus 1:2) and cannot change, for He is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
And yet we sometimes doubt that He will honor His promises, for we still have our sin nature to contend with (Romans 7:14-25) even though we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). The old man, or flesh nature, sometimes responds with fear or doubt depending on circumstances that hinder our perception and obscure our faith (1 John 3:8-10).
Satan is well aware of how he can tempt us to doubt God, as he did Adam and Eve, bringing the curse of sin on all mankind (Genesis 3). His strategies include the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Desire to fulfill our craving for beautiful things or fancy toys, or sexual or other fleshly perversions, or elevating ourselves in our minds above others or even above God, distorts what we know to be true.
Our enemies, and Satan’s allies, are the world, the flesh, and ourselves when we fail to give Jesus Christ pre-eminence over our lives (Colossians 1:18).
I believe the image of the cross reflected as a serpent was a warning to trust God’s Word, which is always true (2 Timothy 3:16), and not the lies of the devil (John 8:44). But I also believe it symbolized God’s plan of salvation, foreshadowed by the brass serpent God told Moses to construct in the wilderness (Numbers 21:8).
This was the forerunner of the caduceus, or two serpents twisted together around a pole topped by wings, that now symbolizes healing by the medical profession. I believe the wings are a reference to Jesus, the Great Physician, Who is risen with healing in His wings! (Malachi 4:2).
During their wilderness wanderings, the Israelites were plagued by deadly serpent bites – a type, or symbol, of sin, which stings at first and ultimately kills. But if the bitten victim looked up at the brass serpent lifted into the sky, he would live (Numbers 21:6-9), symbolizing eternal life in Heaven for the sinner who looks to and trusts Jesus as the antidote for sin and its penalty of death.
The image I experienced in the pool could therefore represent rising from a sinful state, in which we are intimidated and held in bondage by Satan, that old serpent, to the truth and life found only in Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Romans 3:25) and rose from the dead to give His children eternal life (John 3:16; 17:3).
May we remember that our perceptions, feelings and thoughts are sometimes inaccurate and deceptive, but that God’s Word and its truth never changes!
© 2022 Laurie Collett