Fiery Serpents

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

…with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses.   Numbers 21

Well, who else are we going to complain against? We could blame the president or congress or the Democrats or Republicans; we could blame the Tea Party or the people who live in Kansas (what’s wrong with Kansas, anyway?) We can blame and blame. And especially at God. “Why doesn’t he treat me more kindly?” and we slip back into the patriarchal image of God on a feather cloud, directing the world, without even realizing what we’re doing.

God does treat you kindly. You’re alive aren’t you? The question perhaps needs to be redefined: Are you treating you kindly? Are you treating the people around you kindly?

In this story from the 40-year journey through the desert, the Israelites are tired and angry and complaining about the food and the desert and the water. “We are disgusted with the wretched food!” they say.

So “God” sends the saraph serpents which bite the people and many die. Must be God’s fault!

Here’s some interesting things about words – just for a break – saraph and serpent and seraphim all have the same root. The seraphim, of course being angelic beings. The below from the Rakefet, a Theosophical Dictionary.

Saraph (Hebrew) Plural seraphim. Fiery, burning, glowing, filled with light and warmth; also serpent. In the Old Testament, the serpent that Moses is ordered to make is the mystical Saraph, and in this almost purely physiological connection it represents Jehovah, the chief of the fiery serpents (SD 2:387). Flying serpent is the generally accepted translation of saraph me`opheph (Isaiah 30:6) — This curious, significant phrase more accurately means both covered or enwrapped flame or fire, or flying fire. And as saraph also signifies serpent, it could equally mean covered or concealed serpent, or flying serpent.
There is a strong mystical parallel, and possibly some remote etymological connection, between the Sanskrit sarpa (serpent) and the Hebrew saraph, the parallel doubtless arising in the same esoteric thread of mystical thought.

We have a long and lustrous history of thinking that God takes care of us – or doesn’t; that God honors us or doesn’t. That somehow God is responsible for our well-being. That sort of takes us off the hook of being responsible for our actions doesn’t it?

The Israelites repent: “We have sinned in complaining against the Lord and you,” and Moses, because God says so, makes a bronze serpent and mounts it on a pole for the people to look at and be healed. The visible is usually a useful symbol, but perhaps literal isn’t helpful in today’s living.

Is your body, your mind filled with fiery serpents, tormenting you? Fiery serpents come in many shapes, you know. Usually invisible. Sometimes visible as a co-worker, a family member, a careless driver. Does it feel as though you are trapped in a desert with no nourishment?

It’s a big step to see ourselves as Co-Creators; to see that we are responsible for taking the energies of each day, whatever they are, and living with them instead of against them. It’s a big step to see ourselves as the shaper of those energies. But we are. The path we search for is right at our feet; the dream we want to believe in, we are living; the life we want to have, we have.

Today, treat yourself kindly. Start with small steps if you need to, but begin. You might begin by relaxing your shoulders or your solar plexus; you might begin by taking a deep, cleansing breath. But begin. You, the people around you, the world, need it.