You have to admire the men pictured here. They are returning home from hunting an African Rock Python. Seeing how its jaws can expand wide enough to swallow an antelope, one might consider them brave in just carrying a dead one. In saying they hunt them you probably picture them surrounding one in a tree or on the ground, then using weapons to kill it or clubs to beat it. Remove that picture from your mind and read on. These men are much braver (or crazier, depending on your perspective) than that.
Adult pythons, usually 18-20 feet in length but which can get up to 28 feet and over 250 pounds, use the burrows of other animals to nest. These burrows can go down into the ground nearly 20 feet. The mother python will lay up to 100 eggs in her cache and then spend the next few months in her lair aggressively protecting them. This is where these men hunted. Again, you may imagine they smoked her out then beat her when she emerged from her tunnel. Keep reading.
To hunt this python, one of the men tied a leather coverings to his forearm and then held a bundle of lit twigs in his other hand for light. After securing a rope around him, he was lowered head first into the python's burrow, barely able to squeeze down. As he approached the snake face-to-face, he waved his leather-covered hand by the the python's mouth. The snake, already upset, struck the hand and began to swallow it. The hunter then quickly dropped the twigs, and with his other hand choked tightly the snake's never-ending throat right behind where his other hand was being swallowed. (This prevented the hunter from becoming its next meal.) At this point he undoubtedly yelled and kicked so his friends would pull him out of the hole. As he was extracted from the hole, the python was choking to death from the leather covering that had slipped off his hand combined with the choke hold of the hunter. The snake's body, naturally used when it falls on its prey with its weight and then crushes it with the strength of its death coils, was rendered useless by the narrowness of the burrow. Thus the snake, usually the predator, suffocated and became the prey. And yes, these men are taking this snake home to eat.
My job as a pastor regularly involves dealing with sin. Being it my own holed up in my own soul, working with others who have lived long in Satan's lair, or trying to hunt out the deadly lusts with searching preaching, the stubborn fierceness of sin confounds and (I must admit at times) scares me. Though these python hunters may get a certain adrenaline rush as they go down into that hole, I find little pleasurable or exciting in dealing with sin. I can even reason in my own mind, "If we are to let sleeping dogs lie, why not sleeping snakes?" Yet that's the problem. The serpent of old never sleeps, for he admits in his own words that he "roams about on the earth" (Job 1:7). And we know why. He is seeking someone he may devour (I Peter 5:8) through continually enticing them to follow their lusts. How tiring it can be to try to handle the slippery serpent and ceaseless sin. This "snake hunter" often wonders what the outcome is going to be.
Yet that's where this metaphor must go further. What encouragement can be found in turning again and again to the reminder from the Bible of the One who went into the snake pit for me! That dragon of old, with his jaws on the heel of the Savior, thought in his cunning he had brought an end to Christ at the cross. Little did he know his death bite was his own death warrant. That cross silenced forever his venomous accusations, and Jesus arose to crush his head. No wonder the Bible tells us we can see the devil flee when we resist him in Christ! Seeing salvation granted to the repentant, watching sanctification occur in His people, achieving reconciliation, witnessing an evil be used for God's purpose - these things and more remind me of the victory of the Lamb over the dragon.
O Lord, hear me pray what you have promised: "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet!"