The Rod of Moses
God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and asked him, “What’s that in your hand?” Of course, whenever God asks questions (i.e. Adam, where are you?), God doesn’t need our information. He asks because he wants to accomplish something in our realization. In other words, identify this thing. Look at it, this dead, unproductive piece of wood. Then God said, “Throw it on the ground.” (Exodus 4) And from these verses, I heard a wonderful message from Jentzen Franklin of Chicago citing three good points about what’s in my hand…
The rod represented his identity. It was a shepherd’s staff.
It represented his income, an occupation that provided his trusted resource and living.
It also represented his sphere of influence, the world around him and where he lived.
He used a star football player from his congregation as an example and showed a slide of this man bowing the knee at the end zone and thanking God when he made a goal. He’s using his influence to point to God. It so happens a football is in this man's hand, but there he was, laying it down for God to get the glory. Some may not understand that, but what a refreshing contrast to the superstars who strut around the endzone thumping their chests like tribal warriors when they can run 100 yards carrying that little pigskin. No, this man was using what he had in humility, recognizing that it all came from God and publicly thanking Him for it. The Word encourages us, “Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly as unto the Lord and not unto men.” (Col 3:23) This man was truly serving an audience of One.
I noticed the three I’s in his outline, and it was a triple-punch to the solar plexus, or should I say, soular plexus? This is a solid reminder of the all-encompassing self-life. Me, myself and I. We could say, the mind, the heart and the soul. Or, some think of the will, emotion and being. All that I am needs to be surrendered at the feet of Jesus. How tightly am I holding on? Truly, nothing that is "in my hand" is permanent or dependable forever. All these things can be taken from me in an instant. But the God who gave me life can teach me how to use what He has put in my hand. I only have to listen.
A popular commercial asks the question, "What's in your wallet?" Usually, a band of rogue warriors is trying to steal it from you. But who has the authority to ask such a question? Certainly the one who gave it to you could do that. God has the right to ask you for what's in your wallet. You wouldn't have a wallet, and there would be no photo on that license. There wouldn't even be a name printed there because you wouldn't have a breath without him! Like the disappearing faces on the old movie, Back to the Future, there would be no YOU! If we could only understand, it all belongs to Him and begins and ends with Him.
In every area of our lives, the Lord asks, "What’s in your hand?" He just wants us to recognize the gifts He's given us. We should have our eyes wide open and thankful hearts. There are bountiful blessings in our hands. There are families and children, friendships and opportunities, abilities, creativity and time! All so precious! Do we see all that is in our hands?
If so, the first step is God's command, "Throw it down!" It was just a dead stick in Moses’ hand, but when he obeyed God, casting it at his feet, it became a living thing! God knew he couldn't really use Moses until this weak and faltering lipped man realized a thing or two. It's as though God had to set the record straight.
Sometimes I wonder, shouldn't the burning bush have been enough? Was that sight too remarkable, too distant or intangible for him to grasp? God went a step further. He demostrated his power with the very familiar staff in his own hand. Moses probably carved and then carried it for years, possibly for the forty years he had been a shepherd in that distant land. His hands must have known every minute crook and crevice of that staff. In a very real way, that chunk of wood represented his own life.
It's as though the Lord was saying, Let me come a little closer and show you something you will really understand. You shaped that piece of wood, didn't you? You've used it and held onto it for many years. You think you have power over it? You think you have something special there, do ya? Wait til you see what I can do with that little stick! When it hit the ground it became a live snake and Moses ran from it! Moses had no idea the potential that was in that wooden stick. Potential for life as well as potential for death. In the same way that you carved that stick, I shaped you! Just as you've carried it and know it intimately, I've carried you and know you inside and out. I AM your creator and I'm calling you to trust me with everything that is in you.
Later on, of course, this same "stick" touched the Red Sea and it opened up so that two million people could walk across on dry ground in one night. I've heard scoffers say things like, "Oh, it was low tide anyway. The water was probably just a few inches deep!" Wow, if that's true, then it is even more remarkable. God drowned the whole Egyptian army in a little stream of bath water and thousands of horses and chariots were covered on a sandbar! No, it's a cute joke, but I think not.
There have been excavations at the site where it happened at Nuweiba, a red granite pillar that was erected by Solomon that is still standing, and the gilded chariot wheels have been found on the ocean floor. The place is ten miles long and up to 5000 feet deep. Though many want to look the other way and pretend it never happened, the Red Sea was a dynamic miracle as God stretched out His bare arm and brought his people out of slavery, just as He promised.
The point is, that little "stick" was seriously promoted. It went from herding a bunch of sheep in the back side of the desert to commanding angels on the front lines of history! Moses' rod in God's hand called down plagues on their enemies and led them to the Promised Land. As Moses learned to listen to God's command, that little stick became the ruling rod of God on earth. From a shepherd's humble staff to a reigning scepter in the hand of the Almighty!
God takes whatever we have and he can do the unthinkable. He can bring things to life! For me it’s writing, speaking and teaching. It might be a bunch of words and the learning and the messages he’s put in my hand. Without his life-giving Spirit, without his blessing, these things would never accomplish a thing. They are just dead things like so many scratchings on pages or so many splinters of wood. But at God's command, even the very familiar can overpower me. Like a slithering serpent, I would run from these same words and be destroyed by them.
So I cast down my identity, I trust you God for the income and resources I need to live. My future, my security, the ability--it all comes from you. I cast the sphere of influence, the readers and writers' groups, the congregations or classrooms, the people I “bump” into along the way… WHEREVER it is and WHENEVER it is, Dear God, I throw it all at your feet in Jesus' Name.
Thank you, Father, for the wonderful things you have put in my hand, but God, help me never to cling to them more than you, or lean on them or trust in them for life. It is the giver, not the gifts that I seek. Like the rod of Moses, these things are powerless without you.
Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remain in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)