Every once in a while, a detail in the Bible jumps out at me.  As I studied the life of Moses, I was fascinated by the focus on Moses’ staff.  Moses would have used this staff to help him climb rocky or steep terrain; he would also have used it to defend himself – wolves, snakes, etc. I suspect that this staff was worn off smooth from years of Moses’ grip and sweat. Personal property was rare in that culture.  I suspect that his boys may not have been allowed to play with it.  If Moses said to his boys, “Go get my staff”, they knew exactly which specific one he was talking about.  

Moses is minding his sheep and his own business when he turns aside to see the burning bush. It is there that God gives him the long range plan and his new job description.  When Moses expresses concern about his capability and believability, God rocks his world with a huge test of his faith.

 Exodus 4:2  Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

 When God asks for Moses’ staff, it is his first step inside Moses’ life and stuff.  God took what had brought Moses protection and help, and turned it into something he feared.  Notice that Moses ran from the snake.  Was he unusually afraid of snakes in general, or was this a really bad poisonous snake?  You don’t spend 40 years in the desert and not know a poisonous snake when you see one.  He wouldn’t run from something he wasn’t afraid of.  I think God also uses this as specific symbolism….he took control over the serpent in Eden and still has it.  He then tells Moses to pick it up by the tail.  Why?  This is a defining moment for Moses. This is his crisis of belief.   Either he’s going to obey this Yahweh as God, or he’s going to pretend to be in charge of his own life.  If the snake bites him, he’ll probably die.  If he doesn’t pick up the snake by the tail, he clearly subordinates God’s authority to his own and has more confidence in his own judgment than in God’s control over his circumstances. 

 I would love to see the video on this.  How long did Moses hesitate before he decided to obey?  Did he do a “snatch and grab” on the tail, or did he try to sneak up on it?  No matter how he did it, he chose to obey, despite the fact that he couldn’t imagine a happy ending to this scene.  He trusted God more than he trusted himself.  His response to God’s question determined the rest of his life.  That moment began an awesome relationship with his creator and one of the most incredible journeys of faith recorded in the Bible.

 Moses got his staff back, but he had a whole new perspective on it.  It changed from being the tool he used to be a shepherd of sheep, to being the tool he used to shepherd God’s people.  It turned the Nile to blood, brought the locusts to Egypt, and brought water from a rock. It became something different when he gave it to God, and he became someone different when he trusted God with it.

 Much of what we have – talents, strengths, passions, abilities – will never reach their full potential until we give them to God.  I have limited control over what is “in my hand”, but when I give it to God, I have no clue what he’ll do with it….or what that will require of me.  What God accomplishes in the lives of his servants never depends on their capabilities; it depends on their obedience.  When God asks for what we hold in our hand, he is offering us for a front row seat to what he wants to accomplish in us and through us.  May we always trust him enough to throw it down….and pick it up by the tail…so that we can see him at work in our lives and our world.

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