Scripture: Exodus 4:1-5
I’ve given a couple of messages now on Moses. He’s a fascinating figure in the Old Testament, one from whom a great deal can be learned. From God’s interaction with him there is the lesson that God loves his people, that he identifies with their pain. From God’s interaction with Moses there is the lesson of when God calls a person to service. This morning there is a question being asked of Moses. That question is not just for Moses, it is for you. Keep in mind that God already has spoken to Moses through the burning bush. God has made it clear to him that he has a purpose in mind for him, he has a task he wants him to do. Moses is now working through reasons why he can’t do what God has just told him to do. Chances are very good you’ve been where Moses was, you’re there now, or you’ll be there in the near future. It’s clear to you how you’re to obey, but you have reservations, you’re cautious, you’re holding back for one reason or another. So when you’re there, God’s question to Moses is also his question to you. Hear what Exodus 4:1-5 says, “Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’ ” The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Did you catch the question? There’s only one – “What is that in your hand?” Even though this question is short, it is crammed full of meaning. What is that in your hand? There are three fascinating things here.
First, God’s question for you is simple. What is that in your hand? It’s easy to answer, there’s no trick to it. In other words, what do you have at your fingertips right now? What is within your grasp? Moses was worried about the future.
“Will the people of Israel follow me?”
“What happens if?…”
It’s the same question people ask God today when called to follow him
“But God, what happens if….”
What happens if I lose my job?
What happens if my classmates at school don’t like me and think I’m a Jesus freak?
What happens if my boyfriend or girlfriend dumps me?
What happens if my children get ill?
What happens if my spouse dies before I do?
It is very easy to run hypothetical situations into the ground.
It’s easy to visualize the very worst thing occurring. When that awful, dreaded thing takes place, what then?
God is telling Moses, and is telling you today, stop worrying about what is going to happen in the future. Focus on the here and now, on what is in your hand. Moses was holding a staff. It was an extremely common item in Biblical times. A staff (or a rod) was used to help with walking, especially over hills and rocky places. People traveling usually had a staff with them. A staff was carried by shepherds. Moses was a shepherd, and he had turned from tending his flock to see the burning bush. The only thing he had in his hand was a simple, ordinary, everyday staff. To him it was no big deal – just a staff. God however, took what was very common and ordinary, and transformed it for his work. When Moses used his staff from this point forward, God moved. He made the very ordinary very extraordinary. What do you have in your hand? For Moses, the answer was “a staff.” What do you have in your hand? What do you do every day?
It may seem common and routine to you, but God wants to use it for his purposes. You have some kind of ability that benefits others. Use that ability in a new way, a way that benefits God and his people in the church. What natural talents do you have?
What is it that you do with excellence?
Do you make beautiful decorations?
Encourage the elderly?
Grow stunning flowers?
Handle children with grace?
You get the idea – just look at what you have right now, within your grasp. You may say, “God I don’t know what you want me to do with my life.” His question is simple – “what is that in your hand?”
Then, God’s question for you is strange. It’s strange because God already knows the answer. It’s strange because you think its of little value. To Moses, it’s just a staff – it’s no big deal. God chose to take that staff and do powerful things with it – it’s strange that God would act in that manner. Why not allow some kind of golden staff or rod to drop from the sky? Moses could pick it up, then would be totally confident that the staff would do whatever he needed. God doesn’t give him anything extra however, he uses what’s in his hand. When the people of Israel were later leaving Egypt and were trapped by the Red Sea, God said, “Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:16). Later when the people were in the desert and needed water to drink, God told Moses, “…take in your hand the staff … and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” (Exodus 17:5-6)
Even though it may seem strange to you today, God can use whatever is in your hand to accomplish his purpose.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
What is in your hand?
Then, God’s question for you is sacrificial. Moses couldn’t keep the staff – he had to throw it down, he had to let it go. “The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it” (verses 2-3).
Moses had to release his staff. It was very personal, it was something that was with him all the time, it was something on which he depended. God in essence said, “Give it to me – throw it down.” When Moses released it, God transformed it. The transformation didn’t happen however, until Moses gave it to God. When God asks what is in your hand, his intent is that you surrender it to him.
Are you into sports? Are you a football player, a runner, a cheerleader, a gymnast? Give it to me. Are you good with sales, service, numbers, repairs, electronics or computers? Throw it down in my presence. Can you cook, clean, arrange flowers, do artwork, decorate? Lay it down. When you yield it to him, God transforms it. It becomes his tool for helping others. Listen to Exodus 4:20. Moses is finally finished with his long conversation with God, and is starting his journey to Egypt. Verse 20 says, “So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand.”
It was no longer his staff, it was God’s staff, and because it was God’s staff, that made all the difference. What is that in your hand?
Following God can be a scary thing. Letting go of what is so personal to you and giving it to Him is intimidating. The rewards however, are great. Jesus says in Mark 8:35,
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it” (NLT).
God’s question to you is, “What’s in your hand?”