What is that in your hand?

That’s the question God asked Moses as Moses went through his list of all the reasons he was not the man to do the task to which God was calling him.

What is that in your hand?

Moses had started by playing the ‘unworthiness’ card. There is a place for it (think Isaiah, David) – as long as it doesn’t become an excuse. But God will be with Moses, and who he is matters more than who Moses is.

Then Moses wondered what he should tell the Hebrews about God. Just tell them that ‘I am’ has sent you. That will be enough.

But they won’t believe me, or listen to what I have to tell them (Moses had tried talking to two of them forty years previously: it didn’t go well).

What is that in your hand?

In his hand was a staff. Probably no more remarkable at that time than an umbrella in the hand of a Belfast pedestrian on a day like today. Unremarkable and ordinary; commonplace.

Then God asked him to throw it down. When it did, what was common became spectacularly uncommon.

From then on, the staff takes on a symbolic role in Moses’ leadership. Sometimes the text in Exodus talks about the staff of God and sometimes it is Aaron’s staff.

  • 7:10 – it becomes a serpent.
  • 7:20 – it causes the river to turn to blood.
  • 8:5 – as it is extended over the rivers, there is an invasion of frogs.
  • 8:17 – the dust becomes gnats.
  • 9:23 – thunder, hail and fire.
  • 10:13 – the east wind carries an invasion of locusts.
  • 14:16 – it is the staff that will divide the Red Sea.
  • 17:5 – water is provided from the rock.
  • 17:9 – it is as Moses holds the staff of God that Amalek is defeated.

Whatever else is happening in the story, God transforms the commonplace into the uncommon, an instrument of his power.

What is that in your hand?

What do you have that you should surrender to God? A skill, a talent, an ability, a place of influence? Could these things become vehicles through which God works?

Interestingly there is a post-script in Numbers 20. Once again the staff is an instrument of power, as water flows from the rock. Only this time, Moses has abused his position. He should only have spoken to the rock, but instead struck it, twice. With that, he forfeited his place in the land of promise.

It’s possible to use what we have for ourselves: the challenge is to let God use it for him.



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