Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Do you know what a stick is?

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the Lord, “is so 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.”

[Context note: This conversation took place when God appeared in a burning bush to commission Moses to return to Egypt and lead his people out of slavery to the Promised Land.] 
Exodus 4:1-5

Do you know what a stick is? I'd like to think I do. I'm not the smartest guy around, but identifying a stick seems like a pretty easy task. So I couldn't help but wonder why God asks Moses a seemingly silly question in this passage. "What is in your hand?" God clearly knows what is in his hand. I am sure Moses knew his shepherding staff pretty well. So what's the point? Wouldn't it have been easier to simply skip the question and say, "Throw the staff in your hand down on the ground?"

I try to read Scripture carefully. I don't always succeed, but I try because I believe what II Timothy 3:16 says: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching." So yesterday as I read this passage, even though my gut told me not to question such a minor thing in the text, I stopped to consider.

Slowly, this thought dawned on me. It's precisely because Moses knew so very well that his staff was a stick that God's question was worth asking. Could there have been anything more certain in Moses' mind than the fact that his staff was a stick and not a snake? That fact must have seemed as solid to Moses as the ground beneath his feet. Yet God asked him to identify the stick - to define what it was and wasn't - so that He might show Moses that something which seems as settled as the nature of a stick is no boundary to God at all. Nothing is impossible with God!

This is the perfect response to Moses' question. He brought up a human problem to God, "What if the Israelites don't believe you sent me?" He is asking God what His plan is to solve this potential problem. God gives him the sign of the staff turned to a snake not only as a proof to the people that Moses really has communed with God, but it is also a sign to Moses that God is not easily stopped by even the most sure of human boundaries. Moses must and will learn in the intervening years to trust God and worry less about potential human barriers. The question for us is, "Have we learned this lesson?"

Have you grasped the simple truth that the problem which seems insurmountable to you is nothing before the Lord? This is important in your personal life, but even more so in the life of the kingdom. Is your church struggling to grow? Are you worried that the good news of Jesus is no longer appealing to people? Are you struggling with a call to ministry or mission and simply can't see how God can get you from where you are to where He is calling? Be reminded today that the surest obstacles in our eyes, the most certain facts, are as nothing before our mighty God. Trust His plan, even before you know all the details. Simply obey.

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