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What’s That in Your Hands? Exodus 4:2

God many times takes what he has already given his people, “the thing that is in their hands” to lead them to their destinies in life. He can use spiritual and natural gifts; he can use experiences or education. There are times when God uses some common item that are used every day. He did that with Moses staff and with David’s sling and a stone. Many people continue to look for the grandiose vision or prophesy when God wants to use “what’s in their hands.”

Moses had been uniquely born for that particular time. His life foreshadowed the coming of Jesus. When Moses was born, Pharaoh had ordered the death of all male Hebrew babies. Moses was saved from the slaughter by Pharaoh’s daughter who retrieved him from the Nile where his mother had hid him for three months. Moses grew up in the courts of Egypt but when he killed the Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew man, he fled to Midian where he remained for forty years.

Now at eighty, God was preparing Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage and he used what was right there in Moses’ hand. God said to Moses, “What’s that in your hand?”  (Exodus 4:2) Moses replied, “A staff.”  Moses saw a staff (rod); a wooden stick that he used for support himself.  God saw an instrument, familiar to Moses, that he could use to perform miracles. God told Moses to throw the staff on the ground, so Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake.  Moses ran from the snake, but God told him to take the tail of the snake and when he did, it became his staff again. Then God explained why he turned Moses’ ordinary staff into a snake and then back to his staff again.  God said, “This,” . . . “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.” (Exodus 4:5) In other words, God used a common thing, a staff, so that the Israelites would have faith in him. 

Not only did God use that common staff increase the Israelites’ faith, but he also used it to strengthened Moses faith in him. He did it by transferring power to Moses through the use of the staff and turning a timid Moses into a man of destiny and purpose. God told Moses to throw his staff on the ground. The staff became a snake and Moses ran from it. The Lord told Moses to reach out and take the snake by the tail and the snake became a staff again. So, Moses picked up the tail of the snake by the tail. It was God’s teachable moment– he was demonstrating that Moses could trust him as he transferred his power to Moses through his staff, something he used every day.  To further increase Moses’ faith, God asked him to put his hand into his cloak.  When Moses took his hand out, it was leprous.  God instructed him to put his hand back into his cloak. This time when he took it out his flesh was restored. (Exodus 4:6-7)

God sent Moses and his brother, Aaron, to Pharaoh to ask him to let his people go and each time, Pharaoh refused. He made the Israelites workload even harder. God had hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he used the staffs of Moses and Aaron to perform the miracles and wonders and to demonstrate his power to the Egyptians:

  • God used the staff to become a snake before Pharaoh.  God said, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle, then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh and it will become a snake.’”  So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials and it became a snake.  Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers and the Egyptian magicians also did the same thing by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake.  But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. God caused Pharaoh’s heart to hardened even the more. (Exodus 7:9-12)
  • God used the staff to turn the Nile River into blood. The Lord said, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. “Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the river. Confront him on the bank of the Nile, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. Then say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.  But until now you have not listened. This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand, I will strike the water of the Nile and it will be changed into blood. The fish in the Nile will die and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.’ ” The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ . . . Pharaoh’s heart became hardened even more; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord has said.(Exodus 7:14-19, 22)
  • The Lord uses the staff to produce a plague of frogs.  The Lord told Moses again to go to Pharaoh and say to him, “This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.  If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. The Lord told Moses to stretch out his hand with his staff and frogs came up over all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh then sent for Moses and Aaron and promised to let the Israelites go “to offer sacrifices to the Lord.” (Exodus 8:1-2, 5-6,8) Moses then prayed that the frogs would die and God answered his prayer; the frogs died.  Then, after the frogs died, Pharaoh’s heart hardened again and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron.
  • God uses the staff to produce a plague of gnats. God said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats” They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came on the people and animals. . . But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. . . the magicians told Pharaoh that, “This is the finger of God. But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said. (Exodus 8:16-19)

Pharaoh continued to defy the Lord and refused to let his people go even as God continued to send plagues on the Egyptians. He sent: a plague of flies, a plague on livestock, a plague of boils, a plague of hail, a plague of locusts, a plague of darkness and finally a plague on the firstborn. The Lord had hardened Pharaoh’s heart.  He said to Moses in Exodus 11;9, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” in other words, I hardened Pharaoh’s hard to that I could show my wonders and miracles to the him and the Egyptians. However, the final plague—the death of every firstborn son—broke Pharaoh and caused him to drive the Israelites out of Egypt.

God also used Moses and Aaron’s staffs to perform other miracles. 

  • God uses the staff to part the Red Sea after the Israelites left Egypt. (Exodus 13:17-22; 14) God led his people through the desert to the Red Sea.  In the meantime, Pharaoh changed his mind about allowing the Israelites to leave the land and decided to pursue them. God had again hardened Pharaoh’s heart.   As they approached the Red Sea, the people caught sight of the advancing Egyptian army and they cried out to God in fear.  They also contended with Moses about taking them out of Egypt only to be now captured by the Egyptian army at the Red Sea. Then the Lord said to Moses, “. . . Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.  The Israelites went through the Red Sea on dry ground.”  The Egyptian army pursued them and the Lord told Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea so that the waters covered Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen. So, God saved his people from the Egyptians. (Exodus 14:15-30)
  •  God uses the staff to strike the rock at Horeb to produce water for the Israelites. In Exodus 17:5-6, the people grumbled with Moses because they were thirsty for water. Moses cried out to God as to what to do with the grumbling people. The Lord said, “. . . take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile and go. I will stand there before you by the rock of Horeb. Strike the rock and water will come out of it for the people to drink. So, Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.
  • Now in Numbers 20:9-13 the Israelites are grumbling at the Desert of Zin and God tells Moses to take his staff, along with Aaron and gather the assembly, but he does not tell Moses to use the staff. Moses was told to speak to the rock and it will pour out water. Moses was angry with the rebellious people, so he took the staff and struck the rock twice.  Water gushed out but Moses had disobeyed God. His disobedience prevented him from entering the Promised Land.

Now  David understood that God uses the things that are familiar t,o accomplish the spectacular.  When David fought Goliath, Saul tried to dress David in his armor, but David said, “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So, he took them off. (1 Samuel 17:39) David chose to use the things in which he was familiar, his staff, his sling and some rocks.

Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hands, approached the Philistine. . . As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead.  The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. (NIV, 1 Samuel 17:40, 48-50) God delivered the Philistines into the hands of the Israelites that day with the death of their hero, Goliath. (1 Samuel 17:50-53)

God desires that his people fulfill their destinies and he often uses the ordinary things to perform extraordinary feats. So, what’s that in your hands?  Has God given you something or equipped you with gifts that you are not using or are not recognizing?  Do you have some experiences that could be used by God? Perhaps your education has provided you with something that will fulfill your destiny. Pray and ask God if you already have something that you are not using that will bring glory to him and fulfill your purpose here on the earth.

Published inInspirational Commentaries and Writings

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