What is that in your hand?
The first four chapters of Exodus detail the awesome providence of our sovereign God. Moses was a Hebrew baby born in Egypt at a time when male Hebrew babies were being killed at the order of Pharaoh. God provided a way for Moses not only to survive but to be brought up in the household of Pharaoh. Furthermore, God orchestrated events so that Moses' own mother would be employed by the Pharaoh's daughter to care for him. So, in Moses' early childhood, he received Hebrew training. At some point he was transferred to the household of Pharaoh, where he received the best-in-the-world secular training available at that time.
When Moses had grown to manhood, he killed an Egyptian who was mistreating one of his Hebrew countrymen. Moses wound up fleeing to the Sinai Peninsula where he became a shepherd. As always God had a plan. Moses was there not only to save his own hide but also to learn what God knew he would need when he led the Hebrews out of Egypt. As Moses neared graduation from Jehovah's School of Advanced Shepherding, he saw a burning bush and not just any burning bush. This bush refused to burn up. In addition, Moses heard a voice coming from the bush and not just any voice. He heard the voice of God Almighty. God told Moses that he had been selected to bring God's chosen people out of slavery in Egypt. Moses made excuses and tried to refuse.
Exodus 4:1-5 continues the record, "Then Moses said, "What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, 'The Lord has not appeared to you.'" The Lord said to him, "What is that in your hand?" And he said, "A staff." Then He said, "Throw it on the ground." So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. But the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail" -- so he stretched 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." (NASU)
It was just an ordinary staff. It belonged to Moses when he first walked up to the burning bush. It was not a supernatural, miraculous staff special delivery from the hand of God. It was one that Moses had carried with him in his shepherding class, where his hands-on experience with animal sheep prepared him to deal with human sheep. Moses' work with this ordinary staff would produce supernatural, miraculous results both in Egypt and later in the Sinai wilderness.
God has placed a staff in my hand and yours. He has given you and me extensive training, equipping, and ordinary abilities. We’ve had them all along. They are ours for the using. God allows us to use them for our own purposes. And we do. Sometimes we use our staffs for good, sometimes for evil, sometimes for neutral purposes. God waits with longsuffering patience, waiting for us to realize that the ordinary staff He has given us can be used very powerfully, even miraculously, if we choose to get in line with His purposes. He longs to bless our staffs, our abilities. He yearns to work mightily. He desires to bring honor and glory to Himself. By the way, if you don't mind my asking, what is that in your hand? How do you plan to use it?
Pastor Steve Ellison is the director of the Ouachita Theological Training Institute in Mena, Ark.