“What is that in your hand?”
A little boy grew up among royalty with the proverbial “silver spoon in his mouth”. Taught all the splendor and greatness of the Egyptian royalty, he never knew his little Hebrew male birth friends; for they were all thrown to the crocs of the Nile. It was but a few years and the providence of God, however, that this Egyptian prince became a humble Midian shepherd. You know his name: Moses.
Forty years later, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and gave him the challenge of a lifetime: deliver the Hebrew slaves from Pharaoh’s bondage. After making every excuse in the book, Moses finally argues, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you’”? That sounds like a reasonable concern, doesn’t it? Some dirty peasant shepherd walks straight through the front doors of Pharaoh’s exquisite palace and demands the release of half of the land’s occupants! That’s quite a bold enterprise. Some kind of an official letter or sealed document—anything proving that Moses is legit would be a nice thing to have with him.
God sends Michael, His mighty angel down to earth and places upon Moses’ shoulders a vibrant mantel that shines like the noon-day sun, a flaming sword of pure gold, and a chariot of fire pulled by two seven-headed fire-snorting horses with angel’s wings. Isn’t that how the story goes? Not quite. Here’s what the Lord says to Moses, “What is that in your hand?” Moses replies simply, “A rod.” (Exo. 4:2)
Nothing fancy, nothing noteworthy, and nothing expensive; only a simple shepherd’s stick. With this rod, however, Moses will present himself before the most powerful man on the planet. Of course, we know how God makes the rod turn into a snake, and we know how Aaron becomes Moses’ speaker. But here is the point with the rod: God wasn’t asking Moses to trust in a wooden shepherd’s staff or anything else of this material world. He wanted Moses’ faith to rest solely in God.
It is not by sword, by might, by wealth or by man’s wisdom that God accomplishes His will. It is by His sovereign resolve and us willingly giving our lives—our all to His eternal purpose. Moses did just that; and by doing so, the power of Almighty God was demonstrated before Pharaoh, the Hebrews, and the whole land of Egypt.
Obviously, I want to try to make application of this story to our lives today. What do we have in our hands? What tools of blessings have God placed in our hands? We live in a depressed economy. Many may have lost jobs and been forced to take jobs making less money. Everything is more expensive and money is worth less.
But let’s be objective. How many of us have been driven from the palace court to herding sheep? None of us have ever experienced the dip in life as that experienced by Moses. We still live in nice homes, drive nice cars, and enjoy our favorite sports and past-times. We don’t seem to be too worried about life. In comparison to what he had in Egypt, Moses had lost it all! (cf. Heb. 11:24-26) Yet, look at the responsibility God placed upon this man’s shoulders. Moses only had a shepherd’s staff. Was that all? Not by a long stretch: Moses had God (cf. Heb. 11:27-30). And through Moses’ faith in God’s power, he overcame obstacles and did things never-before dreamed possible.
What could God accomplish with the “rods” found in our hands? A lot, you think? Maybe not; you see, it’s not the amount or the type of things that really matter. It’s the faith we have in God and our willingness to allow those “rods” to be used mightily to the glory of God.
Our predicament is we all possess many “rods” that are lying idly by while the enslaved world suffers and cries out for deliverance from its taskmaster—Satan! God asks each of us, “What is that in your hand?” and we sheepishly answer, “Oh, that’s mine.” Really? God took everything away from Moses and gave him a measly shepherd’s rod. And then He challenged him to do something great with it. God knew He could accomplish more through Moses as a pauper than as a prince—when Moses knew who really was running the show.
Are we waiting for God to take away all that we have before we realize the purpose of our possessions? “For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him” (Mark 4:25). Jesus is obviously speaking of the stewardship of spiritual things, but the principle also applies toward physical things: “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack” (2 Cor. 8:15). Charles Hodge wrote, “Property is like manna, it will not bear hording”. Remember, God provides the seed for the sower; but He can also take it away (cf. 2 Cor. 9:10).
There have always been many voices in the area of evangelistic missions. For many years I have read and been touched by many pleas for help. I can’t speak for anybody but myself, but it always breaks my heart when I learn that most of these pleas go unheeded. But don’t misunderstand me; my feelings are not for the ones making the pleas, but those for whom the pleas are made.
These are the mission places where the inequity of dollars and personnel-per-person is so striking. Like all American Christians, I enjoy worshipping in nice, warm/cool comfortable buildings. I love having many preachers, elders and faithful Christians living around me. I’m happy for the prosperity and gladness of brothers and sisters in Christ. But I’m troubled because I also know there are people—just as precious and loved in God’s sight—that are forgotten.
I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet, but I would question the permanency of our current contentment to which we have for so long become accustomed. “Will God continue to bless America?” is a question worth our utmost attention. I’m not trying to create “class-envy”; but if we who have of this world’s abundance are unwilling to fulfill the spiritual pleadings of a spiritually-depraved world, we should not be surprised to find ourselves one day holding nothing more than a stick in our hands.
Must God bring us to such an economic state before we finally wake-up to the reality of His commission: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”?
In behalf of our students at BVBIU in Gorlovka, Ukraine, I continue to be one of those missionaries that make a plea for help. As long as there is the need, I will continue to be their voice; because there is no one else representing them. If you complain and become weary of my plea, I will absorb it, but I will not cease to be their voice. If you are ready to use the “rod” that is in your hand, please contact me. --Howell