New Series 16. What is that in thine hand?

You may recollect the common proverb that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." This saying of the old folks arose no doubt because so many persons are in the habit of placing undue value upon some things they do not possess but ardently desire, while they discredit and overlook the things they have. Christians may easily fall into this snare, and scripture warns against covetousness, while it exhorts us to be content with such things as we have (Heb. 13:5).

Have you realised that it is possible to lose sight of something you actually have, which God would use in His service if you obeyed His word? An illustration of this danger occurs in the history of Moses. I refer to his behaviour when he was instructed by God to go to Pharoah and demand the release of the children of Israel from their bondage.

This task was a highly responsible one, and was attended by considerable danger to himself and others. Moses shrank from it. He foresaw the difficulties and made many excuses to God why he should not undertake this service. He considered the great civil and military power of Pharaoh, the mighty influence of the magicians and idol-worshippers of that great empire, and the waywardness of his own countrymen. Therefore he said to God, "Behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken to my voice; for they will say, the LORD has not appeared to thee" (Ex. 4:1).

Now in considering the significance of these words of Moses we must not suppose that he had just learned for the first time that he was to be the deliverer of the Israelites and had only then become acquainted with the vast power wielded by the oppressor of that people. On the contrary, during the first forty years of his life he had been brought up in the court of Pharaoh and was "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians." He also knew in those early years that God by his hand would deliver his brethren from their bitter bondage. Moreover, for another forty years, he had meditated in the desert of Midian upon the great problem of this deliverance.

My readers at this point will please note carefully that Moses was fully conscious of the importance of the step God would have him take. He also knew what was the right thing for him to do, but he held back because he anticipated failure and thought that men would not believe that he was sent of God.

The truth was that Moses himself did not believe, and he is far from being the only example of such unbelief. There are many persons who know very well what is the right thing for them to do, but nevertheless hang back, making a variety of excuses because they dread the consequences.

Thereupon Jehovah took His servant Moses in hand to instruct him. We can stand by as spectators, and observe the object lesson He gave him so long ago. Maybe we, as well as Moses, shall profit by it.

The Lord put a question to Moses which must at first have seemed a strange one to him, and one without any bearing upon the question uppermost in his mind, namely, the deliverance of the Israelites from the house of bondage, The question was, what is that in thine hand? Moses confessed he had but a rod — no weapon of warfare, no instrument of force, only a rod, possibly a shepherd's crook.

Admittedly, a rod was a weak and despicable thing with which to undertake the emancipation of a nation. But by its means Jehovah was about to test the readiness of His servant to obey His instructions without hesitation or objection. Would Moses there and then use the rod exactly as God told him? To prove his obedience in service the Lord therefore bade him, Cast it on the ground.

On the ground, the rod became in a moment a writhing, deadly serpent, a symbol of the god of this world, of the power of Egypt itself. A miraculous transformation took place, and Moses was shown that the rod of governmental authority, such as Pharaoh wielded, had become the great enemy of man.

In the second stage of his instruction Moses received a further command: Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. This act would require considerable courage at any time, and in this case the courage of faith in God who was speaking. To seize the serpent by its tail and leave its head free to strike with its poisonous fangs appeared unwise and perilous. But God's directions, even when they apparently run counter to one's reason and inclination are always the wisest and the best. In this instance, I think we shall understand the inner meaning of the command of God by referring to His prophetic word given in Eden. It was because the Seed of the woman would in due time bruise the serpent's head that His servant might without harm take it by the tail.

Accordingly, the serpent, upon the obedience of Moses to Jehovah's bidding, disappeared, and the rod of authority was in his grasp. It was an evident sign to Moses that the evil power of Egypt would be subservient to his hand, if he obeyed the voice of the Lord God. When later he stretched forth his rod, devastating plagues would fall upon guilty Egypt. When he stretched it towards the Red Sea, its proud waters would provide a dry passage for the people of Israel but a grave for Pharaoh and his hosts.

Now you will observe that Moses had this equipment for his service from the first. The rod was in his hand at the very moment when the excuses were in his mouth. The eye of man saw only the rod, but God was working the mighty wonders through His servant.

Let us heed the lesson, and use what we have at God's direction, remembering it is accepted "according to that a man has, and not according to that he has not." The poor widow had only two mites in her hand, but she dropped them both into the box.

May each dear reader consider what answer to give to the question, What is that in thine hand?