Then the Lord asked him, “What is that in your hand?” “A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied. “Throw it down on the ground,” the Lord told him.Exodus 4:2–3 (NLT)
It was just another ordinary day. Nothing special. Nothing out of the norm. For Moses, it was pretty much the same routine it had been for the past 40 years: Wake up. Take care of sheep all day. Go to bed. Start all over the next day. His years spent growing up as a prince in Pharaoh’s palace on the beautiful banks of the Nile seemed a lifetime away. Now his days consisted of taking care of his father-in-law’s flocks of sheep out on the dry and dusty desert plains of Midian. At 80 years old, his life was over. Whatever dreams he may have once had were now long gone.
It wasn’t a horrible life. In fact, it was pretty peaceful. In spite of his education and learning, Moses had come to accept his lot in life and resigned himself to it. But then he came across a burning bush. God asked him a question. And life as Moses knew it forever changed.
The sight of a bush burning in the desert probably wasn’t terribly shocking to Moses. But then, when the bush continued to blaze without burning up, his curiosity was piqued, and he drew closer to investigate. At that moment, Moses heard God’s voice coming from within the burning bush, calling him by name.
Imagine how Moses felt when God told him He had seen the agony of His people in Egypt and heard their cries for deliverance, and He was sending Moses to lead them out! For 40 years, he had led nothing but sheep. Is it any wonder that Moses responded with, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?”
Do you know how God chose to answer Moses’ question? With a seemingly unrelated question of His own: “What’s in your hand?”
Now Moses must have wondered why God would ask him a question He obviously knew the answer to, but he simply replied, “A shepherd’s staff.” And then God commanded, “Throw it on the ground, Moses.” So Moses threw it on the ground, and lo and behold, it turned into a snake! Naturally, Moses turned and ran; that is, until he was stopped in his tracks by God’s command to pick up the snake by its tail. With a considerable amount of nervousness, Moses cautiously reached out his hand and picked the snake up by its tail, and it immediately became a staff again.
We don’t know how long Moses had been using that particular staff, but odds are that it was quite a while. Most likely, he had grown pretty familiar with all of the staff’s little nicks and grooves, and the passage of time had probably weathered the wood to the point where it was now smooth and completely at home in his hand. His staff represented so much more than just a walking stick. First, it represented his identity. Just as a stethoscope represents a doctor or a tool belt represents a mechanic, Moses’ staff was the most recognizable symbol of his occupation as a shepherd—his career, his job. Secondly, it was a symbol of his income. In those days, people didn’t have bank accounts, credit cards or hedge funds … they had cattle, goats and sheep. And as caretaker of his father-in-law’s flocks of sheep, Moses’ income—his money and possessions—was inextricably linked to his position. The third thing the staff symbolized was Moses’ influence. Because when a shepherd uses his staff to move sheep from Point A to Point B, he is essentially influencing them.
So in essence, when God asked Moses, “What’s in your hand?” and told him to “throw it on the ground,” He was saying, “Are you going to lay down your identity? Surrender your income? Let go of your influence? Because if you do, I’ll take something that seems dead to you, and I’ll make it come alive. I’ll make a miracle out of it. It may seem like an insignificant stick to you, but if you surrender it to My hands, I’ll do things you could never imagine possible.”
The question that God asked Moses so many years ago still resonates just as strongly today: What’s in your hand? Your talent, background, education, freedom, health, contacts, opportunities, mind, passions, wealth, ideas, creativity … What’s in your hand?
The first step to going out lies in giving in. Before we can “go,” God wants us to “let go” … to totally, completely, unconditionally, absolutely surrender to Him each and every single day.
So ask yourself today, “What’s in my hand?”
God can’t give you the blessings He has for you until you first put down the other things you are clutching in your hands.
~ Richard Stearns