What Is in Your Hand?


One of my favorite Bible stories involves an 80-year-old shepherd standing before a bush in the desert of Midian. The bush is on fire, but the flames do not consume it. The man is Moses, and he is having a conversation with God.

Moses. What do you think about when you see that name? If you attended Sunday school while you were growing up, you probably imagine a baby floating in a basket through the bulrushes and the princess who raised him in Pharaoh’s palace as a “Prince of Egypt.” Or perhaps the picture that comes to mind is that of a mighty man of God standing on the side of Mount Sinai, his face glowing with the radiance of the Lord’s presence. In his hands are the stone tablets inscribed by the very finger of Yahweh. (If you watch a lot of old movies, this Moses looks a lot like Charlton Heston!)

But the man standing in front of the burning bush fits neither of these images. He is just an ordinary shepherd, no longer a prince and not yet a man of God. And he believes that there is nothing he can do for the Lord.

I am convinced that most Christians live their entire lives under the cloud of a terrible delusion. They have somehow become convinced that God uses only “important” people like converted Egyptian princes or miracle-working apostles who do not know the meaning of fear and are well beyond the temptations that daily threaten to distract us from our faith.

When they read in the Bible about people like Moses or Peter or Mary, many Christians focus on the “finished product” and not upon the person God first began to use. As a result, they have concluded that God has no special plan for their lives and that they have nothing to offer Him.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The role call of faith reads like a litany of “ordinariness.” Paul even says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, that God prefers to use ordinary people—the weak, the lowly and the despised. He uses old people like Moses and very young ones like the boy Samuel. Weak people like David triumph over strong ones like Goliath, and socially unimportant people, such as shepherds, become invited guests to the birth of Messiah, who is born in a stable!

We may then count it as an established fact: God uses ordinary people to accomplish His extraordinary work. But how can God use us? I believe that there is an important clue in the Moses story. In the midst of his conversation with God (recorded in Exodus 3–4), Moses asks God what to do if the Egyptians and Israelites do not believe him. God, in response, asks a question of His own: “What is in your hand?” He then directs Moses to throw his staff upon the ground, and it turns into a snake. This becomes the “sign” that he is to give to establish his credentials as God’s messenger. At the end of the account, we are told that after consulting Jethro, his father-in-law, Moses took his family back to Egypt—“and he took the staff of God in his hand” (Exod. 4:20).

It was just a branch from a dead almond tree, but there was a moment when the staff that belonged to Moses became the staff that belonged to God. What a difference! From that point onward, Scripture records that, at the command of God, Moses “stretched out his staff.” A snake appeared and devoured the snakes conjured up by Pharaoh’s magicians, the Nile River turned to blood, plague after plague fell upon the nation of Egypt, the Red Sea was parted and water flowed from a rock. In the end, that staff was placed inside the Ark of the Covenant as one of the holiest objects in the nation of Israel!

In later times, the sling shot belonging to a young Israelite named David became God’s slingshot and the nearly empty cruse of oil belonging to a widow in Zarephath became God’s oil. Gideon gave God his torch, and a little boy gave Jesus his lunch.

I have a very important question: What is in your hand? God wants to use it!

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