Over the weekend, after running along part of the Trinity River Trail in Ft. Worth, I recovered by reading from my Daily Bible, Exodus 3-4, about Moses’ call to action, call to leadership, call to ministry, at the burning bush in the desert.
A reluctant Moses asked, “What if they don’t believe or listen to me?”
God replied, “What’s that in your hand.”
I expect Moses checked both hands closely before answering, wondering what God was up to. Did God see something in his hand he didn’t know about? Was this a trick question? Moses was holding his shepherd staff, but he was always holding that. It was so familiar. It was part of his arm. Why would God ask what was in his hand when it was something that was always in his hand?
Moses replied, “A staff.”
I imagine Moses raising his eyebrows and his voice in a question when he said, “A staff?” He didn’t even call it “my staff.” Why would God be interested in the most ordinary thing he had?
We all have things in our hand that define us, that are our strength, but are so familiar to us, represent our everyday life, we tend to forget about them.
“What’s that in your hand, Berry?”
“My teaching notes.”
“My trekking poles.”
“My list of jokes.”
It’s all regular daily stuff, no big deal.
I attended at Wild at Heart Advanced camp in May 2008 where I had a devastatingly personal encounter with God. He confronted me in no uncertain terms with the message: “You don’t know how big it is.”
Curiously, and much to my dismay, God gave no details about what he meant by “it.” I had to figure that on my own, but it seemed obvious “it” was something I was underestimating, something that was part of everyday life, the staff in my hand.
The Bible story tells us after God called attention to Moses’ staff, a simple shepherd’s tool, he told Moses to throw it down on the ground.
Ken Medema wrote these lyrics:
“Throw it down, Moses.”
“Do you mean, like, on the ground?”
“Yes, I said, throw it down, Moses.”
“Lord, don’t take my staff away from me,
Don’t you know it’s my only security?
Don’t you know when you live here all alone,
A man’s gotta have something he can call his own;
Not me, Lord!”
“Throw it down, Moses.”
After Moses agreed to do what God asked him to do, he took his wife and sons and started back to Egypt. The Bible says he took “The Staff of God.”. No one thought it an ordinary shepherd’s tool, now.
God had called attention to it, and then took it away. When God gave it back, it had new significance. Now, it was God’s staff; Moses just got to carry it for him.
Well, and use it to produce water from a rock, and watch it transform into a snake in front of Pharaoh, and hold it aloft to win the battle of Rephidim.
Like all Bible stories, we have to ask, was this only about Moses? Could it be about us as well? Would God ask about something he has given to us – a gift, a blessing, a talent, a skill, a calling, a ministry – and then expect us to throw it down?
Would God ask us to throw down something that defined us, established our identity and worth, with no promise what would happen next? Would God say to me, “You don’t even know how big this is, now throw it down?”
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32