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In verse 2, God does something about Moses’ problem. God gives him a sign. God asks Moses about the familiar symbol of his profession—the rod. A rod is not only used for protection and for sorting the sheep, but it is a symbol of authority. So God orders Moses to throw the symbol of his personal identity and profession on the ground. And what happens? (v. 3) It became a snake (and apparently a venomous snake because Moses ran away from it).

You know, when I was younger, I used to wonder about this. God could have caused that rod to transform at any point. That rod was always a potential snake. And today, I wonder how many things we consider important to our identity that might be just like that rod, able to transform and bite us at any point? I know that’s just an overworked imagination, but I’ll tell you this. After reading this passage, if God told me to throw down something, I’m more apt to throw down something. I don’t want my profession, my preferences, my hobbies, or anything to come to life and bite me.

Now, what I just said isn’t in the text, but what I’m going to share next is in the text. God calls Moses back and tells him to pick up the serpent by the tail. I’m reminded of purchasing a live viper to eat in a restaurant in China. My cousin (by marriage) and I selected the feistiest viper in the terrarium to be our supper and, to our horror, the server calmly reached his bare hand into the terrarium, grabbed the viper behind the head and started stuffing him into a plastic bag. The viper was having none of this and by the time the server was trying to stuff the tail into the bag, the head was coming out and ready to strike. Xiang-Rong and I both expected the fellow to be bitten and die, but somehow, he caught the head again and this time, tied the snake in a loose knot before putting the reptile back in the bag. He handed it to a runner to take to the chef and we had a wonderful meal, but it brought home to me the point that you don’t play around with the snake’s tail when the business end is free. You don’t, that is, unless God tells you to do something so that He is the only one who can protect you. And that’s what Moses did. He picked the serpent up by the tail and it became a rod in his hand.

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