Summary: It was only with a shepherd’s staff that Moses parted the waters of a great sea, that he commanded natural disasters and demanded water from a rock. It was in the great lesson of a simple stick that when anything is given to God it wields mighty power!
“What is that in Your Hand?”
It happened several times a week, almost without fail. Whether they lined up against the wall of the gymnasium, the local ice rink or the snow bank for the back-roads hockey, it was always the same.
The leaders picked him last.
Last for basketball because he was too clumsy; in hockey he was not coordinated; Baseball - he couldn’t swing a bat never mind hit the ball.
If just once in a while he could be the second or third last person picked but it never happened. He stood alone, and finally he ended up on a team by default, rushing to the team’s side before his eyes broke with a flood of tears in response to the embarrassing experience of being last again.
It wouldn’t be so bad if the experience faded into the background. Sadly, it carries into adulthood and well through most of life so that she’s always the last one picked; he’s the last one recognized; the last one asked; or so it seems.
People who face such experiences feel insignificant. No matter how gifted there is the all-too-frequent tendency to idolize another person who seems more talented and confident. It can consume you to the point of being so busy focusing on what you would like to be, you fail to recognize how wonderful you are.
Moses was there! The same Moses who saw a burning bush, heard the voice of God, saw the face of Yahweh, the same Moses whom God radiantly transformed.
The adopted son of Pharaoh who killed an Egyptian and fled for his life, spending forty years in a desert looking after stinky, smelly, sheep, had a one-on-one with the Almighty! The Prince of Egypt became the prince of a desert and would become a prince of God among men!
This would not come without its challenges. When God outlined the plan He had for restoring His nation through His dejected chosen leader, Moses was concerned about the people not trusting or embracing his leadership, an issue that God treated seriously to help Moses trust himself and believe he could lead. God acknowledged the challenge of peoples’ slowness to follow and obey (verses 8-9)…
1. Moses felt ‘Little’
Some people tend to define their worth, value and significance through status, influence or position titles; links to “significant people” or having the corner office. There are sad stories of people who retire and feel worthless because the external factors that gave them identity don’t exist anymore.
Such was Moses’ reality – his leadership slipped from a scepter of princely authority to a crooked stick to govern docile animals – sheep no less. E.g. House of Commons – the Mace before Parliamentary process. (SLIDE) (Library of Parliament August 2001): “The Mace symbolizes the authority of the House of Commons. It is a sign that the King or Queen has given the House of Commons the authority to meet and decide on the laws which govern the country.” We can appreciate Moses’ struggle. From his perspective the shepherd’s stick was a slip in status. Moses not only struggled with status but with value. Moses had doubts that he could do a good job.
To deal with Moses’ poor image of himself, God used what Moses had to teach some powerful lessons. God asked Moses, “What do you have there in your hand? – “A shepherd’s staff.” (v.2) Moses’ answer might have been with a dejected, defeated tone as he looked to the symbol of his failure and disgrace. I imagine him handling it many times remembering the scepter of authority of Egypt, and recalling how it would catch the glint of the sun as it moved in his hand.
I can almost hear Moses: “Great way to start things off there God. Remind me of my painful past; what could have been. If I hadn’t screwed things up so royally, maybe… Yeah, throw up the ugly truth and watch me throw up my regret, disgust and shame. You force me to face what I use to be, what I could have been.”
It is important to realise that to accomplish anything great for God, one must deal with the past. Satan stabs us with regret for past sins and failure. He works that blade into our minds and taunts us of how we messed up before and we’ll mess up again. God wants us to see past all that and realise we are free from fear of failure as we move through his adequacy!
Moses had to face his “staff” issues – perceptions that people would not listen; that God lacks in ability to make anything useful of me; I have a speech impediment; I can’t bear the thought of failing again.
Some would suggest Moses had self-esteem issues. Our society demands we put ourselves on pedestals where we don’t belong and in the process we fail to see the truth about who we are. The pursuit for self-esteem sometimes leads to the sin of pride and thinking more highly of ourselves than we should (Romans 12:3) and God is restricted in his ability to make us effective and useful. Living with pride results in daily sins of arrogance in our achievements and status.