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What is in your hand?

Mon, Aug 3, 2020

It had been one year since our family relocated to a different country. That first year was taken up with settling the family, figuring out where to buy stuff, developing relationships, and generally being available for the children who took the move harder than we anticipated.

With everyone settled into a good routine the thoughts on my mind as I puffed away on my morning walk (blame Addis Ababa’s high altitude) was, ‘what else for me?’ “What is in your hands?” God’s famous words to Moses, from Exodus 4 verse 2, popped into my mind. These were in response to Moses’ plea of inadequacy for the task God had placed before him. What he had was his shepherd’s staff.

As it so happened my bible passage reading for the day took me to Exodus 14 where after Moses had led the nation of Israel out of Egypt, Pharaoh and his officials had a change of mind. In a show of might, pharaoh gathered all his horses, chariots, charioteers and troops and pursued the Israelites. Understandably or disturbingly the Israelites panicked turning against Moses who did his best to try and calm them with the assurance that God would fight for them.

What grabbed me by the throat however are God’s words to Moses in Exodus 14 verse 15 and 16, ‘Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground.” Moses do what? Really? I ask and roll my eyes. As if he could! He might as well have lifted his staff and the red sea waters would never have taken note, they would have continued doing their thing, the tide going back and forth as it always did.

The story unfolds with Moses raising his hand and the Lord opening a path and Israel walking in the middle of the sea on dry ground. After Israel had crossed safely, the Egyptians hot on their heels, God again instructs Moses to raise his hand over the sea and the water rushed back to its usual place dealing summarily with the Egyptian army.

Another curious thought; God who by his power had done the amazing, never heard of before act of turning the sea into dry land, surely did not need Moses to raise his hand over the sea again so that the water could go back to its place!

God chooses to involve Moses and his staff in every part of this process. Not only this process but also in later incidents like Exodus 17 where when Israel needed water, Moses struck the rock as God had instructed him providing water for the thirsty community. He would lift it up as Joshua commanded Israel to decisively win the battle against the Amalekites.

As a shepherd for a good many years, Moses must have used his staff for all manner of shepherd duties including carrying a lost lamb to its mama, reaching out to grab a lamb for close inspection and nudging back an errant sheep back to the flock. The staff may have been used for years and while trusty and comfortable it was not necessarily special. Moses could have raised it up for eternity but it had no power in itself. And yet when it was offered up to God in obedience, the sea fled, water gushed out of a rock and enemies were defeated.

It must be amazing what God can do when we offer back to Him all the often seeming ordinary things in our lives; our time, energy, education, skills and talents, resources and knowledge!


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