“Then the Lord asked him, “What is that in your hand?” “A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied. “Throw it down on the ground,” the LORD told him. So Moses threw down the staff, and it turned into a snake! Moses jumped back.”
–Exodus 4:2 (NLT)
Moses is one of the most interesting characters in the Bible, because God used him to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt. But first he had to go through God’s boot camp, and I’ve tried to tell his story as it might have happened.
Moses was born a Hebrew. The reigning Pharaoh, afraid the Hebrews would overpower Egypt, ordered that all Hebrew boys be thrown into the Nile River.
One day, Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the river to bathe, and saw a reed basket floating on the water. Out of curiosity, she sent her servant to see what it held. When she opened the basket, a baby began to cry, and she saw that he was a Hebrew child. She felt sorry for him, so she rescued him.
Moses’ older sister, Miriam, stood at a distance and just happened to see everything.
“Do you want me to get one of the Hebrew women to nurse him?” she asked.
“Yes,” Pharaoh’s daughter replied. “I’ll pay her out of my allowance. Daddy is generous.”
The Bible goes on to say that the princess adopted Moses as her own son. But since Pharaoh despised the Hebrews, this decision must have caused a great deal of discord in the palace. Travel back in time with me as we try to piece together what might have happened.
The pharaoh’s daughter rushes into the court, holding the hand of a little boy. She aproaches her father’s throne, trembling.
“What are you doing with that little boy?” Pharaoh’s voice thunders. “I ordered all the Hebrew boys to be thrown into the river!”
Bursting into tears, his daughter whines, “But Daddy, you can’t! He’s so cute!”
“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do, young lady. The answer is no!”
Defiantly, she stomps her foot and screams out, “I should have known! Mother and I have to attend those stupid political fund-raising dinners all the time.You never let me do anything!”
Beginning to weaken, Pharaoh tries another tactic.
“But honey, don’t you see? I can’t back down now. I have already published my order throughout the empire.”
“All you care about is your image, and being the big man on the block!” his daughter counters. “I’ll run away from the palace, and you’ll never see me again. I’m not kidding!”
“All right! Calm down,” the monarch sighs, “and don’t say another word. If it means that much to you, I’ll make sure palace security surrounds you, so nobody sees you exit. Then I’ll call a press conference where the great Pharaoh rescinds his order to kill all the Hebrew boys.”
Instantly, the princess backs down. “Daddy, you’re so sweet! Of course we want everyone to know that you’re in charge.”
Regardless of how that scene really worked out, Moses grew up living the good life in Egypt, where power, prestige and prominence were at his disposal. The wealth that passed through his hands would have been amazing.
But despite the luxury of the palace, Moses decided to visit his brothers and sisters once he grew up. He could only watch in horor as an Egyptian slave driver beat a Hebrew. This made him aware of all the suffering which the Hebrews were forced to bear.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, and Moses killed the slave driver. Then, when he thought no one was looking, Moses buried the body in the sand and went on his way, as if nothing had happened.
The next day, he went to where the Hebrews were, and appointed himself their advocate. In this role, he tried to break up a fight between two Hebrews.
Addressing the man who started the trouble, Moses asked, “Why are you treating your brother like that?”
Turning on Moses, the man answered, “Mind your own business! Are you going to kill me, like you did that Egyptian yesterday?”
Moses realized he had been found out, and he escaped Egypt, finding shelter with the man who would become his father-in-law in Median. There, Moses lived the life of a humble shepherd for 40 years.
I imagine he felt like he had nothing to offer the villagers. However, it was not until Moses was humbled and left Egypt behind, that God called out to him. In the scriptures, Egypt is a model of the world, and until we leave it behind, we cannot serve God with our whole hearts.
In order to see this, think about the question that God asked Moses when He was sending him back to Egypt. Then apply it to your life, remembering that Jesus has sent us into the world to be His witnesses. He asks you and me the same question: “What do you have in your hand?” In other words, ask yourself what opportunities are right in front of you today.
Moses had a shepherd’s staff, which God told him to throw down. In the same way, we must throw down the things that we hold on to so tightly. It is only when we have empty hands that we can put our hands into His, allowing Him to give us a hand up.
Let God lift you up to new heights today, and help you overcome the challenges that life brings your way tomorrow.
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