Sun, Apr 20, 2008

WHAT IS IN YOUR HAND? EXODUS 4:1-5

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
WHAT IS IN YOUR HAND?
EXODUS 4:1-5

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Exodus chapter 4 as we look at God calling Moses to be the deliverer of his people from their bondage in Egypt.  I have called this study, “What Is In Your Hand?” because as God calls us, as He called Moses, I believe He wants us to use what is in our hands for His glory.  J. Cameron Lees puts it like this as he wrote:

God often does His greatest works by the humblest means. The great forces of nature are not the earthquake which tumbles cities into ruins. This power passes in a moment; the soft silent light, the warm summer rain, the stars whose voice is not heard - these are the majestic mighty forces which fill the earth with riches, and control the worlds which constitute the wide universe of God. So in Providence. Not the great Church organization, excellent and proper as it is. Martin Luther, a poor monk who had difficulty in getting bread to eat, shook the world; Linnaeus, with eight shillings in his pocket, began to study botany; Columbus had no grand steamer to carry him across the wide Atlantic. He wearied his life, and at last got from the rulers of his time a reluctant permission to embark with a hundred and fifty men only, and in three small ships.

The founders of the United States of America were humble pious men. The Pilgrim Fathers sought only a place to rest the soles of their feet where they could worship God in peace. The founders of Christianity were fishermen. Christ Himself the Carpenter, the Nazarene, despised and crucified, was the wisdom and the power of God. For, did He not say -- "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me"? So in the text -"What is that in thine hand? A rod" -- the emblem, the tool of his daily work.

With this Moses was to do mighty deeds, Rabbinical tradition has it that Moses was an excellent shepherd. He followed a lamb across the wilderness, plucked it with his rod from a precipice amid the rocks, and carried it in his bosom; whereupon God said -"Let us make this Moses the shepherd of Israel." He, a stranger, a fugitive, a humble shepherd, becomes the lawgiver, the leader, the deliverer of his people. The lesson of the text is plain. God still meets every man, and asks the old question - "What is that in thine hand?" Is it the tool of an ordinary trade? - with that God will be served. The artisan where he is, in his humble workshop, by using the rod which is in his hand, the merchant in his business, are in the place where they are now; all are called upon to do service. Few have rank, or wealth, or power, or eloquence.

Let those illustrious few use their ten talents; but let us, the obscure millions, use the simple duties of life - the rod that is in our hand. A smile, like a little rushlight, may cheer a sick man tossing on his bed. Happiness-givers are the true representatives of Christ; to shed abroad in home and social circles the joy and the charity of Christ is the true work of Christ's followers; and in this blessed happiness-giving all, exalted and lowly, may alike engage.

- J. Cameron Lees, D. D.

            That will be our focus this morning as we look at the life of Moses because I believe what God is showing Moses He is also speaking to our hearts. And as we go through this I pray that God will encourage you to use what is in your hand for His glory.

            As we pick-up our story this morning, Moses has been in the deserts of Midian for 40 years tending to the sheep of his father-in-law, Jethro.  And on this very normal day, as he traveled on the paths he had done so many times before and as he came to Mount Horeb, which will be called Mount Sinai or the mountain of God, Moses sees something that gets his attention.

            There on this mountain is a thorn bush on fire and yet it is not consumed. Thus, Moses is drawn to the burning bush and the Lord appeared to him in the midst of this bush. It is here that He calls Moses to be the deliverer of the children of Israel, to free them from their bondage in Egypt. But Moses makes all kinds of excuses why he can’t do it, even though the Lord told him that he would accomplish this work.

            In fact, the Lord tells Moses, who is concerned about the people not believing that he is the deliverer, not to fear because the people will heed his voice and believe. Before we get to our text, look at Exodus chapter 3, starting in verse 14 for in these verses we see what the Lord told Moses. We are told:

            And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’ Moreover God said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.” Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, ‘I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt; and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.’” Then they will heed your voice; and you shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt; and you shall say to him, “The Lord God of the Hebrews has met with us; and now, please, let us go three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.” But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.’” Exodus 3:14-22.

            God is pretty clear on this one. God will deliver His people through Moses. It is not “if” or “might” or “it looks like it” but He will deliver His people. They will be set free! That is where we will pick up our study this morning as Moses continues to have this conversation with God in Exodus chapter 4, beginning in verse 1.

EXODUS 4:1-5

            God is calling Moses into service, to be an instrument that He can work through to deliver the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. And I believe the lessons God is showing Moses are there for us to learn and grow from. It is as Paul said in Romans 15:4,For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

            You see, it is not just information folks, but these lessons are here for us to learn and apply to our lives so that we may grow in the Lord, learning to trust in Him. And as we do we have hope, not in our strength, our ability, our resources, but in the LORD!

            In these five verses we just read I see 3 main points emerge. First of all there is thePREPARATION FOR SERVICE – EXODUS 4:1. Then we will look at WHAT IS IN YOUR HAND – EXODUS 4:2. And lastly we will look at how, GOD ENCOURAGES MOSES IN THE WORK – EXODUS 4:3-5.  So let’s dig in and see what the Lord has for us as we walk by faith in Him.

1.  PREPARATION FOR SERVICE – EXODUS 4:1

            Moses, at the age of 40 thought he could do it all. He could deliver his people from their bondage in Egypt. The only problem for Moses is the children of Israel did not recognize him as their deliverer and Pharaoh also did not take too kindly to this.  You see, when Pharaoh found out that Moses killed one Egyptian he put a death sentence on the head of Moses.

            Thus, in just one day he went from the prince of Egypt to a wanted man. His plans had failed and he fled to Midian and there he got married and had two sons.  He also, like I have said, worked for his father-in-law, Jethro as a shepherd for 40 years! You see, for Moses, at this point he was too big for God to use him.  Moses would need to be broken before he could be used and that is exactly what those 40 years in the desert did for him.  In other words, God was preparing Moses for the work he was to do and it was going to take 40 years! And the Lord will do the same with us until we humble ourselves before the Lord, it is then that He will lift us up.

            A few years back we had our Calvary Classic golf outing and we had a great time. For me, it was the first time I golfed on a regular golf course.  I did Putt – Putt golf with the kids but there were no windmills blocking the hole on this course! For me, I feel that I am a pretty good athlete or at least was. And when it comes to golf, how hard could it be? You swing at a little ball. So my first swing was a beauty. Great form, good follow through, lots of power, if only I hit the ball! After several other misses I finally connected and it went pretty far, the divot that is! I was horrible until it came to making that putt – you see, Putt – Putt golf did pay off.

            My point is this, besides being a terrible golfer. It does take practice; it does take preparation if you want to complete the task that is before you. I see God doing that in our lives.  He is working to prepare us for the work. In Philippians 2:13 we are told, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.  The Amplified Bible puts this verse like this, “[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.

            In other words, God is working in us not only to equip us for the work but to also put those desires in our hearts and as we obey the Lord it is pleasing in His sight. I am sure as you look at your life, the things you have gone through, you can see how God has been preparing you for the work that He wants you to do. Yes, it may be a slow process but don’t negate the small things or the things you see as insignificant because God is using them to prepare you!

            For Moses, day in and day out he was traveling with these sheep, shepherding over them, caring for them and it was not easy nor was it a waste of time. God was preparing Moses to know the land where the children of Israel would be traveling. He was preparing Moses to shepherd the children of Israel, who were like sheep. They were stiff-necked, rebellious people, needing lots of care and attention. He was breaking Moses of his self-will, he was breaking him of self so that he would instead turn to the Lord and trust in Him!

            Paul expounds on this in Hebrews 13:20-21 as he writes, Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.  You see, God will make us complete for the work He has called us to do. That should bring great comfort to our lives knowing God is the one preparing us for the work.

            Also, God not only prepares us for the work but He also prepares the work for us. Paul, in Ephesians 2:10 tells us, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  And The New Living Translation puts it like this, For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

            If God has planned the work for us and He also has prepared us for the work then what is our responsibility in the situation, what are we to do?  We are to walk by faith and use the things that God has given to us for His glory and that will lead us to our next point.

2.  WHAT IS IN YOUR HAND – EXODUS 4:2

            This rod of Moses was probably the shepherd’s crook, which was a long staff with a curved head and it could be 3 to 6 feet long.  It was the rod he used those 40 years as he watched over the sheep for Jethro.  There was nothing really special about this rod. It was just a piece of wood that could be broken or it could be cut. This staff had no power in it; it could not do anything worthwhile on its own. And yet, God was going to use this rod to do great things.

            I believe this is a powerful point that the Lord is showing us here.  God asks Moses, “What is that in your hand?” and Moses simply says, “A rod.”  And God says, Great, that is what I will use!”  You see, God will use what is in our hand, the gifts, the talents He has given us to be used for His glory. Now, we may not see them as gifts or talents. We may be afraid that what we have to offer is nothing. But think about this. Was this rod anything more than a piece of wood? Absolutely not! The only difference is God was going to use this rod in the hand of Moses to do great things.

            God said to Paul, “What is that in your hand?”  And Paul said, “A pen for I am a scholar.” And God said, “Great, that is what I will use.”  And God used Paul to write 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament!  Look at the apostle Peter. God said to Peter, “What is that in your hand?”  And Peter said, “That is my Pope hat!” No, he didn’t say that. But he did say, “It is a fishing net for I am a fisherman.” And God said, “Great, that is what I will use.” And God made Peter a fisher of men!

Shamgar killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad – Judges 3:31.  Samson killed 1,000 Philistines with a jawbone of a donkey – Judges 15:16.  David killed the Philistine giant, Goliath with a sling and a stone – I Samuel 17:49.  And God took five small barely crackers and two pickled fish from the hand of a young boy and fed 5,000 men plus women and children – John 6: 9, 13. Can God use what is in your hand? You bet He can if you will let Him!

            But, I think we at times look at our lives and wonder how God can use us. God asks us, “What is that in your hand?”  And we reply, “It’s just a computer.”  And the Lord is saying, “Great, that is what I will use.”  How can God use a computer for His glory?  Don’t negate what God can and will use as He calls you for a work.  Look at those who have computer skills in this church and how they are using what is in their hand for the glory of God. They were called and they stepped forward using what was in their hands!  And many of you are doing the same, using what God has given to you for His glory, the thing that is in your hand!

            Let me share this story with you and you will see how God can use what we have in our lives for His glory. We are told:

An elderly widow, restricted in her activities, was eager to serve Christ. After praying about this, she realized that she could bring blessing to others by playing the piano. The next day she placed this small ad in the Oakland Tribune: “Pianist will play hymns by phone daily for those who are sick and despondent—the service is free.” The notice included the number to dial. When people called, she would ask, “What hymn would you like to hear?” Within a few months her playing had brought cheer to several hundred people. Many of them freely poured out their hearts to her, and she was able to help and encourage them.

- Source unknown

            You see, God asked her, “What is that in your hand?” And she said, “A piano.” And God said, “Great, that is what I will use.” Think about it, she could have come up with all the reasons why she could not serve the Lord but instead, she took those steps of faith and God blessed it. She was able to bless the people and in doing so she was bringing glory to God! It was all because she took that step of faith and used the gift that God had placed in her hand!

            What is in your hand?  A schoolbook?  A basketball? A hammer? A pen? A broom? An apron? An instrument? You see, it doesn’t matter because God has given you a gift to be used for His glory. He not only prepared the work for you but He also prepared you for the work and all you need to do is step out in faith and use it!

            In Our Daily Bread they make this observation. They wrote:

And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? Exodus 4:2

Our Scripture reading for today contains Moses’ response to God’s call at the burning bush. Having just been commissioned to lead the children of Israel out of bondage, he was apprehensive about how the Egyptians, and even his countrymen, would react. But the Lord said to him, “What is that in thine hand?” “A rod,” Moses answered. Then He said to him in verse 17, “And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.” Most of us are familiar with the great miracles associated with that rod when Moses obeyed the Lord. It was insignificant in itself, but it became a powerful instrument when committed to the Lord.

Writing on this theme, J. W. Johnson imagined the following conversation between God and some of His faithful servants down through the centuries: “‘What is that in thine hand?’ asked the Lord. ‘A sling,’ said David. ‘It is enough; go up against the giant,’ and the great Goliath fell before the shepherd boy. ‘What is that in thine hand?’ ‘A sword,’ answered Jonathan. ‘It is enough,’ and the brave youth, followed by his armor-bearer, went up against an army, and the Philistines were defeated....’What is that in thine hand?’ ‘A pen,’ said John Bunyan, as he spoke from the arches of Bedford prison. ‘It is enough,’ and he wrote the storyPilgrim’s Progress, which will live while the world endures.”

Don’t sell yourself short, friend! If God has called you to a task, He’ll equip you for it. He merely asks, “What is that in thine hand?” Give it to Him, and you’ll see what He can do with little things.

- Our Daily Bread

            You see, don’t negate what God wants to do or think you are insignificant, how can God use you. Folks, that is the point, we are nothing, we are insignificant and God will use us to do great things and He then gets the glory.  We are the instruments that God will use and folks, don’t praise the instrument, praise the one who used the instrument, GOD!

            I can tell you, with 100% certainty, that working in hospitals for over 20 years I have never seen this.  I have never seen a doctor come out after a long surgery, a difficult surgery, a life and death surgery and start to speak to the family and the family says, “Wait a minute. Where is the scalpel you used in this surgery? Praise be to the scalpel!  Glory be to the scalpel! All hail the scalpel!” We laugh at the foolishness of that and yet, when man gets the glory that is exactly what is being said – praise be to the instrument instead of the Master!

Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. The Amplified Bible puts it like this,Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.  Do you see that? Our good works, the things that we do are to bring glory to God. Don’t mess with God’s glory because if you do, He will put you on the shelf, He won’t use you until you humble yourself before Him!

Now, at this point Moses could have said, “Wait a minute here. You mean to tell me that you want me to deliver the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt by this rod in my hand? What are you thinking? It won’t work!” God would say, “EXACTLY! That is what I want you to do and it will work.” But, you can understand where Moses is coming from when you look at this situation from a human perspective. It is impossible! But when you add God into the picture it changes everything. W. Cadman put it like this as he wrote:

If man had been asked, "Now, what means should be used in order to deliver out of the iron bondage of a powerful monarch a nation such as Israel?" man would have formed some plan by which an army might be raised, and furnished with suitable weapons of war, and a suitable opportunity taken in order to throw off the yoke of Pharaoh's government and rule. But here was Moses, God's instrument, and he had neither sword, nor spear, nor army; he had a simple rod, a shepherd's rod in his hand. Observe, God does not require of Moses, when He tells him to go to His work, that which Moses has not. He does not require of Moses sword, and spear, and shield, and armies, in order to go forth to be a deliverer of Israel.

The question is not to him, "What canst thou do? Canst thou Obtain those who will go forth under thy command to fight a battle of loyalty and for liberty? Canst thou get together, ammunition and other things which they will need for their warfare. Moses might have then said with truth he could not engage in the work. But all that God said to him was, "Moses, what is that in thine hand?" -- not, "What canst thou get?" but, "What hast thou got?"

Now, we learn from this, that God can use any instrument which He pleases for His work, and that those are altogether wrong who suppose that they are not called upon to do anything in the service of God because, perhaps, they are not distinguished as others of their fellow-creatures -- have not so much money, not so much influence, not so great learning, not so much time on their hands, and so on. It is not to be looked at in this way, as if God demanded of us that which we have not, but simply that He requires of us that which we have.

Observe, next, the Lord said unto Moses, "Cast it on the ground"; and upon its being cast on the ground, the rod, we are told, "became a serpent." Afterwards he was told to put forth his hand, and "it became a rod in his hand." God, by this double miracle, laid hold of that rod of Moses as His rod; it was no longer the rod of Moses only; it was the rod of God.

- W. Cadman, M. A.

            Yes, there are times that we doubt what God is doing and the reason for that is because we have taken our eyes off of God and placed them on the situations we are facing and that causes us to lose hope and doubt that it can be accomplished. But we do have a gracious and merciful God who will encourage us just as He did with Moses here. And that is our last topic we are going to be looking at this morning.

3.  GOD ENCOURAGES MOSES IN THE WORK – EXODUS 4:3-5

            I believe that God is showing Moses here that it is not the rod, for it is just the instrument that God is going to use. Thus, He wants Moses to trust Him and as he brings this news to the children of Israel, that God will deliver them, he will show them this sign so that they may believe. Thus, this was not only an encouragement for Moses, but also for the children of Israel as they see the hand of God working not only in Moses and Aaron but also in their lives!

            So often people miss the point. They see things that are not there and then they miss things that are there.  Maybe you have heard this story but it truly does illustrate this point for us. We are told that:

Everybody in the hospital was awaiting a visit from Pope John Paul II. A doctor with a handful of paperwork took a seat in a wheelchair and busied himself with his notes. The Pope swept in, and blessed the doctor, who immediately stood up and walked forward. The devout in the Pope's entourage crossed themselves and rolled their eyes upward.

- L. M. Boyd - Crown Syndicate, January, 1984

            Folks, when God does a work, you will know it!  The amazing thing to me is that God is willing to use me, He is willing to use you to do the work. He could do it better than we can, obviously. He could do it in the twinkle of an eye, and yet, He has chosen imperfect people, you and me to do the work. I am so thankful for that. It is as Paul said in I Corinthians 1:25-31, Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’

            God uses us because He then gets the glory and that is how it should be. God uses us to confuse and put to shame the wise for the foolishness that they believe. And through it all God does encourage us and He gives to us what we need and then asks us to take the step of faith. Moses, as he threw that rod to the ground and it turned into the snake, he then picked it up by the tail as God had instructed him to do. That was a very dangerous way to pick up a snake and it still is, but the Lord told Moses to pick it up that way and he obeyed the Lord! That is what God is asking us to do, and He gives us the words and encouragement so that we can walk by faith!

            Abraham Lincoln used to remark that he could get any number of men who are “willing to shed their last drop of blood,” but he found it difficult to get men to shed their first drop to make a beginning. Don’t talk about what you will do for Jesus by and by. Just begin now to love Him, serve Him, and follow where He may lead!
            As I close this morning may you remember that God not only prepares the work for us but He also prepares us for the work!  Secondly, God wants us to use, to give to Him what is in our hand so that He can use it for His glory. And lastly, God gives to us words of encouragement to help us take those steps of faith for Him!  Thus, WHAT IS IN YOUR HAND?

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