Sometimes in our journey with God we need tangible reminders that God is with us. For Moses, gripping the staff in his hand reinforced God’s presence with Him. God planned it that way.
“And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs” (Ex. 4:17). When Moses set out from Midian to return to Egypt that staff became his mainstay. “So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand” (Ex. 4:20).
The staff previously served as Moses’ identity as a shepherd. How beautiful that God used this same instrument to help Moses reframe God’s plan for him: to become the shepherd of His people, Israel!
God instituted the church, the family of God, to serve as tangible reminders of God’s promises.
God would work through Moses’ staff to inflict plagues on their captor, part the Red Sea for their escape, communicate battle plans against their enemies, provide water for their thirst, bring healing against diseases. This tangible object exemplified God’s power and His presence. Gripping this staff within his hand no doubt proved comforting to Moses on many occasions as he recounted the miracles God worked through it. A tangible reminder of God’s presence with him and His faithfulness toward him.
My friend Sammi keeps tangible reminders of God’s presence and faithfulness up and down her arms. For years Sammi battled drug addiction, and the track marks of scars remain before her always. You might think she would prefer to keep them covered, because they certainly would not be considered beautiful to most people who view them. But she rarely wears long sleeves. Those track marks serve as tangible reminders of the power and faithfulness of God in her life.
Moses begins to identify with his Israelite heritage in this next discourse. Look carefully at how he describes the people of Israel to his father-in-law Jethro: “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive” (Ex. 4:18). Moses begins using relational language to describe Israel. Let’s compare this with how God describes Israel.
Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.’ If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.” —Exodus 4:22–23
God also uses relational language.
But while Moses refers to Israel as his brothers, he still wavers in identification with his people, because Moses had not performed the primary act of identification of an Israelite with his sons: circumcision. God instituted this plan several hundred years earlier through Abraham in Genesis 17 in order to demonstrate to Israel in a very tangible way that God’s covenant with His people passed down from generation to generation beginning at conception.
In a strange twist of events, God almost kills “Alien” or Moses’ son Gershom, because he was not circumcised, until Moses’ wife does some quick thinking and performs the act in the middle of their journey. We see Moses exhibiting some outward signs that he believes God through his obedience to God’s game plan, but we also see him holding back from full identification with God’s people.
Only partially putting ourselves out there commonly occurs when we are still battling our fear of inadequacy. We find other purposeful pursuits to consume our time so we easily justify not obeying God.
Right after God refers to Israel as His firstborn son, read what happens next during Moses’ trip back to Egypt: “At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin [that is, circumcised him] and touched Moses’ feet with it . . . So he [God] let him alone” (Ex. 4:24–26).
God commanded Israelite fathers to circumcise their sons, and if they failed to do so, God threatened their death. While it seems strange that Moses finally obeys God and heads back to Egypt only to have God threaten to kill him on the way, I think this striking series of events proved comforting to him.
While Moses may not have fully identified himself as a child of God, this stern visit from God solidified God’s view of him. Gershom indeed was a sojourner in a strange land, or an “alien,” because as Moses’ firstborn son, he was an Israelite, not a son of Midian. God uses Moses’ wife Zipporah to show him his true identity—a true Israelite, one of God’s chosen people. While tangible items such as a staff can prove comforting to us in difficult moments of inadequacy, God most often uses people to help us properly frame our identity as His children.
God instituted the church, the family of God, to serve as tangible reminders of God’s promises. Fear tells us to guard and isolate ourselves from others because they might reject or harm us. Our fear of inadequacy slithers close and hisses, “Rejection is certain when others realize who you really are!” But God commands us to commit to our fellow kingdom citizens. Not just outwardly, but inwardly as well, to consider their lives as our own, to view them as “my brothers.” As we look around at our lives, with whom do we identify? Are we intentionally building relationships within the family of God or are we identifying with groups speaking alternative identities into our lives?
by Erica Wiggenhorn
Everyone thinks you’ve got it together. But inside, you’re asking, “Am I enough?” No matter how good we look to others,...
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