We begin this portion taken from Saturday’s message with verses 2 and 3 of chapter four.

The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.” Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So, he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.

Did you notice that there seems like something is not quite right in this passage? Notice the last words, Moses fled. Here Moses was in front of the great I AM, the Mighty God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, and at the sight of a snake, he runs away from both the Lord and the snake. What about the great sight of that bush that was still burning?

And what about all the words of comfort he just heard from God? Still, Moses runs away.

The word run in Hebrew is noos. This is the same word used to describe how the Egyptian army fled when seeing the waters of the sea closing in, or when the Canaanites fled from the armies of Joshua. This same word is used to describe a fugitive, someone who is on the run. For a moment, Moses forgot who he was and before whom he stood.

But should we be that hard on Moses? Though he had God in front of him, we have the Spirit of God in us and yet we also flee from time to time, don’t we? We also feel anxious and fear even though the Lord repeatedly tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us. Like Moses, we often turn away from the great source of protection and lose out on some great blessings because we avoid opportunity. Let’s not lose sight of who we are with, so that we too can grasp the serpent by the tail.

This reminds us of Peter, who stayed walking on the water as long as he kept his eyes on Yeshua. The moment he focused on the wind, he became frightened, and began to sink, crying out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30). As long as we stay close to God in prayer and grow in acquiring more knowledge of Him, we will not sink or flee.

Now, see how great our God is. We notice that some time must have elapsed between verse three and four, a time that accounted for some personal counselling or training. How do we know this?

See how verse four reads: But the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail”—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand.”

Anyone who knows snakes, and Moses must have known them quite well by now having lived in the wilderness for the last 40 years, would understand never to grab a snake by the tail. Snake experts agree that when we do this, it will elicit a panic response from the serpent, and it will strike. That Moses obeyed the command to grab the serpent by the tail demonstrates a changed response, a greater faith, something he did not have just one verse prior.

Here Moses went from fear to courage. From fright to dominance.

Notice as well the play on words in verse four. The word stretch, salah, really means to send, as Moses was told five times in Exodus 3 that he will be sent, but now, armed with faith, he is finally ready to be sent. Now we see his reliance on the great I AM. In verse three he was still asking, “Who am I?” and fled. But in verse four, he understood that it is not who we are but who He is, and so Moses acted alongside the I AM and showed tremendous courage.

Furthermore, from the word stretch salah, we have the Hebrew word salat, which means power, mastery something that the Lord bestowed on Moses through this staff. By the end of chapter four, this staff is given a new name, it is called the staff of God. It started off as the staff of Moses, and by verse 20 it became meta haElohim, God’s own power in the hands of a man. A staff is a symbol of authority, the authority of God that He conferred on Moses.

God assures Moses that he has nothing to worry about, and by now he should have been ready to meet Pharaoh, but see how man needs to be continually fed and how quickly they can lose ground. Moses still had excuses and pushes the wrong buttons. In fact, he really exaggerated here. After seeing the burning bush, receiving the revelation of God’s name and after witnessing three wonderful miracles, Moses tells God that he does not want to go. He quits. With no explanation he tells God in vs.13, “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.”  In other words, send someone else. As if nothing happened before. As if all this training was for nothing. But it does not work that way.

This is when God gets very angry. Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses (Vs.14).

We know it takes a lot for God to get angry and we know what happens when God burns with fury? There is destruction and sending of plagues and earthquakes, but nothing happens to Moses.

And one question we ask is, why didn’t the Lord fire Moses from this mission? This is the fourth time Moses finds reasons not to go. Yet God’s main criteria is the heart, and He knows the heart of Moses. Moses’ questions and complaints did not stem from an unbelieving heart, but rather because of sincere concerns and some stubbornness. This is very much like Mary’s question to God when she wanted to know how a young virgin could find herself with child? In the same way, God did not let go of Jonah. God did not fire him but sent a whale to swallow him and bring him to the place he was supposed to be. God did not fire Peter when he denied the Lord three times; He knew Peter’s heart. This is also very much unlike Zechariah’s complaint, the father of John the Baptist who said in Luke 1:18, “How will I know this for certain?” Moses concerns were legitimate, and he displayed humility and compliance.

One thing we learn here is that if God chooses you for a task, He will not let you go until you perform that task. He will give you all the necessary means to perform it, but He will not let go of you.


Click here for Exodus Sermon 5 : Grabbing the serpent by the Tail