What is That in Thine Hand?


“And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice; for they will say, The Lord bath not appeared unto thee. The Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee” (Exodus 4:1-5).

At this time Israel was in bondage in Egypt. Moses had fled Egypt into the land of Midian. God saw Israel in bondage and remembered His promise unto them. It is not that God had forgotten but that God recalled the promise. God appeared unto Moses in the burning bush and called Moses to the leadership of Israel and the task of delivering them out of the hand of the Pharaoh.




Moses did not readily accept this assignment but offered all kinds of excuses why he should do what God wanted him to do. “Who shall I say sent me? They won’t believe me. I am not an eloquent man. I can’t speak to the people.” One excuse after another was offered by Moses.

God’s reaction to these excuses tells us something about God. He did not accept them. When God wants man to do something God will not accept man’s excuses for not doing It. We need to remember this. As God called Moses from the bush so God calls us now by the gospel (Second Thessalonians 2:14). From Luke 14, Jesus teaches us that excuses offered for not coming to that which He has prepared will not suffice.

 It was in the midst of these excuses being offered by Moses that God asked, “What is that in thine hand?” Moses answered  that he had a rod. It was a shepherd’s staff, a tool useful in guiding sheep. retrieving them from places where they might fall. It was something he used while keeping the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro. It was nothing uncommon. All shepherds had them. But it was more than just another rod when it was used as God directed. When Moses cast it down it became a serpent. When he picked up the serpent it became a rod again. It became an instrument through which the power of God was manifested. God made something great out of something very ordinary. That is what God does every time He takes a sinner and cleanses him of sin and makes him a servant of righteousness. In fact, there is not a possession, a talent, an ability that we have that cannot be great if used as God would have it used. There are things in the hands of us all that God has given us that are useful for good if only we would consider such things as potential tools with which the will of God can be accomplished.


Using the Rod


           Let us look at some of the instances in which this same rod was later used to reveal the power of God. “And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand wherewith thou shalt do signs” (Exodus 4:17). “And Aaron spake all the word which the Lord had spoken unto Moses. and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed: and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped” (Exodus 4:30,31). One problem Moses faced was convincing the Israelites that he was coming in the name of the Lord to deliver them. Before he could deal with the Egyptians he had to convince his own people. With this rod he did signs that brought hope to the people and persuaded them that he was from God. God’s name was praised.

When Moses went before Pharaoh and into his court he used this rod to perform miracles to convince Pharaoh to let Israel go. “Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river’s brink against he come; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand. And thou shalt say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness; and behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear. Thus saith the Lord, In this thou shalt know that I am the Lord; behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood” (Exodus 7:15-17).

Moses also stretched this same rod over the Red Sea to divide the waters and allow Israel to pass over on dry land into safety. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak to the children of Israel that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the mist of the sea. And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians and they shall follow them: and I will get me honor upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen” (Exodus 41:15-17).

Prior to that momentous event Moses used the rod also in bringing the ten plagues against Egypt to compel Pharaoh to allow Israel to leave. It was that same rod that was used to strike the rock in Rephidim to provide water for the thirsty nation in the wilderness (Exodus 17:5,6). The same rod was held out by the hands of Moses over the field of battle against the Amalekites and Joshua led Israel to victory (Exodus 17:9). This was the occasion when Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses when he became too weary to hold up the rod.

What did Moses have in his hand? Just a plain, ordinary rod, a shepherd’s staff, until it was used as the Lord God of heaven had directed. Then it became a tool for performing great deeds. It became the avenue through which divine power was demonstrated. But it was just a rod until placed at the disposal of God and His purposes.          



What Is That In Thy Hand?


Yes, Moses saw the rod he held, But could not see the ways


That God would use that very rod through all his future days.


Although you see your talent plain, God keeps your future sealed,


In His good time -- from year to year -- the plan will be revealed.


So hold it high or cast it down, or strike, as God will choose,


A rod in hands which He directs is one that He will use.


             Ruth Johnson


There are others we could ask the same question, “What is that in thine hand?” We could ask David as he took his sling into battle against Goliath. With it God used David to take away the reproach from Israel and produce a great victory over the Philistines who had defied the army of the Lord and hence the Lord Himself.

We might ask the little lad whose name is not even given in John 6. But he had just five loaves and two fishes which Jesus used to feed over five thousand with twelve baskets full left over. His great work enabled Him to continue His work of preaching to the multitudes.

Ask the widow of Luke 21, who had only two mites; all that she had. Yet, when they were rightly used, given to God, Jesus cites her as an example of the sacrificial attitude and action that God approves by declaring that she had given more than all the others.

It will do us good to take inventory and think a while on the things God has given us. We are a blessed people. Do we count our many blessings? Among our blessings are blessings of opportunity. What kind of stewards are we with what God has placed in our hand? What do you have in your hand today that can be used for the good of mankind and to the glory of God?


In Our Hands


I want to mention only one thing even though there are many. If we were assembled in a congregation, I would likely ask you to stand when I asked the following questions in order to impress upon you the personal application that this lesson deserves. I would ask all who are fathers, grandfathers, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles or teachers to stand. All of these have a vital influence on the lives of the young. These are those who love children and seek their welfare. “What do we have in our hands?” That’s right! We have our children. They are given to us by the Lord and placed in our care. They are blessings and they are opportunities. They are living souls waiting to be molded and shaped into desirable vessels much as a potter might mold and shape soft clay. We are stewards of this sacred trust. Each child is a potential power for good or for evil. We are lives that shall never end. Each is a soul that will exist somewhere throughout eternity.

To such a great extent, whether our children will be blessings or curses, useful or harmful vessels, good or evil influences, servants of God or of Satan, exist in heaven or in hell, depends upon us in whose hands they are entrusted. So precious and pure is the little child. Jesus said, “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Jesus used children to illustrate what the kingdom is. Who is more teachable, impressionable and more easily molded than the child? One has written, “Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined.” Who manifests greater trust and at the same time is more dependent than a little child?

But what we must realize is that what my child grows up to be, for the most, part depends on me. William Ross Wallace wrote a century ago, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” This is because by and through our children we exert a tremendous and lasting influence on the world. What will we do with this gift that has been placed in our hands?


What is Happening?


It is dreadful to see what some do and have done. They have neglected the child, ignored him and failed to consider his worth and turned the care and training into the hands of another. Sometimes for no greater reason than getting more money, parents leave the molding of their children to somebody else. Many parents can say, “I gave him money but what he needed was me. I provided gold and gain, when he longed for guidance, and for God.”

One of the tragedies becoming so rampant in our society is child abuse. This takes form both physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Many neglected children have warm houses in which to live, money to spend, good clothes to wear and plenty of food. But they do not have the love, security and guidance they desperately need. They do not have that Christian home.

We have lost and are losing so many of our children to the ways of the sinful world. They have not been taught nor had demonstrated before them morality, the do’s and don’t’s of God and the glory of the church.

But let us not just here concern ourselves with what others do or have done with their children. What will we do with our own? We are not discussing the HOW so much just now as we are trying to emphasize the NEED of using this gift to God’s glory. For many children there is nothing much that can be done more than has been done. They have reached a level of growth where the parental influence is minimal. But many have their children who are yet very young and still subject unto them.

God wants us to love them, provide for them, teach their tender hearts His truth and provide for them goals and ambitions of righteousness. He wants us to train up that child in the way that he should go. He wants us to bring them up in His nurture and admonition (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). He wants us to do more than teach them how to make a living, but how to live, not just in this world, but in the world to come. We can provide them all this world has to offer, and yet, we fall miserably if we have not taught and showed them how to love God and respect His Holy Word. So tremendous is our task and so great is our opportunity.

But we also have assistance available to us in this awesome task. We have the privilege of prayer. We have His word of instruction, the Bible. We have the encouragement of those who have gone before us who have done well in the guidance of their children. We have the encouragement of others who are busy at the same task we are trying to perform.

Both by teaching and by providing a wholesome example we rear our children in the way of the Lord, giving them a rich religious heritage which shall be a bulwark for them throughout life. But we must ask ourselves, “What will my children hear and see from me?”

Yes, we have much in our hands. We can succeed. But we cannot lead where we will not go. We want to lead them to God through Christ. But we must go that way ourselves.




1. In what Biblical context is the question of our lesson found?

2. What was God’s attitude toward Moses’ excuses?

3. What did Moses accomplish when he used what God gave him?

4. What do we have in our hands?

5. What is it that is more important for the young than material things?

6. How does prayer assist in using what is in our hands?


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