Is it a pencil? A paintbrush? A computer? A soccer ball? Is it a phone? A schedule? Your wallet? Your keys? Are you holding an instrument? A pair of shoes? A schoolbook?
For this man, it was a staff. He wasn’t sure why he was being asked this. It was pretty obvious, he thought. It wasn’t anything special. Just a roughly hewn, solid piece of wood, knotted with age. It had been with him for many long miles. Under his hand and weight, the grip had been worn smooth and the grain familiar. It wasn’t anything special; just a walking tool to balance him in the arid, rocky desert. He wondered why God wanted to know.
“Throw it on the ground.”
Shrugging, he let the rod fall from his hands. Maybe it was meant as a symbol for leaving this intermittent time in the desert behind.
He could never have foreseen what would actually happen next.
As the staff began to writhe, he jumped back. For in the eyes of the snake, there was something more–there was the realization of the God to which he was committed. Though he couldn’t yet see it, in the eyes of the snake there was contained locusts and frogs and hail and darkness and blood, and the parting of a great, great sea. In those eyes, there was the coming knowledge of what God will do for his own.
At first, he ran. He’d lived in the desert for four decades; he knew not to mess with vipers. But God told him to pick it up.
Are you sure, God? Are you sure you know what you’re doing?
He picked it up.
God gave him two more signs, the leprosy and the Nile. Then he gave him a charge: “Go tell Pharoah to let my people go.” My people–a people of slaves who would be made free, and then bring freedom to the world.
Moses’ reaction was visceral and immediate. “Send someone else!” I am slow of speech and tongue. I am not ready. I am not enough. I can’t.
And God responds: “Is it not I, the Lord? Is it not I, the Lord, who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind?” Is it not I, the Lord?
I ask again: what is that in your hand? Is it a hoe, a needle, a broom? Is it a calculator or test tube? A pen or a sword?
“Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart as unto the Lord.” (Colossians 2:23)
Jesus himself was a carpenter. Do not make the mistake of the Nazarenes. Someone once said, “That Jesus was a carpenter was to them poor credentials of divinity, but it has been divine credentials to the poor ever since.”
Yes, yes, a carpenter, same trade as mine!
How it warms my heart as I read that line.
I can stand the hard work, I can stand the poor pay,
For I’ll see that Carpenter at no distant day.
–Maltbie D. Babcock
This is the carpenter of whom God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
So what is that in your hand? Time is in his; he knows your beginning and your end. He was there at the start and he’ll see you through to the end. He knows where you’ll be on your final day, and where you’ll end up; he knows that it will all be okay, and you’ll see his face. He’s put you where you are for an exact and specific purpose. Maybe he wants you to use your staff, and maybe he wants you to pick up your snake.
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before you, may you be singing when they evening comes.