“What do you have there in your hand?” The Lord asked him. And he replied, “A shepherd’s rod.” “Throw it down on the ground,” The Lord told him. So he threw it down – and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. Then The Lord told him, “Grab it by the tail!” He did, and it became a rod in his hand again.
Exodus 4:2-4 (The Living Bible)
What an amazing example of faith, obedience, and grace that the Lord has given us here! Consider God’s first command to Moses – to throw down his shepherd’s staff. Frankly, I don’t think this would take much faith. How hard is it to toss a stick to the ground? Even so, that staff was a necessary tool for Moses’ work, so we can’t discount the fact that Moses was demonstrating genuine obedience by throwing it down – even if it was only obedience in a very small and easy task. What a shock it must have been for Moses to see that piece of wood suddenly transform into a serpent.
As someone who had spent forty years tending sheep in the desert, Moses would have been very familiar with all kinds of serpents. I don’t doubt that the one which suddenly appeared at his feet was deadly based on his reaction. He ran from it!
Consider the Lord’s second command to Moses, “Grab it by the tail.” It may not take much faith to throw down a staff, but it certainly takes great faith to pick up a serpent! I’m no authority on snakes, but when I’ve seen professionals handle snakes I know they DO NOT pick them up by the tail! They are careful to grab them directly behind the head. Grabbing a snake by the tail is an invitation for it to turn and strike you!
Even so, Moses did as God commanded.
I’m sure that Moses must have understood that he was in no danger. The very One who had transformed the staff into a serpent was more than able to protect him from any harm. Still, it would have taken great faith for Moses to obey The Lord when his own “wisdom” must have been shouting, “this is crazy!”
Now consider the amazing grace of God. He calls Moses to a small act of obedience (throwing down his staff), then demonstrates His awesome power BEFORE calling Moses to a more difficult act of obedience (grabbing the serpent by the tail). God is gracious toward us in our weakness. Only after He has demonstrated His power and His faithfulness does He challenge us to greater acts of faith. Each time we’re called to obey Him in more difficult circumstances, we can remember (both from the Scriptures and from situations in our own lives) how He has always acted for our good.
What difficult thing is God calling you to do? Think back on how He has shown Himself faithful and powerful in times past when He’s called you to do easier things – and when you’ve been faithful to obey. Trust Him. He is always faithful!