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4-8-2 The Hand Of God Is Our Hand

In Ex. 4:4 Moses is told to “put forth” his hand. It is the same word repeatedly translated “let go” in the context of God telling Pharaoh to let Israel go [e.g. Ex. 4:23]. “Caught” is the same Hebrew word frequently translated “harden” in the context of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart [e.g. Ex. 4:21]. As the snake hardened in Moses’ hand into a rod, so this was how God would deal with Pharaoh through Moses. Thus God is showing Moses that what Moses will do with his hand to the snake- a symbol of Egypt- so the hand of God will do, working through Moses’ hand. Thus Moses’ rod [s.w. Ex. 4:2, about his shepherd’s crook] was a symbol of Egypt and Pharaoh. But the throwing down of the shepherd’s rod surely also indicated that Moses was to cast down the shepherd’s life he had been living, and let God’s hand take hold of him, so that his hand became the hand of God. Moses would thus have perceived some sort of parallel between himself and Pharaoh; God was working in both their lives, and it would take as much courage to grab hold of his own serpent-like life, as it would to do battle with Egypt. Ex. 4:23,24 brings out the parallel between how God told Moses that He would slay the firstborn of Pharaoh; and then seeks to slay Moses and his firstborn. And we can see lessons for ourselves here, surely. We throw down our worldly lives, take hold of them in faith, and they are transformed into the rod of God through which He will work wonders. Moses had to perceive the serpent-like aspects of his life and grip them; just as the parallel second sign involved his hand becoming leprous, with all its associations with sin, and then being healed and made strong to be used as the hand of God. What all this shows is that God manifestation, our hand becoming the hand of God, God working through us to deliver His people, is predicated upon our own realization of sinfulness, and grasping it firmly. Ultimately, the hand of Yahweh was revealed through the hand of Moses. Moses was “sent forth” by God to do the work (Ex. 3:12 and frequently); yet the same Hebrew word is used to describe how God ‘sent out’ [“stretched forth”] the hand of God to do it (Ex. 3:20). And Moses was taught this by being told to ‘stretch out’ [same Hebrew word] his hand (Ex. 4:4). 

But Moses, for some moments at least, just didn’t want to do this. Hence God's anger when Moses comments: “Send [the same word translated “let go” or “put forth” used about Moses being asked to “put forth”  his hand in Ex. 4:4] by the hand of him whom thou wilt send” (Ex. 4:13). It was Moses’ hand that God had asked to be ‘put forth’ or ‘sent’. But Moses refuses to play a part in God manifestation. He wanted God to send forth another hand, the hand of God personally perhaps; although God had asked him to put forth his hand. We too tend to assume that God cannot manifest Himself through us; but we all tend to assume someone else will do the job, when it is we who are called to it. The rabbis hold that Moses is not being weak here, rather he is referring to the Messiah- the hand whom Moses knew God would one day send forth to save His people. He would then be saying: ‘No, I don’t want to do this, let the Christ do it’. The same thought is maybe found in Ex. 5:22, when Moses asks Yahweh: “Why is it that thou hast sent [s.w. “put forth” and “let go”] me?”- i.e., why don’t You use Messiah, the man of Your right hand? And this, subconsciously and unexpressed, is so often our view; He must do it, not me. I’m just a shepherd, God ought to leave me alone in the comfortable monotony of my working life. But He has called us to greater things, to realize as Moses finally did that we, you and me, are the ones through whom God truly will work in this world. The rod of Moses (“thy rod”) became the rod of God (Ex. 4:20); the shepherd’s crook, the symbol of an obscure workaday life, became transformed to the rod and arm of God Almighty.  


There can be no doubt from all this that God was intensely manifest in Moses. The hand of God was manifested through the hand of Moses. Moses had many deep seated spiritual weakness, and also many traits which were not appropriate to leadership, and yet because of his willingness to participate in God’s desire to be manifest through him, he was able to be changed and used by God. We have elsewhere commented on these weaknesses and how they were slowly changed through the power of God manifestation in a willing man (1)


(1) See Moses In Weakness.