Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. (Exodus 4:1-4)
While listening to a sermon, I found myself considering this scene where God commands Moses to throw down his rod and it becomes a snake. The idea intrigued me because the Lord had been asking me to “throw down” a lot of things. The basic idea works except for the fact that Moses wasn’t doing anything wrong by holding onto his staff. He was an older man and needed its support.
As I mused over the idea, I realized that when we’ve endured pain we often hold onto things we shouldn’t. We cling to something besides the Lord to hold us up. I had done that. I held onto unhealthy defenses and other things the Lord wanted me to release.
Just as Moses’ staff became a snake, anger writhes and hisses as it hits the ground before the Lord. Shame slithers through the soul while fear constricts our very being. Bitterness injects venom into every cell. Letting those things out in the open feels as dangerous as standing before a King Cobra.
God then called Moses to pick up the snake, but in the most ridiculous way possible from a human perspective. Pick it up by the tail. That’s not in anyone’s list of “10 things you should do when confronted by a snake.”
And the snake became a rod again. Actually, it went from a rod, to the rod, to the rod of God. The rod didn’t just become what it was before, but became part of what God was doing. Perhaps we must face how dangerous our false support can be before we can release it.
In some ways Moses had it easy. He could tell that the snake was dangerous. When it comes to our defenses, they feel safe. Coming out from behind defenses leaves us feeling vulnerable, which is why the process can take a lot of time.
When I threw my own pain and woundedness before the Lord, He didn’t say, “Okay, I’ll take care of that now. You can get up and we’ll move on with what I’d like you to do.” I wanted instant healing, but received a difficult journey that seemed worse than what I had originally. I thought two or three months’ work would smooth things over. Instead I spent two years plodding through painful insights and changes.
The old poison was familiar and comfortable. Leaving well-known ground to walk through a jungle of memories, never knowing when pain might strike, terrified me. Keeping my deadly defenses seemed safer than recognizing that they were killing me.
When we obey and release our defenses, God’s transformational power changes them into tools He can use. In His hands, anger can become peace, and shame, security. Fear becomes faith, and bitterness changes to contentment. Only you and the Lord know what you’ll need to do for that to occur, but that bit of “foolishness” will be the key to healing.
Much later the Israelites got a lesson in where our true protection lies. They were terrified when they realized the Egyptians had come after them. “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today,’” (Exodus 14:13). Only the Lord provides true safety and deliverance.
What are you trusting instead of the Lord? Beginning to see the defenses you’re holding onto is both painful and frightening. If you’re not ready to do that yet, give yourself some time. When you begin to see what you need to release, stand firm in the face of the fear.
Lord, Your commands don’t always make sense. Give us the courage to stand firm and wait for Your direction, and to follow that direction. No matter how frightening or dangerous the result seems to be, You’re leading us to healing.