Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.The Rod That Is in Thine Hand
Exodus 4:2; Exodus 4:17
I. God often does His greatest works by the humblest means. The great forces of nature are not in the earthquake which tumbles cities into ruins. This power passes in a moment; the soft silent light, the warm summer rain, the stars whose voice is not heard—these are the majestic mighty forces which fill the earth with riches, and control the worlds which constitute the wide universe of God.
II. So in Providence. The founders of Christianity were fishermen. Christ Himself the Carpenter, the Nazarene, despised and crucified, was the wisdom and the power of God. For did He not say—'I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me'? So in the text, 'What is that in thine hand? A rod'—the emblem, the tool of his daily work. With this Moses was to do mighty deeds. Rabbinical tradition has it that Moses was an excellent shepherd. He followed a lamb across the wilderness, plucked it with his rod from a precipice amid the rocks, carried it in his bosom, whereupon God said—'Let us make this Moses the shepherd of Israel'. He a stranger, a fugitive, a humble shepherd, becomes the lawgiver, the leader, the deliverer of his people.
III. The lesson of the text is plain. God still meets every man and asks the old question—'What is that in thine hand?' Is it the tool of an ordinary trade? With that God will be served. The artisan where he is, in his humble workshop, by using the 'rod which is in his hand,' the merchant in his business, are in the place where they are now; all are called upon to do service. Few have rank, or wealth, or power, or eloquence. Let those illustrious few use their ten talents, but let us, the obscure millions, use the simple duties of life—'the rod that is in our hand'. Not extraordinary works, but ordinary works well done, were demanded by the Master.
—J. Cameron Lees, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. II. p. 509.
Reference.—IV. 5.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 171.
'Look into the fourth chapter of Exodus,' Erskine of Linlathen wrote to Lady Elgin, 'and read there the account of the two first signs of which there is any record: Moses' hand becoming leprous and then being cleansed, and his rod becoming a serpent and then returning into the form of a rod. In these two signs we have the history and the prophecy of the world: 1st, human flesh to be sown in corruption, and to be raised in incorruption—that is, the fall and the glorious restoration of man's nature; 2nd, the serpent gaining a terrible dominion over man, and then being overcome by man's hand. The prophetic part of these facts is that which I believe constitutes the true character of a sign, and that part is the cleansing of the flesh and the paralysing of the serpent.... The fulfilment in reality of these two signs will be the realizing of the twenty-fourth and eighth psalms.'
I blush today, and greatly fear to expose my unskilfulness, because, not being eloquent, I cannot express myself with clearness and brevity, nor even as the spirit moves, and the mind and endowed understanding point out.
When a great sentiment, as religion or liberty, makes itself deeply felt in any age or country, then great orators appear. As the Andes and Alleghanies indicate the line of the fissure in the crust of the earth along which they were lifted, so the great ideas that suddenly expand at some moment the mind of mankind indicate themselves by orators.
—Emerson on Eloquence.
There is something in life which is not love, but which plays as great a part almost—sympathy, quick response—I scarcely know what name to give it; at any moment, in the hour of need perhaps, a door opens, and some one comes into the room. It may be a commonplace man in a shabby coat, a placid lady in a smart bonnet; does nothing tell us that this is one of the friends to be, whose hands are to help us over the stony places, whose kindly voices will sound to us hereafter voices out of the infinite?
—Miss Thackeray in Old Kensington.
References.—IV. 15.—R. E. Hutton, The Grown of Christ, vol. ii. p. 497. IV. 22, 23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv. No. 1440. IV. 23.—J. Parker, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 542.
The silken texture of the marriage tie bears a daily strain of wrong and insult to which no other human relation can be subjected without lesion. Two people, by no means reckless of each other's rights and feelings but even tender of them for the most part, may tear at one another's heart-strings in this sacred bond with perfect impunity; though, if they were any other two, they would not speak or look at each other after the outrages they exchange.
—W. D. Howells.
He had need to be more than a man, that hath a Zipporah in his bosom, and would have true zeal in his heart.
You would think, when the child was born, there would be an end to trouble; and yet it is only the beginning of fresh anxieties.... Falling in love and winning love are often difficult tasks to overbearing and rebellious spirits; but to keep in love is also a business of some importance, to which both man and wife must bring kindness and goodwill.
—R. L. Stevenson, El Dorado.
References.—IV. 26.—J. M. Neale, Sermons for some Feast Days in the Christian Year, p. 18.
Logic makes but a sorry rhetoric with the multitude; first shoot round comers, and you may not despair of converting by a syllogism.... So well has this been understood practically in all ages of the world, that no religion yet has been a religion of physics or of philosophy. It has ever been synonymous with revelation. It never has been a deduction from what we know; it has ever been an assertion of what we are to believe. It has never lived in a conclusion; it has ever been a message, a history, or a vision. No legislator or priest ever dreamed of educating our moral nature by science or by argument. Moses was instructed not to reason from the creation but to work miracles.
—Newman, Grammar of Assent, pp. 94-96.
And 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.
And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.
And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.
And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.
And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.
And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.
And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?
Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.
And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.
And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.
And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.
And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.
And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.
And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.
And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.
And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:
And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.
And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.
Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.
So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.
And the LORD said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him.
And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.
And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel:
And Aaron spake all the words 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.