By Titus Chu
Before God could use Moses to talk with Pharaoh, Moses had to know himself. God used three things to teach Moses this lesson: his staff to warn him of the danger of his serpentine talent, his hand to warn him of the danger of his leprous nature, and the water changing to blood to warn him of the deceitfulness of the world.
Moses’ Staff Becoming a Serpent
As a shepherd, Moses no doubt had trusted in his staff every day for many years. God wanted it to become his staff of divine authority that he could lean on as he stood before Pharaoh and as he led the children of Israel through the wilderness.
God told Moses to throw his staff on the ground. As soon as he did so, it became a serpent, and Moses fled from it. Then God told him to pick up the serpent by its tail. When he did so, it became his staff again (Exo. 4:2-4). This was to teach Moses a great lesson.
Our staff is the talent or gift we boast in. Some can say that they preach well, that they can teach great truths, have the ability to get people saved, or can comfort the saints. We must realize that everything God gives us can become either a staff of authority or a serpent. If the gift or talent we have becomes our pride and boast, it will become a harmful serpent that will come back to bite us.
Even though it is clear to those who hear me that English is not my native language, my gift of speaking comes through. For this reason I must be careful that my speaking does not become a serpent that bites me. If it does, it will kill me spiritually. I will have failed at what the Lord has asked of me. The very gift that God has given me, that should be my staff of authority to lean on in my service to Him, could be used by Satan to destroy me. We must be very careful. Every talent we have is waiting to kill us.
God exposed the serpent hidden in Moses’ staff. This sight caused Moses to run in fear. In the same way, He sometimes lets the serpent hidden in our talent be exposed so that we will fear trusting in ourselves. Just when we think we are overcomers, that we are Moses the second, we say something that exposes our pride, and out comes the serpent. Instead of victors, we see ourselves as failures. God uses this fall to show us that we are not so great and not so honorable. This is a hard lesson to learn. We always treasure our talents, and don’t realize that our gift can very easily come back to bite us.
Holding the Serpent’s Tail
We have to learn to take the tail of the serpent. When we exercise our gift and everyone seems to appreciate us, we must acknowledge that it is not us. It’s all the Lord’s mercy if we do well. We must recognize our dependence on Him. This is the tail we must hold. It is when we think we can do something that we must be the most careful. We must always remain spiritually empty, trusting the Lord, not proud. But the more we can do, the harder this is. The more He blesses us, the harder it is to pick up the serpent by its tail.
Each of us has our serpents. You have yours and I have mine. Whatever the Lord blesses us with is a potential source of pride and can become a serpent. Eventually it will come back to hurt us. We cannot trust our talents. We cannot trust our abilities. We cannot even trust the things God has given to us. We can only trust God’s mercy.
Watchman Nee labored for only thirty years before being imprisoned, yet he accomplished so much. In his old age he made a striking statement. It was not one of boasting or pride about how great his life and labor had been. He said that from that point on, he owed nothing to God or man. In other words, he felt that his labor did not prove how great he was, but how much a debtor he had been. All the churches he had raised up and all the messages he had given were to pay off his great debt.
We never think we are debtors to men. We like to think we are great men that others should appreciate. Only those who have learned the danger of the serpent hiding in the staff know they are not special and how much they owe man and God.
Without this realization we can waste a lot of time and resources living off our seeming successes. When I first got married, I read the newspaper a lot. My wife couldn’t handle seeing me use my time like that. She would often pick up her Bible and sit right beside me to read it. Eventually this reminded me that, as a servant of the Lord, I owed my time to the brothers and sisters and that I should labor for their sakes.
Moses’ Hand Becoming Leprous
“The Lord furthermore said to him, ‘Now put your hand into your bosom.’ So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then He said, ‘Put your hand into your bosom again.’ So he put his hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh”
– Exodus 4:6-7
When Moses put his hand into his bosom the first time, it came out leprous. When he put it in the second time, it came out healthy. We can be leprous, or we can be healthy. It all depends on how we handle ourselves. This is a big lesson to learn.
Everyone who serves the Lord must have this realization. Only when we put our hand into our bosom and allow God to show us what is really there will we begin to know how leprous and impure we are. We can never trust ourselves. We can never trust our judgement or our ways. We are not as simple as we think. In our purest time we have to tell the Lord we’re not pure at all. But in our most impure time, if we come to the Lord, He can save us.
One day the Lord opened my eyes to see my real situation. When I say that others are in their natural life, am I in my natural life? When I rebuke a brother, am I fleshly? When I say, “The Lord has no hope in you,” do I think the Lord has more hope in me? All of a sudden I began to realize, “Lord Jesus, I’m just a funny man. I have two natures.” I began to see that I have a kind of impure sickness that was more than able to consume me.
Once we see this we will be fearful in our dealing with others. We know sometimes something very beautiful can come out, but at other times it can be very scary. Only if we have this realization about ourselves can we genuinely serve the Lord. Without it, we may try to serve but will likely hurt others. As believers, we are sons of God, and sometimes something divine comes out. But we are also fallen sons of Adam, and often our fallen nature comes out. That can be very harmful, and for the sake of the believers with us and the churches we serve, we must be very careful. The problem is that it is hard for us to believe that part of us is leprous.
Many look at a hard church situation and imagine how they can become heroes by saving it. By considering it in this way, the whole thing will be lost. We don’t serve for the sake of serving. We don’t serve to gain followers. We serve for the sake of love. We spend our lives to dispense life into others. No one wants to be used by us so we can get the glory.
It’s too easy for us to consider, “I have given everything I have to you. Now I want something in return.” That’s where we get into trouble. Peter told the Lord that he had forsaken all to follow Him, and wondered what his reward would be (Matt. 19:27). This makes me laugh whenever I read it, because Peter’s “all” that he had forsaken was just his leaky old fishing boat. But the Lord was very gracious. He didn’t say, “I don’t want your boat. Take it away and get out of here.” He said, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life” (v. 29). Anytime we say, “Lord, I have given up everything,” our leprous nature is on display. When we say “Lord save me!”, we are healthy.
Changing Water Into Blood
“You shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water which you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground”
– Exodus 4:9
The serpentine staff is related to God, for He is the source of our talents and gifts. The leprous hand is related to us, for it warns of our fallen nature. The changing of water into blood is related to the world, for it is deceitful and can never satisfy us.
Water has many meanings in the Bible. Here it represents the deceitfulness of the world. Water is supposed to quench our thirst. But when we go to the world for satisfaction, it turns to blood. This is a principle in the world. It promises us this and it promises us that, but eventually it all turns to blood—our own blood.
There is an older brother among us who early in his career took a position at a large corporation. His work over the years helped make that company a great success. Many of his ideas made them millions of dollars. Eventually he was honored as the employee of the year with much praise and fanfare. Then at the age of 64, one year before his retirement, they laid him off. This saved the company from having to pay for his retirement with a lot of fringe benefits. This brother is truly spiritual. He knows the lesson of the water turning into blood. He did not get a lawyer to sue the company as many might. He just said to forget about it. The Lord is the one responsible for his retirement.
This story is repeated often in the world, though not always in such a grand way. Businessmen will tell you that this is simply business. They have to lay us off after they have consumed the last part of our usefulness. They hired us to use us, and in the end, we find out how bloody the world is. However, the church does things differently. The church will always consider how to help and stand with us.