Moses – Unusual Signs

from Bill Sayer

Moses had an encounter with the Lord, during which God had commissioned him to become the new leader of Israel. (Exodus 3, 4). As a demonstration of God’s anointing on Moses, God provided two signs for him: (i) his staff is changed to a snake and back again, and (ii) his hand becomes leprous and then healed (or “cleansed”).

Why would God decide to change a staff into a snake? Why not a …. butterfly? And what would be the point in changing Moses’ hand to become leprous, and then making it sound again?

Both of these signs were to communicate God’s power. The Egyptians worshipped the image of a snake because of its believed immortality, shedding its skin regularly, and Pharoah’s headdress was understood to include a snake carving. Moses’ staff not only became a snake, but his staff/ snake consumed all of the Egyptian magician’s snakes (Exodus 7:12). God was demonstrating His pre-eminence and sovereignty compared to the gods of Egypt.

The second miraculous sign seems rather odd at first sight: 6 Then the Lord said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow. 7 “Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh. (Exodus 4:1 – 7)

What would be the point of this unusual second sign? The hand represents that which we do, whilst the place where Moses placed his hand in his cloak would be somewhere near his heart. It seems God was demonstrating through Moses that Pharoah’s heart did not align with his actions (Pharoah would say time and again that Israel could leave Egypt, but then each time he would stop them).

What does all this have to say to us today? Firstly, like Moses, we should not fear presenting Jesus to all those who reject His sovereignty (Exodus 5:2) – even with those who might be hostile towards us. I am amazed that with all the anger Pharoah had towards Moses and Aaron, God preserved them both from any harm. God will do the same for us, if we follow His leading and direction, by relying on His Holy Spirit to communicate truth to those who do not yet know God in the way of His choosing.

Secondly, we too, need to have “clean hands” – our actions flowing from what is within our hearts. We are often prompted to serve the Lord, or invest in His kingdom, but the outworking may differ once we have had time for second thoughts (like Pharoah), perhaps allowing our intellect to get in the way of what God may have earlier prompted in us. Our first thoughts are often the work of the Holy Spirit; our second thoughts are often our own imaginations that sometimes war against God’s revelation. We need to be a people who are totally led by the Holy Spirit, not allowing our imaginations to hinder our actions.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:7, 8