In our study of Exodus chapter four, we will see how it is the heart that qualifies a man for service to God. In chapter three, we saw Moses ask the question: Why me? Here, we will see God's answer and His promises.
"Moses answered, 'What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, "The Lord did not appear to you"?'" NIV translation
Can you imagine going to the leaders of your people and telling them that God appeared to you? Like Moses, you would probably have some doubts and fears. Here, he asks God what to do when they look at him like he was a nut and don't believe him. The same type of thing happens today even in the church. Many do not understand that God will speak to us and, if we listen, He will guide our every step.
We may wonder why God asked Moses what was in his hand as God must have known the answer. He was, in fact, trying to get Moses to see that he would not be alone in his calling. God had him throw his staff on the ground and turned it into a snake. Moses revealed the fear that was in his heart by running from the snake.
In this, we see a continued lack of understanding that God was with him and in control. The staff was simply a tool and God was looking to put it into the hands of a man that had his heart set on the things of God. In chapter two, we saw that Moses had a heart of compassion for his people as he saved a man from being beaten by the Egyptians. This was a man that God could use but the heart of fear had to be changed into a heart of faith in God.
"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. 'This,' said the Lord, 'is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob - has appeared to you.'" NIV translation
God had Moses touch the snake (overcoming his fear) and it was changed back to a staff. He explains that this sign will be used to demonstrate the power of God and the truth of what Moses told the elders. It was only through faith that Moses was able to overcome his fear and grab the snake and we are reminded that faith in God drives out all fear.
There are some Christians, today, that try to demonstrate their great faith by taking up snakes in worship. There is a big difference between them and Moses. Moses took up the snake because God told him to while the people of today are doing it to put on a show of faith. Many times they are bitten and die while the snake did not even attempt to bite Moses. This is a reminder that God will protect us when we are following His directions but, when we go it alone, He is not obligated to shield us from the consequences of our actions.