When God appears to Moses in the burning bush, He is about to take His covenant-story with Israel to a brand new chapter, concluding 400 years of slavery in Egypt; and He wants Moses to be the frontrunner of this mission. Though Moses agreed wholeheartedly with the mission, he was reluctant to be its point man. He asked “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say?”
It’s a good question; one we often ask as we struggle with what God has commanded us to do. What if we’re rejected? What if they don’t take us seriously? What if I look stupid? What if it all comes to nothing? Moses asked it, we ask it, and God answers it.
Seeing a staff in Moses’ hand, God told him to throw it on the ground; it promptly turned into a serpent and Moses promptly backed away, perhaps for reasons more than just its deadly threat.
Animals often served as meaningful symbols or deities in Egyptian culture; the King Cobra was a sign of sovereignty. We can see this most clearly expressed in the crown or headdress of the Pharaoh in how it resembles the hood of a cobra; this is famously illustrated in the death mask of King Tutankhamun. The King Cobra, a feared and respected creature, was the perfect symbol for the sovereign reputation that Egypt, the dominant empire of the day, intended to impress upon the world. Having been raised there, Moses couldn’t help but associate Egypt with all things sovereign. But between worrying if his own people would accept him and fearing how Pharaoh might respond to his demands, Moses had yet to contemplate the sovereignty of the One whose holy presence now burned before him.
We will always submit to what we fear or revere most. We elevate everything—people, positions, ideas, status—to a sovereign level in our minds, letting looks, personalities, words, stuff, or accomplishments wear us down to a timid passivity where we are convinced we are nothing and have nothing to give that makes any difference. The question is do those people, positions, and ideas possess true sovereignty?
I think God’s answer to that question is reflected in what He later did before Pharaoh’s court; when Pharaoh’s magicians also turned their staffs into serpents, Moses’ serpent swallowed them up. Whatever powers and fears are wielded in this world, their authority is swallowed up in the sovereignty of God.
Are we willing to let our insecurities and “what ifs” be swallowed up in the sovereign lordship of God, opening our minds up to a greater view of His majestic sufficiency than we have ever witnessed before? The LORD is the One we gladly submit to and His sovereignty is the reality of that submission; the extent to which we journey in that submission reveals who or what is our king, be it an idea, a commodity, a person, or God.
Moses and Israel longed for a new chapter for their lives, one liberated from the bondage of their oppressors; what they received was indeed an independence from Egypt and their counterfeit sovereignty, but much more than that, a calling to belong to the sovereign LORD in holiness. Much of Israel’s future would be spent taking a few steps forward and several steps back in terms of their covenant-story with God, but what many would ultimately learn, especially through the example of Jesus, is that their role in this covenant-story could not be properly lived in holiness and faithfulness until their minds and hearts abided in glad submission to the sovereign LORD; and neither can we.
I am uncomfortable with the saying “Let go and let God”; I can’t let, allow, or permit God to do anything. All we can do is trust and obey. His sovereignty is a security I cannot control. The LORD is God; let your heart rest in that. Let go and the LORD is God. Find liberty in glad submission to Him.