[From Chapter 6 in the authors book Gleanings in Exodus, pp. 32-36. Photograph above by Clive R. Tindle.]
our last lesson we dwelt upon the response which Moses made to the call he
received from God. After forty years in
the backside of the desert he was visited by the Lord, who declared that it was
His purpose to send him unto Pharaoh (3: 16). Instead of bowing in wonderment and gratitude
at the condescension of the Almighty in designing to employ him in so important
and honorous an errand, he answered, Who am I, that I should go unto
Pharaoh? In response to this God assured Moses that He
would be with him. Moses next inquired
in whose name he should address
response to the third difficulty raised my Moses, the Lord endued His
servant with the power to perform three wonders or signs, which were to be
wrought before his fellow-countrymen for the purpose of convincing them that
Moses was Jehovahs accredited ambassador.
That there is a deep meaning to these three signs, and that they were
designed to teach important lessons both to Moses, to
[* Recalcitrant. That is, a servant showing repugnance or opposition to the Lords will.]
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 hands; 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 (Ex. 4: 2-5). The first of these signs was the turning of the rod into a serpent, and that back again into a rod. But three verses are devoted to the description of this wonder, but marvellously full are they in their spiritual suggestiveness and hidden riches. We purpose to study this miracle from seven different angels, considering in turn: its practical lessons, its doctrinal meaning, its evidential value, its evangelical message, its historical significance, its dispensational forecast, and its typical purport. May the Lord give us eyes to see and ears to hear.
(1) There can be no doubt that the first design of God in connection with this sign was to reach Moses himself a practical lesson. What this was is not difficult to discover. The sign had to do with the rod in his hand. This rod or staff (as the Hebrew word is sometimes translated) was his support. It was that which gave him aid as he walked, it was that on which he leaned when weary, it was a means of defence in times of danger. Now in the light of Psa. 23: 4 we learn that, spiritually considered, the rod speaks of the upholding, strengthening, protecting grace of God. Here, then, is the first lesson the Lord would teach His servant: while Moses continued dependant (supporting himself) on God, all would be well; but let him cast his rod to the ground, that, is, let him renounce Gods grace, let him cast away his confidence in Jehovah, let him attempt to stand alone, and he would at once find himself helpless before that old Serpent, the Devil. Here, then, we say, was the great practical lesson for Moses, and for us: the secret of overcoming Satan lies in leaning in simple dependency and conscious weakness on our staff, i.e., the power of God!
(2) But this first sign was also designed to teach Moses, and us, a great doctrinal lesson, a doctrine which as the priority of this sign suggests is one of fundamental importance. Nor are we left to guess at what this may be. Just as the twenty-third Psalm enables us to interpret its practical meaning, so the second Psalm supplies the key to its doctrinal significance.
Psalm 2: 9 (cf.
Rev. 2: 27) we learn that during the Millennium
the Lord Jesus will rule the nations with a rod of iron. The rod, then,
speaks of governmental power. But
what is signified by the casting down of
the rod to the ground? Surely it
speaks of God delegating governmental power to the rulers of earth. And what has been the uniform history of
mans use of this delegated power? The
answer is, Exactly what the serpent suggests; it has been employed in the service of
Satan! Thus it proved with Adam, when
his Maker gave him dominion over
all things terrestrial. Thus it proved
with the nation of
[* Inscrutable counsels. That is, Divine counsels which cannot be scrutinised or searched into and understood.]
(3) This sign was to be wrought by Moses before the Hebrews as a proof that God had called and endowed him to be their deliverer. The evidential value of this wonder is easily perceived. To see the rod of Moses become a serpent before their eyes would at once evidence that he was endowed with supernatural power. To take that serpent by the tail and transform it again into a rod, would prove that Moses had not performed this miracle by the help of Satan. Moses was to show that he was able to deal with the serpent at his pleasure, making the rod a serpent, and the serpent a rod as he saw fit. Thus in performing a wonder that altogether transcended the skill of man, and a wonder that plainly was not wrought by the aid of the Devil, he demonstrated that he was commissioned and empowered by God.
(4) This sign which Moses wrought before the
Let us consider next the historical significance of this
wonder. The sign itself consisted of three things: a rod held in the hand
of Moses (Gods representative), the rod thrown down to the ground and becoming
a serpent, the serpent transformed into a rod again. These three things accurately symbolized the
early ministry of Israel. From
the call of Abraham to the going down of his descendants into
But this sign also provided a dispensational forecast. Not only did it accurately prefigure the
early history of
Deeper still lies the typical purport of this
sign. We believe that its ultimate reference was to Christ
Himself, and that the great mysteries of the Divine Incarnation and Atonement were foreshadowed. In Psa. 110: 2 the Lord
Jesus is called the Rod of God: The Lord shall send the
Rod (it is the same Hebrew word as here in Ex. 4)
of Thy strength out of
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 the 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 (vv. 6-8). The significance of the second sign is not difficult to discern. Leprosy is the well-known emblem of sin its loathsomeness, its contagiousness, the terrible rapidity with which it spreads, its insidious nature (commencing with a seemingly harmless spot), and its incurability so far as the wisdom of man is concerned, all witness to the accuracy of the figure. Lev. 13 and 14 are the two chapters of the Bible where leprosy is treated of at greatest length. Here in the passage before us we read that Moses put his hand into his bosom the abode of the heart and when he drew it forth, behold, it was leprous. In response to Gods command he replaced his hand in his bosom, and on plucking it thence the leprosy had disappeared. This second sign also admits of various applications.
(1) The sign of the leprous hand was, no doubt, designed first for the instruction of Moses. It was intended to teach him the marvellous power of his Lord: that he should [and could] be thus smitten instantaneously with leprosy, that it should be confined to his hand, and that it should be cured immediately, without the use of means, was an astounding wonder. It manifested the perfect ease with which God could suddenly inflict such a disease and as quickly cure it; and this evidenced how simple a matter it was for Him to deliver His people out of the hand of the Egyptians.
(2) The hand speaks of
energy: it is the instrument for work.
Moses was Gods instrument for doing a wonderful work in
(3) But the principle effect which this sign was calculated to have on Moses himself was a humbling one. Lest he become puffed up by the power of the rod, he is forcibly reminded of the sink of iniquity, the corrupt heart, within him. Therefore whatever Jehovah was pleased to accomplish by him must be attributed alone to sovereign grace.
(4) Moses is also to be viewed here as the representative of the Hebrews, for he was one of them, and what was here enacted before his eyes, vividly portrayed the condition of his people. In themselves they differed nothing from the Egyptians. They too were defiled and needed cleansing. No mere outward reformation would avail, for the seat of the trouble lay within their bosoms. Strikingly accurate were the details of this sign. It was not the hand which affected the heart, but the heart which affected the hand! How this disposes of an error which has been popular in every age. How often we hear it said that such an one may be weak and wayward, but he has a good heart. Not so: Out of the heart, said the One who alone knew it, proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. So too, cleansing must begin with the heart here signified by the leprous hand being thrust into the bosom before the loathsome disease was removed. And how is this brought about? By the power of God. True, from the Divine side; but what of the human? The answer is at once to hand. The leprous heart symbolizes sin hidden, the leprous hand, sin exposed (F.W.G.) It was the hand plucked out of the bosom which made manifest what was within! And it is precisely this which God demands from the sinner. What is so hateful to Him and so fatal to us, is for the sinner to deny his ruined and lost condition. Whilever [i.e., whenever, or as long as] man seeks to conceal the iniquity within, whileever he disguishes himself and pretends to be other than a guilty, undone sinner, there is no hope for him. Seeking to hide their shame was one of the first acts of Adam and Eve after their fall. All the false religions of human devising have the same object in view. But to come out into the light, to own our lost condition, to confess our sins, is the first essential (from the human side) in salvation. This is evangelical repentance.
(5) Once more we are shown a solemn foreshadowing of that which is vital and central in the great work of Redemption. Moses here prefigures the great Deliverer of Gods people. First, Moses is seen as whole, then as leprous, then whole again. Precisely such is the view which Scripture gives us of the Saviour. Ineffably holy in Himself: He had no sin (Heb. 4: 15), did no sin (1 Pet. 2: 22), knew no sin (2 Cor. 5: 21). But in infinite grace He took our place all praise to His peerless name and was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5: 21). He bare our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Pet. 2: 24). Because of this He was, at that time, in the sight of God what the leper was defiled, unclean; not inherently so, but by imputation. The lepers place was outside the camp (Lev. 13: 46), away from where God dwelt. And on the Cross Christ was separated for three terrible hours from the holy God. But after the awful penalty of sin had been endured and the work of atonement was finished, the Forsaken One is seen again in communion with God Father into Thy hands I commend My spirit evidences that. And it was as the Holy One (Psa. 16: 10) He [i.e., His body*] was laid in the sepulchre. Thus, after Moses thrust his leprous hand into his bosom, he drew it forth again perfectly whole every trace of defilement gone. In their foreshadowings of Christ, then the first sign intimated that the great Deliverer would destroy the works of the Devil (1 John 3: 8), while the second signified that he would take away our sins (1 John 3: 5).
[* Dont ever lose sight of this scriptural truth: the length of time our Lords body lay in Josephs tomb, was identical to the length of time His soul was in the underworld, actively preaching to the spirits in prison: and, only at the time of His resurrection, did His body and soul reunite: and the resurrection of the dead has not yet happened! And cannot happen until the time the body is redeemed: and that will happen at the time when our Lord returns. (1 Thess. 4: 16; John 14: 3. cf. 2 Tim. 2: 18; Heb. 11: 39, 40). The expression, the salvation of your souls (1 Pet. 1: 9), is therefore a future salvation; and has nothing to do with the eternal salvation we presently have by Gods grace through faith in Christ Jesus!]
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 (v. 9). Upon this
verse Dr. Urquhart
has some helpful comments: The Nile was
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 (v. 9). This third sign is unspeakably solemn. Its position in the series supplies the key to its interpretation. This third sign was to be wrought only if the testimony of the first two was refused. It therefore tells of the consequences of refusing to believe what the other two signs so plainly bore witness to. If man rejects the testimony of Gods Word that he is under the dominion of Satan and is depraved by nature, and refuses the One who alone can deliver from the one and cleanse from the other, nothing but Divine judgment awaits him. The water turned into blood speaks of life giving place to death. It anticipates the second death, that eternal death, The lake of fire, [the place of eternal separation from God after resurrection] which awaits every Christ rejecter. Be warned then, unsaved reader, and flee to Christ for refuge ere the storm of Divine wrath overtakes thee. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.