Turning once more to the book of Exodus, the fourth chapter, and thereof the verses two through four, we read, “And the Lord said unto him—that is, unto Moses—What is in thine hand? And he said, a rod. And the Lord said, “Cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto him, Put forth thine hand and take it by the tail. And Moses put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand.”
The rod of Moses becoming a serpent and then becoming a rod again in Moses’ hand is a meaningful sign. What may be the idea, the truth, the message or gospel that this sign declares, preaches? That we have to do here in the speech of this sign with Gospel—the gospel of Christ—is certain; and if with Gospel then the speech of this sign vitally concerns us, too, people of God of this day and age. Moses’ rod, on account of the wonderful changes that it undergoes, takes on a significance of the first magnitude. This can be proved. Moses, in obedience to the Lord’s command, shall get him unto Pharaoh in the morning, when he goes unto the river Nile; and Moses shall stand by the river’s brink as Pharaoh approaches it; and, so the Lord continues, “the rod which was turned into a serpent shall be in thine hand.” Moses smites with the rod that is in his hand upon the waters which are in the river, and the river is changed into a stream of death and pollution. And all the remaining plagues are successively sent by Aaron’s stretching forth his hand with this same rod.
This rod then has meaning, significance. What is its meaning? Wherein does its significance lie? Now the significance of the rod, or rather of Aaron’s hand with the rod, the two are one, does not, of course, lie herein that it serves as a sign that the plagues are sent and made to riot by a power, a strength, that the Lord increated and sustains in Moses and Aaron. God made some men very strong, so that they can lift objects of great weight. But there never yet lived a man strong enough to perform a miracle; strong enough to change ashes into lice, and send hail mingled with fire. It is by the Lord’s own personal power that all these plagues are sent. This the sacred narrative declares over and over. Says the Lord to Moses, “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh.” “I will send swarms of flies upon thee and upon thy servants, and upon thy people,” said the Lord to Pharaoh. And again, “I will smite thy borders with frogs. And, for this very purpose have I raised thee up that I may show thee my power, mine own personal power and mine wrath, that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.” This being true, it cannot be otherwise but that the significance of Moses’ hand with the rod lies herein that it is the symbol, the token, of the Lord’s own personal power, might, strength—the strength by which He sends upon Egypt His plagues. This is as good as literally stated in the sacred narrative. Moses is commanded to say to Pharaoh, “The Lord God of the Hebrews sent me unto thee saying, in this shalt thou know that I am the Lord, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.” Let us take notice of the pronoun I in the statement, “I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand.” It refers, does this pronoun I, not to Moses and not to Aaron but to God Himself, to His very person, so that what the statement asserts is that the Lord himself will smite the waters of the River Nile with the rod that is in His very own hand. It is plain, then, that the expression “rod in mine hand” has reference to the Lord’s very own personal power, might, strength, by which He sends upon Egypt His plagues. But His speaking of His power as the “rod in my hand” has a significance that we must not allow to escape us—this significance, namely, that it plainly shows that Moses’ or Aaron’s hand with the rod is the symbol of God’s power, strength,—the power by which he visited the land of Egypt with his judgments.
In the light of these observations, we can also discern the meaning of the miracle of Moses’ rod. That rod becomes a serpent, mark you a serpent. And in Moses’ hand the serpent again becomes the rod—the rod in Moses’ hand. There is then this question: Just why is Moses’ rod momentarily changed into a serpent. There is reason. That serpent, too, as well as the rod is symbol. Of what is that serpent then the symbol? It is the symbol of that entire vile consort of evil powers of which Satan is the prince and the Egypt of the Book of Exodus the type, the picture, if you will. This Egypt is Satan’s domain. Here in Egypt Satan has established His throne. For here in Egypt, in the land of Goshen, dwells the whole church, the seed of Abraham, with Christ in its loins. Here in Egypt, then, Satan has fixed himself down, established his head-quarters. And this is also very evident. To begin with, this Egypt of the oppression is steeped in idolatry. It actually says to four-footed beasts and to creeping things—to crocodiles and serpents, to goats sheep, and oxen, to dogs, apes, cats, wolves and lions, to beetles and other insects,—to each and every one of these, Egypt says, “Thou art my God.” Offerings are presented to these creatures; a priesthood is maintained in their honor; magnificent temples built for their reception; grand festivals held in their praise; public lamentations made at their death. To kill a crocodile or a snake or a beetle, or one of any other of these creatures was a crime punishable by death. Hence, it was very actually true that the Egyptians would have stoned the Hebrews, should they have sacrificed in Egypt’s borders. Egypt at the time of Moses, worships the hosts of heaven—the sun, moon, and the stars; and all the powers in nature. To the Egyptians the river Nile was in the strict sense regarded as divine, as appears from the following lines of a hymn as old as the days of Moses and still preserved. These lines read, “O Nile, hidden God! Bringer of good, Creator of all things good, Lord of all things choice and delightful, if there be offerings, it is thanks to thee.” As to the Pharaohs of Egypt, they boasted of descent from the gods and were worshipped as gods. Further, the Egyptians in the age here under consideration, were especially impure. They gave the reigns to the baser passions. Unnatural vices prevailed on every side. Universal and open impurity marked their great yearly festivals. The race that honored beast-gods was sunk into degradation. And with all this, Egypt now, more than ever, had become the center of civilization and culture. Schools under the priests were famous, and intellectual life in every form abounded. Sculpture and painting reached a high perfection, and books on all subjects were numerous. Temples, pyramids, and tombs were extended in number. This all agrees with the scripture statement that Moses was trained in all the learning of the Egyptians which was great. Now it is this Egypt—the Egypt steeped in idolatry, the Egypt prostrated before the shrines of devil-gods, this immoral Egypt, this civilized, cultured and refined Egypt, it is this Egypt that, as inspired by Satan, claims and possesses God’s people body and soul, enslaves God’s people, the holy seed, lays upon God’s people heavy burdens, orders the infant sons of God’s people cast into the Nile and strangled at birth, all for the purpose of destroying God’s people and with it the Christ that was in this people’s loins.
Now of this devil-worshipping, God-defying, civilized, cultured, and holy-seed persecuting Egypt, the serpent of Moses’ rod is verily the symbol, thus at once the symbol of that entire vile-consort of evil powers of which Satan is the prince and Egypt the type; a symbol therefore of Satan’s kingdoms, of the world that lieth in darkness, and of all that is of this world—man’s world—the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life. Mark you well, not Moses’ hand with the rod is the symbol of that Egypt. Moses’ hand with the rod is the symbol of the power of God. The serpent of Moses’ rod is the symbol of the Egypt that was just described.
But now there is this question. What may be the truth set forth by Moses’ rod becoming a serpent and this serpent again becoming a rod in Moses’ hand? If we bear in mind that Moses’ hand with the rod is the symbol of God’s power, might, strength, it is easily seen that the truth set forth is this: That devil-worship- ping, God-defying, civilized, cultured, refined and holy seed persecuting Egypt of the Book of Exodus, lives and moves and has its being in God and exists solely by His power. This Egypt is clay and God is the potter. Thus in the relation that it obtains to God, it is a nothingness in itself. God raises it up and casts it in the dust before him as He wills and puts it to whatever use he chooses. It is very plain that this is the truth set forth by the miracle with which we now deal. Not that serpent but the rod is the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega. From the rod the serpent seems to come forth and to the rod it returns so that in the rod it seems to have its being.
But let us now take notice of this: Moses is commanded to grasp the vile thing by its tail. He does so, and lo, the thing again becomes the rod in Moses’ hand. What is the truth here set forth? Precisely this: that the Lord God puts this God-defying, holy seed persecuting Egypt with its beast-gods, and devil-worship, with its civilization and culture and all the fruits thereof, in Moses’ very hand, that is, gives Moses the right to smite this Egypt with God’s plagues and accordingly and for this very purpose the Lord puts all His plagues in Moses’ hands. The sacred text literally asserts this in chapter 4:21, where we read, “And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return to Egypt, see that thou doest all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thy hand.” And in obedience to the Lord’s command, Moses does all the wonders before Pharaoh that the Lord has placed in his hand— does all these wonders not certainly by his own powers for he is but a mere man—but does these wonders by the power of the Lord operative in Moses’ behalf in the way of his living faith in God and His word. And the working and token of that faith—Moses’ faith—is His stretched out hand with the rod. In response to Moses’ faith, God’s own gift in him, the Lord sends upon Pharaoh and his Egypt His plagues; and finally destroys Pharaoh and his host by the waters of the sea. So does Moses overcome—overcome the serpent, Egypt, the world. And his victory is his faith.
But there is more to say. As was just explained, Egypt says to the creatures, to the four-footed beasts and creeping things, to the river Nile, to the hosts of heaven, and to the powers in nature—to these creatures, to each and every one of them, Egypt says, “Thou art my God.” Thus in converting the Nile into a stream of death and pollution by changing its waters into blood; in sending the frogs upon Egypt; in turning the ashes of Pharaoh’s furnaces into lice; in corrupting Pharaoh’s land by the locusts and the swarms of flies and the hail mingled with fire; and by all the rest of the plagues,—the Lord turns against Egypt its own gods, and thus smites and destroys the serpent by the serpent. But Pharaoh is without excuse. For the Lord told him beforehand, by the miracle of Moses’ rod performed before his very eye, and especially by the miracle of the serpent of Moses’ rod devouring the serpents of the rods of Pharaoh’s magicians. This latter miracle was also a sign—the sign of the Lord’s spoiling, corrupting and finally destroying Pharaoh and his people and his land by his very own deities.
We perceive at once that in all this we have to do with prophecy. Looking into the scriptures we see one greater than Moses. Looking into the scriptures we see by faith Christ Jesus, the true Mediator of God and man. Of Him Moses was the type. In His hands, the hands of Christ, God did verily put all things. So the Scriptures teach. Thus we read at John 13, “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father. . . and supper being ended . . . Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things in his hands—all things, thus also Judas who betrayed him, the Father put in his hands, and also the devil who inspired that betrayal, and the world that crucified him and that persecuteth his people, thus the world, with its beast-gods and devil-worship, and its culture, science and the fruits thereof,—all things the Father put into his hands so that he, the Christ, hath power over it, to use it for the advancement of the ends of his kingdom ,and to smite it, this Egypt, Satan’s kingdom, with the plagues of God which the Father also put into his hands to destroy this Egypt when he hath done with it. And as knowing that the Father “had given all things into His hand, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even unto the death of the cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him, setting him at His own right hand in the highest heavens. And His hand with the rod of God is now stretched out. Verily He smiteth Egypt, Satan’s kingdom, the world that lieth in darkness with the plagues that God put into His hands. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven over all the unrighteousness of men, because Christ’s hand with the rod is stretched out. Thus the curse of God stalks the earth, because Christ’s hand with the rod is stretched out. There is war, famine, death; the pestilence walks in the night; destruction wasteth at noon day; floods devastate; the tornado twists its way over the earth, leaving death and destruction in its wake, because Christ’s hand with the rod is stretched out. It is all Christ’s work; for the plagues of God are in his hands. And he hath received a commandment of His Father, “see that thou doest all these wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thy hand. Such is the father’s will; for it is only through these wonders as done that his kingdom can come and his people be delivered from the clutch of Pharaoh. Such is the Father’s will—His will that His power and wrath be revealed in order that now, too, the world—man’s world, the world for which Christ does not pray and which he does not will to save, thus the reprobated world of men—may know that there is none like Christ’s God in all the earth; and in order that His name may be declared throughout all the earth. And now, too, as always, and how could it be otherwise, the men of the world—of the reprobated world—serve the creature more than the Creator; they trust, do these men, in the arm of flesh, in their inventions, in science and the fruits thereof; in fleets and armies of overwhelming destructive capacities; so that now, too, in smiting Satan’s kingdom with God’s plagues, Christ is still turning against the world its own gods, its own sciences, its own inventions, thus destroying the serpent by the serpent. If you are inclined to be skeptical, contemplate the state of things in the world on the earth today, and ask how come? Only remember that all these things come to pass, because Christ’s arm with the rod is stretched out.
And at the end of time, at his appearing, the glorified Christ for the last time will stretch out his hand with the rod; and the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with a fervent heat and the earth also and all the works that are therein—all the fruit of science and invention, all man’s works—shall be burned up. But those who put their trust in God through Christ will have no fear; for only with their eyes shall they behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because they make the Lord, who is their refuge, even the Most High, their habitation. Because according to his promise, they look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. And their hope shall not be put to shame. They shall inherit the earth. For God is faithful.