“What is that in your hand? And he said, “A rod.” 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 your hand, and take it by the tail. And He put forth His hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared unto you.” Exodus 4: 2-5
Times, talents, treasure, rods, and tsedekah boxes, what do they all have in common? The character and person and presence and power and actions of You, God, displayed for us. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s not just about You and Your glorious character and power because lots of people believe You have a glorious character and glorious power, but You are out there, somewhere far away, like in heaven, and someday, only someday, I can know that and experience that and be with You. You know, someday, after I die.
But time, talents, treasure, rods, and tsedekah boxes are really things of the past, things of the present, and things of the future. You have already put these things in motion and called them forth in You and from You before time began. You put them into vessels on earth when You created Adam and Eve. You took what was of Yourself and shared of Yourself intimately with Your glorious and intimate work, man. You placed a bit of Your character in us when You created us in Your image. So these traits of Your character, now, because of sin, lie dormant waiting to awaken in us. And when You awaken us in Christ, in the knowledge of You, Your character, Your power, Your presence is restored in us, in me. And not only do time, talents, treasure, rods, and tsedekah boxes have things in common with each other, and with You, but now they are a part of my life in You.
When I was invited into mission with Dr. Zapanta to the Philippines, I was repeatedly confronted with the challenge of giving my time, talents, and treasure to the Lord. And I was continually reminded of the blessing of doing so. Well, it wasn’t really a blessing because of what I did. See, the blessing is IN the doing. When I live IN the Lord, when I hand my time over to Him and it becomes His time, when I hand my talents over to Him, and He imparts His talents to me that He has specifically designed for me according to His Spirit, when I surrender my treasures, my money, my possessions, or whatever my treasure is to Him, and allow Him and His desires to become my treasures, I walk and live in this special state of bliss, this place of peace and presence with the Lord, regardless of my circumstances. See, the blessing is in receiving the fullness of You. And good things accompany that. Good things beyond measure. Because Your cup overflows, and when I am drinking from Your cup, well, my cup overflows.
Look at the life of Moses. He didn’t feel capable for the task ahead. He was holding on to something. Maybe it was preconceived notions of what a deliverer ought to act like or look like, or preconceived notions of what people think, or a real deflated image of himself. I don’t know. Maybe he wanted to hold on to his time, or his talents, or his treasures. But when You told him to lay down his rod, he did. That thing he was holding on to that was the authority vested in him where he protected and guided others and himself, that thing that meant he was in charge, he layed it down when God told him to. And he didn’t just lay it down gently. He cast it down, because that’s what You, Lord, required. Sometimes we have to just throw down the thing that holds us back.
So he threw it down and it became a serpent and it was a scary thing for Moses. Funny thing is that stepping into missions holds its scary times for me when I throw my security at Your feet. Not just in mission, but in my life, when I throw my security and the way I know at Your feet. But You make something more powerful and wonderful out of it then I ever could if I held it in my own hands and did it my way.
And then You take this horrifying thing that I want to run from and tell me pick it up by the tail. Grab that thing I fear. And when I obey, You tame it in my hands and return to me authority and power greater than I ever knew. Why? So when people see the evidence of Your character and Your power and Your grace evidenced in my life, or in Moses’ life, or anyone’s life, they may believe that You are God and they can know that You are the God who appears to us not as a vision but in the reality and person of who Your are.
In Psalm 46:10 we are instructed, no, commanded to “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted amond the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” And I’ve been thinking about what it means to be still. I read that the Jewish priests and rabbis would be quiet for an hour before praying to prepare and to listen for the voice of God. I think about that and think, how could I do that? My mind won’t even stay quiet and silent for 5 minutes! One hour! So, I tried it this morning. And I couldn’t keep my mind silent. But I think it was receptive. Because all week I’ve been getting these words that I’ve been thinking about. And it all seems to relate.
The word this morning when I was thinking about being still and quiet, was shalom. And I’m wondering if that isn’t what this means. Because I can’t help think of Jesus in the boat and the storm raging and the disciples crying out in fear and He wakes from His sleep, stands, and commands the storm and the waves, “Peace, be still.” And they were. And maybe peace, and stillness, and shalom has something to do with this surrendering to the command and purpose and heart of God. And when I am surrendered and living in His will, my whole being is blessed and taken care of and provided for in the One in whom I have placed my life and trust.
And now I haven’t gotten to tsedekah boxes yet. Well, it’s partly a Hebrew word for a box for offerings for charity. But it stems from the character of You, Lord. The word itself means righteousness. It’s all about the rightness of Your character and power for every situation. It’s all about who You are and were and will be. It’s the way You act because of who You are. And I can put all my time, talents, and treasure in my tsedekah box and it still not be charity unless I am giving in Your Spirit. And Your Spirit is a real thing, a person, and not just an idea or a heart attitude. And it looks like this person: “…Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be wearied, and faint in Your minds.” Hebrews 12:2-3
So, what does Jesus have to do with a tsedekah box? Well, later in the book of Hebrews, Paul tells us, “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” See, You, Jesus, are the supreme example of what a real tsedekah, a real offering, real righteousness looks like, acts like, and is. You are it. And only in You, only when I surrender my staff to You and let You take over, will I be purified and enabled to work the works You desire to bring forth for Your glory. A tsedekah is just a box with money to do good things if I’m working in my own strength. But if I entrust my all to You, the Living Tsedekah, then You will call me and include me in Your glorious plans, and You will enable me to do things and experience things in You that are beyond my dreams.
I may not grab a snake by the tail, but I have a friend who lives in You who has! And even if I haven’t, You have provided hearing aids worth $50,000 that I could never buy on my own, You’ve taken me to places I’ve never dreamed, You’ve grown my family to include the most precious brothers and sisters I never would have met unless You placed our lives together, You’ve take my little things and make much of them, and I can’t tell You enough how grateful I am. I mean, that’s just the most severe understatement.
And all I know is this, that because of Your sacrifice and Your living beauty as a living offering in my life, it is worth throwing down everything just to have You, and know You, and follow You, and even better, to be in You and You to be in me. Because there is no greater shalom than in the middle of You. And I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s where I want to dwell all the days of my life no matter where I walk or what I do. Thank You that when You appear to us, You make Yourself known and allow us to experience You intimately.