Catching A Snake By The Tail

Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’ ” So the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A rod.” And He said, “Cast it on the ground.” So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail” (and he reached out 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 to you.” (Exodus 4:1-5)

Catching A Snake By The Tail

When the Lord spoke to Moses at the burning bush, He told him he would return to Egypt to bring the Hebrews out of Egypt. Moses had fled forty years earlier and had become a shepherd with his father-in-law, Jethro. The time had come for God to fulfill His promise to Abraham giving the children of Abraham a law and the land that was promised in the covenant of circumcision. Pharoah would not willingly let the people go. The ruler of Egypt refused Moses on multiple occasions until the final plague, where the firstborn of Egypt would die, and Pharaoh relented.

Moses had left Egypt after killing an Egyptian fighting with a Hebrew. He believed he would deliver the Hebrews from their oppressors, but God had other plans. After forty years, the Lord appears to Moses at the burning bush, telling him to return to Egypt, but Moses hesitates. He did not consider himself qualified to do the work of the Lord, arguing with God about what he was asked to do. The day after he killed the Egyptian many years earlier, two Hebrews were fighting when Moses tried to break them up. They asked Moses if he intended to kill them as he did the Egyptian. Moses had no confidence in himself to carry out the will of the Lord. He questioned God about what qualified him to be the deliverer of the people.

The Lord told Moses to look at what was in his hand. As a shepherd, Moses carried a shepherd’s staff or rod. God instructed Moses to throw the staff on the ground which Moses did. Immediately, it became a serpent. The scriptures do not suggest what kind of serpent the rod of Moses became, but it scared Moses enough that he ran from it. God was proving something more than turning a rod into a serpent. It would also test the faith of Moses. The Lord told Moses to reach out his hand and take the serpent by its tail. Anyone who handles snakes, especially poisonous snakes, knows how to catch the snake by the head. Catching a snake by the tail makes certain the snake will bite, even if it is not poisonous. Moses had to have faith and courage to obey the word of the Lord, and the writhing snake became a rod again.

There are many lessons found when Moses took the snake by the tail. Later, after God sent fiery serpents among the people killing many, Moses made a bronze serpent placing it on a pole which became the salvation of the people. The rod turning into a snake could have symbolized the cobra, an imagery of Egypt. There is an allusion that could be drawn from the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Whatever lesson is drawn from the rod becoming a snake, the image of Moses grasping a serpent by the tail is an object lesson of trusting faith in the will of God.

The scriptures do not say what kind of snake it was, but it can be easily assumed that it was a serpent with deadly intentions. Moses fled from the snake. He was afraid of the snake. As a seasoned shepherd, he knew the difference between a harmless and a poisonous serpent. God told Moses to take the serpent by the tail demanding a lot of faith on Moses’s part. Later, Aaron, brother of Moses, threw down his rod before Pharaoh and it became a serpent. In a similar manner, the magicians of Pharaoh also threw down their rods, and they became snakes through enchantment. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. This was a sign to the court of Pharoah, but it was also a reminder to Moses that God was with him. He was to lead the people out of Egypt. It would not be an easy task. The will of God was accomplished through His power working through Moses.

There are times God asks His people to trust Him enough to take a snake by its tail. The business end of the snake can bring a lot of harm and damage, but God says to take it by its tail. With faith, courage, and trusting in the will of God, we can face those challenges knowing that God will turn our serpents into wooden staffs – harmless and useful. We can grab that wily serpent called the devil by the tail and defeat him through the power of God. When heartaches and trouble come upon us, we can know that God will use His power to make those trials useful in our lives. When Moses took the serpent by the tail, it turned into a rod. The shepherd’s staff was one of the most important tools in his work. It saved lost lambs and drove off the wolves who tried to take the sheep. Let God turn your serpents into a useful staff – grab it by the tail and believe in God’s power.

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