It can be easy to glance over the references to staffs in the Bible without a second glance. But under further inspection it’s clear that there is much more significance to them than meets the eye.
A new discovery…
Carl Brettle talks about being in Jerusalem and visiting a museum. Inside the museum was a collection of unassuming wooden rods. Investigating them closer Carl could see that these rods were covered in all manner of markings and scratches. He soon discovered that Israelite shepherds would often see God’s protection and provision over them and their flocks. Every time they encountered God they marked their staff to remember what He had done.
By making these marks, the shepherds were creating an intricate portrait of God’s character and His incredible goodness. These shepherds didn’t allow themselves to forgot God’s goodness; every little thing God had done for them could be remembered by looking back over the staff.
You can read more about Carl's discovery here.
What difference does this make?
This knowledge that staffs represent a record of God’s deeds is fascinating, & rereading the Old Testament under this new lens is illuminating.
Towards the end of his life, Hebrews 11:21 tells us that Jacob blesses each of Joseph’s sons as he leans on his staff. Should we take this only in its literal meaning? Or could it be that as Joseph’s days drew to a close he looked back at his staff, covered from top to bottom in markings, and was reminded of incredible testimony after incredible testimony? Either way, we see that he was in a position of worship for His beloved God. It is beautiful to enter into worship with a grateful heart remembering all that God has done for us.
As Moses and the liberated Israelites make their exodus from Egypt, they are stopped by the Red Sea. As Pharaoh and his army storm closer and closer, Moses can do nothing but rely on the power of the Almighty. He holds staff up over the water, and what does he see? Of course he sees the sea in front of him, the impassable obstacle. But what if he also sees all the markings he’s made on his staff that form a tapestry of God’s goodness and power in his life so far. With his faith reignited he leads the Israelites into one of the most miraculous moments in the Old Testament.
How does this affect us now?
As we make our way through life and are faced with challenges and difficulties, we can react in a few different ways.
We can run and hide. We can face up to them in our own strength and burn out. Or we can run to God and seek His wisdom and peace by remembering what He has done before.
Instead of focusing on the obstacles ahead, we can be encouraged and inspired, just as Moses was, by looking back at everything God has done in our lives and remember that He can and will do it again. As we take our eyes away from the enormity of the giant in front of us, we can focus on God through our testimonies and see our faith reignited.
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