Ophidiophobia and a Slithery Lesson

Exodus 4:1–5 (NASB95)

1 Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’ ”
2 The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.”
3 Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.
4 But the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail”—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand—
5 “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”


One sunny Saturday not too long ago I was doing some yard work and walked around to the back yard to set the timer on the irrigation system. As I came through the gate I saw a brownish snake with red, yellow and black rings slithering along the base of the wall, stopping every few inches and trying to crawl up the wall. It was evidently looking for an entry point into the house. I tried to remember the rhyme in my head – was it a coral snake or a king snake? I decided that it was a moot point whatever that rhyme was, because my rhyme is “See a snake son, go get the gun.” Since I didn’t see the advantage of shooting into my own house (although I have a story about a friend who did have that experience, maybe I’ll tell you sometime) I went to the shed for a more suitable instrument for dispatching the intruder. When I returned to the scene with a suitably long-handled hoe, the snake was gone. In the meantime I had Googled coral snake on my iPhone and determined that it was in fact a coral snake I was dealing with. Just in case you’re interested the rhyme goes like this – “Red touches black, good luck Jack. Red touches yellow, kill the fellow.” As you can probably tell, I’m not a huge fan of snakes, especially potentially deadly ones (coral snake venom is as lethal as a cobra’s) that happen to be slithering around in my back yard. I’m in good company though, because Moses didn’t like snakes either.

We pick up our story after God speaks to Moses from the burning bush and gives him his assignment. Moses has a bigger fear than ophidiophobia though. His biggest fear was atychiphobia, the fear of failure. See, Moses had doubts about whether he was able to perform God was calling him to do. To help him understand that he didn’t need to be able, just available, God showed him a sign, a sign that he was afraid of. God told him to throw down his shepherd’s staff and it turned into a snake and Moses ran from that snake. Now the Lord asked him to do the unthinkable (in my mind anyway) – reach down and pick it up, by the tail no less. The limited experience I have with catching snakes is that you want to grab them behind the head so they can’t whip around and bite you. You have to give Moses credit because he reached down and grabbed that snake. Even though he was afraid of it, he had enough faith to pick it up when God told him to.

I think there is a good lesson that we can learn from Moses’ experience. Moses was afraid of the snake and ran from it but his bigger fear was the calling God has placed on his life. By demonstrating the faith to pick up the snake without fear of being harmed by it, he learned to pick up the mantle that God had placed on him as deliverer of God’s people.

Is there something that are you afraid of? Something that God wants you to do but you’re not doing because of fear? Moses teaches us that it is possible to set aside your fear and reach out and grab what you have been running from. After the burning bush and the rod-snake, Moses took the next step in his journey which was to head back to Egypt. That’s another lesson that Moses teaches us. All that we have to be concerned about today is just the next step. One step. Will you take it today?

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