The most famous example of this was Peter, who claimed that he would never desert Jesus. All of the rest of the apostles at the time swore likewise. We know what happened. The story has been in the Bible for thousands of years.
Still, we’re shocked whenever Christians do incredibly bad things. We wonder how that could have happened. Maybe if the failure involved a lapsed believer it would be understandable, but not someone of reputation. Not a pastor. Not a choir director or a Sunday school superintendent or an elder. Certainly not a humble man or woman of God who faithfully served their church for decades. Yet it happens.
How many ways can the Bible warn us about our frailties? Plenty. Take one from the book of Exodus. God called Moses and gave him three miraculous signs to prove his ministry to the people.1 They were signs—more than simple miracles—things that bear further significance; that invite reflection.
When we study the Scriptures, we pay attention to reasonable primary meanings. For instance, these three items—a snake that turns into a staff, a hand cleansed of leprosy, and water turning into blood, relate something about God’s ability to subjugate the authority of Egypt, His ability to heal, and His ability to judge the Egyptian system that enslaved His people. Those are reasonable primary interpretations.
However, there may be further possible significance to these signs. Especially for New Testament folk who have the considerable advantage of a completed Bible.
The staff-serpent. As a serious Christian, your staff is your God-given talent or ability, in a sense, your ministry. Like Moses, you carry it with you every day, sometimes barely conscious of having it with you. You use it. You depend on it. In a beautiful way, it’s your authority for service–“the staff of God”2 You’re supposed to use it for the kingdom of God.
Yet your own ministry can turn into a snake and bite you. It can become the reason for your deepest disappointments and depressions. It can also inflate your pride until you’re hooked on popularity. Ministry can cause you to forget your identity in Christ and start thinking of yourself as a loser…or some kind of ministry Elvis.
The same staff that was held over the parting of the Red Sea, Moses’ greatest miracle, was also used to strike the rock twice, which became his greatest failure. How not to be hurt by your own staff? Use it as directed.
God says, “Throw it down” and another time He says, “Pick it up.” He says, “Bring it.” On another occasion, He says, “Lift it up.” One day He says, “Strike the rock” and on another day He says nothing about using the staff at all, instead directing you to, “Speak to the rock.”
God knows how to utilize your ministry. Under the direction of the self-willed though, it turns into a cobra.
The leprous hand. It turns out that not only the staff, the thing we’re holding, might be dangerous, but the hand holding it potentially has a disease.
Somewhere underneath the cloak, in the secret depths of our heart, lurks moral and spiritual illness. Jesus said, “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”3 These things tend to appear unexpectedly and shock everybody. Top-level evangelicals (who are supposed to be way more advanced in the faith than you) can suddenly be exposed for some of the most shameful behavior imaginable—hotel trysts, drugs, homosexual liaisons, abusive temperaments, egos as big as Texas.
And so can faithful little Christians who try to live quiet lives. Everyone is at risk here.
We’re good at hiding our leprosy, but not healing it. The good news: “He is able to save to the uttermost those who come forward to God through Him.” That’s the key thought. Keep coming forward. Every day. Expect that a day without Christ will be an embarrassment and a shock.
Remember, there’s something underneath your cloak.
The water into blood. Ancient Egyptians believed the Nile River was the secret to the happiness and abundance of life. No Nile, no Egypt. Those sentiments made Egypt and its famous river a precursor of sorts to the entire material world system.
The problem is that the water is really blood. It doesn’t give life. It represents a hemorrhage of it.
Servants of God have wandered off to drink from the Nile, thinking they might find some truer fulfillment there, like Paul’s coworker Demas, who fell in love with this present world (2 Tim. 4:10). Seeking material things and the frivolities of life, they end up spiritually dead (though while still occupying places of religious influence). As John said, “If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him.”4
Many of these believers become a mockery as their lives and “ministries” get used as jokes for late night television. But we’re not just talking about extravagant lifestyles with $5,000 a night hotel rooms, airplanes, and air-conditioned doghouses. It’s also about the poor saint who compromises his or her values for the sake of a little more.
From time to time, we all get tired of the simple life of faith. Couple that with a weak spiritual season, and we’re suckers for the Nile. It always tastes like water at first. But given some time, it always turns to blood.
Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let Him come to Me and drink.”5 If you don’t, then eventually you’ll be drinking somewhere else.
These are your signs. As a believer in Christ and part of God’s move in this world, you’re a very important person.
Proceed with caution.
41 John 2:15