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.’” The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.”Exodus 4:1-2
Have you ever argued with God?
Perhaps about what He asked you to do or a frustration you currently have. Or maybe it’s an objection because you don’t feel ready or equipped to do what He’s calling you to do.
Like Moses in the verse above, we’re often quick to argue, object, and make excuses to avoid His calling. It could be fear, insecurity, or shame. No matter what it is, God still reassures us we can do it with His help. He points to a resource, a person, or an object to remind you He’s with you.
Every time I find myself in this boat, I try to remember what I’m about to share with you. It’s helped me take action, overcome insecurity, and find confidence in God, and I know it will for you, too.
God Gives Us Reminders
When Moses encountered the burning bush in Exodus 3, God revealed His heart about the Israelites in Egypt. He called Moses to retrieve His people, yet despite this phenomenon, Moses objected several times, saying, who am I to go do this? Who should I say called me? What if they don’t believe me? What if they don’t listen?
Even though God confirmed they would listen (Exodus 3:18), Moses still felt unqualified, insecure, and afraid. In Exodus 4, God helps Moses see it wasn’t about what he could or couldn’t do, but it was about what God would do through and with him. He confirmed He would work through Moses in signs and wonders and even had Aaron (Moses’s brother) become his spokesperson. He used other people and physical items to reassure Moses He was with him.
In verse 17, God says: And you shall take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs (4:17). This staff became Moses’s tool and symbol. Not only was it there to prove God’s word and existence to Pharaoh, Egypt, and the Israelites, but also to remind Moses that God was with him. It was his support, protection, and influence. It’s as if it reminded him to pause and think about what God said, despite his disbelief.
It was his support, protection, and influence. It’s as if it reminded him to pause and think about what God said, despite his disbelief.
In the next few minutes, I’ll share what Samekh means and explain how it can help us understand the verses in Psalm 119:113-120. Just like Moses had his staff to remember that God was with him, there’s a staff that we can use in our daily life for the same.
Definition of Samekh
The root word of the letter Samekh means “to uphold, support, or lean on.” This leads several scholars to liken the letter to a shield because of its shape; others compare it to God’s omnipresence as our support; while others connect it to a shepherd’s influence when shepherding flocks.
Modern-day studies compare this letter to a staff, which actually helps weave each of these meanings together. You can use a staff to lean on and get support, as a shield for protection, and like Moses or a shepherd, as influence.
In Psalm 119, the psalmist turns to it for these three necessities as well. He helps us see that no matter what situation we’re facing, even when we want to make an objection, God reminds us He’s always with us.
113 I hate those who are double-minded, But I love Your Law.
114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.
115 Leave me, you evildoers, So that I may comply with the commandments of my God.
116 Sustain me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.
117 Sustain me so that I may be safe, That I may have regard for Your statutes continually.
118 You have rejected all those who stray from Your statutes, For their deceitfulness is useless.
119 You have removed all the wicked of the earth like impurities; Therefore I love Your testimonies.
120 My flesh trembles from the fear of You, And I am afraid of Your judgments.Psalm 119:113-120
The Word of God is our Influence
The psalmist makes a lot of straightforward statements. Some that can make us recoil and object, “God’s not like that.” But if you look at the timing of this writing, you can see that the culture was completely different. Not only so, but there are Bible versions that don’t capture the full meanings behind most phrases.
As I’ve studied this psalm using various translations, I believe that verses 113, 115, and 118 don’t refer specifically to other people, but to the act of sin. The focus is on being double minded and doing evil. The psalmist turns to God’s Word because it teaches him how to be the opposite and to live in freedom. It influences him to be secure and firm in what he believes and why, so that he can continue living in righteousness.
Sin separates us from God (verse 118) (Isaiah 59:2, Romans 3:23, 6:23, Hebrews 10:26-31). And knowing this, God gave us a Staff to influence and separate us from sin. Through Jesus, we have salvation and redemption from it, but to continue living a sin-free life, we must take up our Staff and let it transform us from the inside out.
Just as Moses used a staff to influence others later on, the Word of God becomes alive and active in us to influence others. When you get influenced by it and learn God’s will and ways, your love for Him deepens. And this love turns into obedience (John 14:15) which helps you see God’s influence in all that you do.
The Word of God is our Protection
In verses 114, 116-117, the psalmist emphasizes on how the Word of God is his protection. It’s not the physical item that gives protection, but God Himself. Through the Word and its truth, we find comfort, hope, and safety in God, even when we go through hard times.
There’ll be days where all we can do is wait on God’s Word. And again, the meaning isn’t to sit and actually wait for things to happen on the outside, but to study and meditate on the Word, and to await God’s revelation and understanding while obeying what you do know. This leads to peace and comfort internally, where nothing external can shake or harm us.
We often look to other people “more spiritual” to give us a word or to pray for us. But just like the psalmist turns to the Word, we can turn to the Bible and get as much or even more encouragement. When you consistently fill yourself with the Word, you’ll find comfort and the ability to live with confidence that God’s got your back.
As the psalmist asks God to sustain him so that 1) he may live, 2) not be ashamed of his hope, and 3) he may be safe, we see he asks this all according to God’s Word. No matter what you go through, pick up the Staff God gave you and fill yourself with God’s truth, ask God for help according to His Word. This is how He becomes your hiding place and refuge.
The Word of God is our Support
And lastly, just like one uses a staff as their support, we can do the same to God’s Word. We can lean on it when we get weary, need a confidence boost, or simply a reminder that God is with us. When we need support (be it physically, emotionally, spiritually, or mentally), we look for what to rely on, something that will uphold us in whatever sense because we’re weak.
I’d like to apply the same concept to verse 119 like we did earlier. It’s not wicked people, but the wickedness within which weakens us. When God removes the wicked like impurities, He does so by His Word which has a purifying purpose and effect. He strips away the impurities like a metalsmith would to precious metal, revealing Christ in us. This strengthens and supports us in our faith-walk. These impurities can be distractions, misconceptions, and even sin.
In Philippians 4, Paul writes from a place of great need, but his emphasis is on being content and finding strength in Christ no matter his circumstances. Even when we go through times of need, we can turn to God’s Word to find this kind of support in Jesus. Christ is our Shepherd (John 10:11) and the Bible is the staff in our hand which we can get support from.
The psalmist’s concluding verse isn’t about being afraid of God, but having the fear of God. When you study the Bible and learn God’s will and way, there’s a holy fear that increases within. This fear is a combination of humility and confidence. Where in humility, you know that your life isn’t entirely righteous, but in confidence, you pursue God’s judgment to continue living the life He calls you to live (Ephesians 4:1).
Just like Moses used his staff for influence, protection, and support, we can turn to God’s Word for the same. God doesn’t leave us empty-handed in our trials or callings. And even when we object, argue, or make excuses, He reminds us we’re not alone in anything we do.
He’s with you always and He’ll confirm it through His Word ❤