What is That in Thine Hand?
In Moses’ hand it was a rod when God asked that question of him. In David’s hand it was a sling. In Sham-gar’s hand it was an ox-goad. In left-handed Ehud’s it was a dagger. In Paul’s it was a tent-maker’s needle and there perhaps was no more essential utensil in his missionary kit than that needle. It enabled him to preach the gospel of God’s free grace without charge.
In Jesus’ hand it was a reed. “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto Him the whole band. And they stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand: and they bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon Him, and took the reed, and smote Him on the head. And after that they had mocked Him, they took the robe off from Him, and put His own raiment on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him” (Matthew 27:27-31).
Moses, brought up as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. The rod, therefore, that was in his hand as he stood and watched the bush that burned, but was not consumed, bespoke not only his occupation as a shepherd to the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, but also his relinquishment of the sceptre of Egypt. Henceforth that rod in the hand of Moses, by the Lord’s power, would smite Egypt with plagues, would part the Red Sea to make a dry path for the children of Israelout of Egypt, would smite water out of the flinty rock, would ensure Amalek’s defeat, and would establish Moses as God’s appointed prophet and leader for Israel.
But what of the reed in the Lord’s own hand? Moses’ rod was his symbol of authority over a flock of sheep, and God used that rod in Moses’ hand to liberate His sheep, Israel, a tremendous flock, and lead them through forty years of wilderness wandering to the border of the Promised Land. Faithful in small things, Moses with his rod was promoted to great things. But the reed in the Lord’s hand was a symbol of weakness, a travesty on the sceptre of a king, as the crown of thorns on the diadem of a monarch, as was the scarlet robe on royal apparel. It spoke of weakness. It spoke of humiliation. It spoke of rejection. Here was an alleged King of the Jews, whom the Jews themselves repudiated, made a laughing-stock by the soldiers of Rome.
What would He Himself do with what was in His hand? “We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel,” the two on the Emmaus road sadly told the Stranger who drew near and went with them. But, instead, He had been crucified through weakness, despised and rejected of men. What would He do with that reed that was soon snatched from His hand to batter the crown of thorns into His brow?
He would triumph through weakness! He would slay death by dying! Nailed hand and foot to the cross, stripped of all power, spurned by men, assaulted by all the hosts of darkness, forsaken of God, He would, being made sin for us, He who knew no sin, by Himself — solitary — by the perfection of His being and the eternal efficacy of His sacrifice of Himself, purge our sins and sit down on the right hand of the Majesty on high!
We sing with the poet: “By weakness and defeat He won a glorious crown; trod all our foes beneath His feet by being trodden down. He Satan’s power laid low; made sin, He sin o’erthrew, bowed to the grave, destroyed it so, and death by dying slew.”
What would He do with the reed of weakness, and derision, and rejection that men placed in His right hand? “And I saw,” says John, “in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
“And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne.
“And when He had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
“And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
“And every creature which is in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped Him that liveth for ever and ever” (Revelation 5).
The hand that once held the reed of weakness, of humiliation, and rejection, by taking that place became the One alone worthy to take the book, to open it, and to wield eternal, universal power as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Hallelujah! What a Saviour! What a King!
* * *
“This is from me,” the Saviour said,
As bending low He touched my brow;
“For One Who loves you thus has led.
Just rest in Me, be patient now;
Your Father knows your need of this,
The ‘why’ perchance you cannot see;
Grieve not for things you seem to miss,
The thing I send is best for thee.”