By Beverly Carradine
We read in the Bible that God was about to induct Moses into a great work for which he had been preparing him for years. The self-distrustful man had pleaded his slowness of speech and conscious inability to perform what was expected of him whether he went to the people or stood before Pharaoh. It was then God asked him what he had in his hand. Moses replied, "A rod." Then followed at that moment and in succeeding days a series of most astounding works, wrought at the command of God, through that same simple rod.
The teaching evidently was that the rod was nothing, as Moses himself was nothing, but with God using one or both, anything could be done by them. The main end was to secure a devoted man who would obey God, and go forth to work for Him with anything that heaven directed. If this could be done, then nothing could be made something, and something could equal everything; and all this because God used the nothing or the something. Such a procedure also had the effect of developing faith on the part of the worker, keeping the human instrument humble and at the same time bringing all the glory to God as men saw plainly that He was taking "things that were not, to bring to naught things that are."
This divine method has not been discontinued. Whenever God can get a man completely surrendered, He thus uses him and puts a rod in his hand for conquest. Sometimes the gifted and great of the earth will not resign themselves to the will of the Lord, and He is compelled to employ ordinary and common instruments; in a word, things that are despised, called weak, and considered nothing in the judgment of the wise of this world.
God's main effort is to get a man completely given up to Him, who is willing to say anything, do anything, be anything, and go anywhere that the Lord commands.
When such a cleansed, humble, perfectly obedient life is found, two things becomes immediately apparent: first, that God uses the man; and, second, that the smallest, simplest agencies and instruments in such a man's hands become powerful and effective. He goes forth with what men would agree to call weak weapons, and yet accomplishes far more than others who appear on the field with arms of approved pattern and recognized superiority.
For instance, we have seen a man who was a graduate of a great university, also of a theological college, possessed several degrees, was a polished speaker, dressed immaculately, had elegant manners, was intrusted with the pastorate of the largest churches, and yet utterly failed to lead men to salvation in his own church or elsewhere. We have seen this same man followed in the pulpit or on the platform by another who had never been to college, and only a short time to school, felt his disadvantage in this and other particulars, bore himself meekly, preached plainly, and yet in ten minutes had brought heaven down to earth, and in twenty minutes more had the altar filled with penitents, while the fire was falling and salvation rolling like a flood.
At the same time little groups of preachers could be seen discussing the spiritual phenomenon before them, and asking how was it, and how could it be. The man had nothing, so to speak, in his hand. The sermon had not a single new thought, not a flash of genius, no rolling period, or glittering sentence. It was a mere stick, And yet look at this line of weeping, agonizing, praying, shouting, rejoicing men and women at and around the altar!
They were correct in saying the sermon was a stick, but then a Moses was behind it. The man wielding it was of ordinary powers and maybe slow of speech, but he had been up in the mountain and seen God. He had taken the two degrees of the Christian life. He had been to Mt. Calvary and obtained the pardon of his sins, and then gone to Mt. Zion and tarried in the Upper Room and received the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire. So God filled the man and used him, and the divine-human influence flamed in what was a stick of sermon, and lo! it became a wand of marvellous power.
It is simply amazing to look over God's arsenal and see the simple weapons and instruments which He has used in His kingdom for the achievement of great victories over His enemies. We find such things as ram's horns, trumpets, pitchers, lanterns, rods, jawbones, musical instruments, handkerchiefs, slings, stones, hammers, nails, a vision of blood, water, a sound in the trees, and other strange and manifestly inadequate things. And yet with these same weapons we behold toppling walls, sacked cities, destroyed armies, terrified nations, and kings, queens and the mighty ones of earth brought down trembling, horrified and overwhelmed before God.
In the present day the simple instruments are still used, and God is still getting glory from the very feebleness of the weapon held in the hand of His servant.
As truly as ever God could ask the question of his devoted and victorious follower, "What is that in thine hand which has split seas, cracked rocks, brought down the lightnings of heaven, and filled the breasts of the hardest with terror and their lips with mourning?"
The answer would also still be the same, "It is a rod."
Yes, it was a mere stick. The sermon, prayer, song, talk, gesture, cry, shout, look, tone, were nothing in themselves. But a true man had hold of the stick, and God had hold of the man, and so something always happened.
We once witnessed the discomfiture of a large camp ground over the failure for nearly a week of a number of star preachers to bring down the power of Heaven. One afternoon a man entered the pulpit whose every look showed that he walked with God. He preached a short sermon, and one that, examined critically by logicians and orators, would have been severely handled. They would have pronounced it a poor affair, a mere stick, and so it may have been, but God made it bloom and blossom, and break rocks, and call down floods of glory as it was lifted to the skies. Over two hundred people ran to the altar, and heaven and earth rejoiced and hell mourned over the work done that afternoon.
All the preachers on that occasion who did not go to the altar examined the rod in the preachers tent, and said they could not see what there was in the sermon to produce such a wonderful effect. They failed to recognize the connection between the stick the man and God.
We recall an old hymn which a circuit preacher used to sing. Weighed in the poetic and musical balance it would have been found sadly wanting in some particulars. Critics would have rejected it, but the man never sang the song with his rapt, faraway look, and Spirit-touched voice but hundreds were melted.
We remember another preacher whose sermons were simple and ordinary, but when in preaching he became filled with the Holy Ghost he had a laugh so loud, exultant, triumphant and indescribably awe-inspiring to the soul, that it invariably sent a panic to the hearts of sinners and backsliders, and yet God's people to shouting. No trumpet blast on the battlefield ever produced a more remarkable effect. Something was incarnated in the laugh that thrilled Christians, and literally terrified the ungodly and backslidden. Some fled from the tabernacle, some sat rooted with awe in their seats, and others came rushing to the altar. God in some way was in that laugh, and gave it its marvellous power. If the Holy Ghost had left the man, the laugh would have had a flat, hollow sound, creating hardly a thought, and certainly no conviction. It would have been a stick again. But the Spirit was in the man, affecting the membranes of the throat, and hurling out the laugh upon the listeners with a strange, piercing force and overcoming power until it was like a projectile shot from a cannon in heaven. The sound was like a javelin in the heart, or a sceptre of authority, waving before the eyes of the people.
We knew another worker of the Lord who sent forth a peculiar cry when his heart was full of holy joy. It was so unmistakably genuine, so full of a great inward rest, and bubbling gladness, with such a note of complete victory in it, that whenever it shot forth from the lips of the Spirit-filled man it always brought conviction to sinners and quick, overflowing responses and shouts from the people of God.
Then we recall a man who had simply the word "Amen;" but when filled with the Holy Spirit he said it, or, rather, cried it aloud, it was equal in service to the charge of a platoon of the White Horse cavalry of heaven. It always lifted the mercury of the meeting and sent a thrill of hope, faith and joy over the audience.
Still another we remember who had the simple word "Yes." It was a little word, and is uttered millions of times unnoticed by people, but when that man with clear, joyous, yet choking, trembling voice, said it, it went through the audience like a Damascus blade.
We knew still another man, who had a leap. He rarely gave it, and only did so when he reached a point where words were utterly unable to express the joy and swelling triumph of his soul, and then he would give one of those jumps. When it took place unpremeditated and Spirit-inspired, it never failed to electrify sinner and saint, and God's presence was always strangely and powerfully felt.
Let the reader gather up the rods and sticks, count them, see how few they are, and how evidently weak and insignificant they are; then observe what God has done with them in faithful hands, and the result is to give God all the glory.
The power of the instrument, of course, sprang from its peculiar connection of the stick, the man and God. If the man slipped out, the stick was simply a pole in the forest or lay an overlooked fagot on the ground. If God slipped out, neither the man nor the rod could do a thing.
We have seen a man who, in his faithful days, had wrought wonders with mere sticks, yet afterwards drift from God and break the connection. Then we have seen him use the old-time weapons with which he had achieved so many victories. The same sermon was preached, the song sung, the shout raised, the leap made that had been so effective in other days, and lo! they all fell flat. The stick with God's blessing on it was a wand of power; but the wand without God became a lifeless fagot.
God long ago taught this painful lesson to the view in the matter of the ark. They had got to thinking that the power was in the sacred vessel, so when it was brought into camp prior to a great battle how they shouted. But God had left them, and that day the Israelites were defeated, the priests slain, Eli fell dead, and the ark, which without God was nothing but a box, was taken.
Many we not forget that even Paul is nothing, and Cephas is nothing apart from Christ? What shall we say, then, of a rod, weapon or instrument of any kind in their hands?
The stick is nothing without God. The sermon, song, shout and cry are nothing but puffs of wind without God. Or, they are like handfuls of dust blown away by the breath of men at whom they are hurled.
But if God is in us, and with us, that despised dust becomes a sandstorm of the desert, covering caravans. The breath from those consecrated lips is felt to be a hurricane of moral power. The stick is transformed into a sceptre of power waving before the astonished eyes of the people, prevailing with God, opening and closing seas of difficulty, and bringing the fires of heaven to run along the earth until the enemies of the Lord plead for mercy and the people of God are led forth with a great and perfect deliverance.
Well may we pray to the Lord to preserve the unity of the trinity of the stick, the man and God.