2 And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. 3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. 4 And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: 5 That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.
Moses had just expressed doubt in the God’s plan, arguing that the Israelites would not believe that Moses was actually sent by the Lord. God immediately illustrated how easily He could and would provide evidence to overcome any skepticism, and thus invalidated Moses’s argument. The people would be convinced, there was no need to worry about that.
Of course, Moses’s hesitancy before and after these verses suggest that his real concern had very little to do with what the other Israelites would think. The longer this conversation goes on, the more apparent it becomes that the person he actually has doubt in is his own self. Thus, God’s little exercise with the staff and the snake was very shrewd, accomplishing multiple things at the same time. First, God provided a solution to Moses’s stated concern. Second, by dismantling Moses’s arguments, He was pushing Moses to be honest about what his real fears were. Third, He was testing Moses in a way that would shore up Moses’s real fears.
How did God test Moses? Well, we know that He turned the rod into a snake that Moses was deathly afraid of because Moses fled from it, and then He commanded Moses to grab hold of it! In fact, God specifically instructed Moses to grab it by the tail, which would leave the snake enough flexibility to turn and bite him! Thus, God made Moses face his fears by having him do something that could go very badly unless God came through for him. Moses did exercise his faith, and God did exercise His power, and the crisis was averted. This likely reinforced Moses’s hope and faith that together they could succeed.