Exodus 4:2 Then the Lord said to him, "What is that in your hand?"
"A staff," he replied.
It was a tool. It was a symbol of himself—a simple shepherd. The shepherd never went anywhere without his staff. It was his guide, his weapon of defense, and of course it supported him when he was tired. Now God said, "Throw it down!” He threw it down, and it turned into a snake. Moses’ reaction was instinctive. The story reads, "Moses fled.” You bet he did, and I would have too. He had no love for snakes. Now came the real test of faith. God said, "Pick it up, Moses." Picking up a deadly snake is not a wise thing to do regardless of how the experts do it. God said, "Pick it up by the tail." That leaves the head free to do what it wants to. The Bible doesn't say what Moses said, but I can imagine, "Lord, you don't seem to understand that is a live snake.” “Lord, you wouldn’t want to kill it first, would you?” The Lord said, “Moses, pick it up."
I have always loved the writing of the British pastor F.B. Meyer who writes:
“What is that in your hand? And he said, a Rod.” It was probably only a shepherd’s crook. What a history, however, awaited it! It was to be stretched out over the Red Sea, pointing a pathway through its depths; to smite the flinty rock; to win victory over the hosts of Amalek; to be known as the Rod of God. When God wants an implement for his service He does not choose the golden scepter, but a shepherd’s crook; the weakest and meanest thing He can find—a ram’s horn, a cake of barley meal, an ox-goad, an earthen pitcher, a shepherd’s sling. He employs a worm to thresh the mountains and make the hills as chaff. A rod with God behind it is mightier than the vastest army.[i]
Notice that God used what was familiar to Moses to teach him an important lesson. Moses’ problem is our problem. He couldn’t see how he was supposed to do what God had asked him to do. God used the stick to say to Moses if I can use this stick, I can use you.