“We had a story about Moses in church school today,” said Kelly as the family sat down at the table for dinner. “We learned that God talked to Moses from a burning bush and told him what he was supposed to do. Our teacher says God still speaks to people.”
Kevin jabbed his fork into a potato. “Maybe, but not through anything as interesting as a burning bush,” he said. “I’d like to see one of those–and I don’t mean the kind that has red leaves in the fall! I mean one that’s really on fire.”
“Yeah!” agreed Kelly. “Imagine one of Mom’s best bushes on fire and God speaking to us out of it!”
Mom smiled. “Make it a bush way at the back of the yard, will you?” she said. “We don’t want to burn the house down!”
“You know, it doesn’t require a real burning bush for God to speak to us,” said Dad. “That bush was just what caught Moses’ attention. It was when he took the trouble to check it out that God spoke to him. If we’re open to what God wants for us, He can catch our attention and speak to us through a lot of different situations or people.”
“I suppose so,” admitted Kevin, “but I still think it would be cool to have a burning bush.”
“Maybe you have one,” said Dad. “What about Jon’s wheelchair?” Jon, the son of their new neighbors, had been in a bad accident the year before and was confined to a wheelchair.
Kevin looked surprised. “What do you mean?” he asked. “How is Jon’s wheelchair like a burning bush?”
“Maybe that’s your call to attention,” suggested Dad. “Jon is often on his front porch when you go to play with your friends, and I’ve seen him watching you with a hopeful look in his eyes,” explained Dad. “Maybe God wants you to go over and talk with him. You could even wheel him down to the park to watch your games. Maybe if you do that, God will speak to you through him. You might even end up with a new friend! What do you think?”
Kevin smiled. “I guess it’s worth a shot!”
When Moses saw the burning bush, he saw that God was in the plan. What Moses heard was the voice of God Himself. The appearance of the Lord was the first instance of direct revelation to Moses. After 80 years, Moses was now ready to fulfill the Lord’s calling. No other leader in biblical times had such a lengthy training period. Times of preparation are never wasted: God knows that, properly prepared, His servants can do more in 40 years than they could do in 120 unprepared.
God appears in the ordinary. This is one of many ways in which He gets our attention. He uses positive events such as the birth of a child, and He also uses tragedies. God does not cause tragedies, but He uses them to get our attention. He has to get our attention before He can present Himself to us. When He gets our attention, we stand on holy ground. When we stand on holy ground, we have to remove the dirt from our lives. That dirt is called sin.
Sometimes it is only on the far side of the wilderness where God can get our attention. Sometimes it is when we feel alone, abandoned, and forgotten that our ears are pricked to hear. Isolation is often God’s place of invitation. God doesn’t speak and ask our advice regarding His plan. He makes declarations. He speaks, and that is that.
God meets us where we are. We are not always where we should be, but God adapts and accommodates us. Moses was not where he should have been, but the sight of the burning bush and God’s call brought Moses out of obscurity and isolation and sent Moses back to Egypt to lead the Israelites.
The burning bush represents God’s presence. The fact that the bush was not consumed means that we can know God’s presence eternally. For these divine moments, the area near the bush was the Lord’s house because of the Lord’s presence. The resulting command to “take your sandals off your feet” reflects this. The phrase “I have come down to deliver them” was meant for Israel, but they also point to the future incarnation of Jesus.
When He spoke from the burning bush, God called Moses by name. God became personal to Moses. God sees and knows. God identified Himself so that Moses would know that he was not meeting an unknown God. God often speaks to us through unusual circumstances such as a burning bush that is not consumed. When we find ourselves in the midst of confusing times that we do not understand, we should slow down and listen, because God might be trying to tell us something.
Moses was reluctant to take on the role that God asked of him, but Moses was the ideal person for that role. His dual identity as both an Egyptian and an Israelite made him the perfect person to confront Pharaoh for the sake of the Israelites. In spite of his reluctance and his youthful, misguided interventions, Moses was driven by a deep sense of injustice and a desire to intervene for the victimized and the mistreated. Moses and God were on the same wavelength.
God must break through several hard, exterior barriers in our lives before He can renovate our souls and use us. His persistent goal is to break through to the inner person. What are those layers that God has to break through and how does He break through to that hidden part? He finds pride, and He uses the sandpaper of obscurity to remove it. He finds us gripped by fear and He uses the passing of time to remove that fear. He encounters the barrier of resentment and breaks it down with solitude. He penetrates our inner person, and He brings discomfort and hardship to buff away that last layer of resistance.
Moses typified human response when God calls someone to do what seems beyond them, yet the success of any divine mission is never dependent on human abilities. The Lord’s words- “I will certainly be with you”- were intended to focus Moses on the true source of his future success.
So why did God ask Moses to free the Hebrews from slavery? There are three reasons:
- God hates injustice, oppression and sin. He saw and heard the misery of His people.
- God works to undo wrongs.
- He puts humanity to work.
God has to engage in spiritual warfare. When He asks us to do something, we often have to engage in spiritual warfare as well.
It’s one thing to be concerned and pray for someone from outside their circumstances; it’s another thing altogether to get involved in those circumstances as part of the answer. When we pray, God wants us to have an attitude of availability if He calls us to get involved.
When God said, “I am who I am,” He declared his eternal, unchanging, uncreated self-existence. The identification of the Lord as “God of your fathers” is enormously important: Moses and the Hebrew people needed to know that this was no “new god”-the Deliverer of Israel ever is and ever will be. Because of the covenant God created with Abraham, God was with the Hebrews, and He is with us. In return, He wants us to identify with Him. That’s why He says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
God is eternal. His resources don’t run out. His power doesn’t run out. He doesn’t need to rest. His gifts are limitless. His omnipresence reminds us that we are always being addressed and confronted by God. We are always on holy ground. Every so often we stop, take off our sandals and bathe ourselves in the constancy of divine revelation. If we are too busy to notice these God moments, we fail to see the beauty, wonder and love right where we are. Spiritual formation is about taking time to pause, notice, open, yield and stretch, and then respond to the holiness everywhere.
In Exodus 3:7-10, we see a picture of a redeeming God and redemption that is complete. God’s plan was to deliver His children from bondage so they could worship Him and be established as His chosen people. God did not forget the promise He made to Abraham and confirmed with Isaac and Jacob. God always hears the cries of His people, and He always remembers His covenant.
When he answered God’s call, Moses made several excuses. First. he said that he was not capable. The youthful confidence he had when he killed an Egyptian who was attacking a fellow Israelite was gone. The enormity of the task and the responsibility overwhelmed him. Was it genuine humility or a lack of faith in God’s ability and wisdom? The best promise God could give, He gave to Moses: “I will certainly be with you.”
The second excuse Moses gave was that he did not know God’s name. What would he tell the Israelites if they asked the name of the god he claimed to represent? In ancient times every god had a name, and people believed it was necessary to know the name of the god in order to approach him. A god’s name also revealed something of his character. Did Moses accept those beliefs, or was he concerned that the people had forgotten the God of their ancestors?
We know how Moses felt. We don’t think that we know enough, or that we have experienced enough, or that we feel deeply enough. We don’t think that we have anything to say. God’s answer to Moses’ excuse is the same answer He gives us. God created His personal name: “I AM WHO I AM.”
Community can do that to us. It carries us into uncomfortable experiences and walks alongside us, encouraging and challenging us along the way. And through the challenge and support, we grow. Being part of a community that challenges us may not be high on our priority list but being challenged is one of the only ways we grow. Growing is what God calls us to do.
We are qualified to do God’s work not because of our own talents, abilities, or training, but because God is with us. He does not call the equipped. He equips the called. If He is not with us, no amount of skill or experience will make us qualified. He isn’t impressed with us. He checks out our humility, our sensitivity and our availability.
God knows our needs and answers prayers in the manner that will help us serve His will, and often surprises us. There are many things God could give us to help us through life’s challenges. The best gift is Himself.
We don’t need a miraculous bush to hear God. When God gets our attention, it is up to us to respond. All we have to do is leave behind the cares of the world. We have to forget our “to do” lists. We don’t have to let the world make us feel guilty for spending time with God. We don’t have to listen to lies that tell us that we should be doing something more productive, something that matters. Nothing matters more than spending time with God.
God needed Moses. God needs people. We are God’s hands and feet. God sent Moses as His emissary and revelation. Divine power is real, but it is always connected to human openness and decision making. Would God have been able to free the Israelites without Moses’ commitment? We are not stronger than God, but our efforts can be the tipping point in a lively, interdependent universe.
This is a story of meeting God on God’s own terms. If we are going to know someone, we won’t know him/her until we experience him/her. When this happens, we have a spiritual experience. It transforms our lives. To know God, we have to go with God. Faith is a full contact, participation sport. We can’t just sit back and expect to really know God. We have to get into the game take a risk, try something marvelous, reach for something we thought unachievable, and step out onto the winding road the end of which we can’t see.
God depends on us to remind other people of the message of God’s love. It is by the Holy Spirit of God working through us that we can share the message of God’s love with one another and with those who don’t know God’s love. At this moment in our lives, what might God be calling us to do for His greater purpose? What new plans has He placed on our paths?
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 76-78)
- “Your Burning Bush.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 2: Exodus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 54-70)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2020; pp. 75-78)
- Sarah Young, “Holy Ground.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Alan Wright, “Spiritual Experience (Part 1).” Retrieved from www.sharingthelight.org
- Leslie Koh, “Are You There?” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Baptist Bible Hour, “Day 9: Theme.” Retrieved from Oneplace@crosswalkmail.com
- Ruth Reilly-Smith, “God’s Retirement Plan.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Charles R. Swindoll, “Moses-I’m Here.” Retrieved from www.insightforliving.ca
- Sharon Jaynes, “When You Wonder if God is Concerned About You.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Charles R. Swindoll, “Moses-Hard of Hearing.” Retrieved from www.insightforliving.ca
- John North,” Exodus 3:9-12.” Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- Amy Merrill Willis, “Commentary on Exodus 3:1-15.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=973
- David Lose, “Get Off the Couch and Into the Game.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=1600
- Bruce Epperly, “The Adventurous Lectionary-The Thirteenth Sunday of Pentecost-August 30, 2020.” Retrieved from www.patheos.com