Summary: The Burning Bush
Many of you are soon going to be sitting around campfires watching fireworks, or should I say watching the little the ones to make sure they don’t get too close to the fireworks. There is something about fire that is mesmerizing, watching the flames as they dance in the night. Here we see fire too, but in a quite miraculous way. As Moses was traveling through the wilderness tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, he notices that there was a bush on fire. As interesting as fire is, Moses didn’t seem to pay much attention. After all, this was harsh, dry area. It could have been that this was not an irregular situation. What is interesting, though, is that this bush didn’t burn up. It continued to blaze. That is what drew Moses in.
In this account from just these 15 verses, this is the big, visible miracle. When bushes burn, they’re meant to burn up! But, this didn’t! Yet, for me, when I was reading over this account, I at first completely skipped over this detail. I didn’t really pay attention to it until the second or third time of working with the text. Part of that can be my own fault, that I don’t catch all the details, even the really big ones like this. Part of it can be that I’ve heard this account for many years, just as many of you have as well, and it’s not nearly as mind-blowing or exciting as what it was the first time we heard it. But, there is another reason too. And that is that the words God speaks here are so much greater and so much more mesmerizing. Who would ever think that words could be more intriguing than visible miracles? And yet, that’s the case here.
If you remember from last week, Moses had to flee from Egypt because he had murdered an Egyptian and Pharaoh was looking to kill him. From there, he went out to the wilderness of Midian where he met a man and his 7 daughters, one of whom he was given as a wife. 40 years have passed since that time, without really hearing anything that happened during that large span of time. Moses simply seemed to move on with his life.
But even though things had grown quiet, it didn’t mean that God stopped working. During that time, he listened to the pain of his people who were enslaved, he heard their cries and he answered them. And now had come the time for him to act on those answers to prayer. To get the ball rolling, he definitely got the attention of this shepherd, who for the most part seemed to have lived a ordinary life for the last four decades. He did so by doing what we were talking about earlier with a burning bush. Now, Moses wasn’t sure what was exactly going on. All the text says is that Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” Then, having gotten Moses’ attention, God said, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. 7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
Now this is the first time God appeared to Moses. And as you know, first impressions are important. Does God say, “Hey there Moses, you know what you did? When you murdered that Egyptian? I saw that.” Nope. Does God speak of his almighty justice like when he sent the Flood? Nope. Instead God first speaks of his holiness, telling Moses to remove his sandals and to not approach, letting him know he’s God. Then almost without a beat, God speaks not of his justice, but of his mercy. He tells Moses that he is the God of his forefathers. If I were God, I don’t know if I would want to characterize myself by this relationship I have with these three men. Men who were liars, adulterers, favorite-players with their children, and snakes. But that is exactly what God does. Why, though? Because of those three men, Moses would have recognized quite clearly the love and mercy of his Lord. That this is the Lord who loved these men and guided their lives to heaven in spite of their evident sins. Having spoken of his love for the former generations, God now revealed how he would show his love to this current generation. He would take his sons, the Israelites, from their burdensome situation and bring them to the Promised Land, that land flowing with milk and honey. It did not matter to him that enemies stood in their way. Enemies who currently possessed that land. God would accomplish this.