Summary: The story of the Burning Bush tells us When, Why, How and Where God revealed himself to Moses and What it meant to him - and What it can mean to us.
Imagine you’re taking a walk on a lonely hillside on a hot summer day. A furze bush catches fire, but instead of burning up it keeps on burning! That would take your attention and make you think, “What’s going on? Is someone trying to say something to me?” It could be a CALL OF GOD - to know him in a deeper and more intimate way and which could change the direction of your life. It’s something which we need to have, often more than once, in our Christian pilgrimage – that call of God.
There’s a fine example of this in the life of Moses as he encountered God at the Burning Bush, from which we can draw some valuable lessons. The phenomenon of the bush which kept on burning isn’t important of it - it was just the means that God chose to get Moses’ undivided attention. In the 21st century it could just as easily be some disruption from our routine - a news flash on TV, an accident or illness; perhaps an unwelcome change of circumstances, such as a loss of a job. God can speak to us in strange ways. God will often get our attention by causing uncommon events to occur. We may call them coincidences but these are not chance events. They are God’s way of tapping us on the shoulder so that we’ll sit up and take notice of what he has to say. He can also do so in less dramatic ways - as we read the Scriptures or even listen to a sermon! I’ve known all of these as prompts in hearing God.
What is God like? This is a question, which has exercised the minds of mankind. It reminds me of the story of the little girl who was in deep concentration over her drawing. Her mother asked her what she was drawing and received the curt reply, “God.” Her mother protested, “But no one knows what God looks like!” The little girl replied, “They will now!” The story of the Burning Bush tells us a great deal about God. Let’s see When, Why, How and Where God revealed himself to Moses, and What it meant to him - and what it can mean to us. It came surprisingly:
WHEN HE WAS COMPLACENT
His first 40 years had been anything but humdrum. He’d been a prince of Egypt, but he’d known the first stirring of the Spirit, or perhaps through a pang of conscience, when he contrasted his life of privilege with the poverty and pain of his fellow countrymen as the Hebrew slaves. The trouble was that Moses had wanted to serve God but had tried to do it in his own strength, only to find that his attempts had failed and had ended in disaster! He had acted in good faith but rashly, and had to flee for his life. His lifestyle had radically altered from the luxury of the palace to the harsh existence of the desert.
The storyteller recounts that "Moses was content to dwell with his father-in-law and kept his sheep" (Ex 2:21). There’s every reason to believe that these years were the happiest in his life. Perhaps he had prayed the ancient prayer, "God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." It’s good counsel that we would be advised to take. God had given him a wife; God had given him security. But it’s possible to take contentment too far and for it to slip into complacency.
Moses had settled down and accepted that his plan of being a blessing to his people was only a faded dream, which could never be realized. Day in and day out he did his shepherding duties, living with his thoughts and memories of what might have happened and his failure. Perhaps in the first years he had hoped that somehow he could salvage something from his ruined career.
The 40 years in the desert slowly went by and there had come no summons from his people, no call from his God. He resigned himself to have been forgotten by both – he was yesterday’s man - and must content himself with his lot. It’s possible for us, too, to have the same feeling as Moses, of being in a spiritual rut. Moses had now been doing the same thing for about 40 years. After that time you don’t expect much to happen - but that’s without reckoning on God. You see, he has plans for each one of his people; he had plans for Moses as he knew he had potential, but nothing had happened. This leads us to think of:
WHY THE CALL WAS DELAYED
The circumstances of life must be taken as God’s training school for his people. This is why God drew Moses from the finest academic training possible in Pharaoh’s court to teach him other things that would qualify him as God’s shepherd to lead the Israelites to their Promised Land. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us, "The Lord disciplines those he loves ... " And also that they might “endure hardship as sons". The writer goes on, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained in it" (12:6,7, and 11).