I’m in the middle of reading “The Tangible Kingdom”/primer , by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay and I keep getting “wrecked”. There just happened to be a reading from Exodus chapter 3 & 4 about Moses and the burning bush. You know that phrase, “That’s when I had my ‘burning bush’ moment !”? …I think I might have had one!
The beginning of the story comes from one of the earlier books in the Bible — Exodus — 3rd chapter, to be exact. Short version to the story is that the Israelite people had been in great distress and were being oppressed by their enemy — the Egyptians. They had been put into slavery and made to do ridiculously hard labor — Pharoah’s grand scheme to keep them from becoming too strong and possibly overtaking his kingdom.
Here’s some excerpts from the Biblical account …
Exodus 3 (NIV)
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush,“Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 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.
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. 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. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
Someone lit the fire … and this passage was illuminated for me! Here’s the basic rundown of how things seemed to go …
“I have seen their misery.”
“I have heard their cry.”
“I am concerned about their suffering.”
“I have come down to rescue them …”
“…and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land.”
Ahhh… I’ve used these phrases in teaching and encouraging others! I’ve been quick to tell people how precious God’s thoughts are toward us and how He sees us in our pain and misery and suffering and He’s concerned for us. He’ll come to the rescue !! How intimate are His thoughts toward us …right !? Of course …but then God shares His plan on how to help those who are suffering and crying …
More from God:
“I am sending YOU! ” Oh and …
“I will be with you!” , and at the end of the day …
“You will worship Me on this mountain.”
What !!?? There’s over a million people out there who are being oppressed and crying out for deliverance and you’re sending ME?? And, as any of us might do … he started in on the “What if’s” and the “I actually might not be smarter than a 5th grader after all ! Surely there must be somebody else who is better equipped to do this enormous task of freeing millions of people !” While we’re at it, let’s just add my own “what if’s” to the mix … “I’m too little for that sort of thing (even though I’m 50, being the youngest–the baby– of 7 children has allowed me to use this excuse for a very long time). I don’t even have the slightest gift of administration and you know I tend to get way too emotionally attached to people and I never seem to have a lot of money to work with!”
And then God lights up the conversation again with a very surprising question of His own ...”What is that in your hand?”…not “what’s in your wallet!” (Exodus 4). Of course God knows exactly what’s in Moses’ hand but He gets Moses to actually look with his own eyes what he’s holding and what he has to work with — a simple tool from normal day life — “A staff” …common farmer’s tool out there in the wilderness with your herd of sheep ! It might as well have been the “broom in my own hand” if you put it in modern-day terms. That’s right — the broom — “throw it on the ground”, God says. At this point the broom/staff turns into a snake , from which Moses did what any smart person would do — he ran ! Then God tells him to pick it up by the tail ! Now I’m no reptile expert but I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to pick up a snake by the tail and give it the opportunity to whip around with the head and bite you ! This is when I would wish it was still my broom and I could whack it to death while screaming for my husband to come and do something …fast ! Of course Moses , in some miraculous state of trust or “the sheep are boring today so I think I’ll have some fun” moment — reaches out and grabs the snake and God turns it back into the old familiar staff . Then God gives His reason for all this wild and crazy staff -turned-into-snake – turned-into-staff again thing …”This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has appeared to you.” As if the burning bush incident weren’t enough to convince Moses, surely this would do the trick, right?
You gotta love Moses here …he’s had signs and wonders all around him and he basically tells God, “Uh…I’m not so good at talking in front of people,” …or his exact wording, … ” I’m slow of speech and tongue”. To which God replied, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? …Is it not I, the Lord?” Oh boy , hard to argue with that point. God’s telling him that he made him just the way he is and that he’s perfect for the job … exactly how God wants to work this “deliverance” issue out — something that will surprise everyone — even Moses himself ! God seems to see Moses as gifted instead of handicapped — this is going to be awesome !
Then God graciously gives Moses the bottom line of security …
“Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
How can you refuse such a great offer. God was sending him out to do an amazing job and He was putting up His own stock to back the whole journey. He even promised to be His personal Agent — with him at every moment assuring him of what to do and say. Can’t beat that, right? Moses’ final words … Uh…”O Lord, please send someone else to do it !” In the face of the miraculous God, Moses’ bottom line was — “I really don’t want to do it. I’m afraid …I feel pretty insecure about it all and I don’t feel equipped to handle this huge job. I’d really rather you just send somebody else to do it. Someone who’s used to freeing millions of slaves and who likes the Egyptian climate and camping outdoors and dealing with ornery, smelly people.”
Notice Moses’ excuses are all about his own inadequacies — not considering at all the adequacy of the God of the universe being readily available at every moment !
In Moses’ defense, he ultimately ends up obeying God’s call and is used by God to free the Israelites and send them on to their Promised Land. God even graciously gives him a buddy to help do the talking for him — his brother Aaron. You can read the rest of the story in the early chapters of Exodus but for now — the burning bush for me continues …
I look in my own back yard . There’s no bush burning out there but there’s a fire burning in my soul for sure ! There are people in my neighborhood (and your neighborhood) who may be slaves to alcohol or drugs or the more subtle chains of materialism or appearance or prestige. Some are just plain lonely and enslaved emotionally. There are people who are in need of an advocate to help them through life’s struggles and prejudices and lack of resources ...right in my back yard — and your’s!
Could it be that God has seen their misery and heard their cry and is concerned about their suffering? Could it be that He is sending me and sending you to help? And could it be that He’s showing us what we have right in our own hands that might be used by God to be miracle-working ? And am I still using excuses that point out my “lack of” instead of “His abundant power and available gifts”? Am I still telling God to send someone else when the “broom” in my own hand is just as good as the “broom” in another’s hand? Is it just that I feel I lack the resources or abilities or are I’m just not “feelin’ it” right now? (Confession: this is the reality of my excuses so often.)
I did the “look” thing — I looked around to see what was in my own hand. There’s a piano — maybe offer piano lessons to neighborhood children? God, can someone else do the teaching though?? 🙂 How about my yard — allow neighbors to be a part of planting flowers and vegetables while sowing relationships in the mix. My house — that can be a place of refreshing and peace for those who enter. Ahhh , and of course, there’s always my broom ! 🙂
Might there be a burning bush in your backyard too ?
What’s in your hand?