Something strange was happening in the wilderness today. Moses HAD to check it out! He met an angel of the Lord in the middle of a burning bush and boy did He have a lot to say.
Moses was minding his father in law’s sheep, like any other day, when something caught his eye. Before he went any further he HAD to check it out.
Now I have to interject a question here. I was trying to find a map showing me these locations and I ran into a problem. I am told by MANY bible experts that Mt Horeb and Mt. Sinai are probably the same place. Moses’s father in law is a priest of Midian and Moses’ job was watching the sheep for his father in law. The bible maps that I have found put Mt. Sinai on the western side of the Gulf of Aquaba and Midian on the eastern side of it. I don’t think sheep swim that well and that would be a LONG way for them to travel between the two points. Is it possible that the two mountains are different? I REALLY would expect Moses’ burning bush encounter to take place in Midian territory. I found one map that puts this encounter on Midian’s side but I’m not sure I trust it fully but I’m going to hang onto it. I’m not certain the physical location really matters in the grand scheme of things. The fact that he had a one on one with God is more important than anything else. I take this story at face value and as PURE truth. Now I feel like I can get back to our reading.
By looking WAY forward into Acts 7 where Stephen is sharing the gospel with the Sanhedrin we are told that Moses was 40 years old when he left Egypt and lived in Midian for the next 40 years. He is in his 80th year when he encounters this HIGHLY unusual sight.
I’m wondering what caught his eye. Was there smoke rising up? Did he actually see the flame and come to investigate? Was the bush near him when it erupted in flames? Was he concerned about the possibility of the fire spreading and went to check it out? He must have watched it for a few minutes to realize that the bush wasn’t actually being harmed by the fire. To ANYONE who is familiar with fire THIS would have been enough to clue us into the fact that something SPECIAL was going on.
We are currently having a forest fire about 50 miles from where I live. The smoke from it waxes and wanes throughout the day. I KNOW the firefighters would LOVE to encounter a fire where nothing really gets burned up! Our local fire is over 13,000 acres right now. That is DEFINITELY NOT a place to take your shoes off!
But that was the first command Moses received from this burning bush. “Don’t come any closer until you take your shoes off. This is HOLY ground!” Now, not only was the bush not being consumed by fire but it was also TALKING to him! Most people would either start looking around for the hidden microphone or run like mad the other way. Not Moses. He was curious enough to do what the bush said and come closer.
God’s instructions from the bush wasn’t the first words Moses heard though. First he heard his name being called. Did he look around to see who was calling his name? Was he familiar with this experience and knew it was the Lord? I don’t think so because of the lengthy introduction God used for Himself. He appears to be speaking to someone who really doesn’t know Him at all. But Moses answered to his name nonetheless. When called he said, “Here I am” (verse 4b).
That first response was monumental! He could have said, “I’m busy. Don’t bother me now” or “What’s it to You” or even “Whose asking?” But he didn’t. His “Here I am” was an indication that he was ready to receive instructions. He was open and waiting for whatever came next.
When Moses figured out exactly Who was addressing him he responded by hiding his face. I don’t know if this was in fear, reverence or both. Was Moses expecting God to strike him dead on the spot? After all, he had murdered a man. Was he awed by being in communication with the God of his fathers? God wasn’t claiming a relationship with Moses, yet. Had Moses learned his people’s history while in Egypt? Had those lessons continued in Midian at the feet of Jethro, his father in law? Was Moses expecting good things or bad things at this point?
God eases Moses into his role by focusing on the people of Israel as a whole.
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“I’ve heard their groaning and seen their suffering. I know what is going on and I intend to fix it.”
“Great! I’ll let you get right to it God.”
“You have a part to play in my plan. You are going to speak for me to Pharaoh and tell him to let my people go.”
“WHAT?! Who do you think I am? I don’t have any standing before Pharaoh. I certainly don’t have the right to tell Pharaoh what to do with those HE considers HIS property!”
“That’s all right. I do. And I will go with you. When you’re done you and they will serve me on this very mountain.”
(Pause for a moment here. To God this is a foregone conclusion. There is no “if you will go” or “if Pharaoh will let them go”. It is straight up, after this is done…” I wonder if that though ran through Moses’ head.”)
“Ok. So let’s say I agree to do this. The people of Israel have to agree to follow me. Last time I met up with them they were not too keen on me. So who do I tell them sent me? If I tell them ‘The God of your fathers sent me’ they will at least expect me to know His name! So what should I tell them?”
(Notice here that Moses said IF, not WHEN. He is still on the fence about this whole thing.)
“I AM WHO I AM.”
“That is the name you are to give the people when they ask who sent you. You are also to tell them that ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ (verse 15b) has sent you to them. THIS is My name forever and how I am to be remembered forever. Let them know that I have seen what they are going through and am ready to bring them out of their situation.”
“Ok. Got it! ‘I AM, the God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ is the name You will forever be known by. That’s a mouthful!”
“Yes. But it is accurate and it is who I AM. Now when you get back and tell the people all of this, get the elders to go with you to Pharaoh when you tell him to let My people go.”
“You do know that he is not going to like this don’t You?”
“Of course he won’t. I’ve known that all along. But I’m going to deal with him and before it is all over, he and ALL of Egypt will be BEGGING you to leave. In fact, when you leave, the Egyptians will willingly give you whatever you ask for, just to see the back side of you. Here is what I want you to ask for. Have the women do the asking and they are to ask their Egyptian neighbors and anyone who lives in their house for silver, gold, jewelry and clothing. Dress your children in these things so they will be wearing fine clothing instead of the rags of a slave. When they go out of Egypt they will be a proud people; no longer broken and in bondage.”
“That’s a REAL rags to riches story! But…” (to be continued)
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A couple lessons we can take from Moses’ early interactions with God. 1) He answered immediately when called. 2) He asked for references to make SURE Who he was talking to. 3) He listened to instructions before chiming in. Oh he will chime in in our next time together, but for today’s reading he listens first.
God won’t do anything with us if we don’t first answer when He calls. He doesn’t leave messages on answering machines saying we will get back with Him when we have a minute. He demands our attention before He begins His instructions. Be still and listen!
Don’t just listen to any voice that grabs your attention. Check out the source. This goes for your daily life as well as your spiritual one. Don’t listen to the voices of those who aren’t backed by God. Your ‘good buddy’ who thinks it might be fun to kick up a little trouble in town should receive a closed ear as quickly as Satan would. If it isn’t from God or He would tell you don’t listen, RUN the other way, supposed miracle or not! Satan knows how to imitate. BE SURE OF YOUR SOURCE!!!
Let God have His say. Listen with an open heart to what He has to say. He WILL let you have your say too, but it is impossible to communicate when both individuals involved are talking at the same time. WAIT until you have heard what He has to say before even beginning to come up with your answer.
Father God, I’m guilty of not following all three of these ‘rules’ myself. I KNOW I get busy and want You to wait ‘until I have time’ to listen. I also have been known to jump in before You have finished or plan my answer while only half listening. That gets me into a WHOLE LOT of messes! As for the source issue, I’m always afraid I’m being bamboozled by my own ‘thoughts’ instead of really listening to You. I wish I could be as certain as Moses was when You spoke to him. I know ‘Your sheep know Your voice’ but I’m afraid of missing it.
Help me Holy Spirit in ALL these areas. I want to be SO familiar with Your voice that NO OTHER even comes close to approximating it. I know this comes with time spent with You. Thank You for meeting me here and speaking to me so I can hear You better and better every day. Keep Talking! And I pray I Keep Listening and walking in what You say. AND that I wait until You are done before I get up and go. I wonder how different my life would be if I had learned some of these lessons a LONG TIME AGO!