Moses, the baby who survived the murderous intentions of the Pharoah, and was instead raised as a prince in the Pharoah’s palace, has grown up. Much has happened since we last saw him being pulled out of the water, and he is now living with his father in law and tending his sheep.
Moses hasn’t forgotten his fellow Hebrews, they are still dear to him and close to his heart, but there is nothing he can do. Not only has he now settled down as a family man with responsibilities, but he is a murderer who dare not return to his home town. It is too dangerous for him to go back.
And yet, God calls him.
As Moses is tending to the flocks in his care, he notices a bush that has been set alight. This may not be unusual in dessert circumstances, but although this bush blazes it is not being consumed by the fire. How can this be? Moses steps closer, and as he does so, the bush speaks to him: the bush tells Moses to remove his sandals for he is standing on holy ground.
Of course, the bush isn’t really speaking, just as it isn’t really burning. God, Yahweh, is using the bush to gain Moses’ attention, and now he has it, he has something really important to tell Moses: God tells Moses that he hasn’t forgotten. It has been a long time since God spoke to Abraham, promising him descendants as many as the stars, Jacob’s wrestling encounter with God is now history, even Joseph’ s rise to fame is no longer mentioned. The God who spoke to these great fathers has been silent for so long it is as though he doesn’t care anymore, that he has nothing to say to contemporary society; but God is speaking now, and he is speaking to Moses:
I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. Exodus 3:7-9
All this time that the Israelites had been missing God, presuming him to be dead, he was listening to their cries; and now after all this time, he is ready to wade in and release them. Moses’ heart must have been soaring to hear these words, after all, it was in protest of the cruel way that the Israelites were treated that he ended up killing a slave-driver. But God continues,
I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt. v10
Moses’ heart was stirred in compassion and anger by the plight of his people, he had called out to God and now God replies, but it isn’t the answer he wants. He isn’t ready for this kind of response – this isn’t God being the Superpower who rescues, this is God being the commander who sends someone else into battle.
Many, many years later, the Israelites once more begin to feel that God is silent, missing, AWOL at least if not presumed dead. God’s people are oppressed by invading powers, puppet kings and dishonest leaders of the the faith. Then along comes one who seems to be the promised Messiah – Jesus – but what does he tell his followers?
Deny yourselves pick up your cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
This isn’t the response they were looking for either – they have been looking for one who will reclaim the throne, reclaim the temple and ease the burden of his people, instead he promises hardship and death – his own death and theirs too if they follow him.
What kind of God, of Messiah, is this?
This God is one who listens, and hears the cries of our lips, our hearts, our thoughts, but looks also for the passion that will put itself into action. God listens and hears, and then calls us to work with him in bringing the kingdom of justice into presence.
Moses panics, ‘Who am I?’ he asks, ‘to do such a thing’. God could reply that he is the one, the one who was chosen since birth to have a dual heritage, rights and privileges, a heart for his people of birth and an understanding of the political etiquette of his people of upbringing. He is the one who has access to an audience with the Pharoah, and now an audience with the King. However, Moses has asked the wrong question: it isn’t who Moses is that matters, it is who he is talking to: God.
I am who I am, the Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob… Exodus 3:14-15
The disciples, were also struggling. They had hope and faith in Jesus, to make all things right for them. They experienced belonging even in hardship in following Jesus, but what would all that mean if Jesus was going to end up dead upon a cross, and lead them to the same bitter end?
When our hearts are filled with anguish about the injustices in this world, then God is calling us. God hasn’t ignored the plight of those in need, he is waiting for the right time to light the bush that will set our hearts on fire with indignation. Jesus will call us to follow him into places and situations we would rather not go, but just as God promised Moses, he will travel with us.
Today we stand on Holy Ground. Today we have taken time out from our busy schedules to stop and listen to God, to put Jesus first. We will pour out our anguish for the world to him in our intercessions. Will we though, be willing to take off our shoes as we enter into this holy space? Will we be ready to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus? Will we go where the God of our forefathers, the great I AM is leading us?
You can read the story of the burning bush here, and Jesus call to pick up your cross here.
Something to watch:
Something to think about:
- Have you ever seen a bush on fire?
- Why is it noticeable that the bush is not consumed by fire?
- Is there a time when you have felt as though you are standing on Holy Ground – what was special about it?
- Do you hear God speaking to you, or does it feel as though God is absent?
- What injustices are etched on your heart? What can you do about them?
- Is there a cause or situation that you have been praying to God about, with seemingly no answer?
- What could God be leading you into?
Something to pray:
Go, and know, that the Lord goes with you: let God lead you each day into the quiet place of your heart where he will speak with you;
Know that he loves you and watches over you—that he listens to you in gentle understanding, that he is with you always, wherever you are and however you may feel: and the blessings of God be yours forever.