Sunday, April 27

Lessons from a burning bush

At Quest, we are continuing our series about the relationship between God and people, and what God intends for that relationship to look like. Last week we talked about Moses and the story of the Burning Bush.

In order to really understand what is going on with the Burning Bush, you have to go back to the beginning of Moses’s story, which is told in Exodus 2. Moses was born during a time that Pharaoh had ordered all Hebrew boys to be thrown into the Nile to be killed, but the girl babies were allowed to live. When Moses was born, his mother hid him for three moths. When he got too big for that, she made a basket for him, and placed him in the Nile. His sister watched him to see what would happen. What happened was that Pharaoh’s daughter came down, saw the basket, and decided to keep him. Moses’s sister then came up and offered to find a woman to nurse him. So it was Moses’s mother who nursed him and cared for him, but he was raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. When Moses was grown, he went to his own people and saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. So he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day, he saw two Hebrews fighting, and he tried to get them to stop. The Hebrew asked “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14). Pharaoh heard about it and tried to kill Moses, so Moses fled to Midian. There he found a wife and became the shepherd taking care of his father-in-law’s flocks. He did that for a long time before. One day, he was with the flock “on the far side of the desert” when he saw a bush that was on fire but didn’t burn up. (Exodus 3). He walked over to check it out, and talked with God there. The meeting at the burning bush set in motion the chain of events that would lead to the Ten Plagues on Egypt, the Israelites leaving Egypt and going into the wilderness, and finally the Israelites entering the land that God had promised Abraham. Here is some of what we talked about in our discussion of Moses and the Burning Bush.

  • God can handle our questions and doubts. God tells Moses that he wants Moses to go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt. When God does this, Moses has lots of questions and concerns. God patiently addresses each of these. Moses asks “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Exodus 3:12). He asks, when he tells them that God has sent him “and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”(Exodus 3:13). He asks “”What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” (Exodus 4:1). He then points out that he is has never been eloquent and that he is slow of speech and tongue. (Exodus 4:10). God has an answer to each of these, and the answers are designed to be reassuring to Moses. He answers the first question by telling Moses that he will be with him. He answers the second question by giving Moses his name “I Am Who I Am” and telling him what to say to the elders of Israel. He answers the third question by giving him some miraculous sings that he can show to the people and to Pharaoh. And he answers the fourth question by sending Moses’s brother Aaron, who is eloquent and a good speaker, to him to be his voice. Moses’s questions and concerns are legitimate. God responds to these issues by giving Moses answers to the questions and concerns so that Moses can be reassured and know that God is really with him in this.
  • While God will answer our legitimate concerns, there does come a point when he does get angry. After God has answered each of Moses’s questions, Moses still says “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (Exodus 4:13). It is then, and only then, that God becomes angry. But even when he gets angry, he shows what righteous anger without sin looks like. He doesn’t lash out. He doesn’t say “Fine then. If you’re going to be that way I will send someone else.” He is angry with Moses, but still sends Moses to accomplish the mission and still gives Moses the tools he needs to accomplish it. This is encouraging, because it is easy to think that if God is mad at us that he doesn’t care about us anymore, or that he can’t use us to do anything. This story tells us that nothing is farther from the truth.
  • God wants a relationship with and uses flawed people. This is one of the most encouraging things about this story. It is easy to get into the mindset that in order for God to want a relationship, I need to be perfect. And as soon as I’m not perfect, then he’s going to stop coming around. Again, we see that this isn’t true. Moses was clearly a flawed person. He was a murderer. He tried to convince God to use someone else to save the Israelites from Egypt. Later in the story, he will continue to do some things that are not God’s plan. Yet God continues to have a face-to-face relationship with Moses and continues to use him to lead Israel. If God can do that with Moses, he can do it with me. Now, this doesn’t mean that we have a license to do wrong things. God wants and expects us to do the right thing, and doing the wrong thing has consequences. However, doing the wrong thing doesn’t disqualify us from a relationship with God.
  • God’s timing is perfect. God sent Pharaoh’s daughter at just the right time to find the baby Moses. He met Moses at the burning bush at just the right time to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. He sent Aaron to meet Moses at just right time so that Moses would have someone who was more eloquent to act as his spokesman. There are times that we want things done right away. But God is able to see more than we can. And his timing for things is always perfect.
  • We see Moses learn the lesson of humility. Before Moses goes to Midian, he was raised in Pharaoh’s house. He was used to power, and probably thought that he could save the Israelites on his own. In fact, the word “judge” used the by the Hebrew in Exodus 2:14 could also mean deliverer or ruler, and is the same word used to refer to the leaders of Israel in the book of Judges. This implies that Moses is setting himself up to lead the Hebrews. When he runs away, he learns humility. In fact, he reaches the point that he is referred to as the most humble man on earth. (Numbers 12:3). In fact, he learns this lesson so well that he doesn’t even want God to make him the leader. Once again, as in the story of Joseph, we see the importance of humility. It is when we are humble that God can most effectively use us, because we no longer are acting for our glory, and we can put the interests of God and others above our own.
Those are the highlights of our discussion about Joseph Next week we will continue with the life of Moses.

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