The Burning Bush
Exodus 3: 1-12
“And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside and see
this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.”
The story of the Burning Bush begins with a murder. The only reason Moses is out here in the wilderness is because, in his zeal and anger, he killed an Egyptian slave master who was beating one of his Hebrew brothers and hid the body in the sand. But the deed cannot be buried.
When Pharoah finds out, Moses flees to Midian. There he settles and marries, and it is while he is tending his father-in-law’s sheep that Moses sees the plainest of scrubby thorn bushes…lit with the living presence of God.
Tending sheep is a lonely long vocation, with hours to walk and think. Imagine Moses’ state of mind. He is a wanted man. His past is threatening to cancel his future. He feels shame and remorse, anger at himself. He re-lives the chaos of his birth, separation from his mother, a vulnerable infant sent down the river. Hardly the making of a hero, and yet his deep soul-struggle creates a man who is desperate enough to “turn aside” and behold a thorn bush ablaze.
What Moses sees in the bush is his life. The fires of his passionate mistakes and failures have engulfed his life but—the miracle portends—like the bush, he is not consumed. He is like the three Hebrew children in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, unsinged. It is his near-death experience. Now he knows his life is not his own; it has been burned up and yet restored. What can threaten a man who has already died? Not Pharoah and all his armies.
Prayer: God of Moses, if only the desperate “turn aside,” let our own soul-struggle be our salvation; let it quicken our perception of burning bushes everywhere. Amen.
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