In the third chapter of Exodus, one of the most intriguing encounters in all of human history is recorded. It’s between Moses…and a bush. Man comes face to face with God. Well, sort of.
Reminds me of that famous scene in The 10 Commandments with Charlton Heston, as Moses, talking to the burning bush. And the bush talking back. That’s a great story!
But the greater story is how it illustrates one of the Bible’s most basic themes—that God is personal, knowable, and involved. Moses found that out, for sure. When he went up to the mountain, he was a shepherd. When he came down, he was a leader. No need for graduate school. No leadership seminars. No pomp and circumstance playing in the background.
There’s another interesting note to this encounter. The Bible says that when Moses came down the mountain, he was carrying the “staff of God.” When he went up the mountain, he was just carrying a regular shepherd’s staff. God not only transformed Moses; He also transformed what Moses used for his work. The principle being that God wants to have us surrender what we do, as well as who we are, in order for Him to use us.
Just like Moses, Jesus calls us to surrender who we are and what we do so God can reshape us to accomplish His purposes.
But, we don’t like the word “surrender.” It sounds so “un-American.” Surrender means that we are no longer in charge. Someone else is. And that means change. But in a politically correct world, there are no moral absolutes, so there’s no need to surrender anything about ourselves that needs changing. We prefer to hold tightly onto the things we believe, and to use what we have for our own purposes rather than God’s. That thinking breeds selfishness. It’s pretty hard to think of others when you are holding tightly onto yourself.
Now, fast forward a thousand years or so to the time of Jesus who said that He was there at the burning bush moment. “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” John 5:46.
Jesus said that he was around even before Moses and the burning bush. “I tell you the truth…before Abraham was born, I AM,” declared Jesus in John 8:58. That comment, and a few other ones Jesus would make, often got the pc crowd of His day REALLY upset with him. Why? Because, understood in context, Jesus was saying that he and God were one and the same. Not a God. Not kind of like God. No, it was clear that he claimed to be God. That would make what He said pretty important. So important, that it leaves no room for misinterpretation. Even though He often spoke in parables, Jesus was clear on that one thing. Now, that was radical.
And just as radical was another one of His comments. He told His disciples that they could be burning bushes themselves! That God could now speak through them, as well. Like Moses on that mountaintop, God wanted to transform this ragamuffin bunch of men into leaders for His kingdom.
Now let’s skip ahead another 2000 years. Jesus still tells us that God can speak through YOU, just as He spoke through the burning bush to Moses and to the disciples. Same God. Same opportunity. Different time.
That’s right. You who are reading this blog right now can also be a burning bush. But, you have to burn a certain way, says Jesus. Otherwise, instead of being a burning bush, you might look like a whitewashed tomb…pretty on the outside, but very empty and hollow on the inside. That’s how he described some of the Pharisees, the politically correct crowd of His day. Needless to say, those comments did not endear Him to those people.
Not much has changed with today’s politically correct police, who would rather throw water on the burning bush than fan the flame.
One word of caution, though. The road to the burning bush, Jesus said, came with a price. “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But, if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 8:24-25.
That price cost Jesus his earthly life. It will also cost you yours.
Jesus asks us to become a “burning bush” so people can see God. If that’s the mountaintop experience in life you’re looking for, then welcome to the fraternity of the burning bushes.