“The bush was blazing…”
Week 4, Day 3
1 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.
3 Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ 4 When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’
5 Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ 6 He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the Lord said, ‘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, 8 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.
9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ 11 But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ 12 He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’
13 But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ 14 God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ 15 God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:
This is my name for ever,
and this my title for all generations.
Notice first, that God doesn’t plant the burning bush right in front of Moses; it’s off to the side. If Moses had suffered from tunnel vision—looking only straight ahead, intent only on getting his sheep from here to there, he might never have seen the bush. He had to be mindful of his surroundings.
Moses had to be curious—had to wonder how a bush could be on fire and burn up. And finally, he had to be willing to step aside, change course, do something he wouldn’t have ordinarily done, or he would never have gone over to check it out. All that is to say that how we move through our world will have consequences for what we observe and ultimately for what we are called to do with our “one wild and precious life”.
Notice second, that as in Monday’s reading, it is the cry of misery rising up from the oppressed and suffering that gets God’s attention: “The cry of the Israelites has now come to me”, God says to Moses. God feels the pain of these people; wants them to be free. But how surprised do you think Moses was when God said, “I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt.” (vs 10)
Moses is likely shocked to learn that God works by what Christians have called “incarnation” (John 1). The command of God—the “Word” of God, is to be given human form (incarnated) in Moses to accomplish God’s will on behalf of the poor and suffering. We might ask, “Why God doesn’t just step in and do the hard work of saving the world alone?” God seems to be answering, “Well, what do you think I made you for??”
And notice finally Moses’ pleading question, “When they ask, who shall I say sent me?” (vs 13) God answers by uttering the mysterious, unpronounceable name of YHWH—“I Am Who I Am”, or “I Will Be Who I Will Be”.
The actual pronunciation of the name has been lost to history, and in any event is deemed by many too holy to speak at all. But the meaning of the name seems to be something like, “You will know me when you see me”; or perhaps better, “You will know me by what I do”.
In Scripture we see God acting in and through the world, in and through people called to do God’s bidding. This is where God is known. We will see this frequently in our reading over the coming months. If we open our eyes and ears, we will notice God is doing the same today.
Prayer: God, bless us with curiosity that will call us off our comfortable paths; with hearts that will share your compassion for the hurting; with voices that will speak your words into our world. Amen.