New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Moses at the Burning Bush
3 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.”
The Divine Name Revealed
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.”[a] 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,[b] 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 forever,
and this my title for all generations.
I’ve always wanted to hear God speak to me. I would prefer just a booming, deep voice, preferably starting with my name so I don’t mistake the voice as speaking to someone else instead of me (as if I have a choice!). I happen to be a pretty literal person, with very pale shades of gray mixed in to the contrast of my black and white world. Being literal means that I sometimes feel like I don’t hear back from God when I pray (I could write another entire entry about how much I am sure God doesn’t hear me talk to Him much either….). It is only from the 20,000 ft. aerial view that I can easily discern God’s hand and works in my life. In the moment, a “burning bush” type of message would certainly be appreciated.
But what would I do if that actually happened? Here is Moses, finding a way to be fulfilled by tending the flock for his father-in-law, as a dutiful son-in-law should. Then, when least expected, a VERY OBVIOUS message from God is literally on fire in front of him, full of the sound effects of the booming voice of God and a message that would have been very difficult to hear, not to mention to abide. God isn’t just talking to Moses as an answer to prayer; but rather God is asserting His will in a most “in your face” type of way. Ignore that? Luckily Moses didn’t. I hope that the writer of Exodus neglected to give us the whole story, the part where Moses was completed freaked out and asking a zillion questions about the bush itself, how in the world he would be able to go back to Pharoah after his somewhat memorable last departure, and that whole bit about freeing the Israelites? How in the world was Moses going to be able to get that done? And why the burning bush? Was He trying to speak to Moses in the quiet times during his prayers and Moses couldn’t/wouldn’t hear or heed the message, so the burning bush became necessary?
So maybe a burning bush message sounds like God’s way of getting Moses to do a 180 degree turn, sending him on a life path that he never dreamed of, wanted for himself or his family and that seemed unbelievably daunting. Maybe that is why God chooses a more subtle way to get my attention, because His plan for me doesn’t require a burning bush type of message. I need to tranquilize those monkeys in my brain (thank you to Fr. Will Brown) and listen to His call to me, before He feels the need to send me a burning bush.