Love From A Bush On Fire
The Other Three Sixteens is in the middle of the publishing process, but here’s a sneak peek at what’s happening on the page.
“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.”
– Exodus 3:16
Moses is a central character in the book of Exodus, beginning with his birth and following his journey as he leads the people out of Egypt toward the Promised Land. By the time we arrive in the third chapter of Exodus, Moses has left his adopted childhood home in Egypt and established a new life in Midian. He’s got a wife and young family to support while shepherding his father-in-law’s flock of sheep. All seems calm and quiet until he stumbles upon a strange sight on the far side of the wilderness.
He finds a bush, and it’s on fire. However, the fire is not consuming the bush in the usual charred and smoky fashion. This calls for closer examination. As Moses peers into the fire, a voice calls his name, right from the bush! Moses calmly replies, “Here I am.”
The fact that this whole scene does not freak out our guy Moses is remarkable in itself. It speaks to the calming presence of the Lord in the midst of the miraculous. But the flaming foliage is not the main event here. God is- and he has something to say. First, boundaries are established. Moses is told not to come any closer, but instead remove his shoes in respect for the holy ground he finds himself standing upon. Once that’s settled, the Lord continues his explanation of why he’s called this holy meeting. He has heard the painful cries of the Israelites as they are oppressed in slavery in Egypt. He is going to deliver his people from bondage, and Moses will lead them out of their captivity.
Moses has some questions, and God, of course, has the answers and more. The two are discussing details when we get to Exodus 3:16: “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.” Let’s break this down and see where we find evidence of God’s love.
The first part is pretty straightforward; it’s part of Moses’ instructions. This is the beginning of an epic friendship, one that develops through the entire book of Exodus. The love between God and Moses was strengthened through adversity, plagues, miracles, and dependence. But, for now, we see God’s love in the act of entrusting Moses with the weighty task of confronting Pharaoh and freeing his beloved people. It’s a love that didn’t simply delegate a task. No, God was with Moses every second. Even at this very beginning, he provides direction and answers questions from a man who felt very unqualified for his job. God equips and reassures those he loves. The writer of Hebrews included this in his benediction as well. “Now may the God of peace…. equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
Let’s examine another interesting piece of Exodus 3:16: “I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.” The people were suffering, and just when they thought they had reached their limit, the Egyptians increased their oppression. Yet, none of this goes unnoticed by God. Not only does he see, but he is closely watching. He is paying careful attention, purposely keeping his eyes on them. He is with his people; he has not abandoned them.
The next question is, then why did he allow the pain to last for so long? This is a huge inquiry that we all struggle with, and have, in fact, struggled with throughout the ages. The account of Job is likely the oldest book in the Bible, and it centers around the question of why suffering exists. When Job calls out with pleas of “why?!”, God answers him… but not necessarily with “because”. We get a glimpse of God’s glory and an assurance that his plans are perfect. Since then, we have learned that God’s big picture and his attention to detail and timing are intentional- and ultimately in our best interest. We cling to verses like Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 when we can’t understand why things are seemingly wrong, but we trust that God is good. The Israelites also cried out to God. As their oppression went on, God was watching with compassionate eyes. They would remain in bondage no longer; a rescue was coming.
For the Israelites, darkness was literal slavery. Over the centuries, all of God’s people have experienced some form of darkness. It comes in all forms, big and small, external and internal. We face pain, bleak circumstances, injustice, catastrophes, illness, persecution…. These seasons are dark, and they can be long. We may feel unloved and forgotten by our Heavenly Father. But, dear child of God, God is watching. And don’t for one second think that he is a passive bystander. His never-faltering presence is a light in the dark. He is in the process of making something good and beautiful out of the deepest despair. God sees you. He cares about what is happening to you. He loves you. A rescue is coming.