Burning Bush of Fire
Four hundred years had lapsed since Joseph moved his family to Egypt. They multiplied exponentially to a group of well over two million. A new Pharaoh came on the scene and the growing number of people caused him great consternation so he decided to make them his slaves to build his empire and subjugate them under his control. Exodus shares the story and plight of the Israelites in their bondage and redemption. The book of Exodus is a picture of God’s character of redemption and liberty. One of the key people in the narrative of Exodus is Moses who was chosen by God to set the Israelites free and lead them to the Promise Land.
Moses, Moses, Moses. It would take a book to cover this man’s character, accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses and mistakes. God chose Moses not because he was perfect but because through his ups and downs of life, he learned humbleness in the desert and had a heart that could be molded for God’s purposes. God did not change Moses’ personality and character but did smooth out the jagged edges. God created him to be reactive and responsive to injustice. In the early years, he found himself in problems for jumping in to situations.
Like so many of God’s great leaders, when called to service, Moses was scared, felt unqualified, had no confidence and produced every excuse under the sun, yet, he moved out and walked with God. Through life experiences, God took his strengths and weaknesses and shaped him into a man of leadership and promise. Are you always asking God what you should change into? Or, do you understand God created and wired you a certain way for a purpose but those same characteristics need tweaking at times. The difficulty comes when we use what we have incorrectly. It’s the desert experiences that humble us so we are willing to re-evaluate how we respond and react to situations. A humble heart allows God to take what we have been given and allows Him to mold, shape and cut away the rough edges. Our part in all God is doing within is to realign with Him and humble our pride so God can take our mistakes and weaknesses and whittle us into His intended purposes.
Pharaoh called for all Hebrew boys to be killed at birth in hopes to keep the ever-growing population of the Hebrew people diminished. A Levite woman had a boy and could not bear the thought of his death so she prepared a basket covered in tar and pitch and placed the baby in the Nile River.
Jochabed, Moses’ mother, must have been a woman of God’s Word as she knew the story of Noah who had saved his family by building a boat and covered it with pitch. Do we apply and cover God’s Word over our life problems knowing God is a God who delivers and redeems? Do we believe God’s Word is the answer? Are your children and loved ones covered with pitch or the anointing salve of the Holy Spirit? We can be a big part of covering our kids, especially when they are young, by reading Bible stories to them of the great men and women of God at bedtime. The Bible reveals the nature and character of a loving, saving and redemptive God. If we don’t share these truths with our kids, who will? Once a week at Sunday school is not enough. Our kids are inundated with the world system day in and day out. As parents, we have to be proactive and always undoing worldly concepts our kids pick up along the way through television, music, and peers that are counter to God’s ways and destructive.
The Pharaoh’s daughter spotted a basket amongst the weeds and saw that it held a Hebrew child. She kept that secret to herself and had a young girl fetch a woman to care for the baby which turned out to be Jochabed, Moses’ mother. Not only did Jochabed get her baby back for a few years but she was also paid until she took him back to the Pharaoh’s daughter to be raised in the ways of the Egyptians.
As a mother, we all know there will come a day when we must release our children into the world. Egypt is a picture of the world. We hope the years of teaching and training up in the ways they should go, will pay off and our kids will know right from wrong and will stand up for justice. Moses saw an injustice when he witnessed an Egyptian mistreating a slave. Moses looked to the right and left and saw no one around so killed the Egyptian. Moses knew this was a punishable offense of death so he fled into the desert.
Moses found contentment in the land of Midian where he married Zipporah. After 40 years of being raised in the royal household of Pharaoh with the finest education, he found himself content in the desert as a shepherd, viewed by the Egyptians as a very lowly position.
Have you found contentment? Are you able to be content with little or much? Contentment is not a gift but something we learn. God allows situations and problems to arise so we can see His hand at work in our life. Our faith is built up by seeing God come through for us. We start learning that God is able and we can put our full trust and faith in Him. 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”
At the age of 80, toward the end of Moses’ 40 years in the desert, the Pharaoh of Egypt died. The Israelites had cried out to the Lord for deliverance and the Lord heard their pleas. While Moses was tending his flock one day, he passed by and LOOKED and saw a bush with flames of fire from within. This was a strange site as the bush itself was not on fire.
Would you have noticed this particular sight or are you too busy to stop and ponder? God moved Moses out of the hustle and bustle of city life into an isolated, back side of the desert so Moses would take time to SEE and LISTEN to Him. We can also get so busy with life’s distraction and not notice what the Lord is doing in our midst. We must slow down and take time for the Lord so our senses are ready to see, hear, smell, touch and speak of the things of God.
When Moses approached, the Lord spoke to him, “Do not come any closer, take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:5). The only way we can stand before a holy God is to be holy. The only way we can be holy is by accepting what Jesus did for us at the cross. It is through His shed blood we are made white as snow and holy.
Moses was told about the plight of the Israelites and God commissioned him to set His people free. Moses had great reservations, feelings of inadequacies, and excuses. This seems to be a common problem with the men and women God chose to do His bidding. They all knew what they were asked to do was far bigger than themselves. They knew their inadequacy and not the person for the job, however, God reminds them, “I will be with you,” Exodus 3:12. It’s not about who we are and what we can accomplish but who God is.
Moses wanted to know more about this God who was sending him out to do an impossible task and he asks, “What is your name?” God replied, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). Names were and still are very important and hold meanings. Names were an indicator of the person’s nature. God gave a very generic, broad use of His name because He was revealing He would be whatever they needed Him to be at the present moment. Take for instance Joshua. When he crossed the Jordan River and checked out the impregnable wall of Jericho, he was met by a man of war. Joshua was going up to battle and he, at that particular moment, needed a warrior.
I found myself up against an impregnable wall once again with fear of public speaking. Over many years, I had come a long way but every once in a while when I was faced with a new, bigger situation, I’d be hit again with a pocket of fear. I was tired of the battle of making headway and then falling back into fear. I cried out for help and started reading about the great leader Joshua. After reading how God sent Joshua a man of war before he went into battle at Jericho, I asked God to send me a “man of war” to help me overcome nervousness. The following week I had two appointments previously set up. One was a physical therapy appointment and the other was voice lessons. One of the first things the PT said was, “Relax and breathe. You need to learn to breathe.” I thought disparagingly, “You’re kidding, I’m paying all this money for someone to tell me I need to learn to breathe.” Later in the week, I had my first voice lesson and that person told me the same thing, “Breathe, you need to learn to breathe.” I was hit with the revelation that God sent me my “man of war.” Even though I didn’t like what was said at first, I slowly came to realize they were speaking the very thing I needed to hear to overcome the symptoms of fear. I often find myself breathing slowly and deeply when I encounter situations that feel too big and overwhelming.
Jesus also told people He was the “I AM,” in the Gospel of John; “I AM the Bread, I AM the Way, I AM the Truth, I AM the Life, I AM the Light, I AM the Good Shepherd, I AM the Door and I AM the Vine.”
Moses did not believe the Israelites would believe he was sent from God so the Lord gave him three miraculous signs to reveal to the people in Exodus 4:1- 9. The first sign was instructions for Moses to throw down the staff that was in his hand. The Lord turned it into a snake.
Many people do not feel they can be used by the Lord because they do not know their gift or identity but the Lord would say, “What’s in your hand, I’ll use that.” In other words, what is your passion? What are you already doing? I know a gal who took up weight lifting. She found she was a natural and became a body builder and now ranks up there in the Nationals. How could body building be used for the Lord? She spends time with a group of people who need to hear about a loving, forgiving, redemptive God. She is a catcher of men like Peter. Jesus found Peter with a net in his hand and said come follow me and catch men.
God will use whatever we have in our hand if we are willing to let go and use it for Him. Sometimes we hold on so tightly to what we do, confusing what we do with who we are in Christ. God always wants us to hold all things with an open palm. We should be content with operating in our gift or laying it down. If we are asked to lay a gift down for a season, God will let you pick it back up when the time is right. God wants us to understand that He is what we are to hold tightly to, not our gifts, talents and ministry. He is to be our passion.
Moses was told to pick the snake up by the tail. That sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. Everyone knows a snake should not be picked up by the tail. What is being taught here? The head or ministry is not what we are to hold on to, but the Lord himself. We need to keep ministry and God in the right order and priority.
The second miracle Moses was to show the people was his hand turning leprous and then restored back to white as snow. This is a picture of Jesus at Calvary. Leprosy is a picture of sin. Only the Lord through the cross can take away our sin and make us white as snow.
If after two signs the people still did not believe, Moses was to perform a third sign. He was to take water from the Nile River and pour it on the ground. The people would witness the water turning into blood. This miracle was another picture of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. Water is a picture of cleansing, washing and refreshment. Jesus does all three for us.
Even after God promised He would be with Moses and perform signs and wonders through him, Moses was still resistant to go. Because the Lord never forces anyone to serve, he chose to send Aaron along with Moses to Egypt. The Lord didn’t reject Moses but showed mercy and grace by allowing Aaron to partner with him.
Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he did not want to let the Israelites go out to worship their God in the desert. At one point he relented somewhat and said they could go and worship but they had to stay in Egypt (Exodus 8:25). A bit later, Pharaoh budged slightly and was going to let them leave Egypt, but they were not to go very far into the desert (Exodus 8:28). At another point, Pharaoh moved slightly and told Moses the men could leave and go as far as they wanted but they had to leave their women and children (Exodus 10:11). At another subsequent time, the Pharaoh spoke and said he would allow them to leave Egypt, with their families but had to leave their livestock or livelihood, provision and resources (Exodus 10:24).
Egypt represents the world system in the Bible. Satan and Pharaoh operate under the same rules and principles. Satan wants us to stay in the world system, the system we are familiar with even though it is slavery. If a person gives their life to Jesus, he doesn’t want them to go too far in their walk and be radical. He doesn’t get to worked up over believers who have one foot in the world and one foot in Heaven. He knows they have no impact on others and are harmless to his advancements. As Pharaoh didn’t want the children to follow their parents out of Egypt. Satan definitely doesn’t want parents to live their Christian life in front of their children. He’s all over the plan to send kids off to Sunday school to learn about Jesus but leave Him out of the house Monday through Saturday. Like Pharaoh, Satan doesn’t want our livestock; finances, resources and tithing to leave our hands. Satan loves people to have a poor man’s attitude, a poverty mentality and a spirit of lack. He surely doesn’t want us to walk as royalty and having more than enough. When a person lives with a mentality of lack, it causes them to hold on tightly to what they have. God’s ways are different from man’s. Man says, “Hold on tight” and God says, “Give abundantly” because He is not impoverished but is the God of resource and abundance.
Pharaoh’s heart was so hardened that even after all the signs, wonders and miracles of blood, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock, boils, hail, locusts and darkness, he still did not let the people go. If we are not looking, we can overlook the signs, wonders and miracles around us and harden our hearts to think God does not work in the signs and wonders of yesteryear. It’s not that God is slow to show Himself, but we are slow to believe.
God brought one more plague to the Egyptians. He brought death to their first-born sons and cattle. After that, Pharaoh sent the Israelites out of his land to worship their God in the desert (Exodus 12:31). Moses and his people left Egypt with plunder; gold, silver, clothing and livestock. “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people” (Exodus 13:20-21).
Often we are slow to leave the comforts, familiarity and the well-worn paths of this world’s system for the unknown , even though it keeps us chained to emptiness and drudgery. I love the illustration of what takes place when we get up and leave the world, God rewards us with plunder. He pays us to be free. What a deal.
Moses would not have been in the desert to witness the flames of fire in a bush if he had not made a mistake and jumped into a situation that God did not direct. God does not hold the sins of our youth against us. He can remove us away from the busyness of life, slowing us down, so we will encounter His presence. He refines, molds, and shapes our strengths and weaknesses for his purposes. Desert experiences are our training ground, not punishment from our Abba Father.
Are you willing to slow down and check out the flames of fire within a bush or are you too busy? Has God showed up in an encounter asking you to serve Him but you are too scared, feel unqualified, lacking in confidence and making every excuse under the sun like Moses? Are you willing to trust and have faith that God is with you? Believing that, can you move out and walk with God? Do you personally know the God who calls Himself the “I Am That I Am?” If not, ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you and pursue a lifestyle to have an intimate relationship with Him. He will show up however you need Him. He will use whatever is in your hand. Every person has been given gifts and talents. Do you hold them tightly or with open palms so God can use what you have been given? God is a sublime and majestic God who redeems and delivers His people. We are in the hands of a good and loving Father.