Last week I spoke on “How to Know G-d.” This week I want to touch upon a Believer’s standing before Our Creator. My message is entitled: “Standing before the Burning Bush.”
Before I get into the message let me tell you a story about a man who encountered his ‘burning bush” while on a tour in the Negev. This story illustrates how most of us respond when encountering the “burning bush.”
In our story the tour bus stops at the Maktesh Ramon, a hugh, vastly impressive crater. As the people get out of the bus, one man, the subject of this story, runs past everyone else to be next to where he thinks the tour guide will stand. He locates himself overlooking the crater.
If any of you have ever been on a tour, you know that there is always someone like that on every tour, a nuisance, but this man, unfortunately, gets too close and falls off the edge. No one notices that he has fallen into the crater. Down, down, he falls, until he manages to grasp a root sticking out of the side of the crater stopping his fall. In terror he looks up and cries, “Is anybody up there?”
Again he calls: “Is anybody up there?”
A third time he calls. Looking up in desperation, barely able to hold on, he sees a cloud in the sky, and a voice comes out the cloud: “Do you believe?”
“Oh, yes, dear G-d, I believe,” he cries out.
The voice comes back, “Are you sure you believe?”
“Oh, yes, dear G-d, I believe in perfect faith,” he screams.
Then the voice speaks again, softly: “Let go!”
Then: “Is anybody else up there”
If we think about it, most likely we can identify with this man, for all of us are to some degree much like him. When the chips are down too many of us desert the good fight of faith. It need not be that way, however, for we can learn something essential from the biblical story of the “burning bush.” Therein, G-d has given us a pattern on how to approach our “burning bush” and prevail. If we learn to trust and follow G-d’s method, we will act differently than our counterpart the tourist. After all, we as believers are pilgrims not tourists, and as such, we have an objective to achieve and a goal to reach that our tourist lacked.
Our main Text is taken from Ex. 3:2, I’ll read: “There the angel of YHVH appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.” (NIV)
We need however to begin with verse 1 in order to set the stage. In Ex. 3:1 it reads: “Moshe after having escaped from Egypt was in Midian keeping the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of G-d, even to Horeb.” (NIV)
Let us take a minute to address a few facts to round out the scenario. Horeb is the name given to the Sinatic Mountains where G-d’s Torah was given. Midian is a region in the desert of NW Arabia that was inhabited by the Midianites who were a group of semi-nomadic tribes descended from Midian, who was the son of Abraham and Keturah. It’s all in the family isn’t it? At that time Midian apparently extended as far as the S and E parts of the Sinai Peninsula. After Moshe fled from Egypt, he spent 40 years in Midian. 40 as you know is the number of testing. Moshe was reduced from a Prince of Egypt to the lowly occupation of a Shepard. This too was within the providence of G-d, for He was preparing and training Moshe to care for and to lead His people, the Hebrews. Jethro here is identified in the text as his father-in law and the Priest of Midian. The text does not tell us which god or gods Jethro served, however we do know that in Exodus 18:11, he declared Yahweh to be greater than all gods.
Now return to the text with me and read Ex. 3:3-4: Moshe had seen the strange “burning bush” and he thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up. When YHVH saw that he had gone over to look, G-d called to him from within the bush, “Moshe! Moshe!” And Moshe said, “Here I am.” (NIV)
Like our tourist, Moshe responded to the voice, but I want you to notice some things we read in these two verses absent from our poor example’s response that directly impacts on our standing before G-d.
YHVH knew the actions that Moshe would take, but more importantly for us is that Moshe did not know what his response would be until he was actually involved in the situation. He might as easily have run away in fear. Instead, he said he would go over and examine this strange phenomena. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us really do not know how we will act in any given situation, especially one that is dangerous, until we find ourselves there. Moreover, when we are presented with opportunities of service to G-d; we like Moshe have the option of responding affirmatively or rejecting them. This freedom of choice constitutes our exercise of free will that G-d has endowed within us. I want you to think about this, the nature of our response is often a reflection of our standing before Him. For example, we live Torah by choice, out of our Love of G-d, and not by some system of legalistic coercion.
2. Notice too, the second point, Moshe had to act. He could have stood there until the cows came home never budging, immobilized, with inaction, but He did not. G-d presented the opportunity and Moshe first exercised choice, and then acting upon that choice he walked over to view the burning bush. It was a deliberate calculated act. We too have to act upon G-d’s opportunities. It is not good enough to merely recognize the opportunity, dwell with our minds upon it, and then do nothing; we have to act to release G-d’s blessings. Neither can we be like the tourist of our story, seeking another avenue more appealing to ur own way of thinking because by rejecting the opportunity G-d provides, we reject G-d, and we are left without the Holy Place. In addition, we have a marvelous lesson in the Sh’ma, our declaration of faith. To the uninformed, Sh’ma simply means “Hear,” but to we who understand this Hebrew word, it means not only to “hear,” but also to internalize and act out in our lives what G-d has conveyed to us, His instructions, His Torah.
The third thing I want you to notice is Moshe’s response, when G-d called. He answered, “Here I am,” translated in many places as “Here am I,” we perceive that this phrase constitutes more than simply stating a location. You see it repeated, over and over, throughout scripture, by the great men of G-d. It conveys the speaker’s sense of service. His wiliness to give his all to the commission of G-d. Though Moshe had doubts he had to overcome, he stood ready to receive G-d’s instructions, rely upon them and act upon them. We too must always stand ready to be of service in the Kingdom of G-d. We may have doubts about our abilities or lack self-assurance, as did Moshe, but whatever G-d has ordained He will enable us to accomplish, as long as we place our confidence in Him and not in ourselves.
Back to the passage. In Exodus 3:5, we read: “Do not come any closer,” G-d said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
What does that verse say to you? What does it suggest in the context of a professed believer? Let me give you my understanding of it. YHVH tells Moshe to “take off his sandals for he is standing upon holy ground.” You and I, to be of service to G-d must take off our proverbial soiled shoes; a metaphor for casting sin out of our lives. We are commanded to be holy as G-d is holy. To stand on holy ground before the “burning bush” we have to eradicate sin from our lives. I tell you, if you allow the Ruach HaKodesh to lead in your lives, leaving sin can be as easy as casting away an old pair of shoes. Before you surrender to the notion so many teach, that we cannot live without sin, let me tell you that in the book of Deuteronomy where G-d is addressing His commandments to us He tells us that it is not to hard for us. Let me read starting with verse 10 in chapter 30 of Deuteronomy to establish the subject that YHVH is speaking of His Torah:
Deu 30:10 if you obey YHVH your Elohim and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to YHVH your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul.
Then G-d continues stating explicitly tht it is not to hard or difficult. Read with me.
Deu 30:11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.
Would YHVH Elohim have told us it attainable if it were impossible?
Then in Deu 30:15 we see the results of our choice: “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.”
The lesson is that we should not be intimidated by those that teach we cannot live Torah Observant lives for their doctrine condemns us to accepting death and destruction instead of life and prosperity. We have to cast off our soiled shoes and enter in the Holy place before G-d.
Let me continue with these passages for your edification.
Deu 30:12 , it says: It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
Deu 30:13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
Deu 30:14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
Deu 30:15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;
All these verses confirm that YHVH’s Torah is near unto us, and we can easily acquire it and do it! It is our choice! Cast off your sandals.
Using this metaphor of sandals whose soles become soiled as we walk about, we learn that we need to cast off those sins and habits in our lives that soil our souls as we travel life’s path.
As the “Burning Bush” became the center of Moshe’s attention, YHVH should be the center of our life. The best example of such directed focus is that when we were children our parents were the center of our universe. They provided for us, protected us, fed and loved us. This experience should provide an essential lesson, for Yahshua said, in Matthew 18:3, that we “must become as little children to enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” Standing on holy ground is humbling, awesome and attention riveting if we have the benefit of the wide-eyed wonderment of a child.
Spiritually, YHVH is our parents. You must have noticed that I used the singular noun YHVH with the plural noun parents here. Grammatically incorrect, but in Hebrew we see this practice used in Scripture when referring to Elohim because it demonstrates an important truth derived from the Hebrew. In the case of G-d’s personal name YHVH; we all know that YHVH is constructed of both masculine and feminine gender parts, an anomaly in Hebrew, but one that infers the masculine and feminine attributes of His nature. G-d is Spirit, but He also is our heavenly father as well as our heavenly mother. As Father, He provides for you, trains and corrects you and yes, punishes you. The supernal essence of the mother, intrinsic in the qualities of G-d, nurtures you, supports you, encourages you, and comforts you. This is YHVH, our G-d, and supernal father/mother within the G-dhead, demonstrating His love for us. G-d is our heavenly parents, and if we humble ourselves as little children we will love, rely, and depend upon Him, stand in awe before Him as we did our earthly parents. He will be the center of our spiritual universe our supernal parents.
When we stand before the “burning bush” on holy ground, having removed our soiled sandals, metaphorically removing the sins that soil our lives, then we like little children may humbly engage our Creator relishing in His directions for our lives. We can then see clearly, with confidence, and with trust, never doubting, serving Him and our fellows. We may then hear His voice distinctly, and with holy zeal participate in the Will of our Creator, as we become co-participants in the salvation of all humanity. All doubt and misgivings will be removed from us as YHVH did for Moshe. Moreover, we shall be in an anchored place, on holy ground, rock solid, forever beholding the “burning bush.” Neither will we be alone for the Angel of YHVH will be there to accompany us wherever we are sent, and for whatever we are to do. He is our brother Yahshua HaMashiach, and we who stand before the ‘burning bush” are told that we are brothers/sisters, and co-rulers with Him.
Absent from our mind should be the thought of reward, but Sha’ul tells us that our reward shall be great and that we cannot imagine the glory and fulfillment that awaits us if we but stand on Holy Ground. Read with me
1 Cor 2:9 “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which G-d hath prepared for them that love him.”
Most of what is written in the B’rit Chadasha is found in the Tanakh and here we find that Sha’ul is loosely quoting from Isaiah 64:4 and it reads:
“For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.”
In these scriptures, YHVH Elohim has promised we will receive that which is unperceivable and unimaginable to the human heart or to the finite mind; if we but remove sin from our lives, hear Him, and then act upon His instructions. If we but follow His ways that which is prepared from eternity pass shall be ours.
The “burning bush” of Moshe serves as an important example of the pattern for our approach and walk with G-d. Systematically, we see the pattern unfold. We see G-d’s glory as expressed in the fiery bush and Yahshua as the Angel of YHVH appearing to Moshe from within the burning bush. Yahshua is seen here and is the perfect immanent expression of YHVH the transcendent Father. The revealed glory of G-d’s presence allows us to hear the voice of G-d as he calls to us. We should take time to also note that the verses do not differentiate between the appearance of the Angel and the voice of G-d. For this Angel of G-d, which should be understood as a theophany, is Yahshua. Furthermore, the passages as written should lead us to comprehend that G-d and Yahshua are represented here as one. Moshe is then told to remove his sandals for he is standing on holy ground. Moshe responds, as we must by obeying the voice of G-d. He like we must place our trust in G-d’s Word, the living and the written, represented here by the Angel of YHVH, and the Torah, represented by G-d’s instructions to Moshe. The sequence is important. First comes the call, the response to the call, and then the removable of soiled sandals that represents the removable of sins that soil our lives. Our blemishes removed, we may then approach a Holy G-d. When we hear G-d’s voice, believe and place our trust in that Word, accept His loving kindness (chesed), we are compelled to repent of our sins, metaphorically removing our sandals, and walk in obedience to His will as expressed in His Torah.
In closing, let us return for a short moment to our tourist. Suppose he had acted differently, believed G-d’s word and acting upon it, had “let go?” He had only been hanging there a short time and his strength had not yet been dissipated. If he hung on until he got the answer he wanted, he would be there a long time, even if rescue were on the way. He would have become very weak, exhausted and eventually spent. Eventually, he would have had to let go, falling to his death. Now, suppose he had let go as G-d commanded, and fell to a ledge hidden by the shadows just a few feet below him. Albeit narrow, and treacherous he was still physically able to hold on, grasp the ledge, right himself, and pull himself onto the ledge to await rescue. Perhaps, if he had known the teaching presenting by the “burning bush” he might have let go, and lived. May YHVH Elohim’s word be instructive, encouraging and a blessing to us.