Further Reflections: MOSES AND THE BURNING BUSH — Chuck Gartman

1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD 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. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Exodus 3:1-6 (NIV)

Have you ever given thought to this particular passage about a burning bush? I started giving serious thought to this whole passage when I read a devotional called, “Any Ol’ Bush Will Do.” It came from a book entitled, Habitation of Dragons by Keith Miller. It’s an old book, but the thoughts in this devotional are worth considering.

I have asked students and adults alike to recount the story from the scripture that is written above. Most everyone gets most of the facts about the bush not burning up, but few seem to get the fact that God was present with Moses AT the burning bush.

There are many explanations of why the bush was even on fire in the first place. Furthermore, many scholars AND botanists describe all kinds of things that could have happened to keep the bush from burning up.

One guy named Carmen J. Fiesel had this to say: “The Biblical account places the event at the base of Mt. Horeb (believed to be Mt. Sinai) on the Sinai Peninsula. Today, St. Catherine’s Monastery is there, surrounding what is claimed to be the burning bush. It is apparently a rare, extremely long-lived species of bramble, Rubus sanctus, that is native to the area. In Latin, “sanctus” means “holy” (no doubt in reference to the Biblical event).”

Fiesel indicated that because of the extreme heat in that region, sometimes bushes just experience spontaneous combustion.

“To my surprise and delight I did find one plant that is actually capable of burning without being harmed. It’s called (of course) the Burning Bush or the Gasplant (Dictamnus albus). These plants are herbaceous and produce beautiful white flowers in late spring or early summer. A lemony scent is emitted from the flowers as well as flammable gas which is responsible for its pyrotechnics.”

There are others who seem to think that the angle of the sun and the color of the flowers on certain bushes give the impression that a bush is on fire, but not really.

What we seem to miss in all of these explanations is that God Himself told Moses to take off his shoes, because the ground on which he stood was “holy” ground.  Why was it holy? Because God was present!

Why all this discussion about burning bushes? Well, the story is not really about the bush; it’s about Moses being in the presence of God.

To be honest, there are times when I would like for God to just “show up” in something like a burning bush, so I could be sure that what I was experiencing was really Him and not just my imagination. However God desires from us, just like Moses, that we exercise our faith in what His word says and we do what He teaches us from the Word.

So, going back to what Keith Miller said, we should not put our focus on the bush, because “our bush” may be something entirely different than what Moses experienced. Our focus must be on the Presence of God. His presence was what made the bush special, just as His presence is what makes your desk, your bed, your breakfast table, or the rug in your room where you are reading your Bible special. Really, “any ol’ bush will do.”

Consider meeting God in His word, whether the bush is on fire yet not consumed, or you simply spend a moment with Him in your room.

About the author: Chuck Gartman serves as the Minister of Education/Leadership Development at Field Street Baptist Church in Cleburne, TX. He is also an adjunct professor in the School of Christian Studies at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, TX.

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