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 wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 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. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
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.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (New International Version)
The burning bush is one of those iconic objects and stories in Holy Scripture. Moses had an experience which changed his life, as well as the lives of all the Israelites then and now.
Having spent the first forty years of his life as a darling in the Egyptian court; and then the next forty years far from that life on the backside of the desert with a bunch of sheep; it’s an understatement to say that Moses did not expect or ever envision encountering God in a burning bush. The impossible has no possibility… Or does it?…
The experience of the burning bush fired the five senses of Moses:
- See. There was the paradoxical sight of seeing fire in a bush that isn’t burning up.
- Smell. All around there were the smells of sheep, the outdoors, and perhaps, even the lack of smelling burnt wood.
- Hear. Listening to the voice and call of God from within the bush.
- Taste. Spiritually and emotionally savoring God’s attentive justice toward the people.
- Touch. Removing his sandals to feel the grounding of sacred space.
The story also comments on the senses of God, as well. Even though God is Spirit and is worshiped as such, God is alive with divine sensations:
- See. Observing the approach of Moses, and the misery of the Israelites.
- Smell. The stench of injustice wafting into God’s nostrils, bringing a strong divine reaction.
- Hear. Listening to the cries of suffering and oppression amongst the people.
- Taste. Anticipating the savor of showing mercy, justice, and righteousness.
- Touch. A profound and holistic touching of Moses so that both he and the Israelites would never be the same again.
Through it all, the close identification between God and the people is expressed. The Lord feels the humiliation and pain of the Israelites – and vows to uproot them from the Egyptian factory farm of slavery and plant them firmly into rich Promised Land soil.
And what God promises to do, God has the authority and power to make good on.
Although experiencing all of this unbelievable sensory encounter, Moses knew it to be an impossible task in freeing so many Israelites from such a powerful Egyptian juggernaut.
After all, the people had their senses aflame, as well; and not in a good way:
- See. The sight of family being worked to the bone; and cruelly treated.
- Smell. The constant smell of bricks baking, mixed with the ever-present smell of death.
- Hear. Listening day after day to the groans of people, just trying to survive under awful conditions.
- Taste. Every day tasting the desert dust.
- Touch. Overstimulated with handling tools to the point of hard callouses and dry, cracked, bloody hands.
Hundreds of years of backbreaking bondage to a national force so mighty that nothing can be done about it be broken…. Ah, but God specializes in systems of oppression and miserable people.
It is the Lord’s abilities which conquer the mightiest of foes and can extend mercy to the lowest and the least powerful. The entire Israelite situation was ripe for divine intervention and supernatural wonders to occur.
God will make a way where there seems to be no way. God works in ways which transcend our senses.
- See. We are blind, but God gives us the gift of sight.
- Smell. Our nostrils have become accustomed to the smell of death, but God’s aroma of life awakens us to new hope.
- Hear. We are deaf, but God opens our ears with the sound of justice.
- Taste. Our taste buds are shot with the gruel of poverty, but God causes our tongues to dance with the zest of mercy.
- Touch. Our nerve endings are raw from cruel bondage, but God touches us with freedom.
You already intuitively know deep in your spirit that the impossible is possible with God. It’s never a question of God’s ability, but of God’s timing.
God is able and works the impossible in its proper time so that justice and mercy will have their full effect.
God of the impossible: I believe. Help me in my unbelief.
God of mercy: I receive. Help me in my denial.
God of justice: I accept. Help me in my rejection.
God of all time: I endure. Help me in my impatience.
God of All: I submit. Help me in my rebellion.
God of power and of might: I trust. Help me in my distrust.
God of our Lord Jesus Christ: I follow. Help me in my wandering.
God of the nations: Yes, you know that I love you. Yes, Lord, you know I love you. Lord, you know all things, and you know that I love you. So, yes, I will answer your call to go. Help me in my sending. Amen.