Exodus 3:1-12 – God of the Impossible

Burning Bush by Yoram Raanan
The Burning Bush by Yoram Raanan

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.” 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.

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (NIV)

The burning bush is one of those iconic objects and stories in Holy Scripture. The experience of Moses changed both his life and 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, then the next forty years far from that life on the backside of the desert with a bunch of sheep, it is an understatement to say Moses did not expect or ever envision encountering God in a burning bush.

The impossible has no possibility. Or, does it?

That incredible encounter engaged the senses of Moses: the paradoxical sight of seeing fire in a bush that isn’t burning up; the smells of sheep, the outdoors, and perhaps, even of fire; hearing the call of God from within the bush; spiritually and emotionally tasting the attentive justice of God; and, removing the sandals to touch and feel the grounding of sacred space.

The story comments on the senses of God, as well. Even though God is Spirit and is worshiped as such, God is alive with his own sensations: seeing the approach of Moses, and the misery of the Israelites; the smell of injustice wafting into God’s nostrils with a stench that brought a strong divine reaction; hearing the cries of suffering; anticipating the savory taste of showing mercy and justice together; touching Moses in such a profound way that he and the Israelites would never be the same.

Through it all, the close identification between God and God’s 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.

An impossible situation, Moses thinks. How can hundreds of years of backbreaking bondage to a national force so mighty that nothing can be done about it be broken? Who am I, Moses, to face such odds? 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 situation is 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. Where we are blind, God gives sight. Where we are deaf, God opens our ears with the sound of justice. When our taste buds are shot with the gruel of poverty, God causes our tongues to dance with the zest of mercy. When our nerve endings are raw from cruel bondage, God touches us with freedom. Where our nostrils have become accustomed to the smell of death, God’s aroma of life awakens us to new hope.

My friend, I believe with all my heart that:

You already intuitively know deep in your spirit that the impossible is possible with God.

It is never a question of God’s ability, but of God’s timing. God is able – and the Lord 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.

Click God Will Make a Way by Don Moen as we believe together.

Luke 16:19-31

            Everyone looks for a miracle at some point in life, especially for family.  When we see relatives walking far from God or siblings living without much thought to the Jesus way, it can be disconcerting.  We may reason that if they could just experience or see some great miracle occur, then they will surely believe and embrace Christ. 
 
            Yet, Jesus’ parable to us of the rich man and Lazarus graphically depicts an important message:  God has already revealed himself to humanity through Moses and the Prophets (that is, the Old Testament).  If people are not convinced by what already exists and is, they will not respond when the miraculous slaps them in the face.
 
            Maybe we too often look for the dramatic because the mundane typically rules the day.  Perhaps what we are looking for is already present in God’s revelation to us.  It could be that the greatest task we have is not to beg for a miracle (even though there is nothing wrong with that!) but first to be quiet and listen to the Spirit of God speak through the Word of God so that our prayers to God arise in God’s way and God’s time.
 

 

            Mighty God, you have done miraculous things.  Help me to see what you have already done, and teach me to listen so that your revelation becomes alive to me.  Holy Spirit, impress the redemptive event of Christ’s resurrection on the hearts of all who do not know you in order that they might know your grace.  Amen.

Matthew 17:14-21

            I have a grandson with epilepsy.  So, when I read an account like we have today in our Gospel lesson, I especially take notice.  Jesus had been up on the mountain with Peter, James, and John.  Meanwhile, the other disciples were in charge of taking care of things below.  They dealt with a man whose son would have seizures so badly that he would hurt himself when they occurred.  Although the disciples had experienced healing people before, they could not do it in this instance.  Jesus, of course, comes down and takes the seizures completely away from the epileptic boy.  The disciples, understandably, want to know why they were not able to heal the boy.
 
            I’m not sure they were prepared for Jesus’ answer.  He bluntly told them that the reason for their ministry inability was because of their little faith….  Ouch!  What is more, Jesus said to them that even if they had a faith as small as a mustard seed that they could move mountains….  Double ouch!  Jesus was teaching a couple of very important lessons.
 
            First, ministry cannot be reduced to a technique.  Perhaps the disciples thought they could do exactly what they had done before, say the right words and do the right gesticulations, and the healing would come.   But it didn’t because God does not bow to formulas; he responds to faith.  So, then, the second lesson is that the issue is not the amount of faith but where the faith is placed.  If we put stock in our proven methods for healing or doing ministry or living a certain way, then God is put outside the equation.  Faith, when placed even in the smallest way in Jesus, can result in some very big results.
 
            Maybe we all need to completely re-evaluate the way we pray and do ministry.  Do we depend upon particular phrases or words, or do we throw ourselves upon the sheer mercy of God in Christ?  Have we had success before, and now rely on the proven process, or do we persevere in prayer knowing that only Jesus can bring the needed healing to our lives and our loved ones?  Realizing the impossible can only happen when we divest ourselves of the possible.
            Merciful God, I believe in Jesus; help me in my unbelief!  Without your grace I cannot take another breath or one more step.  I desperately need you or I will be completely undone!  Have mercy upon me so that what arises from my life is all your doing, and not mine.  Amen.