Burning but Not Consumed
I love the story of Moses at the burning bush. Perhaps it is my affinity with him in our embarrassing tendency to debate with God over our qualifications and our clear hatred of going into conflict.
I also love to see the transformation of Moses from my comfortable bird’s eye view. From the beginning of his life, you can see that in his heart of heart, he knows he has a calling to deliver his people. He sees it long before anyone else sees it or even cares and he sees it even when it is coming from a completely misguided place.
He sees it before he ever leaves Egypt, while he is visiting the Hebrews in their slavery and, in his zeal, he kills an Egyptian who is beating a Hebrew slave. And you see that calling mocked and attacked by his own people the following day when he tries to mediate an argument between two slaves. One of them mocks him with, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?” (Exodus 2:14). The truth is, this is precisely what he is, and it is God who has called him to it.
He expected to be embraced as deliverer of his people; he received mocking. And so, he ran.
He ran in part because he hadn’t been given the spiritual authority yet. The authority doesn’t come until the burning bush experience. And without spiritual authority, you have no foundation upon which to stand.
I can only imagine the day in and day out of his watching the sheep, alone with his thoughts. How he must have tortured himself over that murder. How he must have heard that mocking slave’s words with every whisper of the wind in the caverns and crevices of that wild place. I imagine him there, stripped down to the core of his being, sure that everything he’d ever thought and believed about his identity was a lie.
And yet, there persisted just enough of that deliverer’s heart to press in on him as he saves the daughters of Jethro from the bullying shepherds and his father-in-law’s sheep from the teeth of predators.
Forty long years pass, and he finds himself standing before a bush engulfed in flames, but not turning to ash, with the voice of Yahweh emanating from it. And as the Lord begins to tell Moses His vision for the deliverance of the Hebrews, Moses asks his first and most pressing question: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11).
The Lord answers with the only truth that matters: “I will be with you” (v. 12). Moses has no more need to worry about his identity when it is Yahweh who will be with him.
This time, Moses will recognize that he is the instrument and God is the Deliverer. God says this Himself in verse eight: “I have come down to deliver them…” Moses has no need to do this on his own or in his own strength. God is the Deliverer; that frees Moses from the unbearable burden of the task and the weightiness of an enslaved people.
This time Moses will be the burning bush: He will be on fire, but he will not be consumed by his calling. He will have the voice of God emanating from him, he will act at God’s command. He will not run this time. He will act out of the foundation of the spiritual authority he has now been given.
We can allow God to be the I AM through us in the lives of others. But we don’t have to be consumed by it. We can be consumed with God and not our mission. When we get consumed with our mission instead of with God, we lose sight of His Kingdom purposes and get our eyes on ourselves. This is where Moses started and why he failed in his initial attempt at being a deliverer. This is how Christ’s “power is made perfect” in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). “Perfected,” what a beautiful word – untainted by human hands. The weaker we are, the more yielded we are and the more of God’s glory shines through.
“It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13