The burning bush
Moses was just like any one of us! He engaged with God, he struggled with God, he was sent, he resisted, he went, he did well, he did not so well, he got angry, felt disappointed, hopeful, he learned and grew … . Yes, he is one of the great biblical figures in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition, but I think he is that because, like any one of us, he depthed his humanity and grappled with God right there in the heart of who and what he was, right there in the midst of all that was happening in his particular world. And because of his ‘yes’, just like that of Mary and other biblical figures, the Divine Presence broke into human affairs. There is debate about whether Moses did actually exist and lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt into the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, or whether this story refers to a number of other ways the Jewish people came into identity in Canaan and eventually established a kingdom there. However, historical or not, and if we put aside the ‘Cecil B De Mille Moses’ leading thousands of Hebrews in grand epic style across the Red Sea, and we consider the man himself, I think we may be surprised to see something of ourselves there. And Moses may become a spiritual guide for us.
Moses was a complex character. He was a Hebrew, born at a time when the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt and the Pharaoh, fearful of any threat to his power, had issued a decree that all the newborn Hebrew male children were to be killed. In an effort to save her baby son, Moses’ mother, Jochebed, hid him for a few months, but later placed him in a basket and let him float down the river Nile. Recognising him as a Hebrew baby, the Pharaoh’s daughter, bathing downstream with her maidservants, rescued him and took him to the royal palace. And as it turned out, Moses’ own sister, Miryam, who had been there at the river too watching the outcome, was able to suggest a Hebrew nurse to help with the child – and the nurse she ran and fetched was Jochebed, Moses’ mother! The Pharaoh’s daughter named him Moses, a name which means, ‘drawn from the water’.
So Moses, the Hebrew, was raised and lived as an Egyptian prince. But deep within him there remained his Hebrew identity. One day, infuriated upon seeing an Egyptian treating a Hebrew slave badly, Moses murdered the Egyptian. In fear of his life, he fled to Midian where he was taken in by a Midianite priest, Jethro (in some sources he is also called Reuel or Hobab), in thankfulness for the help Moses had given to his seven daughters who had been treated badly by some shepherds as they went to fetch water at the well. Moses married one of the daughters, Zipporah. And so we come to the part of the story that I invite us to ponder today. It all began while Moses was out in the desert looking after the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro:
“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush: he looked and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up’. When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am’. Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face for he was afraid to look at God’’ (Exodus 3: 1-6).
Ms Kerry McCullough
Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator