I had the opportunity to offer the morning Bible lesson at Evangel Baptist Church on Sunday. The text was Exodus 4. It cuts in the middle of the conversation between God and Moses. God had just introduced himself to Mo for the first time ever. Within that initial conversation God gave him instructions to go back to Egypt – where Moses hadn’t been for 40 years – and tell the Pharoah that God wanted his people Israel to take a desert retreat in the wilderness for three days.
Talk about a high pressure situation. One minute Moses was tending the flock in the middle of nowhere, like he had done for the past several decades. The next he saw a burning bush that wasn’t burning up, heard it speak, and was challenged with an impossible task by said bush. So, Moses did what anybody else would have done . . . he thought of every reason why he couldn’t do it.
First of all, Moses said, he wouldn’t even get past the people of Israel. He would have to let them in on the idea. They hadn’t seen Moses in 40 years, and now they were supposed to believe him about such an insane concept? What about the repercussions of approaching the king on their behalf with such a cockamamie idea? And, not only had Moses not hear from God until now . . . nobody had. Not even the leaders of Israel. God had been silent from the end of the book of Genesis until now.
Secondly, Moses admitted that he had a “heavy tongue.” That means that he couldn’t speak very well. Tripped over his tongue a lot. And what was God calling him to do? Speak. The Egyptians were people who valued eloquence. So, obviously, Mo wasn’t the guy for the job.
With all of the excuses laid out, God did a few miracles to ease his fear. He turned a snake into a staff when Moses picked it up. God turned Moses hand leprous and then back to health again. Oh yeah, and there was the whole burning bush that speaks thing. But, Moses still had reservations, and God wasn’t pleased.
The Bible says that God burned with anger against Moses. Can you begin to imagine what that looks like? I think of earthquakes, mountains exploding with molten lava and bright desert skies turning dark. The Bible doesn’t say what happened, but it was obvious to that mere human that stood before him that God wasn’t pleased. Moses, who had been afraid of the burning bush, didn’t change his mind about challenging God’s ludicrous plan. He was actually more afraid of facing the leaders of Israel and the Pharoah than he was of making the Sovereign God, Creator and Sustainer of all that ever was or will be, angry.
There’s one major difference between you and Moses. You’ve known God for a while now. Is the bush still burning for you? I mean, God has revealed to you the crazy thing he wants you to do but you’re on that mountain making excuses. Yes, it’s true that we’re not under Law, but you could be using God’s grace as a crutch.
Just because you’re not under Law but under grace, that doesn’t mean God can’t get angry with you. Whatever it is you’re afraid of, is it really more scary than God’s anger? You believe in the other emotions of God towards you like goodness and compassion even though you can’t see them on his face. And if anger doesn’t seem to fit, how about disappointment? I God disappointed with you? It’s time for the bush to stop burning in your mountaintop experience. Get off the mountain and get going at the work he’s called you to do. Stop abusing grace so that you can see what it’s really all about.