The Burning Bush
Judaism has the same challenge as Christianity regarding its leader and founder. All that we know about both of them is contained in our Bible. If we did not have the Bible we would know nothing about Moses. There are some similarities between Moses and Jesus. There were unusual circumstances surrounding the birth of both of them. Whether the stories are factual is a matter of great controversy among conservative and liberal Biblical scholars. The burning bush incident can be considered the founding of the Hebrew religion and may be related to the Pentecostal experience of the apostles when flames of fire appeared in the upper room. This is a description of a subjective experience that they had and not a factual description. Also Moses left no body when he ascended on Mt. Nebo. Jesus ascended also. And it was Moses and Elijah, two individuals who made the ascension, that appeared to Jesus on a mountain.
Moses’ life had little meaning for him or little purpose until the burning bush incident. He was supposed to have been born in Egypt and adopted by the Pharoah’s daughter. We are told that he was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians but he knew that he was a Hebrew. He had to flee to Midian when he killed an Egyptian. By this time he was forty years old. In Midian he settled down, married a woman named Zipporah and raised a family. Zipporah was not a Hebrew. He lived in Midian as a shepherd for forty years.
But one day in his late 70’s or 80’s his life was changed. He would no longer be Moses the shepherd living a sedentary life. He would even be different in his religious thought life. He was out in the wilderness when he had what might be termed a confrontation with God. This was a new experience with God. He believed it to be the same God that had led Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but now he would know this God in a way that they never knew Him. Moses saw an unusual phenomenon. He saw a bush burning but it was not being consumed. He heard a voice speaking to him. He was told not to get too close. He was also told to take off his shoes, for he was standing on holy ground.
This voice told him that he was to go back to Egypt and lead the Hebrews to freedom. His reaction to this challenging command was human. He probably said, “Who me?” Haven’t you asked God for guidance and when you received it felt the same way? You probably felt inadequate as did Moses. We tend to think that God will always give us easy things to do. We need to realize that God always gives us guidance that will help us grow spiritually. We don’t grow doing only easy things or just the things we want to do.
The voice reassured Moses but he still tried to get out of it. He asked God to get someone else to do it. Doesn’t that sound familiar to us? Moses claimed he wasn’t a good speaker so he was told that his brother Aaron would go with him.
Moses then wanted to know by what authority he was to do this. He said the people would ask him the name of the God that sent him. It was then that Moses was given or could perceive a new name for God. Since the name and nature of a person were synonymous to the Hebrew mind, this was an expanded awareness of the nature of God being revealed to Moses. To Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob God was known as God Almighty, Elohim, the God of nature and history. He wasn’t known as Yahweh or I AM. Moses was told that God as “I AM” was sending him. This was the God Presence within him. Moses may have thought he was having an objective experience but it was a subjective one. It wasn’t a God in the heavens that was speaking to him. It was God within him that was speaking to him. It was Yahweh, the Lord. The Bible also expresses this new name as “I am that I am” or “I am who I am.” A Biblical scholar named Albright says that probably means, “He causes to be what comes into existence.” It is the power of God expressing through His many channels, namely human beings, that causes things to come into existence. The power that produces all manifestations is God power. But the manifestations are due to human consciousness.
This was a major step in humanity’s spiritual growth. God said, “By my name Yahweh I was not known.” We might think of God speaking to Moses saying, “You thought I was just another God outside of you. But here I am, right within you. I will be with you. I will guide you. I will provide for you a new land flowing with milk and honey.” The new land is a new consciousness, an expanded awareness of God and truth.
At the age of 80 Moses had received a revelation of his major purpose and an expanded vision of God, the God within. He spent the next forty years of his life carrying out that mission. He may have thought he was too old like many think today. But when we are doing what the God within is guiding us to do we are never too old. He may have thought it was too late to make a major change in his life style. He may have thought his wife would not go along with him. Can you imagine what his wife said to him when he went home that day and began talking about a burning bush and a voice speaking to him telling him to go to Egypt?
But it wasn’t too late for Moses and it is never too late for us. What he was called upon to do was challenging but he had spiritual guarantees of success. When we become receptive enough we discover our major purpose in life. When we are willing to put aside our superficial plans and human ambition we are quickened or inspired with a heavenly vision. It is the acceptance of this new vision that makes our lives take on nev meaning and purpose. We have a spiritual reason for living.
This burning bush experience can happen at any age. We do not have to wait until we are 80 years old. It has happened to people of all ages. At eleven Jesus was in the tempi astounding the men of wisdom and He said to His parents that He had to be about His Father’s business. He knew what His divine mission was. There is a divine mission or purpose for everyone but not everyone is seeking to discover what it is. Many are so busy with the mundane things of life that they do not take the time for solitude and quiet. We always want to pray with someone. But the burning bush experience of an expanded awareness of the inner Presence only comes when the individual is inwardly receptive and this happens in the solitude of his own mind. No person can give this inspiration and enlightenment. It can only be revealed. It happens when we are ready and willing to give up human responsibilities. Moses did not say, “God, I have a wife and a job, and I cannot go back to Egypt right now. The kids are in school and besides we are content just to live where we are.” He did not say he couldn’t afford to make the trip. Many people make important life decisions based on the amount of money they have or do not have. They decide what schools they will attend or where they will live or what type of work they will get involved in.
Moses complained about the awesome task that was laid upon him but he accepted it. Little did he know of the tremendous blessings that were in store for him. He never would have seen the power of God manifesting in freeing the Hebrews if he had not gone. He would not have received the marvelous revelation of the Ten Commandments. To this day most people only think of these commandments as moral restrictions and some even take pride in breaking them. They do not realize that they are statements of principle and cannot be broken.
Moses was also told to take off his shoes. This is a symbolic way of saying, “Moses, you will have to let go of all your human beliefs.” The first one was his outer, human belief about God. He had to learn to trust the Lord God within him for everything. He had to learn to trust when things were going along smoothly and when it seemed he was confronted with defeat. He had to put God first in his thought and in his life. The search for a deeper understanding and guidance would now be primary. It would be the most important thing in his life. His mission would take priority over all human relationships. He was fortunate that his wife and family went along with him. But if they had not wanted to go he would have had to go it alone and leave them behind. Jesus said that unless we are willing to give up every relationship for the kingdom we will not find it. I have heard people over the years say that they wanted to keep peace in the family by going along with a husband or wife that wasn’t interested in the truth. They probably did not keep peace within themselves or their household.
Moses had to release his limited views of inadequacy about himself. He had to realize that with this new vision of God, he could be a channel through which God could do great things. This is the realization that we must come to. We must let go of all feelings of inadequacy and accept the truth that God within us can do whatever He wants to do. Have you realized that about yourself? Or do you survey your life and affairs and wonder what possible things you could do that would be worthwhile? Moses never dreamed up his mission or his divine purpose. He had no idea whatsoever of being a leader. He never knew what was going to happen down the line. Humanly he would have been content to be a shepherd living a fairly comfortable life in Midian. He didn’t know he would live forty more years. He didn’t know he would have the strength and vitality to carry out this mission. But he accepted it and he began.
We are also told that the bush burned but was not consumed. This is a very important lesson for us today. This means that energy and vitality expressed on the spiritual level does not consume the mental, emotional, and physical parts of our being. Instead, following spiritual guidance and doing what we are told to do revitalizes and renews and heals and strengthens us. Energy and vitality expressed on the human, ego level does consume. Frustration and resistance consume. Hate and tension consume and cause us all kinds of physical problems. Negative thought and emotion are human fires that dissipate our energy. To take off your shoes means to let go of all this negative hassle with people and things. It means should seek to be responsive to the inner light. It means we must and should do what it tells us to do. We should not keep waiting around for some big, exciting adventure. Big things are built on small foundations of consciousness. The ultimate, transformed life consists of many small changes. These small and seemingly insignificant things we are called upon to do are very important in our overall spiritual growth.
The holy ground of spiritual consciousness can only be developed through study and prayer. Study includes the constant exposure of our human ego and our human understanding to new ideas of truth. Developing the holy ground consciousness takes daily cultivation. This becomes a first priority in our lives.
I am not much for list making because they are so superficial. We always put on the lists we make the things we want and this is a very limiting thing to do. I would like to suggest a new type of list. You might call it a “Should not do” list. Put on this list all the things you know right now that you should not do. You might be surprised what it will reveal. I have heard people going through a cafeteria line and looking at a particular food or drink and saying, “I know I shouldn’t eat or drink this,” but they take it anyway. If we are honest with ourselves we know that there are habits we should give up but we enjoy them or at least we think we do and don’t realize that giving them up is essential to our further spiritual growth. There are attitudes of mind and heart that we know we must change. Resentments that must be given up through forgiveness. There are no doubt relationships that must be given up. Some have the attitude that they will get around to these things some day. But we should remember we are on a plateau, not making progress when we refuse to take on the challenge of giving up the past and present for a new and dynamic future with God leading the way.
There is a fire within you just waiting to ignite your human consciousness. It may have already done it for some. Jesus suggested, “Let your light shine.” Do what it tells you. Listen to that voice within, not that superficial ego, human voice, but that deeper voice that you sometimes hear quite clearly and sometimes just feel quite strongly. Put it first and you will feel your life and what you are led to do is important. And most important, it will turn out to be the most exciting adventure you ever embarked upon.
© 1985, Jim Lewis
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.