Friday, September 14, 2012

The Gruesome Possibility of Missing God -- Exodus 3:4-5

When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush, and said, “Moses, Moses!”  And he said, “Here I am.”  Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

You will remember that Moses had seen the blazing fire in the bush and had noticed
it was not being consumed or burned up.  So, he turned (or went towards it) for a closer examination of the phenomenon.  And I love the beginning of this section, “When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look”.  God was watching Moses’ moves.

He knew that Moses was getting too close to the bush.  It wasn’t the potential impact of the fire God was worried about for Moses’ sake; it was that this man was getting too close to the Holiness of God.

The Scripture commentator David Guzik points out that it is important to note that God did not speak to Moses until He had his attention.  Moses turned to see how it was that this bush was not burning up and then God spoke to him.  If we want God to pour into our life, we need to give Him our full attention.  As we run the race of life, many of us treat God like one of the bystanders cheering us on instead of us our Trainer and Coach.  But we must go even beyond that.  Guzik says, “The burning bush was a spectacular phenomenon that captured Moses' attention; but it changed nothing until Moses received the Word of God there.”  God getting our attention does not necessarily change anything just as the Coach getting our attention doesn’t make us run better or faster.  The change or impact comes in accepting the instruction and implementing it.

So God watches our moves.  Not only to instruct us, but also sometimes to protect us like a loving father wants to protect his child.  When we get too close to danger, God does not forcibly stop us, but He sends out warnings that need to be heeded.

And these warnings are personal.  God called Moses by his name, uttering it twice.  It did not matter how Moses now felt about himself – having come from a key position in Egypt to being what Guzik calls “a forgotten shepherd on the backside of the desert”.  God still knew him by name and he was important to God.  Can we find encouragement in that today?  Now matter what you were or what you are now, God loves you.  He knows you by name and He is calling out to you.

Matthew Henry says God gave Moses a gracious call because He had his attention.  Had Moses neglected what he had seen in the bush, dismissing it as something not worthy of notice, God may have left the scene, having said nothing to him.  What a thought. What a disaster to miss out on God’s presence and His special word to us because of our neglect to notice the supernatural in our lives.   But Moses did notice, and when he heard God call, he responded readily.  Can you imagine the surprise he must have felt.  There he was in the middle of the desert looking at a burning bush (like you or I staring at our night’s campfire on a solo camping trip in the middle of a National Park) and then hearing God calling his name.  And what a delight it must have been for God to hear His servant replying, “Here I am.”   Have you heard God calling you by name?  Have you delighted Him in your response?

Robert Jamieson, another commentator of Scripture, describes the significance of this revelation of God’s presence as follows: “The manifestations which God anciently made of Himself were always accompanied by clear, unmistakable signs that the communications were really from heaven. This certain evidence was given to Moses. He saw a fire, but no human agent to kindle it; he heard a voice, but no human lips from which it came; he saw no living Being, but One was in the bush, in the heat of the flames, who knew him and addressed him by name. Who could this be but the Divine Being?”  When God calls you and reveals Himself to you, you will know it.

Henry goes on to suggest that God wants us to draw near to Him, but not so near “as to pry”.  He suggests that we must have our conscience, not our curiosity, satisfied and that we must be careful not to become too familiar with God socially as to breed contempt.  We must be aware of and “deeply affected with the infinite distance there is between us and God” as the author of a later book in the Old Testament tells us in Ecclesiastes, chapter 5, verse 2.  While I believe we can approach God with boldness, we must remain fully aware of Who He is and who we are.

So what does God (as Coach and Trainer) tell Moses to do?  Two things.  First he tells him to not go any closer, to keep his distance.  In fact, it really meant, “Stop right there.”  Matthew Henry suggests God is saying something akin to, “Moses the ground you are about to step on is holy ground, and you can’t be allowed to trod upon it with soiled shoes.”

And further to that, God secondly tells him to show reverence for His own presence by telling Moses to take off his sandals.  Because God was there this spot, this location, this place, demanded special respect and honor.  By so doing, Moses would be showing his humility before God based on the fact that the poor and needy and the servants of this world have no shoes.  Willingness to exercise this act of humility signifies Moses’ acceptance of the immediate presence of God, or in being in His ‘house’.

Some have suggested that taking off ones shoes in that ancient culture is similar to us taking off our hat when we enter a place of worship or some otherwise solemn building or event (e.g. a funeral) or when we pray in public.  But Jamieson notes a difference: “The Eastern idea is not precisely the same as the Western. With us, the removal of the hat is an expression of reverence for the place we enter, or rather of Him who is worshipped there. With them the removal of the shoes is a confession of personal defilement and conscious unworthiness to stand in the presence of unspotted holiness.”  Moses understood what that meant.

Have you got your relationship ‘distance’ just right with God?  Do you marvel at His Holiness, yet bold enough to approach Him?  Have you got a good understanding of your shortcomings as a sinner and of your worthiness being solely due to what God has done for you through His Son, Jesus Christ?  I encourage thinking hard about getting those two things correct right away.  Then, as we will see with Moses soon, you will get to know God better and have a clearer understanding of your mission in life.

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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