I don’t quite know what to make of the image of a bush burning away but never being reduced to ash and cinders. Was it a trick of the light? A mirage or hallucination? Or actually a Euonymous alata shrub*?
Surely none of these things would have caught Moses’ attention so dramatically.
And that’s what this episode is surely about. The reader knows that God has had His hand on Moses’ life since birth: successfully rescuing him from the slaughter of other Hebrew babies by hiding him in the one place he wouldn’t be found – with the murderer’s own family – and even ensuring his mother gets to play a key part in his upbringing by becoming his wet nurse. But Moses doesn’t seem aware of this.
He grows up knowing his true ancestry and he has some sense of the injustice they live under, although his methods are rather warped. We see that he has a sense of chivalry, helping the daughters of Jethro when other shepherds try to stop them watering their flock. But it’s not until this moment with the burning bush that God has Moses’ unwavering attention.
And whatever we make of the burning bush phenomenon, Moses certainly realises that God has turned up in full technicolour in his life and he will never be the same again.
That image of fire is associated with God’s presence and holiness throughout the Bible – from the pillar of fire that leads the Israelites through the desert at night to the coming of the Holy Spirit.
So it seems apt to be reflecting on the word ‘burning’ when I’ve been running a temperature for the past 4 days! Burning is a powerful image so perhaps it’s no wonder that one of the other ways we use the word now is to describe love or passion. This song by Elvis puts it perfectly:
And maybe that’s what we should take most from this strange story: that God will go to peculiar lengths to get our attention and that the Burning Bush is an image of His burning love and passion for us. Have we got our eyes open to notice and our hearts open to respond?
(*Yes, I know this isn’t a Euonymous but the glorious fiery autumnal colour of this has a similar effect)