The Bush Is Still Burning
In Exodus chapter 3, we have the marvelous account of the burning bush which is not consumed. Even more marvelous than an inconsumable burning bush, is the account of God speaking with Moses as one speaks to his friend face to face. Our first occurrence of God speaking with man is in the garden with Adam and Eve prior to the fall. This wondrous phenomenon resurfaced again with the Patriarchs. However, we then see a long hiatus of silence of around 300 years between Joseph and when God addressed Moses on the back side of the Midian desert in the miracle of the burning bush. After Moses, God proceeded to raise up many different prophets through whom he attempted to communicate with his people.
By the time we get to Malachi, we enter another dormant period where God seems to be silent until we reach the coming of Christ. In this, we come into a whole new dimension in our relationship with the Lord as expressed in Hebrews 1:1:
Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.
The English word “spoken” in this passage is the New Testament Greek lalew. It is used here in the imperfect verb tense which literally means he continually speaks or keeps on speaking to us. This is highly significant. It should be eye opening and greatly exciting to understand that once Jesus ascended to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit, true believers in Jesus became eligible and capable of hearing the voice of God. I am not speaking here of an audible voice but of “hearing” within our spirit the things God wants to say to us.
Jesus told his disciples that he had much he wanted to say to them but that they were not yet ready to receive it. He then told them it would be the Holy Spirit that would guide them into all truth.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. (Jn 16:13 CSB)
Today maybe more than any time in history we are needing to hear the clarion voice of God as we anticipate and look for the second coming of Christ. Paul prayed for the believers in Colossae that they might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. Christianity isn’t about following a set of rules but rather day by day discovering God’s specific, uniquely tailored direction for each of our lives. We do this through our commitment to the Word and prayer and through obedience to what God is speaking to us. All of this is made possible through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
God uses many different ways or methods of speaking to us. Besides speaking directly to our hearts through the Word, he may also relate his will for us through dreams or visions, or maybe a message embedded in circumstances we are experiencing, or through manifestations such as prophecy, tongues and interpretation. The Lord may even sponsor an angelic visitation. We must be careful not to treat God’s Word as static rather than dynamic in our faithful reading, receiving and responding to its powerful life-altering effects in our lives. The written Word of God may appear static, but when the Lord quickens a particular phrase or passage to one’s heart, it becomes the “Word of life” for that one.
Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. (Phil 2:16 NLT)
As way of personal illustration, I awoke several mornings ago with Psalm 27:4 continually pulsing through my mind:
One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple
As I lay in bed contemplating this passage, I began to realize what God was wanting to convey to me. David obviously wasn’t wanting to literally live in the temple. He was figuratively conveying his deepest heart’s desire to not just be in but remain in the presence of the Lord continually. How incredible! The Lord literally awakened me with this message gently massaging my mind, in essence telling me that he wanted me to adopt and follow this same Davidic desire.
In that early morning encounter with the Lord, I became very conscious of the fact that I had a very divided concept of ordering in my life. There was that which I gladly relegated to God and then there was that which was very much reserved to my own recognizance. Now it was becoming utterly clear; all of my time, all of my plans, resources and desires, my entire life belongs wholly to God. He was wanting to provide absolutely everything I could possibly desire or need. As with Abraham of old, God wanted to be my “…exceeding great reward.”
The key to hearing the voice of God is in our relationship with him. We should continually cultivate our relationship with the Lord principally through prayer, Bible study and obedience. Just as in our relationships with other persons, the more communion we have with someone, the more clearly we hear and understand what they are communicating. It is no different with the Lord. Hearing with clarity is about more than simple phonics. It is very much also about knowing the person you are listening to. Discerning meaning, intent, nuances, etc. is a real function of relationship.
“Hearing” the voice of God to our hearts can also very much be a function of character. Who we really are as persons in Christ can have everything to do with our ability to clearly hear his voice. Let us return now to Moses’ experience at the burning bush to further understand these matters.
Prior to Moses ending up in Midian caring for sheep, he was a prince in the court of Pharaoh in Egypt. Often times wealth, position, privilege and station in life can have deleterious effects on our lives. Although Moses may very well have been meaning well, his killing of the Egyptian certainly wasn’t prompted by the Lord. However, in Moses’ manner of thinking, he believed the Israelites would recognize he was sent from God to rescue them (Acts 7:25). Moses’ confidence and actions at this point in his life were all in himself, and God would have to take him through a breaking to bring him to a place where he was useful to the Lord. Moses had to transition from an Egyptian prince to a Midianite peasant. His preparation for the calling of God was very similar to David’s:
He chose his servant David, calling him from the sheep pens. He took David from tending the ewes and lambs and made him the shepherd of Jacob’s descendants—God’s own people, Israel. (Ps 78:70,71 NLT)
So, what does it take in character to enhance our ability to hear and follow the voice of God? Utter surrender of one’s will to the will of God would be a great start. Brokenness, humility, relinquishment of one’s self-reliance, yielding one’ pride and the acceptance of obscurity are all prime conditions for having ears to hear what the Spirit is saying. Maybe one of the greatest factors in hearing God’s voice is one’s desire for such to happen. I believe Moses’ turning aside to contemplate the burning bush is symbolic of such desire. Many sincere Christians actually lack this desire to hear directly from God. There is often a latent fear of hearing something that would call for alterations in their life that they are not prepared to make. Unquestionably, the Lord is intent on bringing us into the fullness of Christ. Obviously, this will always bring us to the cross, calling for self-denial and greater following of Christ. Whatever demands the Word may call for, it will, with faithful responses, always redound to calling us more into the image of Christ.
For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are. (Heb 4:12 NLT)
And once we can face, before God, who we truly are, we have stepped onto the path of grace that leads to conformity to the image of Christ. Richard Foster
And there came a voice from heaven… (Mk 1:11). That voice is still coming from heaven, it is still speaking. For me, the inconsumable burning bush is totally symbolic of the fact that God is still speaking to all who have ears to hear…
The Bush is Still Burning