Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:1-4)
It’s a famous story, the moment when Moses gets called into active service for God. Moses is eighty years old in this story. He spent half of his life in the palace of Pharaoh and half of his life in self-inflicted exile in the wilderness. All signs point to him being content to remain in exile for the rest of his life. He’s not looking to make a change; not looking for a new start. While he still at times is probably concerned about his family in Egypt, his days are spent tending to sheep in the wilderness. Until this fateful day, he has no plans to change what he’s doing, but God does. God is calling Moses into active duty. God is sending Moses to the front lines. “Go back to Pharaoh and tell him to let my people go.” That’s the message Moses will take with him when he returns to Egypt. Soon, through God’s help, Moses will lead the nation of Israel back to this very spot where they will worship and be consecrated into a royal priesthood and a holy nation. But it all starts with a bush on fire.
Moses is out tending the flock when he notices the bush on fire. But it’s not just the bush on fire that catches his attention, it’s the way the bush burns. It is burning, but it is not burning up. Moses must have been watching the bush for an extended time. This wasn’t just a glance of something that caught his attention, then drifted away. This was a prolonged look; a prolonged wondering. The way the verse is translated in the Message helps to explain Moses’s reaction. Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?” (Exodus 3:3) Moses is amazed and approaches the bush to learn more. It is then that God speaks. It seems God was waiting to make sure Moses noticed before challenging him with a call to servant leadership. If Moses hadn’t noticed the bush, God may have never spoken. God was ready to call Moses into leadership, but first Moses had to slow down enough and pay attention to what was happening.
I wonder, how many times do we miss God’s call on our lives because we simply aren’t paying attention? Life is busy. We have many things going on we are trying to accomplish. Some days, we are just struggling to survive, trying to make it through the day when we don’t have enough time to do all that we are committed to do. We don’t have time to slow down, to pay attention, or to stop and look for burning bushes. Yet, we admit that we often hear God best when we pay attention to what is happening around us. God is never absent, that’s not the way God works. God is present in all places. The problem is not that God isn’t calling or isn’t involved in our lives; the problem is we aren’t paying attention enough to see God. Even in the busyness of life we can train ourselves to be more open to seeing and hearing God in our lives. Perhaps we can even slow down a little, to be still for even five minutes, and spend time examining those often neglected parts of our lives to listen for the voice of God. As we start paying attention to more around us we might just see a bush that is burning but not burning up, and we might just hear a call from God.