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BIG Stories of the Bible: Moses and the Burning Bush

The story of the call of Moses can be found in Exodus 3-4. It is part of a longer narrative that involves God’s hearing the cry of the oppressed in Egypt and responding in ways to deliver them. God calls Moses to return to Egypt – the place he grew up – and to be the voice of God saying: “Let my people go!” It is a rich and wonderful story. When God calls Moses, Moses negotiates for a long time with God. He starts by asking – “who am I to do this mission for you?” And then he asks – and who are you God? When people ask me who you are, what shall I tell them?

It is a great story. I hope you will read it. The bible Study group has spent 2 hours talking about it, and we have only begun to scratch the surface of all the depths of the story. But a couple things I will share with you – and invite you to comment on.

The first is that God calls Moses because Moses is the best one God knows of to fulfill the mission of liberating these Hebrews. God sees in Moses the gifts necessary for the task at hand. God knows that Moses is not perfect. That doesn’t matter. God will work with our human frailties. God will even change God’s plans to bring the humans needed on board. That’s what God does in this story. God listens to Moses. God does all in God’s power to persuade Moses. But Moses still refuses the job – at least refuses to do it alone. So God brings Aaron onto the team. God would prefer that it just be Moses – but allows Moses this possibility of the help of Aaron. God does not change the mission, just adapts the plan to help bring Moses along.

Terence Fretheim has written a commentary on Exodus, and he says we learn from this story that God is clearly the authority in the exchange with Moses. But God’s approach is non-authoritarian by nature. It is more than simply divine patience; it is an openness to consider seriously what the human partner has to say. God’s way into the future is not dictated solely by divine word and will. The human party has a voice and a perspective.

The question was raised last night – how did Aaron come into the picture? We learn in Ex.4:14 that Aaron is Moses’ brother, a Levite, and is on his way to see Moses already. We don’t know where Aaron is coming from. We have not been informed with more data on Aaron’s life. Why was Aaron coming? Was he coming from Egypt to check up on his brother? We don’t know. And was Aaron involved in any conversation with God about what his role would be? Not that the text tells us. It raises the question for us – when have we walked into a situation where our gifts and abilities were needed? Who has come into our life to bring possibilities to help something happen?

Do you identify more with Moses or with Aaron?

We invite you to think with us on these questions and on the story. Share a comment if you will. Moses seems called to do the impossible. He seems to know that this calling is a threat to his very life. And yet, if he does not accept the calling, he lives an uncalled life that becomes an autonomous existence. Moses excuses are reasonable and practical. But God knows what God is doing. Maybe that is what Moses has to come to accept – that God has the wisdom and the power to do what God is calling Moses to do.

Have you experienced a calling? Have you (did you) resist? Does God seem to ask more than we feel we can give? What do you say?

Our next Bible Study will be Monday, July 16 at 6pm in room 208 at the church. We will be exploring the story of Jesus and Zaccheaus in Luke 19:1-10. Would love to have you join us.

Rev. Joe Hoffman, First Congregational UCC, Asheville

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