God Burns Without Burning Us Up

“Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up” (Exodus 3:2–3).

At the end of last week’s message, Moses was living in a place of exile and failure. He was a murderer, and he was rejected both by the Egyptians and by the Israelites. He fled to Midian, far away. He is living as an alien in the foreign land.

Orrente, Pedro; Moses and the Burning Bush; National Trust, Kingston Lacy; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/moses-and-the-burning-bush-100550

There is a bush fire on the mountain which catches Moses’ attention. The bush is burning, but is not consumed. When we first read the story of the burning bush, we see it as a way that God attracts Moses’ attention so that God and can speak to him. But the burning bush is more than a plot device. It shows us the God of Scripture who is a fire that does not consume.

God shows his presence. In Genesis 15:17, God sealed his covenant with Abram by passing through the animal sacrifice as “a smoking firepot with a blazing torch.”  During the Israelites’ exit from Egypt, the Lord would appear “by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night” (Exodus 13:22).

God purifies us. God is a refiner who brings his people “through the fire” in order to “refine them as silver is refined” (Zechariah 13:9). Fire is a purifying agent in people’s lives. In Proverbs 17:3, “The crucible is for refining silver and the smelter of gold, but the one who purifies hearts by fire is the LORD.” This is the fire that burns but does not consume.

God calls people to service. In the book of Acts God reveals himself as fires that do not consume: the flames which appear above the heads of each of the disciples on the day of Pentecost. The flames cause them to burn with passion – with love for God and for others.

God appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush on Mount Sinai to get his attention and to call him to ministry. For biblical authors, when God appeared as fire he was showing His presence, purifying power, and protection over his people.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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