Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight — why the bush does not burn up.” When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” Exodus 3:1-4.
How does God get people’s attention? Sometimes through the ordinary becoming extraordinary — as in the case of the burning bush. It was not unusual for bushes to ignite in the seering heat of the Sinai desert but when they did there would just be a brief conflagration and then a wisp of smoke rising from the blackened skeletons of trunk and branches. But the bush that Moses saw kept on burning and was not consumed by the flames … which is what intrigued him and ended up drawing him into the presence of God.
“And that” — I sensed God saying to me this morning — “is how it should be with you.”
He wants ordinary people like us to become extraordinary as the fire of God burns in us and keeps on burning no matter what … drawing others into the presence of the God who is present in us.
Jesus put it like this: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” Matthew 5:14-15.
Lamps in those days were burning wicks set in bowls of oil, so a burning bush and a burning lamp are not so very different. But the problem I have, whether I am called to be a burning bush or a burning lamp, is the same: how to keep burning and not to burn out!
The answer is in Zechariah 4. There God gives Zechariah a vision of the golden lamp stand with lamps that burn continually before the Holy of Holies in the temple to mark the shining presence of the Lord. And the lamps on the lamp stand are being continuously fed by oil from olive trees. Zechariah asks: “What’s this all about?” and God tells him: “It’s about things being done not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.” Oil has always been a symbol of the Spirit and what God is telling Zechariah is that lamps only keep burning (and bushes likewise) if the fire with which they burn is fuelled by that same Spirit. If I try to fuel the flame myself it (and I) will simply burn out.
Spirit of God divine,
fill this heart of mine
with holy flame,
to praise the name
of Jesus my Lord.
Fill me again,
fill me again,
fill me again,
O Spirit of the Lord.
(© Colin Preston)