The Burning Bush
Based on Old Testament Exodus 3-4
(Written by Jaclyn Tepe)
"Come here, my darling," I cooed as I cradled the head of the young lamb in my lap. Its small body nuzzled against my flesh as the rest of the flock mulled around nibbling at the small blades of grass protruding from the earth. "You go where I lead and you follow my voice," I said as I gazed at my loyal companions. "You follow, and I protect. You wouldn't know what to do without my guidance," I playfully scolded the young lamb who was still at my side. "How would you find food in the desert? And who delivers you from your enemies? What about that time you were lost, who found you? Yes, don't worry. I will lead, and you will follow…just like it has always been done."
The lamb scampered away leaving me alone in the midst of a clueless, innocent, and trusting flock of sheep. I climbed to a little precipice in order to better survey my flock as they grazed on Mount Horeb. Settling down onto the rock, I shielded my eyes with my hand and gazed out over the horizon. Mile upon mile of empty land. Can it ever be enough? Can I ever get far enough away? I wonder what would have happened if my life had been different…What would have happened if I hadn't been cast into the Nile in a reed basket? Would I still be here? What if Pharaoh's daughter had not been the one to draw me from the water? Who would have found me? What if I had stayed in Egypt… What if? What if… "I had never killed a man," I slowly muttered with disdain. No, I can never get far enough away, for what I want to run from lives inside of me, and I can never escape the prison of my memories.
That was then, this is now, I thought as I seemed to cast the recollection and the past aside with a mere flick of my hands. If it were only that easy. If it were only that easy, I would have never fled my home…my home? Was that really my home? Living with people who are not your own, while those who share your blood labor, sweat, and die at the decree of those who you call your family…is that my home? No. My home is with those whose backs built the palace where I reclined mine. My home is with those who cried as another one of their precious children was murdered. My home is with the oppressed, not the oppressor that I revered as father. My home…I turned my head to the side as a faint glimmer caught my eyes. I began to turn my head back around thinking that it was merely the sun with its tricks and deceptions when I stopped. Slowly I stood up and climbed a little higher to another ledge.
Squinting my eyes, I cautiously placed one foot in front of the other. I tilted my head, closed and opened my eyes, and I think I held my breath for an unheard of amount of time. There, in front of me was something I had seen several times, but yet it was different. A bush was on fire. But it was so unlike anything I had ever seen that I just stood dumbfounded. Flames danced on the branches, yet they did not burn…that's right! They didn't burn! The branches did not crackle as if being consumed, they did not turn black, they did not turn to ash. I stared with disbelief and doubt clearly etched on my face. Never in all my days in the courts of the Pharaoh had I seen a trick that compared with what I now beheld.

"Moses! Moses!" "Here I am," I answered though I wasn't exactly sure why. It appeared that the bush was speaking to me. My first impulse would have been to run away, but after hearing the voice, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of peace. "Do not come any closer." I instantly halted my forward movement. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is Holy ground." I knelt down and quickly tried to obey. As my shaking hands worked at the strings, the voice continued to speak. "I am the God of your father, and of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob." I raised my cloak in front of my face in fear. I was speaking with a god…No, not a god, the God! My hands were trembling with both excitement and fear. "I have heard the cry of my people and I have seen the oppression that they are suffering under at the hands of the Egyptians. I will lead them to another land, a land flowing with milk and honey. I have come down to rescue them for their cry plea has reached my ears. So, now go, for I am sending you to bring my people from Egypt."

"Who am I that you should choose me to deal with Pharaoh?" I uttered. It seemed that my tongue had grown and that I could no longer speak. Who am I that I should even be speaking with God? How could he know what I had done and still have chosen me? What could I do? "I will be with you and you will deliver my people. For after you safely lead them from their captivity, you will bring them here, to worship on this mountain." "But what if I tell them that the God of their fathers sent me, and still they ask for your name? What then shall I tell them?" Yes, I knew that what I was seeing and what I was doing was really happening, but what about those who couldn't see or hear what I had? Would they believe? A name, yes, and intimate and personal name was all I needed to assure the people that I had confronted God, and he would deliver them. "I AM WHO I AM," said the Lord, and I trembled out of holy respect. "Gather the people and tell them all that I have told you. Then, you must speak to the Pharaoh. He will not listen to you, for his heart will be hardened, but after the mighty things that I plan to do, he will let my people go."

I heard all these words and all the instructions, yet my mind did not yet grasp the enormity of the task that was being set before me. Was this really happening? Yes, just as the bush was not being consumed, I stood speaking with the Lord. But how could I go back to Egypt? Surely there was some one else that could go in my stead. I was never proficient at speaking…even now my thoughts were becoming twisted in my own mind. "But what if I say these things and they still don't believe that you have really sent me?" I moaned. "What is that you have in your hand?" "A staff." "Throw it to the ground." Somewhat questioningly, I threw the staff to the ground as I had been commanded. I had no idea what was going to happen. No sooner did the staff hit the earth, than it began to coil. The grain on the wood writhed as it changed into the rough scales of a snake. I jumped back in fear. "Pick it up by the tail."

Finally overcoming my initial shock at the slithering creature, I reached down and snatched it up by the tail. Before my fingers could even feel the texture of the snake, my eyes realized that it was my staff that I held in my hands. Several times I turned the piece of wood over in my hands trying to find some remaining trait of the life it had just possessed, but it was as still and lifeless as it had been the day before. Again I was instructed by the Lord, however, this time, I was told to stick my hand in my cloak. When I pulled it out again, it was as white as snow. I gagged as I beheld the sickening skin that covered my hand. "Leprosy!" I thought. I closed my eyes for I couldn't stand to look at my own flesh. I was told to put my hand back in my cloak. Slowly I drew it out again, but I was relieved to find that it too had returned to its previous state. I still couldn't help inspecting it to make sure that all traces of the unclean disease had vanished.

I was told by the Lord what to do if still the people did not believe me. There was a course of action for every excuse that I could possibly find. I had been given a name when I asked to know who sent me. I had been given two signs when I asked for proof of this deity. But what about my inability to speak? Yes, the Lord even had an answer for that. A companion and spokesperson, my brother would be aiding me. But still, what was I to do? Here I was, a man who was afraid of a snake. I feared the distrust of the people I was being sent to save. I had not grown up as one of them; I had not suffered the way they had. Why me?

Why had I been saved in the river and raised in the courts? Why had I such a desire that I killed a man who was beating one of my fellow brothers? Why had I escaped Egypt? Maybe it was just so I could return again. I had been spared so I could help save. I had felt that burning desire so I could help overturn the injustice. I had left so that I could know that there was another place that my people could live. Egypt was not destined to be their home forever. I sat by that bush long after it ceased its burning. I thought for a long time about what I was going to be leaving and what I was going to be starting. Had anything like this been done before? Would I really be able to free millions of slaves from the most powerful empire in the world? What was my family going to say when I returned home that evening and told them about what had occurred on the mountain? My mind was greatly agitated as I sat, watching over my flock. So many questions, so many unknown answers. I was leaving one flock to lead another. I was trading my sheep for people. They too would depend on me for safety and deliverance. They too would need to be shown where to find food and water. But what about me? Aren't I too a sheep? Will you lead me and show me where to go? You lead and I will follow. You call my name and I answer, for I recognize your voice. I trust you to deliver me from the foes that mount up on all sides. It is you who will provide the shelter and the food in the desert. Yes, you will lead, and I will follow. Just as it has always and should always be done.