God-Soaked World Bible Guide – Day 5 - Reservoir Church
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God-Soaked World Bible Guide – Day 5

March 10, 2017

Friday, March 10 – Exodus 3:1-12

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

Points of Interest:

  • Centuries after Jacob, his descendants settle in Egypt – first prospering but then falling into slavery under Egyptian oppression. Moses is introduced as a Hebrew orphan taken into the Pharoah’s own household until he rediscovers his ethnic identity, murders an Egyptian taskmaster, and flees to the wilderness. At this point in this story, Moses is a middle-aged husband and father, working as a shepherd in his father-in-law’s family business.
  • Out in the desert, on a hot day, Moses has a visual hallucination of a burning bush. When he looks more closely, he then has an auditory hallucination as well. This significant encounter is a vivid example of a spiritual experience.

In his study of spiritual experiences, 19th century American psychologist William James described four common qualities to these experiences reported across cultures and religions. They are:

  • Transient – temporary, outside our ordinary experience of space and time,
  • Ineffable – hard to fully capture in words
  • Noetic – mentally engaging, teaching something valuable, and
  • Passive – seeming to happen to us, beyond our control.

All of this is true for Moses. His attention is drawn away from his work, he experiences a deep and powerful sense of being with and communing with a God who has interrupted his thinking and living, and is given unique insight into God’s views on current affairs and Moses’ leadership call to intervene.

  • By using the word “hallucination” and applying William James’ analysis, we aren’t saying Moses’ experience was imaginary or that God didn’t initiate it all. We’re simply introducing analytical language to describe what sometimes happens when we engage in a God-soaked world.
  • In his experience with God, Moses experiences beauty and wonder (the unconsumed, flaming bush), holiness (a sense of something in God that is utterly “other” and transcendent), and fear (it’s overwhelming, almost too much to apprehend). All these sensations seem common to vivid encounters with God.
  • Moses’ encounter also leaves him with a sense of calling, direction, and purpose. On the one hand, like Abram, Moses has a calling to do something very much in keeping with his life circumstances and history. He is a Hebrew child who intimately knows Egyptian culture and leadership – who better to negotiate the Israelite exodus out of Egypt and back to Canaan? On the other hand, Moses finds the task overwhelming. He is assured, though, that God will be with him in the task.

Spiritual Exercise: By definition, we can’t create spiritual experiences for ourselves, even if we want them. As William James writes, they are passive – received, not initiated, by us. Meditation and prayer, though, can increase our receptivity. Consider lighting a candle, and as you gaze into it, meditate on something you know to be true and good about God.  Perhaps meditate on “the God of compassion” emphasized in this passage, or on “the God who sees” from Tuesday’s story with Hagar.

After a few minutes, see if you perceive God’s presence with you in any way. Many of us have been helped in experiencing God’s presence by specifically speaking to Jesus, “How are you here with me in this moment? Help me to perceive your presence, and whatever you have to say.”

Consider writing down or telling someone whatever you experience during this time.

Prayer: Ask God to again call leaders to deliver people out of suffering in your city, country, or world. Pay attention if anything comes to mind that is within your experiences and resources to do.