In case you’re just tuning in, this is the third and final post in a series about the life of Moses - written by a MoveIner reading through the Bible in a year with other MoveIners.
In Part 1, we met Moses as he tried to free his fellow Israelites from slavery and ended up exiled from Egypt. In Part 2 we joined Moses in the desert during the years that followed. Onwards to Part 3.
Before we begin Part 3, I want to warn you that this part is not like the others.
Up until now, these posts about Moses’ life have been fairly predictable. It would be fair to expect them to come to a tidy, satisfying conclusion.
Part of me wishes that's how this series would end. I did try my best to write it that way. But then I realized the Bible spends 137 chapters telling the story of Moses’ life, and so far we’re only two chapters in. That leaves 135 more chapters to cover in a single post.
At the end of the day, I decided to write something as jarring and surreal as the life of Moses itself.
There’s no other way to say this. Like Moses, in the next few minutes you may find yourself confronted and stunned by a God you never imagined existing.
Just One More Day in the Wilderness
It had been 40 years since Moses was exiled into the desert. Over the years, he had checked out.
Moses didn’t seem to regret the stand he took against Egypt, and maybe even believed God would still intervene on Israel’s behalf some day. But he’d clearly also decided Israel’s fate was out of his hands. He just didn’t have the skills or influence to change the situation.
As far as Moses was concerned, Egypt had won, the Israelites were still slaves, and he was destined to be a shepherd in the desert for the rest of his life.
Today was just one more ordinary day in the wilderness. The same hot sun, dry wind, and silence.
Ordinary, that is, until out of the corner of his eye, Moses saw a bush burning with an unusual flame. He headed over to investigate.
Then a voice called out of the bush, introducing itself simply as “I Am.” In Hebrew, “Yahweh.”
An eternal, infinite God formally reintroducing himself to Moses. Along with all of humanity, the entire planet, and every galaxy in the universe.
To the present day, millions of people on earth do not write or speak that Hebrew phrase out of reverence and respect.
What happened next has the feel of time and space being warped.
God told Moses that he had seen the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt, and had come to set them free. He then led Moses back to Egypt, and proceeded to dismantle the order of power in human civilization. Within the span of weeks, a military superpower was incapacitated by Moses, his brother Aaron, and a walking stick.
Meanwhile, the eternal, infinite God was calmly leading Moses and the Israelites directly towards an impassable body of water with a pillar of fire.
It gets crazier. Starting at the burning bush, God birthed a people out of slavery into a nation with one of the world’s richest cultural and literary heritages.
In the millennia that followed, the Israelites would appeal back to the Exodus as definitive proof that they were God’s chosen people. The Exodus would permeate some of the greatest books of law, history, poetry, and prophecy the world has ever known. What unfolded over those few weeks could be seen as the most significant turning point in human history.
Like a Bug Under a Magnifying Glass
I can’t get over how shocking all of this must have been for Moses.
As a shepherd at the age of 80, Moses was probably starting to plan his retirement. He’d had as good a run as any. But now his glory days were over, and his strength was beginning to fade.
That day, like a bug under a magnifying glass, Moses found himself at the focal point of God’s entire redemptive plan and power. Caught up in God’s desire to save a nation into the abundant life he created human beings to live.
Imagine the weight of the words coming out of God’s mouth in that moment.
Imagine walking into the Tent of Meeting and coming face to face with the Creator of light and darkness, over and over again. It’s no wonder Moses became hopelessly addicted to the presence of God.
Writing From the Desert
To be honest, I write to you from the desert. As a MoveIner for several years, I can relate to the first two chapters of Moses’ story.
Life has gone just fine so far, but I’ve had my fair share of failures and setbacks. Every day I prove to myself again how incapable I am of changing the broken world around me.
Buried down in my soul, though, there’s still an ember of hope. And something about reading the story of Moses in the Bible makes that ember burn white hot.
Maybe you’re in the desert too. Whether you’re involved in MoveIn or some other kingdom effort, maybe you’ve tried and failed to do the right thing, hit the limit of your ability to change the world, or possibly even already checked out for life. “Few if any unreached people in my patch will ever follow Jesus,” you say. God might stop injustice somewhere in the world, but not in your neighbourhood.
Part of me hears you loud and clear. But another part of me says, “Watch out.” One of these days, the eternal, infinite God could make his presence known.
The story of our lives could cease to be about us and take a sudden, surreal turn. We could find ourselves hanging on for the ride as God decimates our opposition and rescues an entire unreached people group from our city into his kingdom. Such is the nature of the “I Am” who introduced itself from the burning bush to Moses and all creation.
Let’s hope for nothing less.
Be Like Moses and Free God’s People.