|Series Theme: Meditations in Lessons from Israel|
Meditation No. 1
Meditation Title: God who takes the Initiative
Ex 3:1-4 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. 3 So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up." 4 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."
The purpose of this new series is to examine the life and activities of the nation of Israel as they related to God and see what we can learn about God and about ourselves. Our starting point is, in fact, before they were constituted a nation and we go right back to the time of their slavery in Egypt and will watch them being delivered and then escorted to Sinai and then on into nationhood.
Our story starts with Moses who, for forty years has been a shepherd in the wilderness. They aren't even his sheep because he was, “tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian.” Moses had once been a prince in Egypt but now he was a nobody, looking after someone else's sheep with no hope for any change in the future. If you look at a map you will see Midian is located to the east of the stretch of water that separates off the Sinai peninsular. It is a very long way from Egypt and a long way from anywhere. More than that, “he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God,” and Horeb, it is thought, is another name for Sinai, which means he was now right on the other side of that water. He's about as far from anyone as he can be. This is not the most hospitable of places on the earth. This is the last place you would expect anything special to happen, but how wrong can you be!
It is at this point that the turning point of Moses' life came, although he was not yet aware of it for, “There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.” Now when God sends an angel it doesn't always mean that he is seen in physical form and when the angel speaks it is as if God speaks and so often the two are referred to interchangeably, so all Moses sees are flames of fire. Yet there was something strange about what he saw because normally where there are flames they burn up whatever it is that is burning, yet we read, “Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.” That naturally brought a reaction in Moses: “ So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up.” If that wasn't spooky enough, it now really gets spooky: “When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!” Suddenly there is a talking bush, and what makes it worse this bush knows who he is! I suspect Moses was somewhat flabbergasted at this point, “And Moses said, "Here I am.” We have just heard Moses' first words to God, and there are going to be plenty more of them before we finish the whole story as we progress through these mediations.
Now there is something so obvious about all that we have just noted that many of us miss it, but it is a crucial point in Scripture. Very simply it is that God is an initiator. The history of Israel – and indeed of the Church – begins with God. The existence of both has a little to do with man and much to do with God. Wherever anything significant happens in the Bible, it is because God has taken the initiative and God has acted.
The whole of Creation (Gen 1 & 2) is all about God acting and bringing everything into being. In Genesis 12 the story of Abraham starts with God's call to Abraham. Getting the family of Jacob (Israel) to safety in Egypt, starts with God speaking prophetically to Joseph (Gen 37). Now, hundreds of years later, God takes the initiative with Moses to have Israel delivered out of Egypt . But it's not merely to take them out of Egypt; it is also to take them in to the Promised Land of Canaan.
When we come to the New Testament, hundreds of years had passed since God last spoke from heaven, as He waited for just the right time to send His Son, but when the time was right, Jesus came. God initiated the plan of salvation. After Jesus returned to heaven, there were days of silence until the day of Pentecost arrived and God poured out His Spirit and the Church was created. Again and again, things happen because God initiated them. Christianity exists because God clearly took the initiative and brought it about. Yes, He used humans, but the real cause of transformed lives was because HE moved. Throughout the history of the Church there have been times that we call times of revival. These are simply times when God takes the initiative and moves powerfully on His Church and upon people and many are saved.
Do you remember what Paul said to the Philippians? “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6) Yes, they were the work of God. HE had begun it, HE had brought them salvation and HE was now working in their lives. When we read the Bible, see the hopeless state of mankind again and again, and then see God taking the initiative to bring salvation. We've just seen it with Moses, and we see it in the Church and in our own lives. Praise and worship Him!