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Moses and the Burning Bush
Summer Quarter: God’s Urgent Call
Unit 2: Calling of the Prophets
Sunday school lesson for the week of July 2, 2017
By Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell
Lesson Scripture: Exodus 3:1-12
Background Scripture: Exodus 3
Key Verse: “Now the Israelites’ cries of injustice have reached me. I’ve seen just how much the Egyptians have oppressed them. So get going. I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:9-10)
Purpose: To recognize God’s presence as we partner with God to correct injustice.
Hearing the Word
The call of Moses
This week we begin a new unit entitled “Calling of Prophets” and examine the calls of Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Amos. This week’s lesson discusses Moses’s experience with God on Mount Horeb. Moses’s call seems to parallel so many of the prophets’ calls. Their calls seem mysterious and sometimes ominous, but most of all the missions and end results of their servitude are revelatory to the greatness of God through ordinary people.
The “called” so often seems to portray the feeling of hesitancy, inadequacy and being overwhelmed. Moses’s call appears to be no different: an ordinary person doing ordinary things “interrupted” by God to do extraordinary things. Moses, like so many others, was not prepared to answer the call initially. In Verses 2 and 3, Moses’s call begins with the appearance of an incredible sight, a burning bush not consumed by the blazing fire. I believe that God showed Moses this extraordinary vision to get his attention. I also think that it symbolizes that the “called” person is not what’s great, but the mission of God is the greatness. In this mission, God’s people were enslaved by the Egyptians and had been in bondage for more than 400 hundred years. God hears and sees the cry of his people and calls for human intervention as his extended arms to liberate the Israelites.
Why tell the stories of the Old Testament?
Understanding this lesson’s purpose ofiInjustice
According to the Adult Bible Studies
, “Many Protestants do not feel a great deal of connection with the Old Testament. It seems a foreign, strange book about a time long ago and about people so different.” The importance of knowing the Hebrew history reminds me of the African word, “Sankofa,” which means to go back and get it. It teaches us that we must go back to our roots to move forward and gather the best of what our past has to teach. With that, let’s explore the summation of the Hebrew history by the lesson’s author:
- The Hebrew people came to live in bondage in Egypt.
- God had first promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation, even though he and his wife, Sarai, had not had any children.
- She eventually gave birth to Isaac, who became the father of Jacob. Jacob had 12 sons, one of whom was Joseph.
- Because of the brothers’ jealousy, his brothers sold Joseph into slavery. He ended up in Egypt, becoming a powerful leader there (God’s grace).
- During the famine, he invited his father, brothers, and their families to live in Egypt where he could provide for them.
- The beginning of Exodus starts with the new leadership that rose to power in Egypt (Exodus 1:8-10, 13-14).
- Exodus 2, the birth of Moses and how he miraculously came to be adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. It also tells us that he killed an Egyptian while defending a fellow Hebrew. He eventually had to flee, finally settling down in Midian. This chapter ends by telling us that a lot of time had passed since Moses had fled to Midian.
- Good news (Exodus 2:24-25).
The Exodus story with the call of Moses serves as a timely and inspirational story for the Old Testament and today. It points a light to “Liberation theology,” a movement in Christian theology that emphasizes liberation from social, political, and economic oppression as an anticipation of ultimate salvation. The Exodus story is not the only story in the Old Testament of oppression, injustice, brokenness, and eventually liberation and salvation. There are other books where the theme heavily focuses on the marginalized and the oppressed (Genesis, Judges, Joshua, Daniel, Nehemiah) and on and on. The books not only deal with the wrath and judgment as many may think but also the liberation and salvific freedom of God’s people.
Giving reverence to God’s holiness
In Verses 5-6: 5
Then the Lord said, “Don’t come any closer! Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground (Mount Horeb).” 6
He continued, “I am the God of your father, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God.” Mount Horeb is a location where God’s presence makes it Holy as it does with other places throughout the Bible. The presence of God is always considered to be Holy (Ecclesiastes 3:1: “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God…”)
Thought to ponder:
Do we take God’s call as holy? When do we take off our metaphorical “shoes?” Whether it is a sin nature, a distraction, an addiction, negative people, etc. that has become a condition in life that hinders us from hearing God’s call and doing his will.
We see that Moses gives reverence to God; he takes off his sandals in the presence of His holiness. This step allows him to be closer to God, to hear the call, and to serve in the plan of the liberator. Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. (Vs. 6)
God cares about political and social issues
The poor and marginalized
In Verses 7-10, the Adult Bible Studies
expresses that God cares about political issues. The author says that some contemporary Christians seem to think the God isn’t concerned about political issues, but that the Old Testament makes it clear that God is concerned about political and social injustice. The author says that God is establishing a covenant with Abraham that seeks to form a new society that would be an example for the entire world. The covenant with Moses also establishes the freedom of God’s people and the creation of a new constitution of religious, civil, and social laws that would serve as a model for the world.
The author connects that covenant to the foundation of America’s political core: “Indeed, the political philosophy of the founders of the United States of America was influenced by the Old Testament.” God does care about the poor and the oppressed and continuously uses his people to end tyrannical behaviors of those in power and governance. God wants us to live a life free of bondage, to serve and worship him, and to pursue justice for all humankind. For further writings on the political situations during the prophets’ and Old Testament times, read, “Reading the Old Testament An Introduction” by Lawrence Boadt.
In the concluding verses 11-12 of this lesson, Moses, like so many Christians when called to do a difficult task, and in this case, a dangerous mission, became hesitant and afraid. We often question God, as if he doesn’t know what’s he’s doing. It is human nature to feel ill-equipped, not prepared, and perhaps not worthy of the task. However, God keeps revealing throughout the Bible and through his people that perfection is not the calling, but we’re made “perfect” to carry out his divine instructions. God equips those that he calls. We must take off our “shoes,” and “
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you…” (James 4:8)
Lord, let’s us hear your call and your directives as we walk and maneuver through our daily routines of life. Let’s us do your will whether they are small or great in the eyes of the beholder. Let’s us hear when you are calling us for the mission and that we may disconnect with those things or persons that are a hindrance in our closeness to you. Amen.
Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell serves as the Associate Director for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at email@example.com.
Footnote: Adult Bible Studies Series Fall 2017 used for content and source for this lesson.