Still, small voice
When God created the miracle of the burning bush, how did he know Moses would be intrigued enough to come and see? Well, God knows us through and through. Moses must have been someone who really observed his surroundings, perhaps a curious person, interested in the world around him.
Moses had his encounter with God while he was working as a shepherd looking after his father-in-law’s flock. Many prominent characters in the bible were shepherds: Abraham and Jacob, King David and the prophet Amos, and, of course, the shepherds who were watching their flocks the night Jesus was born and saw the miracle of the star. Why shepherds? Perhaps it is something to do with their lifestyle. Being a shepherd meant spending a lot of time alone in solitary places, but also being alert and watchful, protecting their flock from danger.
Perhaps if we would like to come closer to God, we need withdraw to a quiet place, to turn off our phones, and go off line to escape from the hustle and bustle of life and the barrage of information that seems to come at us every day. You may recall from the story of the prophet Elijah, that when he stood on the mountain, God came to him not through the strong wind, the earthquakes or the fire, but through a still, small voice.
When God encountered Moses the first thing he did was to identify himself in a way that was meaningful for Moses. As a Jewish person Moses would have understood God as being the father of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We may perhaps be more likely to perceive God as our Father as taught by Christ in the Lord’s prayer. But we all have our own perception and understanding of God, and of Christ. There are many different spiritualities out there with vague ideas about gods and goddesses but when God makes himself known, he will make it plain to us so we are in doubt that it is Him.
Moses was then given his calling. God explained what he had to do very clearly, there was no ambiguity about his task, he was to set God’s people free from their slavery in Egypt.
In our gospel reading Jesus was in no doubt as to what his calling entailed. He was to go to Jerusalem to face the cross. When he tried to prepare his disciples, Peter’s reaction was to try to prevent him from doing so. It would surely have been very tempting for Jesus to avoid Jerusalem, to escape from the terrible pain and suffering he knew he was going to encounter. But he immediately identifies Peter’s words as coming from the Satan, the evil one and banishes him away saying “get thee behind me Satan.” In the book of James we actually have the words “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” If Jesus had listened to Peter he may have begun to think “does God really intend for me to go to Jerusalem to die.” Does that sound a bit familiar? You may remember right back at the beginning of the bible in Genesis, when evil first appeared in the form of the serpent, it asked Eve: “did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden? Satan appears to sows seeds of confusion and doubt in God’s people.
Few people believe in a satan figure these days, but I think there is a kind of force at work in the world which seeks to destroy God’s creation and to deflect his purposes for us. We can see evidence of a destructive force when we hear of the terribly cruelty that is often inflicted on the weak and vulnerable in our world.
In today’s New Testament reading, Paul, in his letter to the Romans tells us to hate what is evil and cling to what is good. God is good, and through scripture, we know God always works for the good for those who love him. But when God called Moses he was full of self doubt. He made every excuse under the sun: “who am I to that I should go to the Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt” in other words I’m not good enough or important enough to do this. Later we hear he said “what if they don’t believe me”, “I’m not a good speaker,” then finally even “please send someone else.”
God may not be calling us to carry out a task as spectacular as what Moses was asked to do, but when we become followers of Christ, we are called to be as He is, a servant of God. God could be calling us in so many ways to work for him but to hear his call, we need to get to that quiet place where we can be still without interruptions, in a state of alertness, to listen for the still small voice from deep within, and to follow his promptings through the words of the Holy Spirit. We ourselves, like Moses, may think we are not good enough or worthy enough to follow God’s calling but Moses was God’s choice and we too are God’s choice. He calls us as we are to carry out his work in the world and he will equip us to do what we need to do as he did for Moses. When we are open to working for God, we may even serve him without realising we are doing so. But one thing is sure and certain when we work to bring the light of Christ into a dark world, we need not be afraid. God is always with us even unto the end of time.