This Is Holy Ground
Do we recognize a burning bush when we see one?
Moses was in the wilderness tending sheep with his sights set on Horeb, the mountain of God, when the bush began to burn, and it didn’t faze him at all. It was common for bushes to catch fire in the wilderness, so the fact that one was burning near him didn’t strike him as odd, nor did it demand further thought.
It wasn’t until Moses realized the bush was burning but wasn’t being consumed that he turned aside to look. It had finally captured his attention because the fire wasn’t stopping.
Normally in the U.S., protests come and protests go. We see them on the news in cities far away and in cities close by, like our nation’s capital, yet we pay them little to no attention. We maintain our busy lifestyles, and eventually they die out.
However, instead of dying out quickly this time, the protests have ignited a nation-wide movement—a conversation focused on overcoming racial injustice that isn’t stopping. Working from home, separated from others due to a global pandemic, how can we not notice? It has gotten our attention and is causing many of us to turn aside to look.
Once God saw that Moses was looking His way, He called to him from the midst of the bush. Moses realized that day he wasn’t going to encounter God from some lofty height upon the mountain. Instead he was going to experience Him at ground level in the middle of a fire. His presence was within view.
Recently, feeling led to reread the story about the burning bush, I realized the same thing. God’s presence is within our view. As I reflected on that passage, what I heard Him say was, “Many people want this movement to stop. But it isn’t stopping because I am in the middle of it. I am working here. This is holy ground.”
I have learned that anytime people are being oppressed, we can expect God to be present, working on their behalf. Wherever there is injustice, God’s desire for justice follows. God heard His people’s cry in Egypt. He saw their affliction and their oppressors and told Moses, “I have come down to deliver them.”
This is something we often miss. God’s plan wasn’t to have Moses deliver His people. God’s plan was to work through Moses. The deliverer then, as it is now, was God.
Whenever we get this mixed up and think we are the deliverer, we begin to assume a position and claim power that isn’t ours to possess. Moses was always clear about his role. Anytime the Israelites turned against him, he let them know their anger was misdirected as it was God who had given them their freedom.
I can only imagine if Moses had claimed the position as deliverer, he might have felt he held the power to determine it wasn’t worth it to set the people free. He could have declared the work too hard, the journey too long or opposition too difficult. He might have decided it would be easier, at least for him, to just leave things as is. But God told Moses He had come down and was ready to deliver His people. Moses’ ultimate decision was whether he would work with God or against Him.
I think this is the same decision we have to make as well. Whenever there is injustice in our world, God is present wanting to work through His people to deliver others and free them from oppression. Anytime we justify our stance in not advocating for justice, we have to realize we are not working in opposition to others, we are actually in opposition to the Lord Himself.
Justice and righteousness are the foundation of God’s throne. Through the prophet Amos, whose name means burden-bearer, God told the people of Israel:
“I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offering or grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is. Instead I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.” (Amos 5:22-24, NLT)
It is no different today. God is in our midst wanting to work through His people to end racial injustice, so justice can begin to flood our nation and change the way we live and interact with people of color.
Author and pastor Henry Blackaby reminds us we must look to see where God is working and join Him there. The bush is burning, will you turn aside to look?