I want to begin this New Year with this passage from Exodus.
Exodus 3:3–4 (ESV) And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”
I’ve always been reminded of this little fact in Exodus 3: God shows up in the bush but does not speak to Moses until He sees Moses “turns aside” to see what’s going on. In this moment, Moses made a turn that opened him up to God and changed his life and the world.
The word in Hebrew for “turned aside” used twice in this passage means “to depart” and is used of Samson when he did not know the Lord had “departed” from him. It can also be used for “apostasy” which will later happen in Israel’s leaders and national life. The evident implication of this word is that of strong and complete redirection of one’s attentions and affections.
This is what Moses did. Moses redirected his attentions from shepherding sheep in the wilderness to a burning bush that would change his life.
I think that God shows up in many ways to many people who never take the time to turn aside and see. No, I’m not advocating pantheism or some kind of metaphysical deism. God is not in the “rocks” so to speak. But God does do things to get our attention throughout our lives: conversations, dreams, invitations to church, a Bible passage we hear preached or sung, etc. Even the beauty of creation can direct our hearts toward the knowledge of Him.
Will we take the time to turn aside?
I wonder what would happen if we noticed those leading moments from God and redirected our affections and attention to what He has to say through His Word. If you really want change in this new year, turn aside from what’s occupying you and let God’s presence become an occupying force in your world. We see clearly in this passage with Moses, God is looking and waiting for us to come.
When God reveals Himself to us, we are often shocked what we see. In this passage Moses sees something he most likely did not expect. The word for “bush” here specifically refers to a thorn bush. Moses sees much more than a physical burning bush. He sees the Lord in the midst of a fire and thorns. The Lord that will lead Moses into 40 years of struggle for the deliverance of God’s people will be the same Lord who will struggle for the ultimate deliverance of all on the Cross. The Lord does not simply tell Moses what to do. He shows Moses what He is like. He is the Lord who suffers for our deliverance and redemption. He is the Lord who loves us enough to die for us.
And THAT is what truly CHANGES our lives.
The world’s system puts self on the throne and uses others to make sure our kingdom is secure. The kingdom of Christ is formed by the Ultimate Son becoming the sacrificial lamb for our sins. The world’s system longs for others to see and admire us. The kingdom of Christ follows a Savior who seeks and saves others. The world’s system is about being in charge and autonomous. The kingdom of Christ is about becoming a servant of all and finding true greatness in making much of others.
Let 2016 be the year you “apostatize!” Turn aside from the system of this world, and stand in wonder of Christ, the suffering servant of our salvation.