Consolation Series - Part 6 - Exodus
Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back of the wilderness, and came to God’s mountain, to Horeb. Yahweh’s angel appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the middle of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. Moses said, “I will go now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”
When Yahweh saw that he came over to see, God called to him out of the middle of the bush, and said, “Moses! Moses!”
Moses said, “Here I am.”
God said, “Don’t come close. Take off your sandals, for the place you are standing on is holy ground.” Moreover, He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.
Yahweh said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey. Now, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to me. Moreover, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send you to challenge Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
God said, “Certainly I will be with you.
Again, the dual themes of asymmetry and proximity reveal themselves.
God appears as mysterious fire and warns Moses that he cannot approach too close. Moses must remove his sandals in recognition of the sacredness of the space God occupies. Later in the story, the Israelites will be warned not to touch Mount Sinai as God descends onto it amid thunder, lightning, trumpet blasts and earthquakes. Moses is afraid to look at God and indeed God will warn him in the coming chapters that no one can see God and live.
But Moses will later see God “face-to-face” and Jacob will be renamed, “Israel,” because he wrestled with God and lives. In Genesis, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, marvels that she looked upon God and lived. And God has arrived to deliver a message of warmth, nearness, and loving concern. He is with us, and although He evidently cannot free us from suffering, He suffers with us. He frees us from the slavery of being one little mote in a vast universe and places us squarely in the center of His palm.
Mount Sakurajima, Japan