Burning Bushes and Other Lessons for Living From Moses

Although he lived thousands of years ago, Moses continues to be a source of inspiration, providing important lessons for today’s Christian leaders. Consider these four lessons from Moses.

by Victor M Parachin

Not many people could list these positions on a résumé: military commander, nation builder, liberator, religious leader, lawgiver, judge, mediator, advocate, leader of the opposition, and visionary. Yet those are among the diverse roles and responsibilities Moses assumed.

Although he lived thousands of years ago, Moses continues to be a source of inspiration, providing important lessons for today’s Christian leaders. Consider these four lessons from Moses.

1. Watch for Burning Bushes

The event that catapulted Moses into a completely new direction was his attention to a bush that burned but did not seem to burn out (Exodus 3). Rather than ignore the odd event and walk by, Moses stopped to look and make an analysis. Clearly, this was not a man who was sleepwalking through life, oblivious and unaware of opportunities and openings.

As we journey through life, all of us encounter burning bushes — events that may seem random, peculiar, coincidental, and even insignificant. Train yourself to be aware of burning bushes that come your way. Stop to look in unlikely places.

Robert H. Schuller, founding minister of the former Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles, tells of speaking before a group of several hundred clergy in Vancouver, Canada. At the conference opening, he met the group treasurer, who was collecting money from those who had registered. After a few hours, the treasurer had everyone processed and the funds collected. He had several thousand dollars in cash, which he placed in a small, metal box.

Uncomfortable with carrying around that much money, the man decided to put the cash in the safest place he could think of: the trunk of his car. During the conference, someone stole his car. Terribly upset, the treasurer reported the theft to the police. Officers found the car a week later, and it appeared completely stripped. But when the man opened the trunk, he discovered the little, metal box with all the money inside. The thief never bothered to look for anything of value in the trunk.

Citing that story, Schuller says: “The truth is that we oftentimes overlook the greatest potential and value, because we simply can’t envision such a productive concept coming from such an unlikely source. Some of the greatest concepts come out of the most unlikely ideas.”

Be on the lookout for burning bushes. By doing so, your life, like that of Moses, may take off in a dramatic new direction.

2. Know How to Blush

Moses was one of the most powerful and successful leaders in history. He triumphed over the mighty Pharaoh’s resistances and led his people through the Red Sea, across the desert, and to the edge of the Promised Land. Such successes could easily have inflated his ego. His attitude could have been: “None of this would have happened without me!”

Yet Moses knew how to blush. The Bible describes him this way: “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).

Humility is not an inferiority complex, nor is it a negative self-image. True humility is simply maintaining a right view of oneself. People with a proper sense of humility never feel they are too good, too important, too educated, or too powerful to reach out and help another person. They never feel they are better than others. This was the lesson Jesus tried to impart to the disciples when He washed their feet (John 13).

Today, there is no scarcity of feet to wash. Opportunities to serve others abound every day. Author and physician Rachel Naomi Remen tells of being on an airplane beside an older man. During the flight, the man upset a small container of yogurt from his tray. It spilled on his shoes, the carpet, and his overnight bag.

Remen waited for the passenger to take some action, but nothing happened. Instead, the gentleman slowly drew back his right foot, the one covered with yogurt, until it was safely hidden under the seat. The doctor saw that his left ankle was swollen, and his left foot was fitted with a metal brace. She realized he could not move this leg.

Remen called for a flight attendant, pointed out the yogurt spill, and asked for a wet towel. The flight attendant snapped at her, saying, “There are 452 people on this plane. I’m doing the best I can. You’ll just have to wait.”

Upset by the flight attendant’s rudeness, Remen tried to soften the issue, saying gently, “If you will bring me a wet towel, I will be able to get that up.”

A few moments later, she received a wet towel. Turning to her traveling companion, Remen motioned with the towel and asked: “May I?”

He gladly consented. Kneeling, the doctor began to wipe the stranger’s shoes. As she cleaned, the man explained he had suffered a stroke eight months earlier but had flown across the country to spend some time in the home of his son. When she returned the towel to the galley, three flight attendants thanked her profusely.

Later, as she left the plane, the pilot greeted her and said, “Thanks.”

The pilot then pressed something into her hand. As she walked up the Jetway, Remen saw he had given her the little gift that airlines often give children after a flight: a pin in the shape of a pair of wings. The truly humble know how to serve and help others.

3. Be a Source of Blessing

Moses encouraged the Israelites by blessing them. To bless means to celebrate, favor, glorify, magnify, and praise. Most people thrive with blessing and encouragement, but they shrivel and shrink when people criticize and marginalize them.

Deuteronomy 33 records Moses’ blessings on the various tribes of Israel. He uses eloquent and uplifting sentences, referring to them as “the beloved of the Lord” (verse 12) and “abounding with the favor of the Lord” (verse 23).

All of us can apply this important lesson from Moses and strive to be a source of blessing for others. This means acting in ways that lift up rather than load down. It means speaking in ways that inspire and heal rather than injure and hurt. Like Moses, we must allow the Spirit to flow through us via small acts of kindness, brief words of encouragement, and bountiful expressions of courtesy.

4. Put Faith Into Action

Moses not only articulated his faith, but he put it into action. This is evident in Numbers 12 when Miriam became leprous because of her criticism of Moses. Even though Moses was the target of her gossip and criticism, he immediately responded with forgiveness and compassion, offering this simple but effective prayer: “Please, God, heal her!” (Numbers 12:13).

Likewise, we must find ways to put our faith into action, our creeds into deeds, and our beliefs into our behaviors. This is what the apostle Paul promoted. He urged Christians: “Bless those who persecute you … rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn … do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone” (Romans 12:14–17).

A 15 year-old girl from a financially secure family recently wrote to the advice column “Dear Abby.” She explained that her best friend, Audrey, lived modestly with her siblings and their single mom.

“I used to get annoyed at Audrey when she’d hesitate after I’d suggest we do something fun together,” the teen wrote. “She finally admitted she didn’t have the money. I feel awful because money has never been a problem for me, and I thought it was not a problem for any of my friends.”

To her credit, the teen said she enjoyed Audrey’s company and was willing to pay for admissions to amusement parks, movies, and other events. She even offered to buy clothing when the two shopped together.

“The problem is,” the girl wrote, “she is very sensitive about money. She never takes me up on my offers.”

She concluded her letter outlining both her dilemma and desire: “How do I get to do fun things with Audrey without making her feel she is accepting charity?”

That young woman is a loyal friend to Audrey and an admirable person. Abigail Van Buren, the advice columnist, gave this simple but sound suggestion: “Offer to do things with her that don’t cost a lot of money — listen to music, rent videos, exercise, or do homework together.”

Like Moses, we should see our lives as a mission. Whenever we encounter darkness, we must light a candle. Where there is hurting, we must try to bring healing, and where there is discord, we must be peacemakers. Our daily call is to put our faith into action.

VICTOR M. PARACHIN, freelance writer, Tulsa, Oklahoma