Why Does the Bush Not Burn Up?

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“I must turn aside to look at this remarkable sight. Why does the bush not burn up?” (Exodus 3:3). We all know the story of the burning bush. It has always captivated us with wonder, just as it did Moses. It was Moses’ innocent, childlike wonder that brought him to “turn aside” from his shepherding duties, to check out this mysterious thing. It is that childlike wonder that allows us to draw close to the mystery of God as well.

When Moses drew near to this curious thing in the desert, he was brought up short by the voice of God saying, “Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Hear these words. Take them to heart. Those who are childlike know that they are standing on sacred ground in the mysterious presence of God, no matter where they are. They know that they live in the heart of mystery and accept it with faith and joy. It is the childlike who are able to approach the mystery of this “burning bush” that is God with open wonder, rather than with demands for tangible answers that can be measured and controlled.

Our time in history, and our culture, is riddled, through and through, with pride. Many believe today that we can know all there is to know. Our scientific and technological advances have brought many to think that we will one day be able to control the very workings of nature, even of life and death. If they cannot see or touch something, if something cannot be proven beyond doubt, they do not believe in its existence. In our times there is a desire, even a need, to be in control, to have control over all of life’s mysteries, and a belief that this will one day come to them through the prowess of human intellect and technology. Increasingly in our culture, there is often an open and outright refusal to accept the mystery of God.

Jesus addressed this pride when he said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to the little children” (Matthew 11:25). While God has given us intellects with which we can plumb the depths of the knowable world, our intellects are too finite to fully answer the mystery of God, or the mystery of his unconditional, forgiving love for his children revealed in Jesus. Even with the remarkable genius of human intellect to question and to know great things, it is not capacious enough to know the mysterious fullness of God, or the limitlessness of his designs. Rather, it is our limitless capacity for wonder that makes it possible for us, like Moses, to draw close to God, to hear his voice with childlike innocence. Only the childlike, “the little children,” recognize that they are standing on holy ground in the Presence of God at all times and places, and “take off their sandals.” It is those who consider themselves “wise and learned,” who are too full of themselves to approach or to accept mystery. God reveals himself only to the “little ones,” to those who have retained the childlike capacity for wonder.

Lord, Help us to retain a childlike wonder that makes it possible for us to approach you with innocence. Give us the wisdom to let go of our need to control this relationship with you and to let you reveal yourself to us uniquely and intimately, in your time, in your mysterious way. In this hope, we ask you to strengthen our faith. We pray, as always, in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.