Spontaneous combustion: It’s definitely a “hot” topic.
And it has likely been a hot topic for ages throughout history—even in Moses’ day. But while it’s not every day that you walk by a bush that is randomly burning, in Moses’ day, this was not all that uncommon of a sight. In the desert, with heated temperatures and conditions just right, a dry, brittle, oily bush actually was capable of spontaneously combusting. So when Moses walked by the burning bush as he was tending sheep by the mountainside, he probably didn’t think anything of it at first. But if he would have simply glanced and kept walking, he would have missed his moment of visitation!
Thankfully, Moses took a double-take. He squinted and rubbed his eyes to make sure that he was seeing clearly. That’s right: the bush was not burning up! Moses had probably seen several burning bushes in his day, but never had he seen a burning bush that didn’t burn! That’s like seeing boiling water that doesn’t boil or feeling blowing wind that doesn’t blow. By very definition, those things are impossible. But God is the God of impossibilities!
Moses was likely more than just curious about this bush. He had to have been downright enthralled by it. Little did he know that what would happen next would change his life forevermore. All of a sudden, an even stranger thing happened: The bush talked! Whoa! I think I’ve spent a little too much time in the sun! Moses thought. But then he proceeded to do an even crazier thing yet. He talked back to the bush! Now, it’s one thing to hear voices and pretend they’re not there. At this point, you know you’re crazy, but no one else knows that. It’s quite another thing to talk back to the voices you hear!
In all seriousness, Moses’ mind had to have been spinning at this point. This is because he was about to enter into the encounter of a lifetime. He spoke with the living God in the form of a burning bush! Who else can say that they’ve done that?
If you will notice, the same three principles present at the transfiguration were also present at this occasion. This mountaintop experience was (1) a time of equipping for Moses, (2) a time in which Moses did not want to leave the mountain, and (3) followed by a specific calling, or mission, which Moses was to fulfill. Are you beginning to see the pattern here? These same credentials are present frequently throughout the Bible when a mountaintop encounter with God occurs. (1) God prepared Moses by showing him amazing signs that Moses could show to Pharaoh (Ex. 4:1-9). (2) Moses then countered back with all the reasons why he did not want to go to Pharaoh and do what God told him (Ex. 4:10-17). In other words, Moses did not want to leave the mountain. He was perfectly happy with staying there. Mountaintop experiences are great, but if we stay there, we are in danger of developing a comfort zone—and comfort zones breed defeat, not victory.
Moses yet pleaded with God, saying, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send” (Ex. 4:13). This caused God to become angry with Moses. Why? Because Moses was thinking in the comfort zone rather than in the victory zone! I will share more about that later, but I just cannot emphasize enough the importance of both climbing the mountain, but also descending the mountain at the appointed time. We tend to enjoy the climb, but not the descent.
God finally talked some sense into Moses, however. (3) Moses proceeded to go to Egypt, as the Lord had commanded him. This was his mission. This was his calling. This was what the mountaintop experience had prepared him for. But he could not complete the call until he descended the mountain. However, the Lord left Moses with a promise of comfort. In Exodus 3:12, He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” What an amazing word! In other words, God said, “Just because you are going down this mountain, it does not mean you are leaving my presence. I will go with you. And just so you know, this will not be your last mountaintop experience. You will make it through the valley, and you will be back here once again.”
Each of us has a calling upon our lives. Often, we come to the realization of that calling at the time of our greatest spiritual high. But the fact of the matter is that we cannot often complete that calling while on the mountaintop. Things will get tough at times, and we will face opposition. But our calling has not left us. We still have a job to do. The amazing promise that God makes is that He is always with us. We don’t have to leave Him on top of the mountain! The more we become consciously aware of the presence of God with us every moment of every day, the more we will literally become revolutionized in our everyday thoughts and actions! My dad, Jay West, often says that the Holy Spirit comes to live both in us and on us—in us for our own benefit and on us for the benefit of others. We need to live and walk as if we are consciously aware of this fact every moment, everywhere, and with everyone.
What’s more? God leaves us with a promise that we will return to our mountains again. We will return to that place of His manifest presence. For us today, it all comes back to the idea of the daily encounters with God. We need daily mountaintop experiences—daily spiritual walks with the Lord that will remind us of His manifest presence with us. If we experience God in this way on a daily basis, then we will be more readily prepared for when He seems distant. For we will know that He is not distant at all; He is right there with us!
Perhaps you are at a spiritually high point in your life right now. Or perhaps you are at the lowest of lows. Either way, it is crucial to remember that, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me” (Ps. 23:4). Pastor James Bradley of Family Worship Center in Kokomo, Indiana, teaches that He is the God on top and the God on the bottom. Just because you’re going through a difficult time in life, don’t think for one minute that God is with you any less than He was at your highest point. And just because you may be at a spiritually high point right now, don’t think that God is with you more than He would be if you were in the valley.
We view God’s closeness or distance based upon our circumstances and what we feel. But God doesn’t operate according to our circumstances or what we feel. It is often those times when He seems the most distant that He is actually the closest. We can’t view these things through our natural eyes. We have to see through the eyes of the Spirit.
So today, no matter what situation you’re in, look to God for the strength that you need. Tell Him that You trust Him and that You give Him everything, even if you don’t feel like it’s possible. I believe He will honor your step of faith.