READING ROOM
 
  Walter Brueggemann  


On Moses

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight - why the bush does not burn up."

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!"

And Moses said, "Here I am!"

"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
The Lord said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey - the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."

But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"

Exodus 3:1-12

And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain."

"Moses was doing an ordinary thing, living an ordinary life, herding ordinary sheep. Then there exploded in the midst of his life the extraordinary, the miraculous. It moved in against him, addressed him, summoned him, and his life was changed irreversibly. The Bible does not quite know how to talk about the intervention (as we do not know how to speak about it), because the experience falls outside our usual way of talking. So the Bible speaks about a "bush burning," and an odd voice...

"The alternative to promise is despair, which is what you get without the intrusion of this God. There are two kinds of people who despair. There are those who have nothing and who conclude they will never get anything. There are those, who by contract, who have everything, and who want to keep it just the way it is. Both those who have nothing and those who have everything find promises impossible....

"What happens in one quick rhetorical flourish [when God calls us] is that God's wondrous resolves are transposed into dangerous human work, to be sure; but the story of the Bible is the story of enlisting and recruiting human agents to do the things that God has promised. The book of Exodus is the tale of Moses' courageous life lived in defiance of Pharaoh for the sake of God's liberating resolve. Indeed, the resolve of God would not amount to much without the risky courage of Moses....

It is clear that most of our old patterns of life together are not working. This is indeed a time when the church may gather its faith together in order to think and pray and act differently. We are people who believe that God's old promises for well being and justice still persist in the world. We are people who believe that God's resolve for liberation in the world and of the world is a resolve of urgency that still pertains to the abused. And we are the ones who know that the promissory, liberating work of God depends upon folk who do God's work in the world."

from "I Will Do It...But You Go" from The Threat of Life
 

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