Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayakhel-Pekudei March 9, 2018

Torah reading: Exodus 35:1 – 40:38

Haftorah reading: Ezekiel 36:16-36

This week two portions of the Torah are read: Vayakhel and Pekudei.

movingforward

The book of Exodus has been all about moving forward.  The very word ‘exodus’ conjures up images of a journey, an exit from one place to go to another place.  With this week’s readings we are at the end of the book and we read these words: Moses said to the whole Israelite community, “This is what the Lord has commanded: From what you have, take an offering for the Lord. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the Lord an offering…” (Ex. 35:4-5).

God expects voluntary offerings from his people. Notice the words: everyone who is willing…God does not coerce or manipulate.  Offerings are to come from willing hearts for that is when they are pleasing to the Lord.

Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence, and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments (Ex. 35:20-21).

The happiest people I know are generous people. Moses had to stop the Israelites from giving to the work of God. They found great satisfaction and joy in their giving.

And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary… said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done” (Ex. 36:3-5).

Moving forward requires people who give to the work of the Lord.  It also requires gifted workers with servants’ hearts.

The Israelites had done all the work just as the Lord had commanded Moses. Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them (Ex. 39:42-43).

There is great blessing in doing a job well, with excellence and faithfulness.

Faithful

Excellence is defined as ‘the quality of being especially good’. Those who did the work of building the Tabernacle were not sloppy; they didn’t start and not finish; they didn’t do the minimum, they gave their all.  Since every day of our lives should be a love gift to our God, shouldn’t everything we do be done with excellence?

Faithfulness is defined as trustworthy, reliable, loyal and thorough in the performance of duty.  As we have followed the details of the building of the Tabernacle over recent weeks, we have witnessed the diligence, the reliability and the thoroughness with which the workers completed their tasks for the glory of God.

excellence

Excellence and faithfulness are also two character traits of God Himself.

We read in Isaiah 12:5:  Praise the LORD in song, for He has done excellent things; Let this be known throughout the earth.

And in Deuteronomy 7:9: Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments

Our God is excellent in all His ways and He is faithful to us, even when we are not faithful to Him.

In Tune with Torah this week =  As we are called to be holy as He is holy, it behooves us to as ourselves this week: Am I a reliable, dependable person? Do I keep my word to others? And to God?

Secondly, do I carry out my responsibilities with excellence? Or am I satisfied with doing the bare minimum? Am I diligent to do my best, knowing that everything I do is intended to bring glory to God?

May excellence and faithfulness be found in all of us.

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – Ki Tissa March 2, 2018

Torah reading: Exodus 30: 11 – 34:35

Haftorah reading: I Kings 18: 20-39

The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD.  Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed: ‘The LORD, the LORD GOD, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth; Who keeps loving kindness for thousands, for forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.  Exodus 34: 5-7

The scene here is of Moses on the mountain with God after the sin of the golden calf.  God threatened to destroy the people of Israel and Moses interceded on their behalf.  God appeared to Moses and taught him the thirteen attributes of His mercy.

Thirteen (13) is an important number for it signifies ‘the infinite’ or ‘eternal’.  By describing His own character traits as ‘infinite’ the LORD assures us that by repenting for our sins and appealing to His mercy, forgiveness will always be available.  The most hardened sinner who sincerely repents and turns to Him for forgiveness will be forgiven.

The prophet Isaiah echoes this truth when he declares: “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson, they will be like [white] wool.  Isaiah 1:18

forgive2

So let’s look at these thirteen attributes:

‘The LORD’ – God’s mercy is intrinsic to His nature; it existed before man ever sinned.

‘The LORD’ – God’s mercy is always available to us after we sin.

‘God’ – His power rules over nature and mankind; over all that was created

‘Compassionate’ – He has loving sympathy for our human frailty and understands us better than we understand ourselves.

‘Gracious’ – He shows mercy to those who do not deserve it

‘Slow to anger’ – He gives us more than enough time to acknowledge our sin and repent.

‘Abounding in loving kindness’ – God’s kindness extends to all men, bestowing gifts and blessings far more than we deserve.

‘Truth’ – He never fails to keep His Word; He is utterly reliable. What He said, He will do.

‘Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations’ – God remembers the righteous lives of our forefathers and extends kindness to their descendants. For example, He made promises to Abraham and to his descendants.  Abraham’s obedience to God has impacted the entirety of his descendants to this very day.

‘Forgiver of iniquity’ – God forgives habitual/generational sin when we repent.  Iniquity refers to strongholds of sin that are repeated by successive generations in a family.

‘Forgiver of transgression’ – God forgives willful, deliberate sin when we repent.

‘Forgiver of sin’ – God forgives sins of carelessness, thoughtlessness and impulsiveness when we repent.

‘Who cleanses’ – His mercy wipes away the sins of those who truly repent

”yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished’ – those who refuse to repent retain their sins and the consequences of those sins.

In Tune with Torah this week = Understanding these attributes should generate in us an abundant outburst of gratitude to ‘Avinu Malkenu,’ our Father and our King.  The highest praise is due to him that He chooses to show us such great mercy, loving kindness and compassion.

Given that truth, then, is there not a secondary message here?  If HE, the LORD GOD, shows such mercy and forgiveness towards us infinitely, should we not also freely forgive those who offend, insult or mistreat us in any way?  Of course we should because it is the same LORD GOD who said, ‘You are to be holy as I am holy.’  Lev. 11:44-45

We who are so generously forgiven by God for our failures have no right to withhold forgiveness from others.

Shabbat Shalom

 

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – Mishpatim February 9, 2018

Torah reading:  Exodus 21:1 – 24:18

Haftorah reading: 2 Kings 11:17 – 12:17

Sinai

In this week’s Torah reading, we find a series of specific commandments given by God to Moses.  Most are elaborations on the basic principles of the Ten Commandments.

We’ll look at just a few.

21:15  He who strikes his father or mother shall surely be put to death.  Can you imagine if this law was in strict effect today?  But does it just mean literally ‘strike’ them; that is, hit them, beat them physically?  Well it certainly includes that but there is more than one way to ‘strike’ a parent. Defiance, rebellion, disrespect – all are means of ‘striking’ one’s parents.  And there’s more.

21:17 He who curses his father or mother shall surely be put to death. Abusive words towards one’s mother or father is just as sinful, according to this commandment.  Showing dishonor and even cruelty to older parents is reprehensible.  Ignoring your parents because you are so busy with your own life is displeasing to the Lord.  And perhaps the worst: speaking evil of your parents to others.

The positive commandment is ‘Honor your father and your mother, that it may be well with you and you may live long upon the earth.’ (Exodus 20:12)

21: 22-25  If men fight each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the women’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judge decides. But if there is injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty, life for life; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. 

This passage has bewildered people at times because they don’t understand what it is saying.  There is no way that God would demand the barbaric act of gouging out someone’s eye or cutting off someone’s hand.  The language here is Hebraic idiom and what it means is this: the offender must pay the injured in proportion to the level of injury.  To put it in modern terms, if your teenage son got in a fight and knocked out the front teeth of another teenager, under this commandment, you as the parent would be responsible to pay for the dental work needed by the injured person.

21:32 If an ox gores a male or female servant, the owner shall give his or her master thirty pieces of silver and the ox shall be stoned.

The value on the life of a servant in those days was thirty pieces of silver so if you owned an ox and it killed one of your neighbor’s farmhands, you would be responsible to pay damages – 30 pieces of silver.

Chapter 22:22 You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.  If you afflict them at all and if they cry out to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My anger will be kindled and I will kill you with a sword and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. 

Widows and orphans have a special place in God’s heart.  He is protective of them and commands us to be the same.

22:28 You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people.  This commandment is particularly timely at present, especially for my fellow Americans.  With the daily news this week being dominated by exposure of corruption and fraud at the highest levels of government,  many are angry at what’s been done.

Anger towards sin is one thing; but ‘cursing’ the sinner is something else entirely.  The adage is most appropriate here: Hate the sin; have regard for the sinner. Regardless of how upset we may get at the moral failures of leaders, we must guard our tongues lest we violate God’s rule: do not curse a ruler of your people.  The Scripture commands us to pray for those in authority over us and it does not carry with it an addendum that says, pray for them as long as they’re good in your eyes.  No, pray for them – period!

In Chapter 24, after hearing these and other instructions Moses gave them from the Lord, the people cry out, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do.” (vs. 3b) In fact they repeated the same commitment again in verse 7.

In Tune with Torah this week = if we are honest, there are times we come across difficult passages when we read the Torah or listen to a teaching.  Perhaps it touches a nerve or puts a demand on us to change or to grow spiritually and we chafe against it.  It is precisely at those times that we need to echo the cry of the children of Israel: “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do.”  

Weekly Torah Commentary – Yitro February 2, 2018

Torah reading: Exodus 18:1 – 20:23

Haftorah reading: Isaiah 6: 1-13

In Exodus 18, Moses is faced with the challenge of change.  And his father-in-law, Jethro (Yitro in Hebrew) is the source of the challenge.

Change is not easy– and many of us don’t like change.

Change is necessary– though all of us know down deep inside that change is important.

Change is a constant: “One man said that the only thing that you can count on is change.

After seeing many miracles and overcoming many obstacles, Moses and Israel were in a time of rest and recuperation when Jethro brought Moses’ wife and children to him. (Moses had left them behind when he was called to confront Pharaoh.)

MosesJethro

When Jethro arrived, Moses took him into his tent and bragged on all that God had done for Israel. Jethro’s was so moved that he offered a sacrifice to the God of Israel. Then we read:

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.  Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him.  Teach them His decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.  But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.  Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.  If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”  Exodus 18:13-23

There are both challenges and benefits to facing change in a godly manner.  What do we learn from Moses in this situation? Three fears that leaders – and all of us – face come to mind.

Pride-Why should I listen to Jethro? God has been doing mighty things through Moses. Everything seems to be working for him. Suddenly here is his father-in-law giving him unsolicited advice.

It is easier to make changes when things are going poorly but much harder when things are going well. A wise leader or person makes changes and adjustments through out their lives.  It is the tree that is producing good fruit that is pruned in order to produce even better fruit.

Fear-What if this does not work? Moses had to ask himself, what if this thing does not work? What is everyone going to say when I tell them that they need to go to someone else besides me?

One of the reasons we oppose change is fear; fear of the unknown, fear of losing control, fear of being insignificant, fear of others doing better than we have done.

Insecurity-Is it a good idea to empower others?  Moses was the leader. If you opposed him and God, bad things happened. Now Moses was advised to empower others and give them influence. This had to test his insecurity. Moses may have thought, “What if those whom I put over a thousand people end up opposing me?”

A very real question!

By contrast, what are the benefits to Moses for accepting Jethro’s advice?

Efficiency –  vs. 17: “Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good.  You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.”

I think most rational people look at this story and conclude that this was a wise decision. The ability to delegate to the right people improves efficiency and productivity.  More people were able to use their gifts and talents in a proper framework of authority and thereby fulfill their own callings and giftings.

Effectiveness – People were taken care of more quickly, and they were able to get a more personal touch.  Jethro says, If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.  vs. 23  The wisest thing Moses did  was to break up the people of Israel into smaller groups, so they could be cared for more effectively.

Excellence – Moses himself was able to do what he was called to do with greater excellence by having the ‘distractions’ of meeting with all the people delegated to capable men of integrity.  Moses was called to deliver the people and to teach them and Jethro’s advice freed him to fulfill that calling more fully.

Jethro said to Moses, “Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.”

Lastly, Jethro’s advice facilitated the training of future leaders.

Once Israel entered the promise land, they would need leaders to govern throughout the region.  Raising up judges under Moses was a training ground for preparing the leaders that would be needed after Moses passed away. The benefit of wise change is that it prepares God’s people for the future.

In Tune with Torah this week = Changes that we may be facing in our personal lives may not be anything like what Moses faced.  Nevertheless, change is a constant part of life and as we face changes, we do well to pay attention to both its challenges and its benefits.  To resist change when it is pressing upon us is harmful to our spiritual growth. Let us embrace it and by the grace and wisdom of our Heavenly Father submit ourselves to the changes that will propel us on to the next step of our spiritual journey.

Shabbat Shalom

 

 

 

Weekly Torah Commentary. – Beshalach January 26, 2018

Torah reading: Exodus 13:17 – 17:16

Haftorah reading: Judges 4:4 – 5:31

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, “If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle. And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph who had required a solemn oath of the Israelites saying, “God will surely take notice of you, and then you must carry my bones with you from here.” They set out from Succoth, and camped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.  Exodus 13:17-22
pillaroffire
The Exodus is a love story.   How can it not be? The story’s central theme is about a community of people, the Hebrews, held in bondage in Egypt by Pharaoh; but, a people dearly loved by God.  Therefore, He raises up Moses to lead them through a long and difficult journey to the land which God promised them.
The Exodus story leads us through a rhythmn of acts of disobedience and subsequent repentance and through it all, God, always ready to provide restoration to a
repentant people, demonstrates His abundant mercy and faithfulness over and over again. How can it not be a love story?
Is this not the same way He reveals Himself to us? God remains faithful in spite of our complaining and worrying about the inability to make things happen when we want to them to occur. This love story shows how God provides even when we don’t think there are provisions being made.
Having crossed the Red Sea, God does not allow the Israelites to enter into the Promise Land via the direct route through Philistine country; because had they done so the
Israelites would have had to pass Shur, the Egyptian wall that protected the Northeast highwaysout of Egypt. This wall was heavily guarded and could be passed only with great difficulty. If theIsraelites would have successfully crossed the border, further opposition could be anticipated from the Philistines. Instead God took them through a round about route that would take longer but had its unique purpose and reward.
We are told that the people marched like a strong army. Not haphazardly, but in formation that ensured that even though the people were taking the long way around it was done so in an orderly fashion. Why? God was allowing them to grow through the
discipline of the wilderness, so that when they were strong enough physically and mentally they would be able to come into open conflict with any formidable foes.
Did the Israelites know they were being directed the long way to reach entrance into the
“Promise Land?” They probably did. They wondered “Why so many delays?” And, we today, can empathize and understand their plight in wanting to get to the “Land of Milk and Honey” as quickly as possible; for the Israelites had suffered long enough under the Pharaoh in Egypt. We can fully understand since we know how it feels to need and
want important blessings…those blessings from God that are viewed as life altering, lifesaving, sanity-saving. Plus, it doesn’t help us in the 21stcentury that we live in an “instant society.” We want our needs to be met as soon as we identify them as being “very necessary.”
As the story unfolds describing the Israelites’ pilgrimage, God does not hold the
Chosen People’s weaknesses and complaining spirits against them. God knows they may
become discouraged, but even if the route takes longer, it’s safer for the people’s well-being. This was God’s Provision; a provision of protection. And although the Israelites were going to Canaan the long way around, Moses maintained his promise to Joseph to “carry Joseph’s bones” into the new land, an important reminder that even when blessings are delayed, it is incumbent upon us to maintain our integrity, to keep our word, to fulfill promises that we have made. It is a matter of honor to be faithful, even as God is faithful to us.
How amazing that God displays Himself as a “Pillar of Cloud” during the day and a “Pillar of Fire” during the night to the Israelites. This visible appearance of God’s presence allows the Israelites to literally behold Him. Can you imagine what it  must have been like?  And don’t we at times wish that such a visible presence would accompany us in our journey through life?  Have you ever cried out in a season of difficulty, ‘Lord, where are You?  If only I could see you?’
How do we respond when we feel as though it’s taking forever to receive an answer from God? How can we acquire a sense of peace during our marching times of walking through a painful journey that appears to never end? How do we hold on?
In Tune with Torah this week = let’s remember, the Israelites did reach the Promised Land; although it was through a roundabout way. God still made the provision and the promise was fulfilled.

Life just does not allow for everything to go as planned; as we have prayed for or hoped for. Why? Because God knows what we need, even when we don’t. It may be difficult to surrender and let go…especially when the path designed for us by God does not go in the direction we expected, dreamed about or hoped for.
However, the end goal remains.  Our journey has a destination – eternal life with God in the world to come.  If our route to get there seems roundabout, take heart.  We are in good company.  And the good news is this: the same God Who led, protected and provided for the Israelites is the same God who watches over us today. He has never failed and He will not start to do so with you.
Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – Va-eira January 12, 2018

Torah reading:  Exodus 6:2 – 9:35

Haftorah reading: Ezekiel 28:25 – 29:21

When Pharaoh shall speak to you, saying ‘Work a miracle, then, you shall say to Aaron, Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent. So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and they did just as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh, and his servants, and it became a serpent.” Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: and the magicians of Egypt did the same with their enchantments for they threw down their staffs, and they became serpents; but Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Exodus 7: 8-12

MosesAaron

This is one of the most interesting passages in the Torah. It opens our eyes to several deep spiritual truths and exposes certain things to us that may not be very clear to the way we moderns think.

There are only two major sources of spiritual power: The power of God and the power of evil.  Yes, my friends, there is Evil and it exists because of demonic forces at work in the world. From days of old, Satan has sought to mimic whatever God does.  That agenda was born in him when as the prophet Isaiah tells us, Satan sought to make himself equal with God.  The result was that he was thrown out of the heavens, out of God’s presence. (see Isaiah 14:12 – 20)

In this scripture passage we see two servants of the Holy One of Israel, a pagan ruler and his ‘magicians’.  By tapping into evil power, the magicians mimicked what Aaron did.  But realize this: the magicians’ power was severely limited.  Their serpents were quickly swallowed up by Aaron’s!  Pharaoh had several magicians so there were several snakes, but Aaron’s serpent did away with them in a moment. When a weaker power comes against a stronger power, the weaker power must of necessity bow to greater strength.

More than once in the Scriptures we see serpent against serpent: When serpents were biting the Israelites in the wilderness and Moses cried to the Lord, the solution was another serpent. God uses the coin of the enemy to pay back the enemy.

 

Spiritual warfare is not entertainment: It is real war.  The contest of the serpents was a violent one, ending in utter destruction of the magicians’ serpents.  Elijah dealings with the 850 prophets of Baal was no less violent. These two events among others in the Scriptures teach us that political correctness does not work with enemies of the most High God!

To accurately assess world conditions and international events we must be aware that there are spiritual forces at work in the world.  A great war between good and evil was launched centuries ago and continues to this day.  In the midst of this war we are too often ignorant of what the real issues are.  Instead of recognizing the implications of the contest between Moses and Aaron versus the magicians of Pharaoh, we stand and watch as if it were entertainment instead of warfare.

Mankind was created for one purpose: to know God and to enjoy fellowship with Him eternally.  Each of us has been given a span of years during which we are to learn about Him, come to know Him personally and live our days according to His principles and commandments.  The ‘sons of light’ and the ‘sons of darkness’ perspective of the Essenes in the first century addresses this clearly.

Life is made up of varying experiences.  We prefer the joys and blessings that come our way and if we could, would avoid life’s hardships, challenges and sorrows. However, a necessary part of life is its battles for it is through them that we gain maturity, wisdom and a closer relationship with our God, provided we make godly decisions in the midst of the battlefields of daily living.

In Tune with Torah this week = Thankfully, we know from the Torah and the Prophets that the Holy One of Israel triumphs. Knowing that the God we serve has secured the final triumph, it behooves us to live in such a way that our faith in His eternal victory is evident and guides our decision-making on a day to day basis.

Shabbat Shalom

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – Shemot January 5, 2017

Torah reading:  Exodus 1:1 – 6:1

Haftorah reading: Isaiah 27:6 – 28:13

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.  Exodus 3: 1-6

Just like every other day, Moses was tending the flock. The morning was typical, calm, and cool with the dew hanging on the leaves while Moses walked along the path. Perhaps while walking in the still silence, Moses thought back upon his life, and what had led him here. He had grown up around the inner circle of Pharaoh’s cohort, raised by the princess as her own, but when he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew he could not contain his rage and committed murder. Moses fled from the comfort, power, and prestige of Egypt because he was afraid. He eventually settled in Midian and married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro the priest.

Moses was tending the flock that belonged to his father-in-law when he led them beyond the wilderness and came to Horeb (“wasteland”), the mountain of God. Walking along the path, filled with thoughts from the past, Moses discovered a bush on fire, and even though it was blazing, it was not consumed. Rather than continue on his journey, Moses turned aside to look at the great sight, to see why the bush was not being burned up. Then God called out from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he replied, “Here I am.” The Lord commanded Moses to stay put, and remove the sandals from his feet, for the place where he was standing was holy ground. “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

It was just an ordinary, everyday journey for Moses. A normal routine with no “religious” intentions. He was not going out to find out what God was calling him to do with his life, he was not sitting in the great temple of Jerusalem, he was just doing his job.

God chose the mountain in the wilderness as the place of revelation and change for Moses’ life. The encounter took place far and away from the sights and sounds of the religious community. This holy moment took place in the least likely of situations and locations.

A burning bush appeared in the wasteland, but the fire did not consume it. Moses was not frightened away from the bush, nor was he repelled by the sight of something strange, but instead he was drawn toward it. His curiosity propelled him forward, not for religious reasons, but because it was unknown.

God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, loves to make use of human curiosity for his own purposes. Curiosity often leads to discovery, new life, and new vision.

Moses was the one who ran away from familiarity into the unknown. He had left behind his family and calling in Egypt because he feared for his life. He escaped to the place of Midian, found a wife, and a new calling and was settled. It happened in the ordinary and mundane moment of routine life that Moses was jolted into a new reality.

God is the one with the initiative in the situation. Moses was not begging on his knees for God to enter his life, instead it is God who confronts Moses and calls him to a task.

If the story of Moses and the burning bush is to come alive for us today, then we must prepare ourselves to be encountered by the living God when we least expect it.

Being called by God into a new season of your life is not something that applies only to clergy, nor is it something that happens exclusively in worship. We are all called in one way or another to live faithful lives for the honor and glory of God, whether we are teachers or students, engineers or musicians, writers or mathematicians. We are given incredible opportunities to respond to God’s calling in manifold ways in our daily lives by loving our neighbors as ourselves, by asking the hard questions that other people are afraid to mutter, by looking at the world through the perspective of the Scriptures.

We are not abandoned and left alone. We see how gracious God is toward us in the fact that God confronts us in his incredible holiness. He refuses to let us go our own way when we act and behave as if we were people who do not need His wisdom and instruction.

In Tune with Torah this week:  We, like Moses, are confronted by the Holy One when we least expect it. He searches deep into our souls and knows what we think, what we feel, and what we believe. God is not willing to allow us to wander off and be left to our own perspectives, but meets us in the ordinary and calls us by name: Moses, Moses; Taylor, Taylor, Marilyn, Marilyn, etc.

When God confronts you in the midst of life, how will you respond? Will you continue your journey and ignore the unexpected call? Or will you say, “Here I am, LORD”?