Raw Religious Remembering

“When [Moses] was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.
“Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. Then the Lord said to him, Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’ – Acts 7:23-34

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This dead tree at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park reminds me of Moses’ encounter with a burning bush in the desert. Photo taken March 2017.

When I was in high school I was introduced to a less sanitized version of history. I learned that Thomas Jefferson had slaves and even an affair with at least one of them. George Washington, I was told, had his peccadilloes as well. Look behind every great man, moment, of movement and you will discover a dark secret or two; often even more.

This is certainly not glossed over in the Bible. Abraham, Jacob, Moses and David – to name just a few – had their failures. Some of them were larger than life and gravely harmful to themselves and others. As Stephen retells the story of Israel, and the greatest of all of Old Testament redemption stories (the Exodus), he makes no effort to hide Moses’ sin of murder. It is, in fact, part of the story: leading to 40 years of exile and a desert encounter with the Lord in the burning bush.

God will send this firebrand to redeem Israel. He will return to the very place from which he fled. God is holy, fearful, and faithful to his own. God is not some nebulous cosmic force or unknowable spiritual entity. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He cares about his people’s suffering. He will act.

What tarnish has covered you that would make you believe God cannot redeem you, or even work through you for his purposes? Is it time to take into account his faithfulness and redemptive nature as you are called to be part of his story?

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