The other day, I was helping our youngest son find a page to color in a Bible-based coloring book. As we flipped through the pages, we came to a depiction of Moses and the burning bush. Something struck me as unusual about the picture, so I took a closer look.
The burning bush was there, Moses was there, "authentic" clothing, walking stick, movie-star hair, everything you would expect.
But one thing was a little odd: the expression on Moses' face. The picture showed Moses approaching the burning bush with one hand raised as in greeting, with a grin on his face from ear to ear, as though he had just run into an old friend in the airport and couldn't have been more delighted.
Somehow, I doubted this was Moses' actual state of mind at that moment, and a review of Exodus 3 confirmed my suspicions.
The scene in the text is quite different from the coloring book version. In the text, Moses approaches the bush out of curiosity, is commanded to remove his sandals out of respect for holy ground, and hides his face for fear of being in the presence of God.
Moses does not respond with enthusiasm to the message given to him from the burning bush. In fact, Moses tries everything he can think of to persuade God to go find someone else for this mission of freeing God's people from slavery.
The scene continues with two miraculous signs that terrify Moses: his staff turning into a serpent, which he then has to pick up, and his hand becoming leprous and returning to normal. And, to top it all off, Moses is told he will have the opportunity to threaten the life of Pharaoh's firstborn son.
We know the rest of the story.
Moses' call at the burning bush results in the rest of his entire life being given to the service of God and His people. And this time is not filled with delight. In fact, the hardship far outweighs the pleasure. The burden is heavy, the people are ungrateful and disobedient, and Moses does not always feel the mission is worthwhile.
Yet his work was necessary. He ushered God's people from one point in their history to another.
Still, do you ever wonder whether Moses thought back on that day when he saw the burning bush? Do you ever wonder whether he wished he hadn't seen it, or that he had just minded his own business and not gone to check it out? There were times when he vented to God in exasperation, asking why he was stuck tending to these people whom he had not fathered, and asking God to simply strike him dead (Numbers 11).
Yes, Moses would have had a simpler, probably more pleasurable life had he not responded to God's call. But can you imagine the depth, the purpose, the understanding he would have missed? Apart from his most frustrating moments in God's service, surely Moses understood this.
The point is not to criticize a coloring book.
The point is to remind God's people that it is no small thing to answer His call.
He asks us to be faithful until death. He promises us an eternity of blessing if we will do so. Few believers hesitate about this, but we tend to forget that this requires a different attitude toward this earthly life than most people are willing to have. Eternity has to be more important, even if it means our time here being nothing like what we had planned and wished for.
Moses learned this, even if he didn't yet understand it at the burning bush.
Will God's people today understand what the children of Israel seldom did?