Every leader has a moment that defines the course of their path. It could be a good decision they make, a situation they fix or a personal challenge they overcome. Conversely, it could be an incorrect choice, a bad circumstance they create or a personal failure that ruins their reputation. Either way, every leader will come face to face with themselves. Or in the case of Moses and the burning bush, face to face with God.

moses and the burning bush

The Bible records this amazing interaction between God and Moses in Exodus chapters 3 and 4. In the encounter, Moses had a choice – let God use him or run and hide. He would have to face down his fears and chose to accept God’s calling on his life or not. His decision whether to lead or not would literally impact millions of people.

But first, to understand the significance of this event at the burning bush and what hung in the balance of his decision, some background details are needed.

The Miracle Child

Moses was a miracle child. Since the time of Joseph, the Israelites had grown in such great numbers in Egypt that it began to worry Pharaoh. So, he enslaved them, forcing them to build his mighty empire.

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Additionally, Pharaoh sought to do some population control. In an unthinkable decision, he instructs the Hebrew midwives to save all the girls which were born. However, every male child was to be killed by casting them into the river. It was into this environment that Moses was born.

In a miraculous turn of events (see Exodus 2:1-10), Pharaoh’s own daughter actually ends up raising Moses in the palace. God had seen to protect Moses from death (with the help of the midwives who defied Pharaoh’s order when Moses was born and hid him in a basket near the river where he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter). Now at this point, being royalty, Moses had it all.

But one day, he sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. In a rage, Moses rises up and kills the Egyptian. When word leaks out to Pharaoh this has happened, Moses flees for his life. He ends up settling in the land of Midian with a man named Jethro, marrying his daughter and becoming a farmer.

Moses and the Burning Bush

One day when out tending to the flock, Moses finds himself near Mount Horeb. In Exodus 3:2 we read that he saw a bush that burned with fire. Miraculously though, the bush was not consumed by the fire. It was the Lord appearing to him from within the flame.

The Lord called out to Moses from the burning bush and told him to approach. He announces to Moses that he is “the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3:6). Growing up, Moses had undoubtedly heard all the stories from his Hebrew brethren about this God. There was no mistaking who this was.

Then God revealed to Moses what he was about to do. He had heard the cries of affliction and pleas for help from the people. And now God was ready to act and deliver them from slavery.

Moses must have been in awe of God’s presence. But the next statement from God, he was not ready for. God said to Moses, “Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:10).

Questions from the Would-Be Leader

This was Moses’ defining moment. His current life was a long way from growing up in Pharaoh’s palace. He had settled in, started a family and was leading a quiet life.

How could he allow himself to be thrust back into a situation where surely his life would be in danger? Why was God choosing him?

That was actually the first question he asked God. “Who am I that I should go…?” (Ex. 3:11) In that statement he expresses some fear about himself. He’s a nobody. A farmer and shepherd. A murderer and fugitive from justice. Surely there are people more qualified for this task.

God responds by reassuring Moses that he would not be alone. God would be the one actually doing the saving.

But Moses wants to know about God as well. He has doubts about God and if the people will respond when Moses tells them that God has sent him. In essence, Moses needs convincing of who God is.

God doesn’t fail to give him the evidence he needs.  He says to tell the people that “I AM THAT I AM,” has sent you. That was a special designation for God that all the Hebrews would remember from their history. And then God lays out some specific details for Moses about what he is going to do to Pharaoh.

But Moses still isn’t convinced. He has fears about the people, his own people, the Hebrews. “What if they don’t listen and reject me? What if they think I’m a fake?” Once again, God responds by showing Moses some on-the-spot miracles that God would perform through him to convince the people and Pharaoh of God’s power.

Desperation Time Question

You would think at this point Moses is convinced. He should be ready to accept his role. He’s already asked God three questions and received some really good answers. But he has one last fear to overcome – his own ability.

He tells God that he is not a good public speaker – “…slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Ex. 4:10). How could he go before Pharaoh’s court and speak eloquently towards the situation at hand? He’d make a fool of himself, not being able to think fast enough and stumbling over his words.

Once again, God reassures Moses that he would give him the words to speak. Additionally, he would send Moses a wing man, his brother Aaron to support him and help with the speaking roles. Upon hearing this, Moses finally concedes. He accepts God’s calling on his life and sets out for Egypt.

Little did Moses realize as he left the burning bush that day, that he would become one of the greatest leaders in the entire Bible.

Moses, the Burning Bush and Fear

Throughout this whole encounter at the burning bush, we see Moses expressing his doubts and fears about the calling. We tend to come down on Moses for questioning God in this manner. But really, isn’t this typical of us as well – questioning why God is doing things a certain way?

And isn’t it also typical that we deal with our own fears? They may be different than Moses’. But we still have them to face and overcome.

And for leaders, it’s especially challenging. When you know people are counting on you, when the situation may be tense, when there may be sacrifices to make, all the fears become magnified. They can be paralyzing and keep you from moving forward.

So, we should commend Moses for facing down his fears in an open way. He clearly wasn’t afraid to express them to God, which in itself actually demonstrates courage. The honesty he demonstrated before God about his own fears helped him overcome them and gave him strength for the task ahead.

That’s actually the first step in how to overcome fear. Admit them honestly. Once the fears are defined, you will have the ability to confront them.

So the next time you are afraid about something God is calling you to do, express them. Take your fears to him. He’ll have the answers you need. And you’ll come out stronger on the other end.

Leave a Comment or Answer a Question Below: What is your big takeaway from the story of Moses and the burning bush? How do you face down your fears when God is calling you to what seems like an impossible task?

Image courtesy of Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

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