One morning this fall I sat outside attempting to pray, but found myself instead preoccupied by a practical problem.
I couldn’t help looking at the neighbor’s burning bush, in full autumn color, blazing with the deepest, brightest red of all the autumn foliage. Not only that, but a light breeze was stirring the bush as though all its leaves had something to say—or sing. What music they must be making!
Moses saw the burning bush, but I saw a bush burning not only with fiery color but with an almost intelligent wind. And I felt God’s presence, the same God and the same presence as Moses knew. In that moment this God spoke to me, saying, You’re worried about your little problem, but meanwhile something much bigger is going on.
To know the Lord is to know something—Someone—much bigger than any of our problems. And like Moses wandering on the backside of the desert, often we encounter this God in the smallest, most unobtrusive ways.
Baruch was the scribe of the prophet Jeremiah. Like the writer in the scene described above (myself), and like Martha in the New Testament, Baruch was “worried about many things” (Lk 10:41). To Jeremiah he complained, “I am wearied with my groaning and I find no rest.” And then the Lord spoke to Jeremiah, giving him a message for Baruch. I imagine Baruch taken aback, shocked, perhaps lifting his pen in mid-sentence to exclaim, “What! A message for me?” For years he’d been writing down Jeremiah’s blistering prophecies for Israel and the surrounding nations. But all at once the divine spotlight was focussed on the scribe himself.
“Yes, Baruch,” said Jeremiah. “Write this down. This is what the Lord says: Behold, everything I have built throughout this land I am destroying, and everything I have planted I am plucking up. At a time such as this, do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh.”
Ouch! Baruch’s ears must have burned as brightly as a burning bush in autumn. I imagine him digesting this word from the Lord for a good long time, indeed for the rest of his life. For the Lord added a postscript to His prophecy, promising Baruch that despite the calamitous times in which he lived, wherever he went God would spare his life.
All this is in Jeremiah 45, the shortest chapter (just five verses) in that long book. As a writer myself, this chapter speaks to me, too, especially as the Lord drew my attention to it at a time when, like Baruch, I was sunk in worry—specifically, about my career. But the Lord said: Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. Because even while I fussed, something much bigger was going on: Russia and Ukraine were locked in war, Israel had just invaded Gaza, the worldwide climate was collapsing … on and on.
And something much, much bigger than any of these was also going on: Quietly, beautifully, mysteriously, the leaves of the burning bush were stirring, as behind the scenes the Sovereign Lord was indicating—for those with eyes to see—that as always He remains in control, and will grant His indescribable peace and protection to all who trust in Him.
(Photo by Karen Mason: Burning Bush in High Park)
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