At Bible College in New Zealand in the late 1970’s I was advised to read Major Ian Thomas’ book, “The Saving Life of Christ”, and in particular, his chapter titled “Any Old Bush Will Do”. I followed that advice and am so glad I did.
Let me share with you some of the significant impact of that chapter.
Major Thomas deals with the life of Moses, pointing out that he had every advantage to prepare him to be the Lord’s servant. He was raised with all the wisdom of Egypt. In terms of worldly preparation he was about as equipped as a natural man could be to do just about anything on the planet.
Moses was also prepared by his spiritual heritage to be a deliverer of the Israelites. Yet when Moses stepped out to do his thing, going to the aid of a fellow Israelite by killing an Egyptian, his whole life fell into a heap. Instead of being a deliverer he became a fugitive. Instead of rallying all his resources to serve God, he proved that he had nothing to offer, despite all that he had gained.
Moses burned out in one short blaze of emotion. At age forty, with decades of supreme preparation equipping him to be a leader par excellence, Moses burned it all in one hasty action.
For the next forty years of his life Moses was on the back-side of the desert, in Midian, looking after sheep in a remote wilderness region. He lost the dainty delicacies of Pharaoh’s household. He lost the pomp and circumstance of his stately position. He lost contact with the people he had hoped to save. He also lost his arrogance and even his self-confidence to be of any use at all.
Then he saw that bush. There, on the side of a mountain, was a bush that just kept on burning. It caught his attention until he could not resist going to inspect this phenomenon. What was it with this bush that it didn’t just become a heap of dusty ash? How could this miserable, scrubby bush blaze on with such persistence, for such a long time?
Moses had burned out in one blaze of failure. This bush burned and burned and burned. It was not burnt out in an instant, even though that what we would expect from a bush in the wilderness.
When Moses approached the bush, God called to Him from the flames and changed the entire direction of his life. Moses, the one-time self-assured and self-proclaimed agent of God, was now standing face to face with the presence of God. And in that blazing presence God gave him the commissioning that was all divine, and not motivated by the human breast.
Ian Thomas imagines a conversation between God and Moses, in which God answers the question that must have been in Moses’ mind. How could a bush of no real substance burn with such enduring flame and persistent blaze? What did that bush possess that it could perform as no other bush could?
God’s reply is, “Do you see that bush over there? That scruffy, scraggy looking thing – THAT bush would have done. Do you see this beautiful looking bush, so stately and fine – THIS bush would have done. For you see, Moses, any old bush will do – ANY old bush – if only God is in the bush!”
“Moses you learned all of Egypt’s wisdom and became confident in yourself. You thought you were some bush! But you burned out and have been a heap of ashes for 40 years.”
“If this bush that you admire were dependent on its substance to keep burning it would have burned out in no time – it would be a heap of ashes like you. But it is not the bush that sustains the flame, it is God in the bush, and so ANY old bush will do!”
Major Thomas points out that many of God’s men were prepared by failure. Their failure disconnected them from self-reliance. It was almost a pre-requisite, to erase self-confidence and ready them for reliance on God. So, even failure is not a problem for God. Rather, it is part of the preparation program.
Have you notched up a failure or two? Have you been faced with the cold reality of your limitations and ineptitude? Have you managed to burn yourself out in a short-lived blaze of hopeful ambition?
If so, then you are ready to go to the burning bush. You are ready for that life-changing revelation that it is not the bush that does the job, but God who empowers the bush. It is God who works in us, both to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
I have met some strange bushes in my day. Often those bushes are treated with suspicion by on-lookers. Even now there are people who are offended at Todd Bentley and the Lakeland, Florida Revival, since Todd and his team don’t match people’s expectations. I have met people who seem too pompous and others who seem too uncouth. I have met people who are too lacking in culture and education and others who are too preoccupied with both. Yet I have seen God move through all kinds of bushes.
You may be the strangest bush ever created, but if God is empowering you and burning through you, then you can have as much impact on a nation or generation as that simple bush had on Moses and the nation of Israel 3,500 years ago.