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Turn Aside

by Tim O'Hearn

Programming a video game must be a pretty intense task. At seemingly every instant a player has one of at least four options: forward, back, left, or right. If he is going down a hallway those might be limited to the first two. However, when he reaches another hallway his options go up again. The outcome of the game may depend on which option the player chooses. To simplify matters, if the player is going forward in a hall, he may pass a chest. He now has two options: proceed or open the chest. The chest may contain treasure or weapons. It may contain something to restore or enhance his strength. On the other hand, it may contain poison, or a bomb, or something else that could make him lose the game. So the option remains. Does he open the chest or not? People face similar choices in life. Moses did.

Moses was walking along minding his own business, which is to say he was minding his sheep. As he walked along he saw a bush. The bush was on fire. There might be any number of things to cause a bush in the middle of a deserted place to catch fire. Maybe a passing animal dislodged a rock, which struck another, which caused a spark, which set a dry bush on fire. Nothing exceptionally remarkable about that. Moses could proceed on his way. But Moses turned his head. He looked.

When he looked, Moses noticed that the fire did not consume the bush. Now this is a different matter altogether. This might be a treasure. This might be something worth investigating; or it might be a problem. Moses was faced with a decision. Continue, or investigate. Follow the sheep, or follow a different path. Instead of just looking, Moses turns off of his path. Not only that, he speaks to himself, which may have been an occupational hazard of eighty-year-old sheepherders. “I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.” (Ex 3:3) He made an active choice to alter his direction, and thus altered his life.

“And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses.” (Ex 3:4) What would have happened if Moses had not turned aside? What if Moses had just turned his head, but kept going? This verse seems to indicate that nothing would have happened. Looking back, we can probably say the programmer (who was in the bush) would have found someone else to step aside. After all, Aaron was already on his way to meet Moses (Ex 4:14); maybe he would have changed his path. As far as Moses is concerned, however, if he had not turned aside, nothing would have happened. He would have contentedly continued as a shepherd, perhaps for another forty years. He would not be the great hero of faith that he became. In fact, he probably would be one of the many names forgotten to history. But he turned aside, and God reacted to his reaction. God spoke to him.

All of this begs a simple question. Do we fail to hear God speak because we don’t stop and choose to alter our paths? Curiosity may be inborn in people, but it is usually overbalanced by a sense of habit. We take the same road to work every day. We watch the same television shows at the same times. We eat the same foods on particular days. We go to bed at the same time, arise at the same time, and live our lives the same way every day of every week of every year. And if something comes along that is curious, we may remark on it, but most people will not turn aside for it. Drop a penny (or some other virtually insignificant coin in another country) on the sidewalk. Then wait to see how few people would stop to pick it up.

In the same way, most people do not listen to God because God never talks to them. God never talks to them because he is just a little off the path, waiting in a burning bush. It is only those who step out of their rut to whom he speaks. But when he speaks, it can be a treasure to the person who turns. Three steps may be all it takes. But be careful. As with Moses, a conversation with God could alter the course of your whole life.