Moses and Burning Bush Paintings

by Matt Carter

If you're not familiar with "reading" a painting or other work of visual art, the National Endowment for the Humanities put together a helpful how-to guide that you may wish to check out.

Let me encourage you to read this page by Victoria Jones entitled "The art of contemplative seeing (as modeled by Moses)," which illuminates for us some of these passages we're encountering in Genesis where characters like Jacob and Laban are getting these weird "visions." What do these mean? 

Jones uses the example of Moses to discuss this way of seeing, but she alludes to this occurring throughout the Bible. When we encounter these visions and dreams, we might be quick to dismiss them as just something that people did back then. They took stuff like dreams seriously, while we've progressed past that. Setting aside the rather large role that Sigmund Freud and his dream elaborations continues to play in our culture, allow yourself to imagine that there might be something more to these visions and dreams than daydreaming and make-believe. 

"When Moses first sees the bush, he simply receives the visual data: bush on fire. But then as he starts to compute what he sees he realizes that hey, the flames are engulfing it, but it’s not being consumed; this is a “great sight” that deserves a closer look. So he turns aside from his intended path to dwell more consciously and deliberately with the strange bush. It is only then—when Moses has stood still long enough—that the voice of God addresses him. And he is utterly transformed by the encounter that follows, whereby he is called to liberate his people from slavery in Egypt and lead them in settling a new land. The story of Moses’s divine calling suggests that God rewards attentiveness; he is present to those who take time to slow down and notice things."

I know that one of the primary reasons that I don't usually do this myself is that I'm busy. At least, I tell myself that I'm too busy to pause and pay attention to God, but if I'm honest I know that this isn't really possible. How can a creature be too busy for the Creator?

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