Turn Aside and See

Ohio Evenings


When I was a little boy I would lie down on the grass and look up at the stars.  I can still feel the cool autumn Ohio evenings as I marveled at the glorious display of a sparkling sidereal sky.  I would talk to God and now and then see a shooting star and believed that he was responding to my prayers. It was my way of searching for God. Later, I would come to faith believing that Jesus was God who died and rose again on the third day.  

Oh to have the wonder and curiosity of a child once again, after all Jesus did say, Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it (Mark 10:15)?

The affairs and seasons of life oftentimes rob us, or diminish our childlike curiosity and our hearts become a little colder and our eyes somewhat dull.  Yes, the Apostle Paul said, When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up childish ways (1 Corinthians 13:11).  However, he was not talking about dismissing an insatiable desire for God.




To be honest the pursuit of God can be like walking on a mountain path in a heavy mist: you step forward only to discover you are standing on the edge of a steep cliff.  Or, like a person being in a dark room for a long time that suddenly goes out into the sunlight and is temporarily blinded.  One must gradually get use to the light – so it is when we begin to experience the mystery of God. 

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.  He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”  When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush (Exodus 3:2-4).


Earthly Fire


Looking from Moses’ point of view he simply saw something that was somewhat familiar and it gradually dawned on him what was taking place.  He thought it was an earthly fire and wanted to come closer to see. 


Turned Aside


As Moses pondered this fire he began to realize that it was more than just a fire.  He “turned aside” and it was at that point God called to him out of the midst of the bush.  Since this was Moses’ first contact with the Almighty, God purposed to reveal himself gradually in order not to overwhelm this curious nomad.

Like the person walking into the sunlight who must take it gradually getting use to the light, so it is true with spiritual light. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures that was available to the Apostles during the time of Christ) in Hosea 6:3(4) reads:

Let us follow on to know the Lord: we shall find him ready as the morning, and he will come to us as the early and latter rain to the earth.

Simply, the text is saying, “let us know how to pursue the goal of knowing the Lord.”  Not only does the verse tell us how to pursue but also it explains the nature of it.  The pursuit is not all at once but gradually like the dawn that slowly turns into a sunrise, or into the light of morning.


A Tower


Later on in Moses’ journey he would encounter the pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21).  Actually, this was a single pillar (14:24), a columnar cloud enveloping a fire that could be clearly seen at night.  In the daylight the pillar would become opaque seeing only intimations of the fire.  This revelation of God to Moses and the Israelites was more substantial than the burning bush – a tower of mingling light and darkness.



A Mountain


Finally, Moses follows after God in a thick darkness at the summit of Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:21). The tribes of Israel were approximately 12 miles at a distance (Numbers 33:49) while Moses ascended up the mountain. 

The text suggests Moses experienced a progression of clouds, or darkness, until he entered “the thick cloud (arafel).”  Similarly, Solomon says, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness (ha’ arafel, 1 Kings 8:12).”   It is said that all the Prophets all prophesied through “dark glass” and that Moses saw through “clear glass.”  This same cloud appeared at the Transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17; Luke 9). 


Light to Dark to Light


Moses progresses from light into darkness; from the known to the unknown; from partial knowledge into a greater knowledge. Moses’ journey started with a little light, then experiencing light mixed with a dark unknown, then finally into a depth of overwhelming revelation, both known and unknown. 




It is like looking up at the stars, then “turning aside” we gaze upon the light and begin to see more clearly the celestial, God speaks and reveals himself to us and we begin a journey that embraces the mystery of God.  The Greek noun mysterion (mystery) is joined with the verb myein, meaning, “to close the eyes or mouth,” profoundly being in awe of God beyond measure.  We don’t even know how to pronounce his name.  God is so much more than the object of our knowledge.  He is the cause of our wonder.  Psalm 8:1 David sings, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

The prophets understood that God is mysterious and wonderful beyond our full comprehension.  The early church worshipped meeting daily, praying, reading scripture and many laying down their lives confessing how majestic and wonderful the Lord is to them personally. They changed the world!


To See


May we like Moses, the Prophets, the Apostles, and the early church “turn aside to see” with childlike faith and curiosity, with great determination climbing the mountain, starting with little understanding and eventually embracing the mystery of God.  This mystery is revealed for our understanding, which we can never exhaust – our eyes closed, and yet fully opened.  God revealed as person and complete love – namely, the Lord Jesus!