Moses and the Burning Bush

Workshop Leaders’ Bible Study

This workshop leader’s Bible study is a historical, theological, and contextual introduction to the “Moses and the Burning Bush” rotation of Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest workshop rotation program.  It is intended to provide workshop leaders with:

        A historical context for understanding the Bible story.

        A Biblical context for reading and teaching the story.

        The theological basis for the concepts to be taught to the children.

In Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest program, workshop leaders attend a one-hour Bible study two weeks prior to the start of a new rotation.  This Bible study helps workshop leaders understand how the concepts to be taught to the children are derived from the Bible story and how the lessons in the rotation fit together to reinforce the concepts.  It also provides an opportunity for the workshop leaders to grow in their own faith and understanding of the Bible.

It will be helpful to have a chalkboard, whiteboard, or flip chart for writing down questions or observations during the Bible study.

Note:  This is not a comprehensive study of the text, but only a few notes to help provide context and background for workshop leaders.


Exodus 3:1-4:17

Memory verse for this rotation:

Matthew 28:20 (last part)

"I will be with you always, even until the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20b, CEV).


1.  We don't have to be perfect to do God's work.

2.  God can call us anywhere, anytime, for any reason.

3.  God gives us the ability to do God's work.

4.  God is with us always.

5.  Wherever we meet God is a holy place.

Prayer Concerns & Prayer

        If workshop leaders do not know each other, give them an opportunity to introduce each other and say which workshop they will be leading.

        Begin the Bible study by asking for prayer concerns and praying for God’s guidance as teachers begin a new rotation.

Reading the text

Ask a workshop leader to read the text aloud.  For this rotation, you might want to split the reading into two parts.  It is a long lesson.  Ask the workshop leaders what questions came to mind as they heard the story or read it before the Bible study.  Write down any questions that arise and will need to be answered during the Bible study.

Historical, Theological, and Biblical Contexts

Historical Context of Exodus

No one knows exactly when the historical events of the Exodus took place, but some date it to around 1290 bce, when Rameses II ruled.[1]  What might be more significant is the dating of the compiling and editing of these stories into their final form, which probably happened at the time of the Babylonian exile, around 587 bce, as Birch, Brueggemann, et al. state in A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament.[2]  It was edited into its final form at a time when the Jewish people most needed a story of hope in God’s faithfulness to God’s people.  In our time it has still been used as a story of hope to people who have needed the reassurance of God’s presence, as in the struggle against slavery.[3]

Biblical Context

The starting point for understanding what is happening in the Exodus story of bondage; confrontation with Pharaoh, and liberation (Chapters 1-15), is Genesis.  In Exodus, God fulfills or remembers several promises made in Genesis:

Promise made:

Promise fulfilled or remembered:

Genesis 1:26-28

Exodus 1:1-7

Genesis 12:1-3

Exodus 2:23-25

God is the God of creation and covenant and it is God’s fidelity to God’s creation and covenant that motivate God to rescue the Israelites.  It involves three main characters: Pharaoh, Moses, and Yahweh.


Who is Pharaoh?

In the context of the creation story, this is a story of good versus evil in cosmic proportions.  It is the story of a God whose creative and covenantal purpose—that (1) humankind be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and that (2) through the nation of Israel the whole world be blessed—is challenged by an oppressive political state: Egypt under the rule of Pharaoh.  This oppressive state institutes a policy of near genocide (killing newborn Hebrew boys).  God confronts and challenges this opposition to God’s creative and covenantal purpose through human agency: first of all the Hebrew midwives and then Moses.

Who is Moses?

1.      An Israelite (Exodus 2:1-4)

2.      Raised in Pharaoh’s palace (Exodus 2:5-10)

3.      Who is sensitive to the injustice of the Hebrews’ situation, but responds to it violently (Exodus 2:11-15)

4.      Curious enough to “turn aside and look at this great sight” (Exodus 3:3).  See the midrash in Does God Have a Big Toe?[4]

Who is Yahweh?

Yahweh is usually translated Lord, in small caps.  In Hebrew it is spelled hvhy and pronounced Adonai, which is a Hebrew word meaning “my lord.”  No one is sure exactly what Yahweh means, but it is derived from the verb “to be.”  It is variously translated, “I am who I am,” “I am who I will be,” or “I will cause to be what I will cause to be.”  The gist of this is that the very name of God is connected with the act of creation: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).

Jews consider the name Jahweh too sacred to pronounce and in Hebrew texts it is written without vowels.  Walter Brueggemann, however, suggests that substituting Lord for Yahweh is an unsatisfactory solution for two reasons: (1) it implies masculinity where none is implied in the Hebrew text and (2) it obscures the impact of he holy name where it is used.  Because God sometimes is referred to as “Adonai” using Adonai in place of Yahweh obscures the use of Yahweh.

Water Brueggemann say that Yahweh is “the God who intervenes powerfully on behalf of the poor and the marginal in the face of oppressive power.”[5]  “Yahweh is a God who forcefully, decisively, and willingly enters into solidarity with a group of helpless people.”[6]

The Story

     “Horeb” is Mount Sinai, where God will give the law and make a covenant with the Israelites.

     “Come no closer” Rabbi Steve Sager of Durham suggests that this does not mean, “keep away from me” or “don’t get any closer to me” but instead means, “The place you are standing right now is the perfect place.  You don’t need to move any further to get to holy ground.  You are standing on holy ground right now.”  In other words, Moses is just fine where he is (and, as we will see later, as he is).

     “I am the God of your father” God is identifying himself as the God who makes promises.

     Verses 7-10: Notice how active God is in these verses: I have observed, I have heard, I know their sufferings (who else knows our sufferings?), I have come down to deliver them, to bring them up, I have seen, I will send.

     Notice the objections and answers:

Moses Objection

God’s Answer

Who am I?

I will be with you (note use of “to be” reference to holy name)

What is your name? (credentials; control)

Yahweh; the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac

What shall I say to them [Israelites]?

verses 16-22

What if they don’t believe me?

Staff to snake; leprous hand; water to blood (significance of blood: life)

O my Lord (adonai) I have never been eloquent (but he does put up a pretty good argument against God!)

I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.

Please send someone else

I will send Aaron

God is willing to work with Moses just as he is, to bolster his weaknesses, to accompany him in the task, to send him a partner who will help him in the task.  See Pat Brown’s sermon about God working through those who are imperfect in Preaching from the Pew.[7]

Theological Context

The Faith Quest lessons that have been written for the “Moses and the Burning Bush” rotation bring particular focus to two doctrines of the Reformed faith: revelation (how do we know God?) and vocation (to what does God call us?)  The children will have the opportunity to discuss these doctrines, though not in these terms, but in terms that are age appropriate, in these workshops.

Doctrine of Revelation

The doctrine of revelation is explored particularly in the Good News and Creation Station rotations, as the children consider the following:


From Creation Station:


“Explain to the children that the burning bush in this story is a mystery.  We do not know how God spoke from the burning bush or how a bush could be burning but not burnt up.  Moses was a prophet of God, and like many prophets, he had visions through which he was able to understand what it is God wanted him or the Israelites to do.  The important thing for us to remember is that God is always with us and God still speaks to us in many different ways:

a)      Scripture

b)      Preaching

c)      Worship

d)      Hymns, anthems, music in worship

e)      Faith Quest

f)        Retreats

g)      Sacraments: baptism and communion

h)      Prayer

i)        Dreams

j)        Visions

k)      Conscience (the “still small voice within us”)”


From Good News:


“Explain to the children that anywhere we meet God is a holy place.  Bushes don’t need to be burning, nor do we have to be tending sheep in a Middle Eastern desert. Ask the children to identify ways that we meet or speak with God today.  The intent is to focus the children on their personal relationship with God.  Write down their answers on a whiteboard.   Answers to focus on are 

l)        Scripture

m)    Preaching

n)      Worship

o)      Hymns, anthems, music in worship

p)      Faith Quest

q)      Retreats

r)       Sacraments: baptism and communion

s)       Prayer

t)        Dreams

u)      Visions

v)      Conscience (the “still small voice within us”)”

Doctrine of Vocation

The doctrine of vocation is explored in nearly all of the workshops except Creation Station:


From Antioch Arcade Reflection Time:


“Tell the children to write at the top of the page, “Here I am.” Remind them that this is what Moses said when God first called to him.  Then ask them to list three things they are good at, and three things they are not good at. Remind them that all our abilities come from God. God takes us as we are, just as God took Moses. God will use the talents and skills we already have and will give us the other abilities we need to do God’s work. “


From Apostles Playhouse Reflection Time:


1.      “Does Moses think he is ready to do what God has asked? Does God think Moses is ready? 

Moses doesn’t think he can do it. He asks, “Who am I to go to a king?” and “Suppose no one believes me?” Then Moses says that he is not a good speaker.

God thinks Moses is ready and helps him with encouragement, showing him he can do miracles and finally by letting Moses’ brother come too.

2.      Has God ever asked you to do difficult things that you feel unsure of?

Examples of difficult things God asks us to do may be forgiving our enemies, doing the right things all the time etc. We can talk to God like Moses did and he will be with us.”


From Holywood Reflection time:


“Does God want us to work for God? How might we carry out God’s work? What can kids do? Brainstorm ideas for being kind, helpful to others, friends, parents, siblings. (Be kind, smile, make friends, give gifts to Family Ties, pennies for hunger, Faith Quest offering, WIHN, come to Faith Quest and learn about God, obey parents, pray for others) Write the ideas on the whiteboard so the children can see. 


Give each child a precut paper flame. Tell the children that they are going to put flames on the bush to make it burn. Ask each child to write his/her name and write or draw one idea to pledge to carry out God’s work.


Ask the children to take off their shoes and then come forward, quietly and holy and paste their flame offering on the bush. Optional: The children can announce their pledge as they come forward. You may wish to have some quiet meditative music playing in the background to help with the mood. Use glue sticks to paste the flames on the poster of the bush. The shepherds can assist.


Each week another class we will add to the flames until it is a big burning bush by the end of the rotation unit. The flames will proclaim all the ways that Faith Quest children can carry out God’s work in everyday life.”


From Praising Puppets Reflection Time:


  1. “For the younger children (first and second graders) ask them to write the following title on their page. “I can help God.”  Then ask them to draw a picture of themselves doing something helpful for someone else.
  2. For older children ask them to write a list of at least four things they can do to help God.  If children are having trouble with this—you could narrow the focus by asking what jobs they could do to be helpful for others at school, at church, or at home. “

Workshop Summaries

Ask each workshop leader to summarize his or her workshop.  As they do so, point out the concepts that each lesson reinforces.  Ask workshop leaders if they have any questions about the logistics or practical application of their lesson.

General Overview of the Story

        Background – Holywood

        Sequence – Apostles Playhouse

We don't have to be perfect to do God's work. (vocation)

        Antioch Arcade

        Apostles Playhouse

        Creation Station

        Praising Puppets

God can call us anywhere, anytime, for any reason. (vocation)

        Creation Station

        Good News


        Praising Puppets

God gives us the ability to do God's work. (vocation)

        Antioch Arcade

        Apostles Playhouse


God is with us always. (revelation)

        Antioch Arcade

        Apostles Playhouse

        Creation Station

        Good News

Wherever we meet God is a holy place. (revelation)

        Good News


Review Questions

Return to the questions that were gathered at the start of the hour.  Have they been answered?  Are there any further questions about the Bible story or about the lessons?

Optional Lectio Divina exercise

Teaching is about sharing our faith with children.  We share the faith by:

        Sharing scripture

        Sharing our theological tradition

        Sharing our own experience of faith

Workshop leaders have a unique opportunity to share their own experience of faith because they have five weeks to dwell with the story just as the children do.  If you have time at the end of the hour, give workshop leaders an opportunity to share their own responses to the story in the following lectio divina exercise:

1.      Read Isaiah 9:2-7, listening to the text and savoring a word or phrase that beckons you, something that addresses you personally, stirs you, unnerves you, comforts or disturbs you.  Dwell with the word a few minutes.  Use mutual invitation (see below) to briefly share the word or image.

2.      Read Isaiah 9:2-7 a second time and think about where you meet God.  Where or when do you feel closest to God?  Has there been a time when you knew you were called to a specific task?  Are there tasks, or vocations, to which all Christians are called?  Use mutual invitation to briefly share the experience.

3.      Read Isaiah 9:2-7 a third time and discern how the word or the image, memory, or feeling evoked by it relates to your current situation.  How does it connect with your life right now, your home, work, community, or the world?  Reflect for a few minutes on this connection.  How is God present to you in this scripture?  What is God like for you through this scripture?  To what is God calling you through this scripture?  Use mutual invitation to share your response.

Mutual Invitation

Mutual invitation is a process of community Bible study developed and explained by Eric H.F. Law in The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 1993).

In order to ensure that everyone who wants to share has the opportunity to speak, we will proceed in the following way:

The leader will share first.  After that person has spoken, he or she invites another person to share.  Who you invite does not need to be the person next to you.  After the next person has spoken, that person is given the privilege to invite another to share.  If you do not want to say anything, say, “pass” and proceed to invite another person to share.  We will do this until everyone has been invited.

Other Questions?

Closing Prayer

[1] “Exodus” in Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Paul J. Achtemeier, ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 1985), p. 289.

[2] Bruce C. Birch, Walter Brueggemann, Terrence Fretheim, and David L. Petersen, A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999), pp. 103-104.

[3] Francis J. Grimke, “A Resemblance and a Contrast . . .” in The Heart of Black Preaching by Cleophus J. LaRue (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2000), pp. 147-160.  Biographical sketch of Cleophus LaRue is from American Sermons, Michael Warner, comp. (New York: Literary Classics, 1999), pp. 914-915.

[4] Marc Gellman, Does God Have a Big Toe? (New York: Harper and Row, 1989), pp. 65-71.

[5] Walter Brueggemann, A Social Reading of the Old Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994), p. 55.

[6] Ibid., p. 56.

[7] Patricia G. Brown, Preaching from the Pew (Louisville, KY: Geneva Press: 1998), pp. 61-68.