Moses and the Burning Bush: Bible Story Summary and Commentary
Why was the story of Moses and the burning bush included in the Bible? What can we learn from this account?
The demotion of Moses
After Moses killed the Egyptian who was beating the Israelite slave, he had to flee for his life as a fugitive. There he was on the precipice of greatness, the heir to the Pharaoh of Egypt and the next in line to rule the greatest nation on earth, but he had to run into the wilderness and escape because Pharaoh sought his life after discovering the murder of Moses. Egyptian. So there was Moses, now demoted to the rank of shepherd, and shepherds were the most despised jobs in the ancient world and to some extent they still are today in the Middle East. This is where we will pick up on the story of Moses and the burning bush.
The bush that burned
In Exodus 3: 1-2 it is said that Moses “Watched over the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, priest of Midian, and he led his flock west of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, but it was not consumed. Like anyone else, Moses was curious and he said “I will turn away to see this great spectacle, why the bush is not burnt.” When the Lord saw that he was turning away to see, God called him from the bush: “Moses, Moses! And he said, “Here I am. Then he said, ‘Do not come near; Take off your sandals from off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God ” (Ex 3: 3-6). It was not unusual to see fires in the wilderness, but what was different about it was the fact that it was a burning bush but the bush did not burn. When he approached the bush, God said to him, “Stay away, take your sandals off your feet. Why? God answers “for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” We see the image of God being a burning and consuming fire and perhaps this is why he appeared to Moses as a burning bush (Deut 4:24; Heb 12:29).
God reveals himself
God chose to reveal himself to Moses. When God identified himself as the God of your fathers and “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob,” Moses did what we would do… he “hid his face, for he had afraid to look at God. “This is a natural response because no one can look at God and live (Ex 33:20) and therefore we would expect Moses to hide his face and tremble with fear before God. When God identified with Moses, he wanted Moses to know that he was the God of his ancestors… the father of the nation from which Abraham’s descendants came. This must be familiar to him as he must have heard of Israel entering Egypt for a period of time. famine, to become a great nation God was going to use Moses, perhaps least likely to man, to deliver Israel from the most powerful nation on the face of the earth, Egypt.
God hears the cries of Israel
Why was God calling Moses? God said “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and I have heard their cry because of their masters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of this land into a good and vast land, a land flowing with milk and honey. (Ex 3: 7-8a). God told Moses that “The cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them” (Ex 3: 9). Today, God still calls men, women and children to come out of sin (which Egypt symbolizes) and snatches them from the hand of the Enemy (of which Pharaoh is symbolic) and brings them into the Promised Land ( the kingdom of heaven).
Moses, the reluctant liberator
God said to Moses “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. But Moses said to God, “Who am I to go and find Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said: “But I will be with you, and this will be the sign for you that I sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain” (Ex 3: 10-12). Moses is reluctant and we shouldn’t be surprised. Remember Moses was sentenced to death when he fled Egypt and is also supposed to face Pharaoh (the same?) And tell him to leave the whole nation free !? It’s a tall order for any man. This is why God said to Moses, “I will be with you.
God reveals his name: I AM
Moses is also reluctant to go because people might not believe him and they will ask “What is his name? This is why Moses asks “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me: ‘What is his name? what will I tell them (Ex 3:13). God says “I am who I am”. And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I have sent me to you.’ God also said to Moses: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob sent me to you. It is my name forever, and this is how I will be remembered in all generations ”(Ex 3, 14-15). It is the covenant name of God. I AM means the one who exists in oneself or literally “I AM that I AM”. God reveals himself to Moses as the Uncaused One. We are a human being… we were not yet born… we have a finite existence and there was a time when we did not exist. This is not the case with God because He has always existed and does not need anyone other than Him to exist. It’s hard to understand, but that’s why I’m finished and He is infinite.
God still speaks to us today but it is through His written Word the Bible. We no longer need a new revelation because what we have in the scriptures is sufficient and effective to save those who would repent and trust in Him. What more do we need to know because “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” ( Duet 29:29).
Another Patheos Read to Check Out: What Jesus Really Was Like: A Look at the Biblical Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is the pastor of Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the senior editor of What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage and energize Christians and answer questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.