Chapter 3

Moses and the Burning Bush

    • One day, Moses was shepherding a flock of sheep that belonged to his father- in- law Jethro (Jethro is also called Reuel). He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb (another name for Mount Sinai), which is the mountain of God.

      • Guzik notes, “For 40 years Moses lived as an obscure shepherd in the desert of Midian. At this point his life was so humble that he didn’t even have a flock of sheep to call his own – the sheep belonged to his father-in-law.”

    • Then, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a blazing fire within a bush.

      • Who appeared to Moses? Does this passage (Exodus 3:2) refer to an angel? If not, then who does it refer to?

              • Poole’s commentary explains well, “Not a created angel, but the Angel of the covenant, Christ Jesus, who then and ever was God, and was to be man, and to be sent into the world in our flesh, as a messenger from God…That this Angel was no creature, plainly appears by the whole context, and specially by his saying, ‘I am the Lord’. The angels never speak that language in Scripture, but ‘I am sent from God’, and, ‘I am thy fellow servant.’”

                • Clarke has this to say, ““Not a created angel certainly, for he is called Jehovah, Exodus 3:4 and has the most expressive attributes of the Godhead applied to him…Yet he is an angel, malach, a messenger, in whom was the name of God….And who is this but Jesus, the Leader, Redeemer, and Saviour of all mankind?”

              • This was no angel. Angels never refer to themselves as Lord. Yet, He who spoke from the burning bush is referred to as the messenger of the Lord. This was none other than Jesus Christ.

    • As Moses watched, he saw that although the bush was on fire, it didn’t burn up. He thought to himself, “I’ve got to go get a closer look at this. Why isn’t the bush burning up?”

      • Some individuals try to rationalize miracles recorded in the Bible by explaining them in “natural” ways. While I agree that God has worked through natural processes in some cases, I also believe wholeheartedly that God works supernaturally as well. I like what Kaiser says about Moses’ explanation of what he saw, “To explain what happened here as a temporary mirage of reflected sunlight on some red leaves or a campfire of some Bedouin or even the phenomenon of Saint Elmo’s fire is to substitute our experience for Moses’ forty years in that area and his estimate that it was indeed unusual.”

    • When the Lord saw that He had Moses’ attention, He called to him, “Moses, Moses!”

    • “Here I am,” answered Moses.

    • The Lord replied, “Don’t come any closer. Take your sandals off because you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

    • Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.

    • The Lord continued, “I have seen how miserable my people are in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their harsh slave drivers. Their cries for help have come to me and I have seen how they are oppressed by the Egyptians. I have come to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them into a land of their own. A land that is fertile, spacious, and flowing with milk and honey- the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites currently occupy this land. Go. I am sending you to the Pharaoh. You will lead my people out of Egypt.”

          • Then Moses asked, “If I go to the Israelites and tell them that the God of their fathers has sent me, and they ask what Your name is, what will I tell them?”

            “God did not just then decide to give Israel the land of Canaan. It was the same land that He promised to the patriarchs some 400 years previous to this…In Exodus 3:8 God said, I have come down to deliver them. Then at Exodus 3:10 God said, Come now, therefore, and I will send you. If God said He would deliver them, whey did He use or need Moses at all? This shows that God often uses and chooses to rely on human instruments…God could do it all by Himself, but it is most often God’s plan to work with and through people, as we are workers together with Him (2 Corinthians 6:1).”(Guzik)

    • Moses then asked God, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?”

      • “40 years before, Moses thought he knew who he was: he was a prince of Egypt and a Hebrew, God’s chosen instrument to deliver Israel. After forty years of chasing sheep around the desert, Moses didn’t have the same self-sure confidence that he once had.” (Guzik)

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible makes this observation, “Moses first protested that he was unworthy of such a great task, but God responded that this was not the issue. Human worthiness is of no significance if God’s presence is with that person.”

    • God answered, “I will certainly be with you and this will be your sign that I am the one who sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “Moses, in his response to God, presented four reasons why he was not the one to fulfill God’s call. Although each reason supposedly relates to Moses and his ability, God’s answers show that they were really questions about God.”

    • Then Moses asked, “If I go to the Israelites and tell them that the God of their fathers has sent me, and they ask what Your name is, what will I tell them?”

    • God replied, “I AM WHO I AM. Tell the Israelites that I AM has sent you. Yahweh, the God of your fathers- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has sent me. This is My eternal name for you to remember for all generations.”

      • “This name speaks of a God who is self-sufficient, self-existent, all encompassing, and without limitations, the one being in the universe who is not dependent on something else for his existence.” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

      • Meyer puts it well, “There is no equivalent for God but God. If you place God on the one side of your symbol of equation (=), there is nothing to put on the other but Himself.”

      • Guzik notes, “This is a divine title that Jesus took upon Himself often, clearly identifying Himself with the voice from the burning bush: Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I Am [He], you will die in your sins. (John 8:24); Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I Am [He], and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.” (John 8:28); Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.” (John 8:58); Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I Am (John 13:19); Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I Am [He].” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am [He],” they drew back and fell to the ground. (John 18:4-6).”

      • The HCSB points out that the terminology of this verse, Exodus 3:14, is twisted by some Theosophy based sects. These sects vary in their beliefs, but theosophy is described generally by Brittanica as, “The various forms of theosophical speculation have certain common characteristics. The first is an emphasis on mystical experience. Theosophical writers hold that there is a deeper spiritual reality and the direct contact with that reality can be established through intuition, meditation, revelation, or some other state transcending normal human consciousness.” HCSB adds that these sects teach, “…that through a series of secret disciplines humans can attain I AM consciousness or experience their oneness with God (pantheism). Examples of these sects would be the Saint German Foundation, Church Universal and Triumphant, as well as the extremely fast growing New Age movement. However, HCSB points out that, “Exodus 3:14 actually teaches a distinction between God and humans. God alone is the eternal, self-existing one. Humans are created beings. While we may have a relationship with God, we never attain godhood ourselves.”

    • God continued, “Go and call the elders of Israel together and tell them: Yahweh, the God of your fathers appeared to me and said, ‘I have been watching you and I have seen how you have been treated by the Egyptians. I have promised to rescue you from your oppression in Egypt and bring you to a land flowing with milk and honey- the land that now belongs to the Canaanites, Hittites,Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.’ They will listen to you. Then you and the elders must go to Pharaoh and tell him that you have met with the Lord, the God of the Hebrews. Ask him to allow you to go into the wilderness for three days to offer sacrifices the the Lord. I already know, however, that Pharaoh won’t let you go unless a strong hand forces him to. So, I will raise My hand and strike Egypt with miracles that I will perform. Then Pharaoh will let you leave. I will make the Egyptians react so favorably to you that you won’t leave empty handed. Every Israelite woman will ask her Egyptian and foreign neighbors for gold, silver, and fine clothing. Your sons and daughters will dress in what the Egyptians give you and this is how you will take their wealth from them.”

      • “God knew this from the beginning. He knew what it would take to move the heart of Pharaoh, and the plagues and calamities to come where engineered for a specific purpose and they were not haphazardly planned.” (Guzik)

      • Was God being disingenuous by initially requesting that Pharaoh allow His people three days in the wilderness?

        • No. First we must remember what Guzik noted above: that God already knew what Pharaoh’s response was going to be. Guzik continues, “God presented the smaller request to Pharaoh first so that the request would be as appealing and as easy to accept as possible. He did this so Pharaoh would have no excuse at all for refusing God and hardening his heart.”

      • Another popular criticism of this text is that the Israelites’ plundering of Egypt was immoral, and that God instructed the Israelites to be immoral. Guzik points out that this is not the case, “God promised to arrange things not only to move Pharaoh’s heart, but also to move the heart of the Egyptian people so that when Israel did depart, they would be showered with silver and gold and clothing. This was not stealing or extortion, it was the appropriate wages for the years of forced labor… In Deuteronomy 15:12-14, God says that if you have a slave, and his time of service is up, you shall not let him go away empty-handed. God was not going to let Israel leave their slavery in Egypt empty-handed; instead, they would plunder the Egyptians.”

        • Another important point to note is that the Israelites were never instructed to “steal” from the Egyptians. Exodus 3:22 plainly states that the Israelites are to “ask” the Egyptians. The Egyptians apparently willfully comply with what they are asked. (Small wonder considering everything that occurs building up to the Israelites exit from Egypt. The Egyptians would have probably given anything to get the Israelites to leave at that point. That had had enough of God’s judgement.)