The God of the Burning Bush

Today we return to our study of Hebrews 11 – (Faith personified).  For a few lessons we have considered the faith of Moses as described in this text. Moses was born a slave, raised as a prince, educated as a shepherd, but he is forever known as a leader.  He was successful as God’s appointed leader through faith.  Let take a closer look at Moses, the leader of Israel.

  • What was Moses’ job?  What did God call him to do?  The obvious answer is that God called Moses to lead the enslaved nation of Israel out of Egypt to the land of Canaan.  Moses seemed ready to take on the job while in Pharaoh’s house, but his efforts failed, and God sent him into the desert of Midean for 40 years to prepare. It was while living as common shepherd that God called him to the task.  Verse 1 says Moses led the sheep. Soon he would be leading a nation of people.
  • Read from Exodus 3:1-10

I.  The Burning Bush  – the burning bush caught Moses’ attention. This was no ordinary occurrence (“great sight”). This was a divinely created aberration (not just a case of spontaneous combustion, or light shining through the branches). It was designed to grab Moses’ attention, so God could speak – (as all miracles were not an end in themselves, but pointed to the word)

  • Why a burning bush?  Some suggest that it was representative of Israel’s oppression and trial.  God spoke from the bush (He was with them in their affliction). If God could keep a bush from being consumed, He also could keep His people (even though they were going through the fire) from being consumed.  Moses was learning that this was all about God, not Moses.
  • There are a number of important lessons in these verses.  Tonight we will consider Moses’ response to God’s call – He diligently tried to excuse himself from the job.
  • But this event is about God Himself. Before Moses can reveal God’s plan to Israel (& Egypt) he must understand Who God is.  Our faith is rooted in our understanding of God’s identity.

 II.  The God of the Burning Bush – the phenomenon of the bush was not the true glory being revealed. God was there. He appeared in the presence of an angel, and spoke from the bush.

 A.  A Holy God:  “Take off your Sandals” –   Ex 3:5-6 –  Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” 6 Moreover 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 upon God.  God’s first command to Moses is for him to stay back and remove his sandals. God declares that the ground is “holy ground”.

1.  This is the first occurrence of the word “holy” in the Bible.  As we remember the word (Qodesh – heb ) means sacred, dedicated or hallowed. Throughout the O.T.  it presents the idea of separation by God for His purposes. (Connotatively it includes purity as well, esp. in the N.T.)

  • There was nothing inherently holy about this piece of ground. But God was there and God is inherently holy or transcendent. He cannot be approached except as His direction and with His provision.  God’s holiness demands fear (reverence) and obedience.
  • Moses’ attitude went from curiosity to fear. Vs. – 6 – And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.  Those who come to recognize God’ holiness are driven to their knees with the clear perception of their own unholiness.  When Isaiah looked into the throne room of heaven, he saw angels praising God. Isa. 6:3-5And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”   We are much too casual in our approach to God.

2.  The holiness of God is center stage at Sinai and in the giving of the law. But it also would play a major role in the Exodus. (We will investigate how Hebrews 11 speaks to the sanctifying aspect of Moses’ faith) God’s uniqueness would be clearly demonstrated in the coming plagues, and Israel would be called upon to fear and obey Him.

 B.  A Covenant-Keeping God:  “I am the God of your father — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  Moses, had no doubt, been introduced to many gods in the house of Pharaoh. But the God in the burning bush is the God of Moses’ forefathers. He is the God of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is Israel’s God.

1.  Moses’ commission is in accordance with God’s covenant to these patriarchs. God is simply keeping His promises. He had not forgotten Israel. In fact, this very moment has already been predicted in the days of Abraham.  Genesis 15:13-16 –  13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”  God’s timing was perfect (it always is), and His word was sure. 

 C.  A Compassionate God:  v. 7 – “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows”   For 400 years, God appeared to be distant and removed. Was God so transcendent that He was unconcerned?   

1.  I have surely seen – “The verb has here the sense of looking with the watchful eye and sympathetic feeling of love”. (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

  • Later God tells Moses to speak the same words to the elders of Israel. (Ex 3:16-17 –  “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt; 17 and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt…” ) The compassion of God is a major element of His message. He does care, and He has acted out of love for us.

2.  “I have come down”  (v. 8) – In the text God says, “…I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land”, (Ex 3:8) These words are an common anthropomorphism (Gen. 11:5, 18:21, etc) that implies both God’s position above humanity, and His willingness to identify with them. His compassion moved Him to act in their behalf, and to come down to them. So Jesus also “came down” to save us.

3.   Moses’ faithful obedience would be rooted in his conviction that God cared for His people, and He would not desert them.

 III.  What is His Name?  – It is in answer to Moses’ 2 questions (excuses) that we find some of the richest revelation on the nature of God.  Reluctant to take on the job, Moses asks God.. “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Ex 3:13) Why ask for God’s name?

  • Moses needed to be able to distinguish the true God from the false gods of Egypt in what He was to be called.
  • Moses needed to be able to distinguish the true God from the false gods of Egypt in who He was – His name would reflect His character.   God’s answer in vs. 14-15 contains one of the central truths concerning the nature and character of God.

“The question, “What is His name?” presupposed that the name expressed the nature and operations of God, and that God would manifest in deeds the nature expressed in His name.. This name precluded any comparison between the God of the Israelites and the deities of the Egyptians and other nations, and furnished Moses and his people with strong consolation in their affliction, and a powerful support to their confidence in the realization of His purposes of salvation as made known to the fathers.”  (from Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament)

 A.  Ex 3:14-15And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel,’I AM has sent me to you.'”  15 Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’ 

 B.  “I am who I am.”  – The idea expressed by these words is that of real, perfect, unconditioned, independent existence.  There are at least 3  dimensions of the character of the God who is the “I AM.”

1.  The God who exists. There were many “gods” who were no gods. They did not actually exist then, or ever. Yahweh is the God who is, the only true God.

2.  The God who exists independently. God is self-existent. God is the Creator, but has no creator. He exists apart from any dependence on anything or anyone. He is a God who does not need help, either to exist or to accomplish His will. Thus, there is nothing which can prevent God’s will from being accomplished.

3.  The God who exists unchangeably.  He is not the God who was anything, in the sense that He changes. Whatever He was, He continues to be, and He will be forever. The God who is exists not only really, and independently, but also unchangeably. Therefore, whatever God has begun to do He will bring to completion, because there are no changes which necessitate any alterations in His original plans and purposes.

4.  These words spoke volumes to a people who would be called upon to trust their God.  God is eternal; thus each and every promise is as solid as a rock. If God is both eternal and unchanging, then nothing which He has purposed and promised to do can ever fail.

 Conclusion:  Moses was called to lead. His qualification to do this job had very little to with his resume or personal abilities. In fact, as we will see tonight, Moses considered himself very unqualified to lead. But the God of the burning bush would be with Him.  What he needed was faith. Moses’ faith was evident in his willingness to obey God’s call. This consistent obedience became the hallmark of his life.