I’d call it the iconic symbol of Moses’ life – the burning bush. It was the moment of his calling. A moment that took him by complete surprise. Out shepherding his father-in-law’s flocks, who had wandered up Mt. Horeb. Or perhaps he led them there, unaware of the sovereign hand guiding him along, when he noticed a bush on fire but not really.
Devotional Scripture: Exodus 3:1-10
Key Verse: “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.” Exodus 3:2
It was burning but wasn’t burned up. Intrigued Moses got closer. But stopped short when God – the one and only, Maker of Heaven and earth – called to him out of the bush.
“Moses, Moses!” said the LORD. Or the angel of the LORD as it says in verse 2. Not “an angel” but “the angel.” Identified as none other than the LORD by Hagar, Abraham, Jacob, and a few others.
Including Zechariah who saw a vision of Joshua the High Priest standing before the angel of the LORD while Satan stood close by to accuse him. Do you know what the angel of the LORD did in that vision? He looked at Joshua clothed in his filthy garments and said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments” (Zech. 3:4).
I could read Zechariah 3 all day and never tire of it. The picture it draws. The reminder it gives. The comfort it brings. But the point today – it’s Jesus that takes away our iniquities and Jesus that clothes us with garments of righteousness.
Thus, it’s my humble opinion, along with some certainly smart scholars, that THE angel of the LORD spoken of in the Old Testament is none other than the preincarnate Jesus Christ. Who we know, without the slightest bit of doubt, is God himself. (Jn. 1:1; Jn. 10:30)
So let’s recap the scene before us. There alone, on a mountain perhaps six or seven thousand feet in elevation, with who knows how many sheep nearby, stood Moses at eighty years young. Staff in hand, before a bush burning with the radiance of God’s glory, Christ Jesus himself.
Yet little did he know it. Until God introduced himself. “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (v. 6). “Well hey there God, how’s it goin’?” No, he hid his face in fear.
Because this God of ours is not a cute grandpa somewhere up in the sky. He’s not close kin with Santa. He’s not hanging out at the end of a rainbow or stuffed inside a bottle ready to grant our wishes. Nor is he a tyrant, club in hand, waiting for us to mess up.
He’s a consuming fire. A just and holy God. Righteous in all his ways. Appropriately jealous for the affections of his people. Unwilling to share his well-deserved glory. Requiring heart, unbending, unyielding allegiance.
So he appears to Moses as fire. Just as he did perhaps a year later or so, at the very same mountain, to a consecrated Israel awaiting a word from the LORD at the bottom. Only that time it wasn’t a bush God consumed with his all-encompassing presence, but an entire mountain.
“The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly” (Ex. 20:18). The scene so frightening the next time God wanted to speak to Israel they told Moses to just go and meet with him alone. “No thanks Moses, you take care of it for us.”
Fire often representative of God’s wrath in Scripture it not only warned Israel of the judgment that would come on them, if they did not accept and obey the law of the LORD, but it also gave them a visual of God’s powerful protection over the righteous. And his judgment on their enemies. His willingness to consume without resignation the evil, the vile, the enemies of His goodness.
As he did on Sodom and Gomorrah when sulfur and fire rained down from heaven on the ungodly. And will yet do again when fire consumes heaven and earth on “the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:7). (Scripture is no bed of roses.)
But in between those two events, God’s wrath was fully, unequivocally poured out on Christ; every bit of it. Yet he was not consumed, just as the bush before Moses was not consumed. A “root out of dry ground” as Christ is called in Isaiah 53. Scarred by our sin, but unscathed in nature, as was the bush.
A root that grew into nothing more than a simple shrub mind you. Not a tall, stately tree. Not a majestic sapling. Just an ordinary, run of the mill, nothing special about it bush. Unnoticed by the typical passerby. Unawares in beauty. As was Christ, who “had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Is. 53:2).
Furthermore, the Hebrew word used for bush in this passage is seneh believed to be representative of a thorny bush. And if so, it’s no less perfectly fitting, for thorns are a direct result of a curse upon the ground (Gen. 3:18). A brutal consequence of sin. Sin that eventually placed a crown of thorns upon our Savior’s head as he so graciously “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).
All of it – so we would not be consumed. So we could not only dwell in the presence of the all-consuming, holy God forever and ever but BE the dwelling of the holy God forever and ever.
Ordinary in our existence, yet extraordinary through his existence. He’s indwelt us. He’s remade us into a temple, a sanctuary for His very presence – just as he did the ordinary, run of the mill, thorny, unimpressive bush was those many years ago.
But are we on fire? Or have we squelched his igniting presence, his undeniable radiance, with our wants and lack thereof’s? Our busy and wishes for not so much busy. Our worries, our disappointments, our readily available entertainment and knee jerk reaction to go to our phones in the fading quiet moments – instead of the one who has the power to actually refill every bit of our empty cup?
He’s still a consuming fire and he’s consumed us. So let’s be the light and radiance of glory he’s intended for us to be, that others may see something different in us, and come and seek as Moses did. And in the end, see Jesus.
“In the same say, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
Contemplate and Evaluate:
Would you consider yourself on fire for God? Why or why not? Do you view God as an all-consuming fire or more like a good buddy that just winks at our sin?
How can you bear witness to God’s holy and mighty presence today?