The bush that was on fire but didn’t burn up.–Exodus 3:2

Moses was caring for the flock of sheep owned by his father-in-law, Jethro. He led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to a mountain called Horeb. It was there that he saw a bush on fire but curiously he noticed that the bush did not burn up.

And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Exodus 3:2
Memorable events in Moses life

In other articles, we will consider two other memorable events related to the man called Moses. We will consider Moses at the Red Sea when the waters were parted and we will also look at Moses and the ten plaques that struck the land of Egypt. The best order to read the three articles:

1st           The burning bush

2nd          The ten plagues

3rd           The parting of the Red Sea

In this article we are going to consider another memorable event in the life of Moses – this time the burning bush.

Events leading to the burning bush

What events had led to this encounter with the burning bush? Jacob (Israel) and his children came down to live in Egypt, because there was a drought in Canaan. They stayed there for about 215 years. During this time, the sons of Jacob had many children. The Egyptians became frightened of the large numbers of Jacob’s descendants (Israelites). So the Egyptians decided to make the Israelites into slaves. This can be read about in Exodus chapter 1 and verses 7 to 14.

The children of Israel were slaves, and they cried out to God to help them. God had promised that one day He would bring them back to Canaan.

Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. Exodus 2: 23-24

God decided that he needed someone to led the Israelites out of Egypt. To do this job he chose Moses.

Moses sees the burning bush
Moses sees the burning bush

Moses had been born in Egypt but ran away from Egypt, and stayed in a country called Midian for 40 years. While he was there, he married and had two sons. As we read above, one day he was tending the sheep of his father-in-law and was at the far side of the desert near the mountain called Horeb. He saw a bush was on fire. In the midst of the flaming bush there was a angel. The angel told Moses that he (the angel) was acting on behalf of the one God whose promises had been given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God (through the angel) then proceeded to tell Moses what would happen next….

God had heard Israel’s cry of suffering in Egypt and had chosen to deliver them from their difficult situation. God appointed Moses as the person who would deliver them from the oppression of the Egyptians. Moses was instructed to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt. This is what God said (through the angel):

So 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, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. (Exodus 3:8)
The burning bush – a token and a symbol

Why did God choose the burning bush to reveal his purpose? The bush was a token of His instructions to Moses. In other words, it was a thing serving as a visible or tangible representation of what would happen in the near future i.e. Israel would be lead out of Egypt and would eventually travel to the Promised Land (where the Canaanites, etc. currently occupied).

The burning bush was on fire but it was not consumed or burned up like a bush would normally be. What does this mean? It was a symbol telling Moses (and us) something. The bush represented Israel enveloped in the fire of troubles. However, they would not be consumed. Expressed in another way, the Israelites were experiencing a lot of problems through their slavery in Egypt which was causing them pain and suffering, yet God was saying that they would survive – he would not let the nation of Israel be destroyed. He would save them and they would definitely travel to the Promised Land where life would be good for them.

The bush burning but not consumed did not just apply to Israel at the time of Moses. It has been seen right down through their history. Over its history from those days right through to current time, Israel and the Jews have been enwrapped in trouble, ablaze with the fire of affliction and yet not consumed. The “bush” (Israel) was burning with fire in the days of Nazi Germany, but yet it was not consumed. Out of those terrible troubles of World War 2 it developed into the modern State of Israel in 1948. Therefore, out of the afflictions they were experiencing and would continue to experience through history, God would ensure that they would survive as a nation. This was all part of God’s plan for this earth.

Moses struggles with his new role

Moses was not confident about being the new leader of Israel. He had been living a solitary life for 40 years. He was concerned that the Israelite people would not accept him as their leader. Moses lacked confidence as a speaker. We are told in Exodus chapter 4 and verse 10:

Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

As a result, Aaron was promised to be his spokesman and the honour of leadership was divided between them. Aaron travelled to meet Moses in the wilderness and then they returned to Goshen where they meet the elders of Israel. As a result, the people believed and bowed their heads and worshipped God.

God’s name

In the conversation at the burning bush, the name of God was discussed:

Then Moses said to 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?”  And 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.’ ” Exodus 3:13-14

God told Moses the Name by which He was to be known to Israel. Yahweh is God’s Name and it indicates redemption. It tells of His future purpose and his manifestation. The name comes from the same root Hebrew word as is translated “I am”.

Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord.’ ” Exodus 6: 6-8

God therefore had the great purpose of redemption. His purpose is to manifest Himself in many sons and daughters who shall be united as one in Him. Those potential sons and daughters must separate from the world and its ungodly thinking and dedicate themselves to God. They will build into their lives the characteristics of God. Jesus, his son, has taken on these characteristics so he is an example for men and women to follow.

In the case of the Israelites at the time of Moses, they must leave Egypt (the “world”) and take on the characteristics of God into their lives. They would be worthy of salvation if they built into their lives those characteristics in which God delights in.  Besides taking on those characteristics, there was one other step they needed to take and that was to go through water (baptism) on their journey to the Promised Land. In the article “The Red Sea waters are parted” we will consider this additional step known as baptism.

A memorable event

The bush that burned but was not consumed is a symbol of God’s intention to deliver his people out of their affliction. It would show the people that God was with them and would save them – they would not be consumed by the fire.

So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:12

The spiritual meaning of God’s name is seen reflected in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is seen in the life, mind and character of Jesus. It will also be seen in those who will be at the second coming of Jesus and eventually in the whole earth. They will all be one in character with God.

Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. 1 Cor. 15:28

God’s purpose with the earth is the development of His great family. This family will include his son Jesus along with those who have been baptised and reflect the character of Jesus (and his Father). Will you be one of those who will join this great family?