Moses and the Burning Bush: A Sermon Review3
Benny Phillips continued our sermon series "Age of Heroes" this week by preaching on Moses and the burning bush. Sermon can be found here.
When God appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush, this is a moment that affects everyone. God steps forward and speaks His name. But before God tells Moses who He is, He shows him who He is. A messenger speaks on God’s behalf. This is called a theophany, God appearing in another form. There are many in the Old Testament. This burning bush is a temple of the living God. And Moses stands in the presence, alive. Exodus 33:20 says of God, “for man shall not see me and live.”
When God tells Moses to remove his sandals because he stands on holy ground, it is the first mention in the Bible of God’s holiness. How different He is from us; how separate. It’s a dangerous moment when we encounter the holiness of God. Because of our sin, we need a mediator to protect us against God’s holiness consuming us.
But God’s holiness is a compassionate holiness. His holiness is not just awesome and terrifying. It is compassionate. Look at the verbs in verses 7 and 8. “I have heard their cry…. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them….” We wonder, “If God is so holy, so other, can and does He care about me?” God knows your struggles, he sees and he hears your cries. He cares and He responds.
God calls Moses and identifies Himself with Moses’ forefathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We think of these men as great patriarchs, and they were. But they were also tricksters, liars and swindlers; flawed men. God is not ashamed to be God of deeply flawed people. In compassion He says, “I have come down to deliver them.” The Exodus was not just part of our past history, but also how we are rescued today. The story of deliverance is repeated again and again throughout Scripture, and today we are being delivered by Christ’s payment on the cross for our sin.
In the burning bush, God has shown Moses who he is. Now He will tell him who he is. God commissions Moses to deliver the message of deliverance to God’s people in slavery in Egypt. But Moses is thinking about how this will go down. He will walk up to the Hebrew elders and tell them he saw a burning bush and approached it. It started talking to him, and it was God. It told him to tell the elders that God would use him to free the people from slavery to the Egyptians. They were going to believe that?
So Moses faces the two questions we face: Who are we? And who is God? Moses asks God, “Who am I that you are doing this for me?” I, who tried to deliver my people before and murdered an Egyptian, which is why I’m out here in the desert…herding goats. To God this was a non-starter question. The issue wasn’t Moses’ competence—nor is it our competence. The issue is: “I will be with you.” It’s God’s omnipresence. Jesus said, “I will be with you till the end of the age.” That’s God’s sufficient promise to us.
Who is He? Moses tries again. He asks, “What shall I say to the people when they ask, ‘What is his name?’” Moses was focused on the fear of man, not the sufficiency of God. God replies in verses 14-15: “I am that I am,” and “The Lord.” So, which is it? Both. God is saying, I am the eternal is. I know it is bad grammar, but I’m sorry. We have no words for it in the English language. God is eternally unchangeable, self-existent, and independent of all cosmos he created. Jesus repeated this when he replied to the High Priest, “Before Abraham was, I am.”
God is like the bush that keeps burning by itself. He is holy, eternal and self-existent. We don’t get it. We’re not going to get it. All that is left is to worship Him. We worship the same God Moses did. What’s different for us is that He has given us another name to worship: Jesus, who delivered us from the power of sin by making payment for our sin. John 8 tells us that we will face this God justified or unjustified, delivered or in bondage, free from the penalty of sin or in bondage to that sin. By faith in Christ Jesus we are free. He has delivered us from the bondage of our sin. Let us worship.