Read Exodus 3
Moses and the Burning Bush
1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the 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,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.
16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’
18 “The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wondersthat I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.
21 “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”
This is one of the most pivotal passages in all of Scripture. As Moses was tending his flock one day, God appeared to him as a burning bush with very clear instructions for what He wanted him to do. Think about that sentence. It was just a normal day when God appeared and audibly told Moses where to go and what to do.
So often, we get stuck trying to determine God’s will and we just wish God would appear to us and tell us exactly where we should go next. We all want our own “burning bush” moment, as we try to discern what God is calling us to do. Sometimes, God makes it explicitly clear for us (albeit maybe not through burning bushes). Other times, it takes a whole lot of prayer, discernment, and wise counsel (and even then we may feel unsure about proceeding).
The task God gave Moses was no small one–and Moses was fully aware of that. In verse 11, Moses, in an incredibly relatable moment, makes his first of many excuses why he’s not the guy to accomplish this task. But God reminds Moses that He will be with him. He’s not being sent out to figure it out on his own. In the same way that God was with Moses, the Holy Spirit is with believers in Jesus (Matthew 28:20).
In the rest of the chapter, we see God lay a theological foundation, both for Moses and for us. We see God’s love for the Israelites and His commitment to them. Then, in verse 14, God says to Moses: “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
God is responding to Moses’ asking, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” by making it clear that it’s not about who Moses is, but who God is. God is, always has been, and always will be. Moses was inadequate for the task at hand. Any mortal man would be. But I AM was sending him. I AM was with him. And I AM was going to deliver His people again.
What do you learn about God in this passage? What about Moses?
God gives Moses very specific instructions. Why do you believe that is?
Sometimes God calls us to things in different ways. Have you ever had your own “burning bush” moment where it was explicitly clear what God was calling you to do?
Did You Know?
This was not just the first recorded instance of God appearing to Moses, but to anyone in over 400 years. Later, God would use another 400-year period of silence before first raising up John the Baptist, and then ultimately Jesus, to lead His people out of bondage and misery once again.