The bible certainly has its fair share of odd stories and tales that can certainly seem strange. I’m used to the story of the burning bush having been brought up with the story in Sunday school, but when you stop to analyse it, it is a bit weird. As with other stories we don’t understand in the bible, we need to delve a bit deeper to comprehend what the passage is saying.
The burning bush is full of symbolism and the majority of it points to Jesus. This week I am going to focus on 3 aspects of how this encounter Moses had with the burning bush shadows Jesus;
1. The Angel of the Lord
2. God’s name ‘I AM’
3. The nature of the bush and why it was not consumed.
First let’s look at the passage:
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 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. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And 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 at God. (Exodus 3: 1-6)
The first point will be fairly brief because I covered it in a recent post http://adrianpursglove.com/shadows-of-jesus-the-angel-of-the-lord/
In the blog I set out a number of evidences to show that ‘The angel of the Lord’ is Jesus Christ himself. This passage moves seamlessly from describing the angel appearing in the bush to God speaking to Moses himself and confirming that it is God speaking to him.
The second point is the name that God ascribes to himself. In verse 14 of Exodus 3 we reach a point in the conversation between God and Moses when Moses asks who he should say has given the message to the Israelites, God answers;
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14)
Again, I have covered this subject in a previous post http://adrianpursglove.com/i-am/ God names himself as ‘I am’ which means, I am who I am, or I will be. It speaks of God’s transcendence. The name was considered so holy that the Israelites would never say it or even write it down, they just used the letters YHWH. No wonder the Scribes and Pharisees got so annoyed when Jesus ascribed that name to himself in John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am. They were so annoyed they picked up stones to stone him. Jesus was merely repeating in John 8 his original declaration in Exodus 3. If only the Scribes and Pharisee’s had realised that they were in the presence of God himself!
Lastly, let’s look at the symbolism of the bush itself. Firstly, if we look at the original Hebrew we will realise that the bush is a thorn bush. The Hebrew word sineh and its Greek translation batos both mean “thorn bush”. Thorns in the bible symbolise sin or a curse. When Adam and Eve both sin in Genesis 3, God pronounces a number of curses including;
cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you (Genesis 3:18)
Jesus of course had a crown of thorns placed on His head just before the crucifixion.
The second aspect of the bush was that it was burning. Fire in the bible symbolises holiness, purity and judgement.
The bush not being consumed is truly symbolic. It symbolises God’s mercy and grace. Jesus on the cross became a curse for us, but he was not consumed. He absorbed God’s wrath against sin and was not destroyed. One of my favourite verses in the whole bible describes it well;
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
So in a passage that appears initially to have nothing to do with Jesus, in reality his shadow is all over it.