Burning Bush

These Old Testament stories aren't just for Sunday School or the History Channel. These are part of the greatest story ever told. Predating Jesus' ministry, they give us the background, and they show us awesome truths about our unchanging God that we may trust Him and walk courageously with Him.

Today we see God's holiness as well as His loving compassion and justice.

Closing out Genesis, Jacob's whole family is in Egypt. After what Joseph did, Pharaoh blessed them with the best real estate in Egypt, the land of Goshen.

Exodus 1:6 Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the sons of Israel [their families] were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.

Then Pharaoh died. A few other kings reigned and also passed away. Centuries later, "a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph." (Exodus 1:8)

Israel was a large populace in the heart of Egypt. The king was afraid so he forced them into slavery and ordered every newborn son to be killed at birth.

This introduces us to Moses. (You can read the details in Exodus 1-2).

As a 3 month old Hebrew boy, Moses was set in a basket and floated down the Nile by his grieving mother only to be rescued by one of Pharaoh's daughters. Unwittingly to her, but obviously orchestrated by God, she hired Moses' own mother to nurse and him. Yet Moses was raised as an Egyptian; trained in Pharaoh's court; and he knew all along, probably from his own circumcision, that he was a Hebrew.

One day, he saw an Egyptian mistreat an Israelite and Moses killed him; he's a murderer. Pharaoh ordered his death. Moses fled Egypt as a wanted man but married a Midianite priest's daughter and built a new life in Midian, current day Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt…

Exodus 2:23 Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. 24 So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.

So what's He going to do? This brings us to our passage today. Moses was pasturing a flock of sheep at the base of Mount Horeb, Sinai, the Mt. of God.

Exodus 3:1 Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 The angel of the LORD [YHWH Himself, a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ] appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.

Having caught Moses' attention,

Exodus 3:4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And [Moses] said, "Here I am." 5 Then He said, "Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."

I often hear this whenever I come in from working in the yard and Polly says, "Do not come near here; remove your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." It's a similar concept. Polly is saying "It's not outside in here. You cannot enter as you are."

God is not like anyone else. "This isn't like where you've been Moses. You can't enter My presence as you are." Indeed, this is what the cross is all about!

Moses takes off his dirty shoes and stands before God. Then God tells him,

Exodus 3:6 He said also, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

People fear the unknown, but it was actually when Moses understood the reality of the holy nature of God, that he became afraid and hid his face. Moses wasn't wrong to do this. We do not fully understand this for a lack of vision or knowledge, humility, and faith.

Today, Christians don't want anyone to fear God. Churches rightly highlight God's love, yet sometimes at the expense of every other aspect of His being.

I get it.

Jesus removes our fear of God's wrath and invites us into intimacy. We loves this. We strive to remember this for ourselves. His grace gives us every reason to see God's welcoming face.

Yet God remains holy, "wholly other than us," infinite in glory and might and purity and authority. Jesus doesn't change any of this about God; He changes our relationship with Him.

God's grace doesn't make God less holy, it makes us holy. So that like Moses, we can draw near to the throne of grace and stand confidently before God in all His holiness. Jesus Christ and the grace He extends the believer allows you to know God's transcendent holiness and His intimate love.

Yet apart from Christ, we cannot approach the Almighty. He is too holy. This isn't an Old Testament thing. When Peter first realized who Jesus was, he acted similar to Moses.

Luke 5:8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

This is part of God's nature. These stories remind us God is bigger than us and bigger than any virus or global threat or Pharaoh or President or any sin against us. Yet in love He chooses to humble himself, even die to rescue us.

But if we don't accept that God is holy or just, His grace has little value. And so, once Moses submits to God's holiness, God reveals His loving heart,

Exodus 3:7 The LORD said, "I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. 8 So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite."

God is holy. He is also faithful, kind and merciful.

The Lord is a rescuer at heart.

People get upset with God for allowing injustices but if He were to actively punish every injustice today, none could survive. If the LORD were to prevent it we'd all be paralyzed. Not just "bad" people; even children act unjustly toward other kids, siblings.

Know this about God, He sees injustice and He cares deeply about it. He said, "I have seen the affliction of My people… I am aware of their sufferings…" Therefore, "I have come to deliver them from their injustice, from the power of the Egyptians."

This is God's heart revealed so wonderfully in our Lord Jesus Christ when He came to deliver us from the power of sin. How did He deal with injustice, rescue us from sin's oppression?

Jesus did so by suffering and dying unjustly. Yet through His suffering, God used man's injustice to accomplish His justice. Jesus offered Himself in our place. The innocent for the guilty. The LORD punished Him for our injustices! Jesus suffered for your injustices so you can be forgiven, granted His own righteousness, and made to stand eternally in the Presence of God. Loved. Truly living. Alive forever.

While we still add to the injustice of the world and suffer at other's injustice, God sees, God redeems it; and at Jesus' return and the establishment of His kingdom, Christ shall put down all injustice and entirely remove at the final judgment.

How should we respond when we suffer unjustly, when we're mistreated, when we see others mistreated? Like the injustice inflicted on Ahmaud Arbery?

When Moses first saw injustice he also reacted unjustly. He wrongly killed an Egyptian. And now the Egyptian's family, his wife and children and parents, all suffer from Moses' injustice. Injustice does not give us a cause to act unjustly. Love and holiness combine in the heart of God to combat injustice.

God tells Moses, I have come to deliver them. But notice what He says next,

Exodus 3:10 "Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt."

"Wait… what? Moses surely thought, "I thought You were going to do this. Why do You need me?"

Understand this about God. He can do anything on His own but He prefers to work through people, through relationships. He wants to engage you to participate with Him in something bigger than you. At school. At work. At home. God wants to partner with you that He may bless others through you.

Exodus 3:11 But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?" 12 And [God] said, "Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain."

God tells him, after you obey Me and see Me work this out through you, I'll meet you back here. God says you'll know after it's done, you'll lead Israel to worship Me on Mount Sinai. Trust Me. Act. Then see. Faith comes before seeing. But God shall prove Himself faithful and blow your mind!

Yet, God is also telling Moses, "You will worship Me!" In other words, we get to know God better and He increases our passion to worship Him as we say yes to Him and in faith we obey Him in the hard things!

This is such a big part of how we grow. And why sometimes we don't grow.

God still rescues people today. He uses the church to do it. You don't have any special talent or superpower? That's fine! "I will be with you." That's all you need to believe! Whether you serve, give, tell someone about Jesus or forgive someone, do so knowing that God is with you to work through you.

But His good purposes aren't always immediately realized. Abraham and Joseph waited 25+yrs.

Exodus 3:13 Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' [If you know Him, what's His name?! I hardly know you. I want to know you.] What shall I say to them?" 14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM" [He defies labels. Whatever they think, whatever other says. I Am the God who always is and will be]; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

When Moses asked for God's personal name, He said My name is, I Am. Tell them, "I Am has sent you." It's closely related to YHWH. He uses YHWH and "I Am" interchangeably here.

A few things about this name…

1) It relates to His holy and unchanging nature. God says "I Am who I Am." Whatever anyone else says about Him, He is who He is. God defies anyone's labels. Whether anyone accepts what He says or not, He is who He is.

2) When God says I Am it expresses His nature. I Am. I exist of my own. I Am eternal. I am the self-existing, always existing, and always present God. I Am the One who always is, always has been, and always will be.

3) He goes by YHWH in His personal relationships. It's not a generic name. This is His personal name, His relational name. He goes by this name when He makes covenants, fulfills His promises, and acts to save those in need.

Exodus 3:15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The Lord, [YHWH. I Am] 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, and this is My memorial-name to all generations."

YHWH is the personal name of the God of Abraham. YHWH will save them.

This same YHWH, LORD, "I Am" came to us; He took on flesh and took the name Jesus, which means Savior, and He offers to save you and reconcile you to Him that you may stand and live in the assurance of God's holiness and love. Jesus invites you to walk with Him and to make a difference and to worship Him as a result of the joy that's in Him.

Wherever you are, I invite you to say yes to Jesus today. Say yes to Jesus' work on the cross. Yes to be used by Him. Yes to Jesus' influence in your life.

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