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The Burning Bush

Exodus 3:4–5 (ESV) … “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.”

The miraculous sign pointed as well to God’s eternity and self-sufficiency. Like the burning bush, God never runs out of fuel. His glory never dims; his beauty never fades. He always keeps burning bright. This is because God does not get his energy from anyone or anything outside himself. He is completely self-existent and self-sufficient in his eternal being. According to Gregory of Nyssa (330-c.395), what Moses saw in the burning bush was nothing less than “the transcendent essence and cause of the universe, on which everything depends, alone subsists.” The burning bush revealed the power and the glory, the eternity and the self-sufficiency of God.

It is not surprising that there was something divine about the bush, for the Bible says that what appeared to Moses was none other than “the angel of the Lord” (Exod. 3:2). Here is a great mystery. The angel may have been a member of the heavenly host, one of the angelic beings who serve God in glory. But the Hebrew word for “angel” is simply the word “messenger” (malakh). Since this angel is identified specifically as “the angel of the Lord,” there may be more here than meets the eye. Notice the wording of verse 4: “When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush.” The messenger did not simply see and speak for God but as God. Here the angel of the Lord is so closely identified with God that the burning bush is generally considered a theophany. In other words, it was a God-appearance, a visible manifestation of the invisible God. For a few brief moments in time and space, the bush was the temple of the living God, the place of his presence on earth. Since the time of the early church, Christians have wondered whether perhaps this was a revelation of God’s pre-incarnate Son, who brings God’s saving message to humanity. Whether or not Christ was in the bush, one thing is certain: Moses was in the presence of God.[1]

[1] Ryken, P. G., & Hughes, R. K. (2005). Exodus: saved for God’s glory (p. 81). Crossway Books.


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