Summary: God calls Moses to save Israel and finish more of the promise to Abraham which foreshadows Christ and his work.
We’re back in Exodus, the gospel according to Moses, and now we’ll look at his calling. We’ve already seen that he was hidden among the reeds by his mother when he was a baby, discovered by Pharaoh's daughter and raised as her son with all the benefits of Pharaoh’s household. When he was 40 years old he killed an Egyptian to save a fellow-Israelite, and had to run for his life into the desert. There he met a family, married in, and started a family of his own as a shepherd:
Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian:
One thing I want you to notice as we go through these verses is the similarities to Christ: The prince of Egypt stooped to be a lowly shepherd, gave up everything to save one Israelite, and spent 40 years in the desert waiting on God. Christ gave up everything in heaven to become a lowly servant for his people, and he spent 40 days in the desert also waiting on God. These comparisons aren’t accidental. Moses saved Israel from the land of bondage to foreshadow the Prophet who saves all God’s people from spiritual bondage.
and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. 2And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush:
Before we say anything about this verse we need to read what the New Testament says about it: And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush (Acs 7:30)
So, after living in the desert for 40 years, Moses is somewhere near Sinai when he sees this burning bush. I want you to pay close attention to the words. What exactly appeared to him? It says the Angel of the Lord appeared “in a flame.” The Greek word for “in” is a preposition that means just that: in. The Greek Septuagint translates Exodus 3:2 with the same preposition. A literal English translation of the original Hebrew reads, “and he is appearing messenger of Yahweh to him in blaze of fire from midst of the thorn bush”
In Acts 7:35 we read that the angel “appeared to him in the bush” and in Deuteronomy 33:16 we see that the Lord “dwelt in the bush.” In Exodus 3:16 he says, “The Lord God...appeared unto me.” I’m making a big deal out of this because it doesn't say the Angel of the Lord appeared “as” a flame or “as” a bush; it says plainly that the Angel of the Lord was in the flame which was in the bush. This is important because it helps us understand what we’re seeing.
The word “angel” simply means messenger. This “messenger,” according to verse six, is God himself! Now, if no man has ever seen the Father (Jn. 6:46), then who does Moses see in the bush? Christ later says that he is I AM (Jn. 8:58). He is the Messenger or Apostle of God who reveals the covenant of grace to God’s people. It’s him we see standing in a bush in the Old Testament talking to Moses.
Now, there’s no good natural explanation for the burning bush. Some people have tried to explain it away as being imagined or made up or misunderstood, but God is in the bush. Isn’t that enough for us? It’s best to just take this for what it says and understand that it’s supernatural.
I’ve searched through the New Testament to find why Jesus appeared in a burning bush, but there really isn’t anything else said. Maybe the fire symbolizes the light and glory of God’s presence. That makes sense to me, and it seems to fit the context, but maybe it shows judgment and cleansing, and we see grace because the bush is covered in it but doesn’t burn up. Maybe the bush symbolizes the tender root of Jesse, or maybe it’s the church, or maybe it’s something else. The truth is that we just don’t know and any meaning we assign is just subjective, so I’m going to say that it is what it is.
and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. 3And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. 4And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. 5And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.