Summary: Moses and the burning is one of the most popular stories of the Old Testament. One of the sermons I preached discusses what it may mean for today.
For the past few weeks except for Palm Sunday and Easter, our sermons have centered on the Book of Genesis, corresponding to our Home Bible Survey Course. In our Home Bible Survey, we are now in the Book of Exodus. We start a series of sermons focused on the Book of Exodus and especially on the life of Moses, the great liberator of his people.
You will remember that after the death of Joseph the Hebrew people were in the land of Goshen, which was a part of Egypt. As years went by the Hebrews multiplied greatly and became a numerous people just as God had promised to Abraham. Of course, by this time a new Pharaoh is in power who does not show the benevolent spirit of the Pharaoh in Joseph’s day. The Egyptians now look at the Hebrews with fear and apprehension. They conceive the Hebrews as an internal threat to their security. Suppose the Hebrews throw their allegiance to one of their enemies. They would become a possible enemy within their own borders. So the Egyptians tried all they could to reduce the Hebrew population. So much so that at one time the Pharoah ordered the death of all Hebrew boy babies. At the same time, the Egyptians persecuted the Hebrews with hard and torturous labor.
Moses was born in this timeframe. His mother hid him in an ark made of bulrushes and put the ark in the Nile River. Pharaoh’s daughter rescued Moses from the river and adopted him as her son. But as God would have it, Moses’ mother was chosen to nurse the baby although the Egyptians did not know she was the mother. So actually Moses was raised in Pharoah’s palace. He was a Hebrew, but the Egyptians raised him as an Egyptian.
One day when Moses had grown up, he saw an Egyptian kill a Hebrew. His sentiment was still with the Hebrews although he was considered an Egyptian. So he killed the Egyptian believing no one had seen him do it. The next day he saw two Hebrews fighting each other. When Moses tried to intervene, one of them said, ”Are you going to kill me as you did that Egyptian?” At that time Moses knowing the cat was out of the bag so to speak, became fearful for his life and fled Egypt. He went to a place called Midian where he met a priest named Jethro. Eventually, he married one of Jethro’s daughters and became a shepherd of Jethro’s flock of sheep. It is interesting to know that Moses’ life can be divided into 3 parts of 40. He spent 40 years in the palace of Egypt. He spent 40 years in Midian, and he spent 40 years leading his people out of bondage in Egypt.
As our story today begins, we find Moses tending his father-in-law’s sheep. No doubt he was a skilled shepherd by that time, well-acquainted with the duties of a shepherd. For some reason on this particular day, the sheep grazed farther than usual to a place called Horeb. Moses noticed that a bush was burning somewhere in the distance. During his years as a shepherd, he had often seen bushes burning in the dry and arid desert. But for some reason, this burning bush attracted his attention. He decided to get a closer look at the burning bush. To his amazement, he noticed something different about this bush. It was burning, but it was not consumed by the fire. Generally, the fire would burn out when the bush was consumed by the flames. But this bush kept on burning and burning but was never consumed by the flames. As he took a closer look at the burning bush, the voice of the Lord spoke to him out of the midst of the fire. The text says it was an angel of the Lord, but later on, it speaks of it being the Lord. The voice cries out, “Moses, Moses.” Moses answers, “Here am I.” Let us stop and put on our caps of imagination and try to imagine what was going through Moses’ mind. It was enough that a bush was burning which was not consumed. But now a voice comes from out of the bush calling his name. Then the voice said, “Stop where you are. Don’t come any closer and take your shoes off for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then the Lord introduced Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Bible says Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. Then we know the rest of the story. God told Moses that he had heard the cries of his Hebrew people and he is sending Moses to tell Pharoah to let his people go. But as we look at the story of the burning bush, can we draw any signs or symbols from it? What lessons can we learn from the burning bush?