The Burning Bush

I, like many others, believe that God is. But I also, like many others, wish I could meet God like Moses met God in the burning bush encounter of Exodus 3 and 4. Moses’ encounter with God is one of the most iconic, most recognizable and unique instances of God revealing Himself to a man recorded in Scripture. Note, this was not a vision, or a dream, or an impression, or an imagination; as the Scriptures indicate later on in Numbers 11, God makes it clear that He speaks to Moses face to face, not in dreams or visions or dark sayings or riddles. So yes, though I believe that God is, and I believe in His Word, I still wish to meet Him like Moses did.

Sometime ago, God revealed to me that He’d already granted that wish (but in classical form, He had done it not in the way I was expecting). Then He went ahead to show me how the burning bush experience that Moses had in his time, was his (Moses’) version of what we would call in this dispensation, ‘the born-again experience’.

It was a typical day for Moses–tending the flock of his father-in-law as he has been doing for the past forty years. On this day however, something was different. He noticed a strange sight. He saw a bush that was on fire but was not being burnt up. I believe that sight might have really stood out against the backdrop of the familiar wilderness that Moses had grown to know so well after forty years of exploration with the flock of his father-in-law; and nothing stands out as much as a strange sight sitting right smack in the middle of a familiar environment. The appeal to find out what was really going on must have been almost irresistible. He drew near and He heard God speak to him, and the trajectory of his life was completely changed. There are those who met God when they were on their sickbeds. For them, being on the sickbed was a familiar thing because of chronic sickness, and some of these had no hope of anything changing for the better until God revealed Himself. There are those who found God as they searched for truth; being creatures of reason and knowledge, with much reading and thought, they met Him like an epiphany. Every born-again believer can trace back to that point where God became a reality to them.

There are a number of parallels that can be drawn between this experience that Moses had and the born-again experience of every true believer. Before Moses’ encounter, he knew about God because he knew the history of his people, the Jews, and there is no way to tell the story of the Jews without acknowledging God; but until the burning bush experience, Moses had never actually met this God. The same is true of us today. Before we became born-again, most of us already knew about God; maybe because we grew up in christian or religious homes or environments, or because we read something somewhere that hinted at the existence of God. Even for those who deny the supernatural, they are only able to deny because they have encountered information that suggests the existence of the supernatural, howbeit without concrete proof. It is almost impossible to grow up without any knowledge or inkling of a higher power; though whether you accept or deny the existence of this higher power is a different matter altogether.

Another parallel is seen in the almost instinctive fear that Moses had when he met God, and the knowledge of the holiness of God that he obtained. Like Adam when he had sinned, Moses hid his face from God, because he was afraid to look at Him. There is a fear that dawns on the unsaved person when the reality of God hits him/her. Another instance of this fear is seen in the sign that God showed Moses, when He turned Moses’ staff into a serpent; a symbolic reference to man’s original sin in the Garden of Eden. Encapsulated in the born-again experience is a knowledge of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. The true born-again experience brings a person face-to-face with God as Creator and Redeemer, with original sin and personal sin, and with the fear of judgement and condemnation.

In the same stretch however, God also showed Moses that He is a God who saves. God showed that He had the ability to, and was willing to deliver His people from bondage through the things He said to Moses and the sign he showed Him when He made his hand leprous and then restored it. This sign was symbolic of the cleansing or redemption available in God through faith in Christ Jesus, which is the message and hope of the gospel. The two signs that God showed Moses pointed to the power of God to bring transformation, which is the other element of the gospel. Moses’ life was transformed after this encounter, just like the life of a person is transformed when they have a genuine born-again experience.

One thing to note also is that, just like Moses’ encounter came with an inherent assignment, the born-again experience comes with an inherent assignment: to bring this knowledge of salvation to others. For Moses it was his brethren who were still in bondage; for us today, it is for our brethren still in bondage to sin. Like it was for Moses, most of us, even after this experience, still give excuses for why we cannot carry out the attached assignment. But there is hope also, that just as Moses was able to, through obedience and humility, rise up to the challenge of his task, we too can rise up to ours.

The people of Israel of that time, met God through Moses. In a sense, Moses became the burning bush for the people of Israel and even Egypt. He became a strange sight that caused others to take note and draw near and pay attention. He was like a god to them, and everything he said came to pass. Through him, the people of Israel experienced firsthand the reality of their God; Pharaoh’s magicians, the people of Egypt, and finally Pharaoh himself acknowledged the power of God. In the same way, the born-again person is a strange sight. Like the burning bush, the born-again person, who should be condemned because of sin, is actually alive by mercy because of the redeeming blood of Jesus and is host to the Holy Spirit of God; and as the Scriptures say, God is a consuming fire. So in the spiritually literal sense, the born-again person is on fire but is not consumed.

You may be reading this, and maybe like me in times past, you may have done an excellent job of convincing yourself that if you were to experience the burning bush encounter that Moses had, all your doubts concerning God, the occassional reluctance towards His work, and the stubborn aversion towards making the necessary sacrifices for the establishment of His kingdom will disappear. Then this could very well be God telling you, like He told me, to ‘wake up and smell the roses.’ Remember also that, the burning bush experience was only the beginning, and Moses had to take steps in obeying the instructions that God had given to him, and God partnered with him and revealed Himself to him more and more.

As people who have come to believe–no matter the route that brought us to believing–we must accept, that on the day we became born-again, we like Moses, met God, were confronted with the weight of our sinful nature, found favour and redemption by the mercies of God, and were given the assignment of bringing deliverance to our brethren in partnership with God. So let us purpose to let our lives be the burning bush, the incredible and strange sight that would attract and draw others close enough to hear God speak, even in the ordinary things of life and in the all too familiar environments we find ourselves in.

#Exodus 3, 4
#Genesis 3:1-10
#Exodus 19:18
#Hebrews 12:29
#Mark 9:24

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