Have you ever heard the story of Moses and his burning bush? The story of God speaking to Moses out of the burning bush is found in Exodus 3:1—4:23. Through this remarkable event, Moses encounters God on Mount Horeb, and God reveals you ever heard Himself (Deuteronomy 33:16; Mark 12:26). The burning bush as described in Exodus 3:2 is a theophany, the appearance of God in a form that is visible to man. The bush itself was most likely some kind of bramble or thorn bush, and the fire burning the bush was in the form of the angel of the Lord who “appeared to him [Moses] in flames of fire” (Exodus 3:2).
This is the first time the Bible uses the word “holy” with reference to God (verse 5). At the burning bush God revealed His holiness in a way it had never been revealed before. Moses was so awed by this experience that later when he wrote his famous victory hymn, he made sure to mention this divine attribute of God’s holiness: “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)
God reveals Himself as a fire in that it is an image of His holiness. All through the Bible, fire is used as a picture of the purifying and refining quality of God’s holiness. This is further evidenced when God commands Moses to remove his sandals “for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Here God was emphasizing to Moses the gap between the divine and the human. God is transcendent in His holiness, so Moses was not allowed to come close to Him.
Holiness involves separation. God’s holiness means that He is set apart from everything He has made. God revealed Himself to Moses out of the burning bush as an image of His glory. Though this theophany was frightening (Exodus 3:6; Deuteronomy 4:24), its purpose was to manifest the sheer majesty of God and to stand as a visible reminder to Moses and his people during the dark times ahead.
Then we see that God was also concerned for the suffering of His people Israel (Exodus 3:7-8). In fact, this was the first time God had ever called Israel “my people.” Under the oppressive bondage of Egypt, they had no hope but God, and they could do nothing but cry out to Him. God heard them and was now going to meet their need by delivering them from their enslavement and suffering (Psalm 40:17; Isaiah 41:10; Jeremiah 1:8). Though God has revealed Himself as one who lives in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16), the burning bush symbolized His intent not to consume or destroy His people, but to be their savior, to lead them out of bondage in Egypt and into the Promised Land.
Additionally, God gave Moses His own personal name: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is also expressed in the term “Yahweh,” meaning “I Am the One Who Is.” It is the most significant name for God in the Old Testament.
By identifying Himself as “I AM,” God is declaring that He always exists in the immediate now. He isn’t bound by time like we are. Today, the only way for us to come into the presence of a holy God is to become holy ourselves. This is why God sent Jesus to be our Savior. He is our holiness (1 Corinthians 1:30). We could never keep God’s Law, but Jesus kept it for us with perfect holiness. When Jesus died on the cross He took away all of our unholiness, exchanging His righteousness for our unrighteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we believe in Him, God accepts us as holy—as holy as Jesus Himself.
God revealed Himself to Moses in ancient times. The Lord reveals Himself to us today. Sometimes, we don’t see or hear Him because we’re not really looking or listening. WE have our own agendas and miss the miraculous presence of God that is all around us.
Have you missed something spectacular that God wanted to say to you because you were just too busy or preoccupied? There was no way that Moses was going to miss the burning bush spoken of in Exodus 3. He had never seen anything burning that was never consumed! There are times in our lives that God speaks but we don’t listen! Sometimes, He turns up the HEAT!