I must admit that sometimes I jump too quickly to the theology of a passage of Scripture and at times miss out on the beauty of what God did at that moment in history. This morning I tried my best to reflect on the all too familiar story of the Burning Bush in Exodus 3 in its original setting and then move to the theology of the text. What I found was beautiful.
Exodus is a fascinating, heart gripping story about the infinite God who intercedes for His people. He does not sit unmoved, unresponsive to His people—He responds. At this time the people of Israel were enslaved brick makers for an oppressive Pharaoh who had forgotten all the ways Joseph had saved Egypt. The Israelites would have known this is not the way it was supposed to be. Their slavery was a long way off from God’s promise to Abraham that they would be a great nation.
Exodus 2:23-24 says:
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel–and God knew.
This inevitably led God to respond by choosing Moses to be His servant to carry out the deliverance of the people of Israel. So as Moses is tending to his daily duties as a shepherd, God appears to him as a bush on fire that was not consumed. Fire is a common motif throughout Scripture symbolizing God’s purity and holiness. Fire does two things: 1) It attracts. Verse 3 says Moses saw it and turned aside to see the great sight. I have often heard fire referred to as nature’s TV. There is something attractive about it and when you sit around a fire, you can’t really help but stare at it. 2) It repels. The heat of fire keeps us from getting to close—God commands Moses not to come near. The reality of attraction and repelling comes to characterize the relationship between God and the Israelites as seen in Deuteronomy 4:9-13:
Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so. And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone (For more on this see Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey, ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer).
So God explains to Moses that He has seen, heard, and knows of their suffering, but He takes a massive leap forward. God says, “I have come down to deliver them…” The reality that the God of the universe would come to the rescue of those who have rebeled against him is the most glorious, incomprehensible mystery in history. What is even more amazing is He does it over and over again.
Now, when you view this passage within the scope of the metanarrative (Genesis to Revelation), it is evident that while this is a historical event, it is a shadow of what was to come in the Messiah. In Christ, God did not come down as a symbol, but He Himself came down. The infinite Son of God became man in order to deliver His people from oppression—not simply a worldly power, but spiritual oppression, slavery, death, and our ultimate destruction.
God knows. He sees. He hears. He remembers.