Moses spent forty years as a shepherd in Midian (see Acts 7:23 and Exodus 7:7). During the many days and nights in the field, while tending sheep, he no doubt meditated on the things of God. I am sure he must have prayed for his people who were suffering in Egypt. I have often found it interesting that throughout the scriptures, God calls those that are busy. Gideon was threshing grain, Samuel was serving in the tabernacle, and David was caring for sheep. Elisha was plowing in the field, and four of the 12 disciples were managing their fishing business. Matthew was collecting taxes. God calls those who are already busy.
Exodus 3:1 confirms or reiterates the events seen at the close of chapter 2. “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God” Exodus 3:1.
Verse two and four give us a description of a flame or fire from the midst of a bush, yet the bush did not burn. But what is even more significant is the description at the beginning of verse two. “And the angel of the LORD appeared to him” (Exodus 3:2a). Jumping down to verse four, it states, “When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush.”
There is a lot within these two verses deserving our attention. Let’s begin by unpacking the first part of verse 2. “The angel of the LORD.” The word used for angel in Hebrew means messenger. So a messenger of God came down and was in the midst of the bush that did not burn. Who is the messenger? For the answer, we must turn to the New Testament. But first, in Genesis 1:1, we are introduced to the family of God by the fact that the word used to describe God, Elohim, is used as a plural. In Exodus 3:2, the word used to describe God is Yahweh, which member of the family of God was in the midst of the bush. In Hebrews 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17, and John 1:1-5, all give us the understanding that the pre-incarnate Christ was the active agent in creation. He spoke and the world came into existence. John begins by stating that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” he came down from heaven and formed “the man” out of the dust of the ground. Later that same day He formed “the woman” from the rib of “the man.” So then, the Creator of this world and principal spokesperson for the God Head to this world is the Pre-Incarnate Christ.
Therefore the messenger sent to Moses to speak to him from the burning bush that was not consumed is none other but the pre-incarnate Christ.
“So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am!’” (Exodus 3:2-4).
The significance of the bush being on fire but not consumed should not be lost upon our hearts. The burning bush was an appropriate visible representation of the message God was about to give Moses. In contrast to the more noble and lofty trees, the thorny bush may be compared to the people of Israel in their humiliation, who were despised, enslaved and oppressed by the superpower of that time, Egypt. The fire burning but not consuming represented the refining affliction of slavery and oppression. Do not get me wrong. I am not advocating slavery or oppression. But the bush was not consumed because God does not give His people over to death. He would not allow Egypt or any other earthly power the authority to destroy the Hebrew people. Thus in the burning bush, the bush represented the children of Israel. The fire was the fire of affliction that they had encountered under slavery. The pre-incarnate Christ had personally come down from heaven to give Moses a message. That message was the time has come to rescue Israel from their affliction because God would not allow his people to be destroyed.
The pre-incarnate Christ called out, “Moses, Moses!” Moses responded and said, “Here I am.”
I wonder, does God ever call us to lead others out of difficult situations. It had been forty years since Moses had tried to do this very thing on his own. Had he learned any lessons while tending sheep? Perhaps another question to ask ourselves is this. Have we learned any lessons as we have walked the path of life? When God calls us, are we willing to respond as Moses did by saying, “Here I am.” When people around us need help, need help from the addictions and oppression of life that enslave them, do we respond as Moses did and say, “Here am I.”
Let’s see what happens as this conversation between the pre-incarnate Christ and Moses continues. Has Moses learned anything while tending sheep for 40 years?