1 Now Moses kept the flock of assuaged his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
5 And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
“Did you get my message?” We live in the information age and messages are constantly being sent back and forth. A missed message could mean a loss of business or time. Wartime stories abound of missed messages among commanders resulting in confusion and loss of life. But the worst “missed messages” are the ones we get from God and fail to grasp or heed.
What do I mean? I believe that God places in the path of His people certain messages, instructions, or encouragement to equip us to do His will. I illustrate this by using the scripture of Moses and his burning bush. I have always been intrigued with this passage. I have heard or read many messages on “The Burning Bush.” One of the best is by George Whitfield, in which he compares the bush to the church. It is truly a great message.
But my interest in this story has been more toward God calling and equipping His servant for a specific task. There are many parallels with Moses and today’s Christian worker. As we examine this passage we find Moses in a difficult place in his life. He has felt the call to help his kinsmen in the flesh, the Jews, but he has made some mistakes.
He tried to accomplish the work of God in the flesh and ended up killing an Egyptian and hiding his body in the sand. He fled Egypt and spent the next forty years “on the backside of the desert” in hiding. Such a scenario is enough to make most people quit on God. What a mess Moses had made of his ministry. Such was his condition, until he happened upon a certain “burning bush.”
The burning bush represents the specific, personal instruction from God to his servant. We are not alone in our service for God. God wants to lead and direct us in our Christian journey. I believe that our Heavenly Father sends us “burning bush” experiences today through the preaching, teaching and study of His Word. Let us examine this scripture in that light.
I. IT IS AN EXPERIENCE OF SCRIPTURE
The most important point in this message is that God speaks to us today through His Word. We may “discern” or “feel” certain things in our hearts, but feelings and human reasoning cannot replace the scripture. Make no mistake, I do not believe in extra-biblical “experiences.” God CHOSE to speak to Moses through the burning bush, but speaks to us today through scripture. (Heb. 1:1-2)
It cannot be over-emphasized that God’s people are led by scripture. Many of us may take this point for granted, but there are so many marginal Christians who believe in “mystical” experiences, dreams, or signs. Christian leaders can also fall into this trap. I know of many who are “preacher critics.” They listen to a message with a critical eye to find mistakes and foibles in delivery, style, or substance. Some preachers unwittingly place themselves above the scripture itself, by not allowing someone else’s message to speak to their hearts.
We must treat each message, lesson, or study session as an opportunity for God to speak to us and direct us in our daily lives and ministry. Every experience will not be a “burning bush” experience, but we must respect the Word of God and the servant of God each time we have opportunity.
II. IT IS AN EXPERIENCE OF SOVEREIGNTY
Moses grew up in the Egyptian courts and was trained to be a leader. He had the skills and ability to be a great man in the politics of Egypt. He had a burden for his life. He wanted to be a blessing and help to his people Israel. But here he was on the backside of the desert, not fulfilling his potential as a man or as a servant of God.
But God was working in the life of Moses. I believe Moses knew that there was a wonderful plan for his life, but he knew not how to bring it to pass. He had made a mess of it in his own attempts. Notice that the burning bush experience came when he was in the “backside of the desert,” that is, when he was at his farthest point from his objectives.
Moses was living his life in the best way he knew. It had been 40 years since he had made an effort to fulfill his calling. Why did God wait until this point to reveal Himself? It would seem that the last 40 years were one giant waste for Moses. But not in the plan of God. God never ceases to work out His will in His people no matter where they find themselves.
We must follow the light that we have, and wait on God to provide further light. The “burning bush” experience cannot be demanded or sought after, it is given in the sovereign will of God. God will work in us His plan and purpose in His time. It is our duty to follow God’s leadership as we discern it; it is God’s responsibility and good pleasure to give us instructions for the journey.
Illustration: My pastor, in an earlier pastorate, was having trouble in his church. They were in a building program and some of the flock were opposing the man of God. My pastor was very hurt and despondent at the strife that was in his church and prayed, visited and preached towards healing the rift. The trouble just got worse. Also, his health began to deteriorate. He was diagnosed with ulcers. One day, as he was in the shower, the verse came to his mind, “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Suddenly, a biblical truth was sealed in his heart! “I will build my church.” My pastor realized anew that the success or failure of the church was NOT in the pastor’s hands, but in God’s. This one experience changed his ministry. He sought the leadership of God day by day and left the results to Him. God delivered the church and the preacher out of those trials. Why did God wait until that point in the pastor’s life to reveal himself? It was His sovereign will to give him a burning bush experience.
III. IT IS AN EXPERIENCE OF SELECTION
Every truth of scripture is like a coin with two sides to it. This lesson is no exception. Yes, the burning bush experience is a sovereign one. God chooses to give it when and to whom He will. But notice, too, the other side of the coin. This was an experience that Moses consciously CHOSE.
Look at the scripture in Exodus 3. In verse three, Moses says, “I will now turn aside and see this great site…” The bible does not say that God demanded that Moses come to the bush, or even that He called him. God placed the bush near Moses path and allowed Moses to make the choice.
Likewise, I believe that we can fail to recognize when God wants to speak personally to us. We should never think lightly of handling the Word of God, whether in hearing, delivering it, or the study of it.
I can remember some great messages that had profound effect on my life that I never expected to hear. Years ago, as a young Christian, I visited a neighboring church that was in revival. The speaker, Bro. Rudy Smith, preached a message about Paul, “The Man That Nothing Could Move.” I have never forgotten that message or what the Word of God did in my heart through it. How easy it would have been to have missed it. I was under no obligation to be there: I chose to be there.
Moses was under the sovereign call of God for his life, but if he had not investigated the burning bush, he might never have been the great man of God that he became. Are you, dear reader, always looking for the Voice of God when the bible is opened? Do you recognize that God could speak to you in a personal way every time you open the scripture to study or read? Respect the word of God and God’s ability to use it in your life!!!
IV. IT IS AN EXPERIENCE OF SINGLENESS
God got Moses to the place where he was alone before He spoke to him. We are creatures of community. We don’t like being alone. We like to find common experiences with our fellow Christians and discuss them. It gives us a sense of family. But the burning bush experience is a singular experience. We are all different and God has a specific purpose for each of us. He does not lead everyone through the same experiences at the same time.
Every preacher has some “favorite” messages. They have seen God work and bless through them and they love to deliver them. But the “burning bush” experience is not found in a particular message. It is a personal conversation between God and His child. The preacher or teacher is merely the conduit.
Every preacher or teacher can tell of stories when God changed their message at the last minute. They were prepared and prayed-up to deliver ne message, but God led them to go in another direction. Many times the man of God never knows why God changed his course. It was possible that God had a special message for one of the hearers.
The burning bush experience is not in a particular message or in the personality of a preacher. It cannot be bottled, distilled, or sold. It is when a sovereign God chooses to speak in a real and personal way to one of His children.
V. IT IS AN EXPERIENCE OF SINCERITY
God revealed unto Moses His plan for Moses’ life. It was greater than Moses could have ever dreamed! Moses was overwhelmed. He questioned in verse eleven, “Who am I that I should go…?” Moses had legitimate questions about his ability to carry out the plan of God. He knew his own limitations, but did not realize the power of God.
Many times we find ourselves in the same situation. We know the word of God and the promises of God, but many times we need to be reminded. Sometimes it seems much easier to see our faults than the power of God. We operate within our own power rather than His power. The burning bush experience restores our faith to its proper place. God uses His word to answer our questions and doubts concerning His will for our lives.
I can personally remember some great messages that increased my faith and helped me go on in the service of God. Evangelist Roy Goodson, of Tennessee, was used of God to help me by preaching on “Tired Faith” and “They That Know Their God.” He preached these messages on successive nights in revival at my church and God solidified my faith in Him through those messages.
VI. IT IS AN EXPERIENCE OF SATISFACTION
Moses became the leader that God had planned. His doubts were assuaged and his faith in God grew to the point that God worked great miracles through him. Moses was truly one of the greatest personalities of the Old Testament, but many times we forget that he was a man of like passions as we are. He was a humble shepherd on the run from his past, but God spoke to him out of a burning bush. Through that experience, he became the great leader that we have all studied.
Every one who reads this message has a place in the service of God. There is no demand in God’s work today for a modern day Moses, but God has given us all a place of service. We are not to serve Him in the flesh, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. From time to time, God will speak in a definite and real way to his people through the preaching, teaching, or study of the scripture. He will gently guide us when we get off track, or he may sternly warn us if we walk unworthy of His calling.
As Christians, our only real satisfaction comes from an intimate relationship with our God. Some of the most exhilarating experiences of life come from the knowledge that God has spoken to you personally through His word. Don’t minimize preaching and bible study. The scripture is our link to His consciousness and His will. It is His love letter to us. It is His instruction book.