Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Angel of the Lord Appears in a Burning Bush -- Exodus 3:1-2


Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.

So Moses stays in Midian, marries Zipporah, daughter of Reuel, has a son they name Gershom and he works as a shepherd taking care of his father-in-law’s flock.  In this particular text, Zipporah’s father is referred to as Jethro, not Reuel.  Why is that?  The commentators are all over the place on this one.  First there is the possibility that people had more than one name as per the ancient Near Eastern practice.  (That would mean Jethro and Reuel were one and the same.)  Then there is the idea floated by some that Reuel was really a title or a “family patriot” who actually gives the younger women his blessing.  As the chief patriarch (grandfather, or great-grandfather), he arranges or approves the marriages for the female descendants of his clan.  (This would mean that Jethro was Reuel’s son.)

The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia tells us that the different names of Jethro puzzled the Talmudists (authors of the Talmud, comprising some of Judaism holy books).  Some of them thought that his real name was "Hobab," (whom we will come across much later in the Scriptures) and that Reuel was his father; others thought that his name was "Reuel," interpreting it "the friend of God”.  Some modern scholars hold that his own name was "Reuel," and that "Jethro" was a title, meaning "his Excellency". According to Simeon b. Yoḥai, a famous 1st-century sage in ancient Israel and active after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, he had two names, "Hobab" and "Jethro".  The Jewish Encyclopedia goes on to say that it is, however, generally accepted that he had seven names: "Reuel," "Jether," "Jethro," "Hobab," "Heber," "Keni" (compare Judges 1:16; and 4:11), and "Putiel".  Somewhere in these options lies the truth and one day we’ll know.

In any case, Moses leads his father-in-law’s flock to the west end of the Midianite wilderness or desert and comes to Mount Horeb, the “mountain of God”.  This is the first time we come to hear the name of this mountain, but it is understood to be another name for Mount Sinai from which God (much later) gave the law to Moses and the Israelites.

It is there the “angel of the Lord” appeared to him.  This is the third record that we have to one called the “angel of the Lord”.  The first was in Genesis 16 when he appeared to Hagar.  The second was in Genesis 22 when he appeared to Abraham.  And now he appears many years later to Moses.  The term is used later in Scripture as well.  There is much that has been written about who this angel is and a search on Google will give you much of that.  Generally speaking, especially as his presence progresses through Scripture, there is agreement that this “angel”, for many reasons, is none other than the Lord or God Himself.

We then have here the famous reference to the “burning bush” (a misnomer) in which the angel of the Lord appears.  In actuality the bush was not burning at all.  The Scriptures correctly state there was a “blazing fire” in the midst of the bush, but it did not consume the bush.  It is understood that the bush was a thorn bush (with all the symbolism that can present and which many draw on) and because of the very dry desert environment and the acacia (thorn) being brittle, it is possible for it to easily be lit by any small spark, which would start a blaze.  The event was very rare and Moses was clearly attracted to it.  The equivalent for us would be to see what we think was a log fire but the logs were never burning.  Upon closer examination, we could detect that in fact what we thought was a wood fireplace, was a gas fireplace being fed by a continuous supply of natural gas.  The logs are never consumed.

So what then is the application for us today?  Let me suggest that we need to stop long enough and ask ourselves the following questions: “Am I aware of the ‘burning bushes’ that God places in my life, especially in my desert?  Do I realize His presence in them and am I attracted to it?  Do I realize the continuous availability of His power and sustenance to my life?  Am I dependent on it?”

I challenge you today to realize that without Him, you have no power to live a victorious life.  With Him, and in Him, and through Him, you have already won against the enemy.

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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