Moses without a doubt was one of the most important people in the Old Testament. He was one of the few who survived a genocide against boy babies (compare that with Herod’s reaction when Jesus was born! See Matt. 2:16), one of the few who renounced his adopted culture to embrace the culture of his own people (Heb. 11:24-27) and one of the few who actually spoke with God face to face (Ex. 33:11). He’s also one of the few in Scripture whom God called twice by name.
The text is as follows:
“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. 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 said, ‘I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.’ 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.’ Then He said, ‘Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said also, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Ex. 3:1-6).
How did Moses get to this point? We need to consider how Moses got to this point in his life. The first two chapters of Exodus tell how the Hebrew nation, only 70 to 75 people, grew into a multitude, causing the new rulers of Egypt to have great concern. The solution, at first, was to work the Hebrews to death; then, when that strategy didn’t work, they decided to kill all the boys.
We don’t know how many, if any, boys actually were thrown to the Nile (and the creatures living there!), but this plan could have paid off in spades, to use a figure of speech. When there are no men, there won’t be any children, unless the girls married Egyptians. To say the least, daughters of a conquered people would not have it easy to win a thoroughly pagan husband to faith in the God of Israel! All the Egyptians would have had to say was something such as, “Look, you can cling to your God, but if He is so powerful, why are you still slaves and we’re not? Whose God is the most powerful?” Worse, had all the boys been killed, there would not have been a Messiah. Could this have been part of Satan’s plan all along?
Exodus 2 tells how Moses was delivered from certain death. God watches over His own, and Moses certainly was one of these. Exodus tells very little about Moses’ career, his learning, and so on, but Josephus wrote of Moses being a great military hero. He seemed to be destined for Egyptian greatness, but something happened to Moses that changed everything—forever.
We read in Exodus 2:11 “Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.” How did Moses come to realize he was a Hebrew and not an Egyptian? We’re not told, so there is no need to guess, but there it is: He knew his heritage and decided to take action and correct something he felt was wrong.
Clearly, that was wrong. Perhaps you’ve heard, as I have, the saying, “Do something, even if it’s wrong”? That seldom works for me, and that concept sure didn’t help Moses. Sure, he did what he felt was right—but it wasn’t right. Pharaoh, the ruler, eventually wanted to kill Moses (see Ex. 2:15), but Moses escaped. Again, some of us (myself, included) may remember the scene from the movie The Ten Commandments where Moses was banished from Egypt, but we really don’t know that he was for sure. At any rate, he fled for his life and wound up a long way from Egypt, in the land of Midian (see vv. 2:15-16).
There, he found a friend, a new wife, and a whole new way of making a living. Imagine, being sacked or cashiered from the army, expelled from everything you’ve ever known, from the only country where you'd lived, and now taking care of sheep! Moses must have had some kind of internal strength (and I believe God gave this to him) to survive and endure in that kind of environment.
What did Moses experience?
Moses probably saw many things during his tenure as a shepherd in a land not his own, but one thing he never expected to see was a shrub, or bush, on fire but not being consumed! Some have tried to explain this by using terms from science. For me, this was a miracle, plain and simple. God used this to grab Moses’ attention as perhaps nothing else would.
Then, and this is important, he saw the Angel of the Lord! Many pictures have been painted of Moses seeing the bush, but I’ve not seen many with the Angel of the Lord. One very special thing about this is the Angel of the Lord was only seen by a very select few. In fact, if I read the Bible correctly, this is only the third encounter of the Angel of the Lord with people (Hagar, interestingly, was the first according to Gen. 16; Abraham was the second person, according to Gen. 22); this was the first time the Angel of the Lord was ever seen by a human.
Now when Moses saw this combination, the bush on fire and the Angel of the Lord, he decided he needed to take a closer look. When he did, he received the experience of a lifetime!
First, he was one of only a dozen or so people whom God called by name twice. Remember, God seldom used a person’s name when speaking to him or her, so it was unusual to be called by name at all, and only rarely did this happen twice. When God called, Moses answered.
Second, God told Moses to remove his shoes as the place was holy ground. We need to remember the Hebrew people, God’s chosen people, were still slaves in Egypt, and we know little about any freedom they had to worship God. Certainly there was no temple or tabernacle to honor God at this time. Later, some would argue about where to worship (John 4, for example) but, as someone said, “Anywhere God is, is holy ground.” How true that is, especially when God declares a place holy.
Third, Moses tried to hide from God’s presence! Verse 6 reads that Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look upon God. Later, it was said of Moses that he spoke to God “face to face” (Ex. 33:11 and Deut. 34:10) or that the Lord knew Moses face to face. We would do well to reverence God before we do anything else.
Finally, Moses received his marching orders for the last phase of his earthly life. He had spent 40 years in Egypt as a prince or one of the elite. Then he shepherded for another 40 years in a land not his own, still mindful of the God of Israel. Someone observed that it took Moses 40 years to be a somebody, then another 40 to be a nobody, before he became ready for the job God had for him to do.
The balance of Moses’ life covers the deliverance of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, the dealings with them and God during the journey to the Promised Land, and establishing the religious system under the Law. Moses had problems, as nobody will deny, but he had privileges, too. He was one of the few who heard God speak directly—in an audible voice. We can rejoice that God chose Moses to be the leader of His people. Further, we can look to Moses as one of the heroes of the faith. He obeyed God, and God rewarded that obedience.
God still rewards His people for obedience to His will. Are things right between you and God? They can be. Just respond to Him and trust Him in all you do. May God Himself bless you in every way.