Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father- in- law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey –the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you:When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
The Lord appeared in a burning bush that was not consumed. That which was natural was overwhelmed by the supernatural but was not destroyed. This is one of the greatest word pictures of Scripture. The Lord is called a consuming fire:
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
The Lord is a consuming fire, but what does He consume. In Hebrews we are taught to worship the Lord acceptably with reverence and awe. The implication is that if we do not, God is a consuming fire. In the Old Testament, ‘a consuming fire’ described the Lord’s reaction to the His people worshipping false gods and His reaction to the enemies of His people. He consumes everything that is not of Him nor honors Him. Anything that does not come from the Lord nor does it honor the Lord is a distraction and temptation to move us away from Him. He consumes anything and everything that might possibly keep Him from us in His fullest measure.
Sin has planted much to be consumed within our own hearts. We are selfish, arrogant, and fickle in our faith. Our sinful thoughts and behaviors attempt to drag us away from the love and grace of God. The Lord is always working to destroy them. Yet, we are not destroyed. He upholds us. He sustains us. He refreshes and encourages us at the same time. The end result if a burning bush. Everything in us and against us is consumed, but we are held in the gentle hands of our Savior. Is there really any better place to be?
But where was this burning bush found. It was found at the Mountain of God on the ‘far side of the desert.’ Moses had travelled through the desert to come to the Mountain of God where everything impure was consumed and He was held in the grace of God. A murderer being called. A sinner being accepted. A man who seemed to have wasted the opportunity the Lord had given him was given a 2nd chance, and it was on the far side of the desert. The desert is hot, dry, and full of all kinds of danger. It is miserable. It is lonely. It is hardship, pain, and suffering. Yet, it is the path to the burning bush. It is the way to the Mountain of God. We must go through the desert.
The desert is the way the Lord consumes that which is impure in us. The suffering forces us to lay down our self-reliance and call out to Him. The pain will not allow us to be comforted but to cry ou for mercy. The hardships force our faith to either increase or die. In the heat, we are forced to hold on to the Lord or give up and die. We learn that nothing and no one else can save us from the desert. We set our priorities straight and choose God until we find our self at the Mountain of God.
You may be in the desert now wondering how you are going to survive. You may feel like giving up, laying down to die. But let me assure you that you are on a path that leads to God. Let the desert consume what needs to be burned out of your life. I know it may feel like the worst place to be, but take off your shoes for where you are standing is holy ground.
How have you held on to God in the deserts of your life?