Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro 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.CHAPTER 3 The Burning Bush and the Call and Commission of Moses
1. The vision of the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-3)
2. Jehovah speaks and calls Moses (Exodus 3:4-10)
3. Moses’ answer (Exodus 3:11-12)
4. The name revealed (Exodus 3:13-14)
5. The commission of Moses (Exodus 3:15-18)
6. The promise (Exodus 3:19-22)
The two last verses of the preceding chapter form the introduction to the great manifestation of Jehovah in the burning bush and the call of Moses. God’s time had come. He heard their groaning, He remembered the covenant, and looked upon His suffering people. The scene is at Horeb, called here the mountain of God by anticipation. Moses had become a shepherd, that occupation which the Egyptians despised (Genesis 46:34). It was part of God’s training by which he became “very meek above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). In his shepherd character he is the type of Christ.
The burning bush is the picture of the suffering people, the wretched slaves in Egypt . It was a thornbush. Thorns being the results of sin, it typifies the sinfulness and worthlessness of the people. The fire is the symbol of their suffering and tribulation. It has the same meaning as the “smoking furnace” Abraham saw in his vision. Later God called Egypt the “iron furnace” (Deuteronomy 4:20). The thornbush, however, is not consumed. All the fires of persecution and tribulation could not consume Israel . In the flame of the fire in the midst of the burning bush the angel of the Lord appeared. This was the secret of the preservation of the bush; God was there and kept them. “When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:2). He is with all His people in their affliction; He preserves them and carries them through the fire. But the fire is also the figure of God’s consuming and purifying holiness. All that is unholy must be consumed by the fire. “Our God is a consuming fire.”
The angel of Jehovah, who addressed Moses out of the burning bush reveals His name. It shows that the Angel of Jehovah (God the Son) is God. He calls Himself the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. The triune God is thus revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In Abraham, as the Father, in Isaac as the Son and in the experience of Jacob as the Holy Spirit. Our Lord quotes these words and silenced with them the unbelieving Sadducees, who rejected the doctrine of resurrection (Matthew 22:31-32). The words Jehovah spoke to Moses are the expressions of His sovereign grace. What had they merited? What could they do to secure His intervention? Nothing whatever. They were in Egypt , a lot of miserable slaves, given more or less to idolatry, a sinful people. It was grace which looked upon them and heard their cry. It was grace which came down to deliver them. The work of salvation He came to do was all His own work. It foreshadows His coming down in incarnation for the work of salvation. Note the five words: 1. I have surely seen the affliction of my people; 2. I have heard their cry; 3. I have known their sorrow; 4. I have come down to deliver them; 5. And to bring them up out of the land into a good land. He is ever the same, Jehovah, who changeth not. He ever sees, hears and knows and acts in behalf of His people. He never leaves nor forsakes.
And when the Lord called Moses to send him to Pharaoh to lead His people forth, he answered, What am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt ? Forty years before in self-confidence he had undertaken the work and had run before he was sent, and now he had learned humility and his weakness. God answered his confessed distrust with the all-sufficient assurance, “I will be with thee.” When He sends forth He goes along to accomplish His own purposes. What encouragement for all who wait on the Lord and conscious of their own weakness, go forth in service. In response to another question, God reveals His name. “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM, and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel , I AM hath sent me unto you.” God had made Himself known to Abraham as Jehovah (Genesis 15:7). But here He gives the explanation of His name Jehovah. The patriarchs knew the name Jehovah, but the blessed significance of that name was not known to them. He reveals Himself as the Self-Existing One, THE I AM THAT I AM. He is the One, which is, which was, which is to come (Revelation 1:4). And this wonderful Name of the Unchanging, Living One, the Eternal, the Name unsearchable in its depths is the Name of our Lord who has redeemed us. When about to act in the deliverance of His enslaved people to lead them out and to bring them in, He makes Himself known as the I AM. “Before Abraham was I AM” (John 8:58). Our ever-blessed Lord is the I AM, who spoke to Moses. And what is Jehovah, the I am for His people? Well has it been said, “Jehovah, in taking this title, calling Himself ‘I AM,’ was furnishing His people with a blank check, to be filled up to any amount. He calls Himself I AM, and faith has but to write over against that ineffably precious name whatever we want.”
In Exodus 3:15 we have the hint of Jehovah’s eternal relationship with His people Israel . He is still and ever will be the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob. “This is my name forever and this is my memorial unto all generations.” Here is the hope for Israel . He hath not cast them away; He is their God still and His gifts and calling are without repentance.
The commission to Moses follows, and Jehovah telling beforehand that the king of Egypt would not let them go also promises Moses that He would smite Egypt and that when the exodus takes place, they were not to go empty-handed. This is in fulfillment of a previous promise (Genesis 15:14).