Something really strange
happened. The bush started talking to Moses!
Moses was tending his
father-in-law's sheep in the wilderness when: "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" (Exodus 3:2).
That would grab your
attention on a cold, dark night in the wilderness!
The thorny bush just kept on burning and burning.
How long we don't know. But when it stopped burning
it was not consumed. You guessed it. There probably
wasn't even any ashes and smut on it.
The Shekinah glory of God
was displayed before Moses. "The angel of the Lord
appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of
a bush . . ."
Moses said to himself, "I
must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight,
why the bush is not burned up" (v. 3).
That is when the bush
started talking to Moses! "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" (v. 4).
Moses was then told to
take his sandals off because the ground upon which
he was standing was rendered holy by God's presence
(v. 5). The place where he was standing was holy
because the LORD is holy.
This was a manifestation
of God Himself. Verse two says, "The angel of the
LORD appeared to him in a burning fire from the
midst of a bush. . . " Verse four tells us, "When
the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God
called to him from the midst of the bush . . . " In
verse six he tells us the one speaking says, "I am
the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God
of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Moses moves us in
his writing from the angel of the LORD to the LORD
(Yahweh) Himself and further identifies Him as the
God of Israel. The transition from "the angel of the
LORD" in verse two to "the LORD" in verse four
proves the identity of the two and the interchange
between Yahweh (LORD) and Elohim (God) in verse
What would you have done?
"Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at
God" (v. 6b). He bowed and worshipped. The LORD is
truly God. He is the same God who created the
heavens and the earth and the One who cut the
covenant with Abraham, and renewed it with Isaac and
The same angel of the
LORD had appeared to Sarah, Hagar, Abraham and Isaac
four hundred years earlier. Now He appears to Moses
as the burning bush and reveals Himself as the "I AM
THAT I AM." The identity of the angel is not left in
doubt. He clearly declares Himself as Yahweh.
Angel of the LORD
Let's pull together some
observations of this angel in other Old Testament
1. He can refer to
Himself as being sent of God and at the same time
speak as God. In every instance the phrase must be
translated "the angel of the LORD." He guides and
protects (Ex. 14:19), is a companion to Israel in
the wilderness (23:20-33; Num. 20:16), He punishes
(2 Sam. 24:15-17), He is seen ministering (1 Kin.
19:7) and wins at war (2 Kings 19:35; 2 Chron.
2. The angel of the LORD
is always dependent upon the LORD and subordinate to
His commands (1 Chron. 21:27), yet He is addressed
as the LORD (Ex. 23:23).
3. The angel of the LORD
exercises the prerogatives of Yahweh in forgiving
sin and commanding obedience. His deity is never
left in doubt. In Exodus 23:20-33 He is the Angel of
the Covenant. People consistently recognize Him as
deity and respond to Him in that way. In Joshua
5:13-6:2 He possesses the full character and
authority of God.
4. He bears the titles of
deity. He is called Yahweh, Elohim, and Yahweh's
Messenger. He is the object of worship. Yahweh is
never applied to anyone other than the God of Israel
5. Alongside these
appearances of the angel of the LORD are
manifestations of Yahweh Himself in Theophanies. He
is seen with His people talking, walking and eating.
The inner life of deity is laid open. At the same
time, He speaks of the LORD God in the third person.
People recognize that He is God and they pray to
Him, pay divine honor, offer sacrifices which He
accepts and they worship Him. This angel of the LORD
is essentially one with God (Ex. 33:20; Gen. 16:13;
32:30; Ex. 33:1). He is deity, regardless of His
appearance or the service He renders. The angel of
the LORD is one of the persons of the eternal
6. The angel of the LORD
is not a created being, but a divine being Himself.
He is in a class by Himself. The old Jewish
synagogues regarded Him as the Shekinah. He is an
"angel" only by his office.
7. Here in the desert at
the burning bush "the angel of the LORD appeared to
him in a blazing fire from the midst of the bush . .
. " (v. 2). There is no question about who He is. He
identifies Himself clearly. He is the eternal "I
AM." The One who is speaking from the burning bush
is the same, yesterday, today and forever. The angel
of the LORD announces that He is Elohim, the
self-existent One and beside Him there is none else.
He is the Absolute I. He told Moses, "I AM THAT I
8. Probably the
outstanding observation is the angel of the LORD was
a form in which the LORD Himself appeared to men. He
revealed Himself in a form, which was more easily
discernible by our human senses. The only difference
was the method of appearing. It reminds us of the
post resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ in the
Gospels and His appearing to the apostle Paul on the
road to Damascus. Our Lord Jesus was "transfigured"
before Peter, James and John and "appeared" with
Moses and Elijah on the mountain side (Matthew
17:1-8). The invisible God made Himself visible so
human being could know Him. He is the manifestation
of God (John 1:18).
We can summarize these
observations in the following way:
9. The angel of the LORD
is distinct from Yahweh, yet identical with Yahweh
as revealed in Genesis, Exodus and Joshua.
10. The angel of the LORD
seems completely interchangeable with Yahweh.
Yahweh's "name" is equivalent to saying Yahweh's
being is in His special angel (Ex. 23:20, 21).
11. The presence of the
angel of the LORD is the same as the presence of
Yahweh (Ex. 32:30, 34; 33:14).
I AM THAT I AM
In Exodus 3:14 Moses
makes it very clear that the identity of this angel
is Yahweh. He moves us in his writing from the angel
of the LORD to the LORD Himself. "God said to Moses,
'I AM WHO I AM'; and He said, 'Thus you shall say to
the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you'"
(Exodus 3:14). Yahweh is traditionally rendered "the
LORD" in most English translations. The ASV uses
"Jehovah" and the Spanish translations "Jehova". In
verse 14 the verb "I AM" is used in place of the
name to indicate its meaning and to remind Moses of
the promise of the LORD in verse 12. Then He makes
it even clearer in v. 15 by using the actual name
Yahweh (the LORD). "God, furthermore, said to Moses,
'Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, The Lord,
the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God
of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.'
This is My name forever, and this is My
memorial-name to all generations" (Exodus 3:15). Who
is sending Moses to the people of Israel? "Yahweh .
. . has sent me." He is the "I AM THAT I AM."
The name Yahweh is formed
from "I AM" of "I AM THAT I AM." The pronunciation
of JHVH was long lost because of a misinterpretation
of Leviticus 24:16 after the Babylonian captivity.
In the Greek translation of the Old Testament
(Septuagint) "the Lord" (o kurios) was
substituted which is also followed in
the New Testament.
He is the self-existent,
absolute I, the absolute personality, moving in
unlimited freedom beside whom there is none other.
He is the personal God in His historic manifestation
in which the fullness of the Divine Being has
revealed Himself to His creation. He is the living
One, without beginning and ending, from everlasting
to everlasting, eternal through the ages, pervading
history, and demonstrating Himself in His creation.
But most importantly He is the personal God of His
Promised People. He will deliver His people because
He is always consistently the same, eternally
"I AM" expresses the idea
that God is always with His people all the time,
even in the future. The LORD is sovereignty
independent of all His creation. When He uses His
name Yahweh He is communicating to His people that
He is the God of the covenant with them.
Yahweh is the God of
salvation. He is the God of grace. It was the LORD
who manifested Himself to Abraham and later to Moses
and the prophets.
Jesus is the great I
Jesus used this powerful
"I am" statement on several occasions to present the
truth about Himself (John 8:58). The "I AM" who
stood before Moses at the burning bush declared
Himself saying, "I am the bread of life" (6:35), "I
am the light of the world" (8:12), "I am the door"
(10:7), "I am the good Shepherd" (10:11), "I am the
resurrection and life" (11:15), "I am the way, the
truth, and the life" (14:6), "I am the true vine"
(15:1) and there is none other. He told the Jewish
leaders, "I am" the eternal one.
In the angel of the LORD
we find the pre-existent "Word of God," the Lord
Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity
functioning in the Old Testament. The apostle John
knew Him best of all. He said, "No one has seen God
at any time; the only begotten God who is in the
bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John
1:18). No one had seen God's essential nature before
Jesus came. God is Spirit. "The only begotten God,
who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained
Him." Jesus is the exegesis of God. God has revealed
Himself to man in a personal intimate way.
The apostle Paul is
referring to Jesus Christ when he says, "For it was
the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to
dwell in Him. . . For in Him all the fullness of
Deity dwells in bodily form" (Colossians 1:15; 2:9).
Ever since the first
recorded Theophany of the Bible God appears many
times to individuals until finally He appears in the
Man Jesus Christ to atone for all sin (cf. Hebrews
Jesus said to his
disciple Philip, "He who has seen Me has seen the
Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father?'"
The angel of the LORD was
none other than the Logos, who not only was "with
God," but "was God", and in the person of Jesus
Christ "was made flesh" and "came unto His own." The
only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, was sent by
the Father into the world as the angel of the LORD
before He became incarnate and dwelt among us. The
incarnation of Jesus Christ was at once a new
manifestation and the appearance of One who was not
a newcomer on the earthly scene. The prophet Mica
spoke of Him "whose goings forth have been from of
old, from everlasting" (5:2). The resurrected,
ascended glorified Son of Man was seen by the
apostle John in his vision walking in the midst of
the seven churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 1).
The veiled angel of the
LORD in the Old Testament is revealed perfectly in
the person of the Lord Jesus Christ when He took
upon Himself human flesh. God manifest Himself fully
in visible form in the person of our Lord and
Savior. The angel no longer appears after the coming
of Jesus Christ to the earth.
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah
saw the LORD sitting on a throne in his vision. "In
the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord
sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the
train of His robe filling the temple" (Isaiah 6:1).
He heard the seraphim sing the song of the holiness
of God, the temple filled with smoke, the
foundations trembled and Isaiah exclaimed, "Woe is
me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean
lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of
Who was it that Isaiah
saw on the throne? He saw the preincarnate Son of
God. The apostle John wrote, "These things Isaiah
said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him"
(John 12:41). He saw Christ in His preincarnate
glory on the throne.
The angel of the LORD in
the Old Testament is the Messiah of the New
Testament. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is not
only deity, but He existed as such from all
The apostle John who
observed Jesus Christ daily for three years
explained it this way in 1 John 1:1-3.
What was from the
beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen
with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched
with our hands, concerning the Word of Life "and the
life was manifested, and we have seen and testify
and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with
the Father and was manifested to us" what we have
seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you
too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our
fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son
Title: Exodus 3:2-6
The Burning Bush
Christ in the Old Testament