Moses was eighty years old when he had the life-altering encounter at the burning bush.
“Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed... God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” “Here I am,” he answered. ‘Do not come closer,’ he said. ‘Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then he continued, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God” (Exodus 3:1-6, CSB).
Notice that the “angel of the Lord appeared to him” and “God called out to him” and said, “I am the God of your fathers...” So, which is it? Was it an angel, or was it God?
(Since we believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word, then this cannot be a contradiction or error. There must be another answer.)
Later, after the Israelites had been freed from Egyptian slavery, Moses led them to the same mountain where he had seen the burning bush. On Mt. Horeb, also called Mt. Sinai, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Referring to Moses’ mountain-top experiences, the Bible says, “The Lord would speak with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend” (Exodus 33:11, CSB). Just a few verses down, God speaks directly to Moses, saying, “You cannot see my face, for humans cannot see me and live” (Exodus 33:20, CSB).
(Once again, this cannot be a contradiction. There must be an explanation... please read on.)
The New Testament gives additional evidence. “No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18, CSB). “His form you have never seen” (John 5:37, ESV). “No one has ever seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16, ESV).
So, I ask again. Which is it? Did Moses actually see God face to face?
Here’s my conclusion. I believe that the angel of the Lord was, in fact, Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity. The pre-incarnate Jesus appeared to Moses at the burning bush and then spoke to Moses face to face on Mt. Sinai.
Indeed, I believe the Jesus prowls the pages of the Old Testament and that the appearances of the “angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament are manifestations of Jesus.
We know that Jesus “was with God in the beginning” (John 1:2, CSB). “Everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17, CSB). “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3, CSB).
There are a fifty-cent words that theologians use... Christophany. Let’s examine it, and let’s explore the Old Testament looking for appearances of Jesus... I believe that we’ll discover that Jesus was around long before the shepherds found Him wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:7, ESV).
South Georgia Baptist Church
Mike Martin, Pastor