It happened in the shade of Mount Horeb. While “shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro” (Exodus 3:1), eighty-year-old Moses was startled to see a burning bush. Strangely, this most unique burning bush wasn’t being consumed by the fire. It was an un-burning bush, set aflame by the Spirit of God.
Mount Horeb was also called Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:11), or “the mountain of God” (Exodus 3:1). The name Horeb, in the Hebrew language, means desolation. It was well named. It’s a rocky crag, towering eight-thousand, five-hundred feet above sea level.
The bush was just a normal bush, probably a thorny old shrub like another thousand that dotted the desert landscape. It wasn’t a towering tree with beautiful deep green boughs, or perfectly shaped like my artificial Christmas tree. It had been blown by the scorching summer winds and gnawed on by goats and sheep. It was just a bush. Nothing extraordinary. Nothing special.
The sight of a burning bush was odd. In his forty years of working in the vast wilderness wasteland, Moses may have seen a dry desert shrub ignited by lightening but that was very rare. Now, when lighting strikes a dry desert bush, it’s not a slow burn. Rather, it explodes. Poof! One minute the shrub has limbs and leaves, and the next minute it is a smoldering pile of ashes. But this burning bush was completely unique. Like a candle with plenty of wax and a long wick, it was blazing... and blazing... and blazing. “So Moses thought, ‘I must go over and look at this remarkable sight. Why isn’t the bush burning up?’ ” (Exodus 3:3).
Let’s compare Moses to that bush.
They were both old. In the dry desert floor of rocks and blowing sand, seeds germinate only when there is the smallest spit of rain. If that tiny new plant can take root, it will grow deep and slow. That scrub-brush that ignited that day was likely just as old as Moses, the octogenarian.
They were both fruitless. The “burning bush” wasn’t an apple tree or a cherry tree. It was a fruitless bush. For forty-years, Moses had lived in the desert with his father-in-law. In four decades, Moses hadn’t even saved enough money to buy his own flock of sheep. Fruitless?
They were both ordinary. The bush was just a bush. You couldn’t tell that it was any different from that bush or the other bush. They all stood about yay tall, had a few limbs and a few leaves. It was a bush. Moses was just a shepherd. Yes, he had been the Pharoah’s adopted grandson, but that was long forgotten. In Midian, Moses was no standout.
But God chose that bush, set it ablaze, and filled it with His Powerful Presence! Likewise, God chose Moses, just a used-up old shepherd in a tattered coat and worn-out sandals. By God’s grace, and for God’s glory, God’s Spirit filled Moses and set him ablaze!
“ ‘Moses, Moses!’ ... ‘Here I am’ ” (Exodus 3:4).