The Burning Bush

Last time, we left of at the burning bush. So, this week will be a hot topic!

The Midianites

Before getting to the hot topic, we would like to go into a little more detail about the Midianites. Midian is Abraham’s son through his second wife, Keturah (Genesis 25:1). 1 Chronicles 1:32 refers to her as a concubine. So, she may have been a concubine before becoming Abraham’s wife. Like Ishmael, Midian and the other sons from Keturah were sent off possibly being considered “inferior” to Isaac. So, there was a basis for Midianite resentment towards the Israelites.

It is believed that the Ishmaelites and Midianites intermarried. Back in Genesis 37, Joseph is sold to a group of Midianite and Ishmaelite merchants. But, it was the Ishmaelites that took Joseph to Egypt. It is very likely that the two groups frequently traveled together.

Despite the resentment, it seems that Jethro’s clan was friendly with the Israelites. This is why they took in Moses. Later on while the Israelites were wandering through the wilderness, there was peace between the Hebrews and Midian as long as the Hebrew people stayed close to the Midian border. The Midianites started fighting when the Hebrews crossed the southern area of Midian.

A note, many scholars believe Moses wrote Genesis and Job while he with the Jethro’s Midianite clan. Moses must have had the time to do so being a shepherd. Moses’ Egyptian education that God provided came in handy!

Fire

Imagine grassy hills near a desert. The sound of braying sheep. You look over to a nearby hill and see something burning–possibly a bush. You look closer and see that the burning bush is not being consumed. There seems to be something supernatural about the fire. On top of that, it seems to be calling you to investigate further. What would have happened if Moses had just dismissed the unusual sight? Or said, “It’s getting late and I’m tired. Let’s go home.” Is God trying to get your attention with a “burning bush?” If so, don’t ignore it. Investigate it closer.

When we think of fire, we usually think of destruction as in a house fire or a forest fire.

With God, fire represents:

  • Power
  • Purification
  • Judgement

Events involving God’s fire:

  • God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:17)
  • Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed (Genesis 19:24)
  • The Burning Bush (Exodus 3:2–3)
  • Israelites at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:18)
  • Elijah and the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:38)
  • Elijah taken to Heaven in a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:11)
  • Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:3)

Nugget: In Exodus 3:1, the name of the place where Moses saw the burning bush was Horeb (Mountain of God). Horeb is another name for Mt. Sinai. This is the same mountain where God gave Moses the Ten Comments. Also, consider, Moses had already been through the land that he was leading the Israelites through. He lived there when he left Egypt and fled to the Midianites.

Fire As Power

Many times, God represented himself and his power with fire. God took on the image of a flame when he passed through the sacrifices that was cut in half for God’s covenant with Abraham and with the burning bush with Moses. God demonstrated his power with fire and smoke when the Israelites were camped around Mt. Sinai. God showed his power to the priests of Baal when Elijah called down fire that completely consumed the sacrifice, alter, soil, and even the water around it.

Fire For Purification

Fire is used to purify metals such as iron, gold, and silver in smelters. But, in the Bible, fire was used in other ways. For example, fire was used in the form of burnt offerings in the Tabernacle. It represented the removal or burning away of sin in the lives of the Israelites. Sin cannot stand up against God’s purifying light (or flame), His Holiness.

Fire represents trials in our lives as in the phrase “trial by fire.” The classic example of this is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace (Daniel 3). Talking about a trial by fire! They showed faith in God to the point where they were willing to die. Think how much more their faith was strengthened by the furnace experience. Likewise, God sometimes allows us to be put in a “furnace” to test us and to purify us.

Fire of Judgement

1 Corinthians 3:12–15 (NIV)
12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

We do not achieve salvation through works (Ephesians 2:8–9). But, we should do good works to show our love for God (2 Timothy 2:15). God will judge our works by putting them through a furnace, Himself. The works that are like hay and stubble will be burned up. Even our works for God can be like hay and stubble if we don’t do it with the right attitude or for wrong reasons. So, do good works for God’s glory with a cheerful and caring heart. Let God’s glory (fire) shine through your life!

Works do not have to be big and complicated. Take for example the widow who only gave two coins:

Luke 21:1–5 (CJB)
1Then Yeshua [Jesus] looked up, and as he watched the rich placing their gifts into the Temple offering-boxes, 2he also saw a poor widow put in two small coins. 3He said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4For they, out of their wealth, have contributed money they could easily spare; but she, out of her poverty, has given all she had to live on.”

A work can simply be obeying God. Or doing a small random act of kindness. Just listen to His small still voice in you. Also note, in the verses above, Jesus did not say that God disapproved the giving of the large gifts.

Next time, we will cover the first nine plagues of against Egypt.

Until then,
שָׁלוֹם (Shalom!)