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Brush fires are not uncommon. Heat, arid conditions, and the occasional lightning bolt are sufficient to ignite dried tinder even if it is still rooted in the ground. A wildfire in the wilderness can capture attention, but not necessarily wonder. But if the tree aflame was not consumed, one would be compelled to investigate.

Exodus 3:1-3
3 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.
2 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. KJV[1]

God speaks to Moses from a thorn bush. The holiness of God has invaded the curse of the ground and commands Moses to bare his feet in the presence of the Almighty. The Lord has plans for this prince-turned-shepherd, this child of Jacob from Egypt. He is to be a prophet, a savior. He will have mastery of snakes, power over leprosy, and call the wind to divide the waters. This encounter deals with who Moses was, what God intends him to be, and who he would foreshadow.

He will walk through the sea on dry ground. Jesus walked on the waves. He takes his sandals off at the foot of tree. Jesus had his feet nailed to it. He will turn his hand leprous. Jesus will grab the leper and make him clean.[2] Moses will bring deliverance in his time to point to the deliverance of all time, Jesus the Lamb of God.

Moses’s conversation with God is devoid of religious pretense. The holiness of the encounter is a reality, not sanctimonious liturgy. God gives Moses a great plan. Moses argues and attempts to back out. The Lord provides him with signs. Moses stutters. God’s temper flares. (I wonder if the bush brightened for a moment.) Aaron gets a job. Moses gets going. Relationship, authenticity, real life.

God meets us as we are. Moses had presuppositions and a degree of spiritual understanding. Note the different descriptions of his prowess.

Exodus 4:10
And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. [Emphasis added.]

Acts 7:22
And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. [Emphasis added.]

“Mighty in deed and word” is a phrase also used to describe Jesus in Luke 24:19. A classic Hebraic parallelism, it expresses the thought that a person’s words have power—their commands cause things to happen. In the case of Jesus, these were miracles. In the case of Moses, it was magic. What he may have lacked in eloquence, he made up for in enchantment.

Stephen’s testimony concerns Moses as a young man. His Egyptian “power words” were learned from the court sorcerers. One keystone to their craft was knowledge of a deity’s proper name. With it, the supernatural power could be bent through spells to the will of man.[3] This was the context of Moses’s spiritual understanding. No wonder, then, we see him ask a question that is common in conversation, but profound in the historical context.

Exodus 3:13
And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? [Emphasis added.]

Moses is at a disadvantage. God has called him by name (Exod. 3:3), but how is Moses to control this holy fire without handle? The Lord’s response is to breathe out the eternal.

Exodus 3:14-15
14 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.
15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

The Self-existent One (I AM) gives His name as YHWH. Though we speak this Name, we have no idea if we are saying it correctly. First of all, it has no vowels. Without vowels, it is impossible to pronounce. Secondly, it has no real consonants. The Tetragrammaton is built from blowing sounds. In the words of Arthur Green:

“The name of God is so subtle it could slip away from you. Y-H-W-H is not a God you can grab hold of and be sure you have in your mental ‘grasp.’”[4]

The name could be translated as “Is-Was-Will Be.” God breathes His identity through time.

Revelation 1:8
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

He is. He was. He will be. The Lord often speaks within all three time frames at once—past, present, and future. The preterist, the pragmatist, and the prophetic can all be equally affirmed in their narrow view of Scripture because God proclaims truth through all the ages. But understanding is to be desired above affirmation and gaining it requires revelatory contemplation.

Ephesians 1:15-21
15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

Paul’s prayer was for us to be granted a spirit of wisdom and revelation that we would know the hope of our calling (Will Be), the exceeding greatness of His power to believers (Is), which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead (Was). Walking in the full counsel of God requires an understanding of what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do.

Isaiah 46:9-10
9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

Isaiah shows us that God’s mastery of time is dynamic. Time does not stand as a changeless block which God observes from His superior advantage to declare “what will be” as a fait accompli.  He plainly states that they “are not yet done.” The future does not exist. God proclaims destiny (“the end from the beginning”) and then brings it to pass (“I will do all my pleasure”). This is the essence of hope, which anchors our faith.

Romans 4:16-18
16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. [Emphasis added.]

God calls the things which are not as though they were and then invites us to take Him at His word. He tells an old man with an ancient, infertile wife that he is going to be the father of many nations and then dares him to believe because of Who said it. He tells us suffering, broken souls on a planet filled with evil that we are seated in the heavenlies and calls us to have hope.

Romans 8:19-25
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

Because of what God has done, we can join Him in what He is doing, confident that what He said He would do, He will do. Entrance into timelessness is not our hope. Our hope is in what God has promised to do in the future, a future we are sure to share with Him if our faith is in Jesus.

[1] All verses are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.
[2] Luke 5:13 and others, “touched” is the Greek haptomai, to firmly grasp.
[3] Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal, Touchstone, New York, 1992, p. 297-298.
[4] Arthur Green, These Are the Words: A Vocabulary of Jewish Spiritual Life, Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, 1999, p. 3-4.