The Burning Bush: A Model of Israel’s Future Salvation – Part 1

Philipp Ottenburg

God called out to Moses from the burning bush, to reveal His plan to free the people of Israel from Egypt. This historic account also had a profound prophetic dimension: it foreshadowed what the God of Israel intended to do with His chosen people in the future.

“Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.’ When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’”

God appeared to His faithful servant Moses at Mount Horeb, on the Sinai Peninsula. What was it all about? It was concerning the Lord’s plan to free the people of Israel from Egypt. He called out to Moses from the burning bush for this task. At the same time, this historic account also had a profound prophetic dimension: This liberation from Egypt foreshadowed what the God of Israel intended to do with His chosen people in the future.

Just how did Moses come to the burning bush? The answer to this question allows us to better understand the parallels between the actual event and God’s plan for Israel’s future salvation.

At the time Moses had the encounter with the burning bush, the people of Israel lived in Egypt as the property of the Egyptians—in other words, in slavery. How did it come to this? After Joseph brought Jacob’s (Israel’s) family to Egypt, they were so fruitful that the people increased abundantly. Then a new king—a new Pharaoh—came to power. He knew nothing of Joseph, who had been very important to the previous king and had impressed him greatly. The new Pharaoh became afraid that this ever more numerous people of Israel would soon become stronger than the Egyptians. He began to burden Israel incessantly, oppressing them more and more. But the greater the pressure, the more numerous the people became.

Pharaoh ordered all of Israel’s newborn sons to be thrown into the Nile. It was at this time that Moses was born and was placed in the river in a reed basket. Pharaoh’s daughter came to the Nile and found the little Moses. She adopted him as her own son. So, Moses was preserved in Egypt from the murder of all the infant sons, just as Jesus would later be preserved in Egypt, when Herod wanted to have all of the Israelite boys killed.

Moses grew up in the royal palace and was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. A bright future lay ahead of him, but he renounced it. He could have been the founder of a major new dynasty for this mighty world power. But we read in Hebrews 11:24-26: “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”

This means that he renounced every claim. It’s been said that Moses committed social suicide by acknowledging his Hebrew origins … cutting himself off from Egyptian society forever.

Complete renunciation. Who does that remind us of?

Of our Lord and Savior, who abstained from equality with God to become like men. And what did Jesus freely become? A Jewish boy. Moses surrendered himself completely to the Jews. Jesus was cut off and persecuted, just like Moses.

In fact, considering his circumstances and the protection he experienced, Moses could have concluded that his path at the royal court was the right one, because it would have allowed him to look after his people’s best interests. But God had higher, indeed divine, plans for His people. Moses was aware of this, because it was by faith that he made his choice to renounce all these things.

So, Moses seems to have had deep, clear insight into God’s redemptive purposes for His people. He inhabited a hope that made him renounce all the treasures of Egypt. It was clear to him that what was yet to come would be much greater.

You may also have to forego numerous things in your life because of your faith. We should be encouraged that what is coming next will be much greater. Let’s hold onto this hope! It is reality. 

We read another important aspect in Stephen’s speech about Moses: “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’” (Acts 7:23-28).

When Moses saw the burdens of his people as recorded in Exodus (or, as it says above, their being wronged), he had compassion. Christ had pity on the people because they were like sheep without a shepherd. The people also rejected Moses, although he’d expected his brothers to understand. He wanted to save them, and he exhorted them to peace. Jesus did that as well.

What’s very interesting is that Moses came to his people for the first time because he saw injustice, but they pushed him away. We can see Jesus’ first lowly coming in this. Stephen later said, “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush” (Acts 7:35). Just like the Son of God who wanted to bring salvation, but they didn’t understand Him.

Then when Moses was shunned, he fled to Midian. Where is Midian located? Outside of Israel, and therefore within the territory of the people of the nations. Moses tended a flock of sheep there, one not from Jacob’s sheepfold. This beautifully points to Christ going to the Gentiles after Israel was set aside. We see that in Paul.

In Midian, Moses was tending Jethro’s sheep. It was an ordinary day. According to Exodus 3, he was driving the sheep into the wilderness when he arrived at Mount Horeb. Suddenly, God appeared to Moses in flames from the middle of the bush. Moses definitely wanted to see why the bush wasn’t consumed.

He must not have believed his eyes when he saw this phenomenon. He was alone in the desert. Who could have set the bush on fire? Why isn’t the fire spreading? Why isn’t the bush burning up? What does it mean? 

Moses hadn’t been counting on God making a bold appearance, and it achieved the Lord’s desired effect. Moses signed on.

I’m sure you know of situations in which you’ll have to make important decisions, and don’t want to go against God’s will. We too can trust that God knows how to make Himself understood in our lives. He has every means at His disposal to make something clear to us.

But back to Moses. It was none other than God Himself speaking from that bush. The subject was His people Israel’s great need and suffering in Egypt, and the announcement of His firm intention to deliver them from the hands of the Egyptians and bring them out into the Promised Land.

The meeting took place on Mount Horeb. The Law would later be given there. Nations and states have a law, but Israel received its own Law, with the goal of one day possessing the Promised Land as a nation. Israel was (and will be) a kingdom with God as King. And God always intended for this kingdom to become a blessing for all peoples in His plan of salvation. Israel is meant to be salt and light.

This will become full reality in the Millennium when Jesus reigns. The peoples of the nations will see how God glorifies Himself with Israel, in Christ. It’s important that we don’t see Israel as some sort of spiritual, mystical concept, but very practically, as a kingdom on this earth … a kingdom that is always contrasted with the other peoples. Likewise, the Church, the body of Christ, is an exception … a spiritual structure with believers from all nations. We shouldn’t confuse them.

And so, at that bush, God established Moses as a called, chosen savior and leader of Israel. He was meant to bring Israel into its land and establish the kingdom.

News from Israel - 06/2023

ContactAbout UsPrivacy and Safety