“…and the favor of Him who dwells in the bush.” Deuteronomy 33:16 ESV
I had already begun another Briefing entitled “The Dedication of the Temple” in which I was going to show the three temples in scripture and their spiritual significance to the New Testament believer in the light of God indwelling them. But just this morning my heart was deeply stirred as I took communion on my knees in the dark in front of my prayer chair in many tears, to write on a different subject. So I’ll put the article of the temple on the back burner and go a different direction. Maybe next week I will address the “Temple” issue if the Lord allows. And because this came across my heart at the last moment; and since I haven’t had the time to study it out, I will just share what is on my heart concerning it.
So let’s set the scene here in our minds and hearts. It is at the very end of Deuteronomy. God had already told Moses in the preceding chapter that he was to ascend Mount Nebo and die. What an encouraging word to get at the end of your life: go climb a mountain by yourself, look across the Jordan at a land you’ll never get to enter, and then die all alone with no friends and with no family present.
And after hearing this from the Lord, he proceeds to bless the children of Israel (the same children who strove with him for 40 years and caused him to not enter the Promised Land – Psalm 106:32). And when he gets to Joseph, he calls God by a name that he had never used before…”Him who dwells in the bush.” Even writing this now, something is so stirred deep within me; the emotion of it is overwhelming!!
This event that happened to Moses at the beginning of the book of Exodus was so significant and important to Moses that we can tell by his name for God here (He who dwells in the bush) that it was always a very tender memory of when and how he first met God and came to know Him. The book of Acts bears out in chapter 7 how that Moses saw the “Angel of the Lord” (who is Christ in the Old Testament) and didn’t just hear Him. For the Hebrew word for “dwelt”(KJV) here in our Deut. 33:16 text is “saran” (shah-chan). It is where the word Shekinah comes from; the Shekinah Glory. Moses saw Him also, and he never forgot this encounter.
This word “bush” in the Hebrew is a very interesting word because it means a thorn-bush or a bramble bush. This can’t be a coincidence as God never does or says one single thing by coincidence. The fall of man in Genesis 3 is what caused the earth to produce thorns (Gen. 3:18). Thorns represent the memory of the curse placed upon the earth; just as the rainbow represents the covenant that God made with Noah to never flood the earth again out of anger. Jesus was made a curse for us, and they fashioned a crown of thorns and forced it down upon His brow. So then, not only did He become a curse for us, but He also partook of the curse; for it was the curse of thorns that was the very first curse to proceed out of God’s mouth concerning the earth.
There are so many spiritual truths that we could draw here that it could fill a small book. We could show how that Moses was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22), and this correlates with “the wisdom of this world.” Moses was a shepherd and according to Genesis 46:31 “Every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.” [Egyptians represent the unsaved worldly person who trusts in their own wisdom and strength]. How that he had spent 40 years alone with God but yet nothing is told of his spiritual journey; just as nothing is told of John the Baptist’s spiritual growth, Jesus’ spiritual growth, or Paul’s spiritual growth in Arabia -because a man’s spiritual pilgrimage is a very intimate thing to God and He doesn’t air ones struggles, faults, failures, or shortcomings. We could speak of the particular mountain this occurred at (“The mountain of God, Mount Horeb” Ex. 3:1). We could speak of the bush being consumed by fire, but yet not burned up and then correlate this with “Our God is a consuming fire.” We could speak of the “backside of the desert” where Moses was and show that this is where each man must come to in his walk if he is to really see the Glory of the Lord and learn what true holiness is all about. It is in the dust of the desert all alone, bereft of your own strength and wisdom and unseen by any except God, in the heat and the trials and the spiritual loneliness. And this is the very place where one day you walk into God’s presence and everything changes. And then lastly we could speak of the Christian who is bearing thorns in Matthew 7:16 instead of grapes and what the Lord had to say concerning them.
But none of these are our study here today…they are just side-thoughts that come to my mind quickly and things that I think about on a daily basis. But let’s bring our attention once more to the phrase “of Him who dwells in the bush.” Isn’t it interesting that Moses chose this as his last name for God before he died? Why not call Him: “He who split the Red Sea” or “He who opened up the earth” or “He who made water come out of a rock” or “He who rained down manna for 40 years” or “He who forgave all their iniquity”?
Now that some deeper things have happened between the Lord and I…I think I have come to understand why Moses called Him the one who dwelt in the bush. It was because it was here that His spiritual loneliness was forever addressed. It was here that he first met the One that he had believed in all these years. It was here that all of his questions were answered in a moment of time. It was here that the character and tenderness of God was displayed and implanted in Moses’ heart. It was here in the thorn bush that he saw Redemption face-to-face. It was here that he saw the curse and the Cure. It was here that his heart was filled to overflowing with God. It was here that he saw himself for who he really was in the light of God’s glory. It was here that Moses “hid his face” in v.6 for he had learned humility and had developed a fear and reverence for God. It was here that his shoes (that represent his old walk and going where he so chose to go) came off because holiness had now arrived and a new life had begun. It was at this place that it all happened and where it had all started.
This was a place of memorial for him. A place of the fondest memories of the God who showed mercy on Moses and let him know that he wasn’t overlooked nor was he forgotten. It was the place that a deep friendship started that lasted the remainder of his life. The bush had become a place of everlasting memory to Moses and at the very end of his life when his best Friend was about to bury him (Deut. 34:6) that the fondest memories of a 40-year friendship flooded his mind and his emotions. And unless (and until) this has happened to you, you will never know nor understand how deep these feelings run.
Like Abraham who never forgot the altar at Bethel, and he returned to it in Gen 13:3-4 because of the deep significance it held with him. It was a memorial between him and God. But later on in his life, he built an everlasting one at Hebron ( Hebron means the place of everlasting friendship).
Something very deep happened to Moses at the bush (the bramble bush…the burning bush). Dear reader, have you met God this way? Sure you have. It may not have been a burning bush. But it may have been at an altar, at a convention, in your bedroom, or any number of other places. Can you still remember what it felt like the moment you “saw” Him and “heard” His voice? I can!! It was Father’s Day 1987, approximately 9:00 in the morning as I was flipping through the channels on TV trying to find a movie to watch and there was a preacher pointing at me and speaking a word directly to me and I believed. And it was at this place that an altar was built (so-to-speak) at Bethel. But it wasn’t until last year that I moved to Hebron (so-to-speak) and there built another altar and called upon the name of the Lord.
You see, the burning bush was just the beginning of Moses’ journey and pilgrimage with God. It grew much deeper over the years. It grew into much more than just a God-servant relationship…it ended in one of the greatest friendships recorded in scripture and maybe even in the history of man.
When I was first saved He was “Savior” and then He became “Lord” and then He became “God” to me, and then He became “Father”…but today He is becoming “Friend” to me. He is still all those aforementioned Persons to me, but a friendship is blossoming that I never knew could or would. David was called the friend of God, Moses was called the friend of God; and now I also am becoming a friend of God, and it is no small thing. But it is a beautiful thing. I can’t explain it…I don’t know if it can be explained. How can you describe a flower to a blind man, or tell of a symphony to a deaf man. Until he can see the flower himself, it can only be imagined. But even then how can he imagine it when he has no benchmark to guide him as to what the colors even are. Or the deaf man…how can he ever understand the intricacies of music and time having never heard music or even read a music book to have a benchmark of understanding to start with?
Even so dear reader, you also must be brought out a little further into Ezekiel’s river (Ezekiel 47) and you must be brought in a little further into the garden (Matthew 26:39). For it is here that something very deep happens. The “Fear of Isaac” (Gen. 31:42) becomes a reality to you, sin becomes something of another life, and the word of God grabs ahold of your heart and becomes an anchor for your soul. Things of the self are washed away down Ezekiel’s river. Sins of the mind and sins of the flesh are dealt with in the garden and buried there to never haunt you again. The lie of Jacob is exposed and Israel comes forth. And all of this is done by God, through Christ; all because of His sacrifice, His cross, and His suffering.
These are the truths and experiences of men like Enoch, Abraham, Jacob who became Israel, Moses, David, Saul who became Paul, and Simon who became Peter.
Let Him be to you today who He was to you in the beginning. Who was He to you? To Mary at the tomb He was the gardener, to the two brothers on the road to Emmaus He was a traveler, to Joshua He was a warrior, to Jacob He was a wrestler, to Samuel He was the God who forgives, to David He was a friend, and to Moses He was the one who dwelt in the bush.
Whom do you say that the Son of Man really is?(Mark 8:28) And as Pilate asked, “What then shall be done with this Man you call Jesus?(Matt. 27:22)”