YHWH AT THE BURNING BUSH
In the book of Exoudus 3:1-15 is recorded the appearance that God made to Moses at the burning bush. After forty years of being the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter and the the powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh himself, and after forty years of the monotonous life of being a shepherd, at the age of eighty God appeared and revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush at Mt Sinai. After an absolute cessation of miracles for more than 400 years, a miracle is once again made use of by God the Father to work out His plan to deliver the Hebrew nation from Egypt.
First of all, the passage introduces to us a very unusual name for God revealed to Moses. Moses said, “When I go to Egypt and say, “The God of your fathers sent me to you, and they say to me, what is your name, what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM. No better translation can be given of these Hebrew words. God said, “Tell them I AM sent you to the people of Israel. “I Am “ is just an abbreviated form of I AM THAT I AM. and expresses the same idea. It sets forth the truth not only does God exist, but He is the only existing God. It signifies His independent existence. In other words, “I am the only God who exists. This would be very meaningful to the Hebrew nation, for Egyptians attached great importance to the names of their many gods, but none of these gods really existed. They existed only man's superstitious imagination. So the one we call “The Great I am” is the one and only God that exists in the world. There is no other. Hence, the message Moses was to give to the Hebrews in Egypt was, “The one and only God in the world sent me to you.”
Previous to this time, two other names of God were made known to mankind. We read in verse 15, “Morever, God said to Moses, thus you shall say to the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Jacob, has sent Me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.” The previous names given to God were “The Lord God.” The names Lord and God are English names for God given by translators in English Bibles. The names Lord and God come from two Hebrews names for God: Jehovah and Elohim. YHWH is God's memorial name to all generations Translators and scholars have given these famous four consonants the name of Tetragammaton. We have only four consonants of the original name God gave to Moses; we have only the four consonants-- YHWH but no vowels. The Hebrews thought this name was so sacred that human lips should never utter the word. So they removed the vowels in this famous name to make sure that man would never utter that sacred name with his lips. God did not command them to do that; it was a superstitious idea of the Hebrews. They substituted an entirely different word for God's name, the name Adonai which is a common Hebrew word for lord or master. To distinguish the name from the ordinary meaning of the word, our translators and scholars put the word in capital letters, LORD, to signify it is the famous name which God revealed to Moses. They also selected the first vowel e from Elohim and the vowel a from Adonai and inserted them into the consonants into YHWH, and it comes out “Jehovah” in Hebrew. Some think that may have been the name God eealed to Moses. However, others think by adding the same vowels to YHWH it could come out Yahweh. Jehovah or Yahweh are the closest names we have for God's memorial name to all generations. Elohim the other name for God is found in Genesis 1and 2, and is a plural word and literally means the powerful Ones or the Mighty Ones. Our early English ancestors translated the Hebrew name Elohim by our English word God. We do not for certain how our English word God was ever coined. It is supposed to have come possibly come from the German word, Gott. Others suggest it may have been derived from the word good by dropping one o in the word. But Webster's dictionary says that the word good is a euphemism for God. A euphemism is a good sounding word but a less offensive word as a substitute for another word. Our early English ancestors gave us the word and that is all we know about it. I close this discussion about God's names by His own statement to Moses in Exodus 3:15, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel; the Lord God [YHWH and Elohim} of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has sent Me to you. The is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.” What is God's name forever–“ Jehovah Elohim or possibly Yahweh Elohim. But the Hebrews changed the name forever by removing the name Jehovah or Yahweh and gave us the word Adonai whichm eans Lord. When you see this word LORD in capital letters in the Bible, you know the word is Jehovah or Yahweh. In most versions of the Bible we have in English the LORD God as His name to all generations.
Second, let's give attention to God's glorious appearance to Moses in the burning bush. We are told the angel or Jehovah the messenger of Jehovah appeared to Moses in a flame of fire from the midst of the bush. Someone was in the fire that was burning in the bush, but the bush was not consumed. This literally says that the messenger of Jehovah appeared to Moses in a flame of fire. I agree with those who suggest that this One who appeared in the fire was the second person of the Godhead whom God the Father sent as His messenger. Pleas notice verse 4 says that hen Jehovah saw that Moses turned aside to see this great sight, Elohim called to him from the midst of the bush and said don't come any closer. Elohm saw Moses approaching the fire and Elohim said stop where you are! The LORD God, Jehovah Elohim was in the bush was n the bush. Christians have been taught by the apostles that there are three persons in the Godhead, and it would appear that the entire Godhead was involved in this fiery appearance. Some see here a reference to the first person and the second persons of the Godhead, and the third person of the Godhead could have very well been involved in the miracle of the burning bush This was no ordinary fire, for no harm was done to the bush. It may be that more than one heavenly being made an appearance in this firey bush. Both Jehovah and Elohim may have beem in the bush. Or it is possible that only one person of Godhead was in the bush, and both His names was used or it may be both the first person and second person was in the bush, one referred to as Jehovah and the other as Elohim. We cannot know with certainty, but it is an interesting possibility. Yet the fire did no harm to the person in the bush or to the bush itself. God also dwelled in a burning ball of fire just above the mercyseat in the Most Holy Place in Temple. Most all appearances God made on earth were fire- like. When the risen Christ appeared to Paul on the Damascus road He was clothed in light as bright as the sun. The brightness blinded him. He created all the galactic fire balls in the universe we call stars. James called God the Father of lights. The reference ls to the stars. They all represent God. Hebrews 12:8,29 says, “Let us have favor by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire.” It is cited here as a reason why we should serve God with godly fear and dread. To the faithful in Christ, God is life, light and love. But to the wilfully disobedient God has always been a consuming fire. The fire at the burning bush was not a consuming fire, but the fire of Hebrews 12:29 is a consuming fire. This present would will be destroyed by a consuming fie.
Finally, the appearance at the burning bush illustrated in a most impressive way, the unapproachableness of God by the human race. When Jehovah saw Moses making a close approach to the burning bush, Elohim called out to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Do not draw near this place. Take the sandal from off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” That was holy ground because Jehovah Elohim was on that ground, and Moses was not far from that bush. Wonder of wonders!. A voice calls to him out of a bush. He didn't know but what this might have been a natural phenomenon. Moses was going to get as close as he could to what was going on. If it was a supernatural sight from heaven, it was the greatest and most wonderful communication God had made since Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What was the meaning of this prohibition?. “Come no closer. Take off your sandals.” In all Old Testament times, the unapproachableness of sinful mankind was God's law. In the Temple worship of Israel no one could enter the Tabernacle except Priests. Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy place, and that but one time a year. God was not like man, such a one as themselves. It was needful to impress men of God's majesty, purity and holiness. Respect and reverence belongs to God. Man is not morally and religiously fit to be in His presence. In all places God makes His presence known it becomes holy ground. At all spots where God made appearances to chosen individuals became sacred spots just because of God's nearness. The Tabernacle and Temple were sacred places. In the Christian age of the world, God appears only in a spiritual way, no longer in a material ways as in olden times. God appears spiritually in our worship services, and it should humble us. In Public worship we are standing on holy ground .because of God's presence. Most people in the world consider church buildings, cathedrals and temples as sacred places. They associate God with these places. In our day people associate places of worship with God. If they enter these place of wrship as visitors they remove their hats, dress suitably and maintain silence. When several of us visited Israel, we went to the spot where the the temple was located, but the Mosque of Mohammed now sets on the famed spot. We decided to enter that beautiful building, but we were required to remove our shoes. No one was allowed to enter that famous building with their shoes on. Why? Moslems consider that mosque as a sacred place of worhsip and from that spot it is claimed that Mohammed ascended to heaven. In the East shoes were put off to enter place of worship as a token of respect to Jehovah God. In our day people associate church buildings and precincts of church buildings with Jehovah because Jehovah is worshiped in these places They consider them as sacred. When we come to thiis building for public worship, we should feel that God is in the midst of us, even if it is a spiritual way and not in a material way. I think we have lost the sense of wonder that God is among us when we worship Him in spirit and truth, and when we meet with Him around the Lord's Table. May we never lose that sense of reverence and godly fear when we come into His presence on the Lord's Day.