I was reading the blessing of Moses to the children of Israel in Deut 33, I noticed that there was a very interesting description of God there, especially at the point before he bless the children of Joseph

“With the precious things of the earth and its fullness,
And the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush.
Let the blessing come ‘on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.” – Moses (Deut 33:16)

Why did Moses called God, “Him who dwelt in the bush”?

I guess the imagery of God appearing in the burning bush left a very deep impression in Moses. But have we ever wondered the significance of the burning bush?

Exodus 1 is dedicated to introduce the suffering of the Israelites. Exodus 2 is dedicated to the first 80 years of Moses life. Ex 3 -25 is dedicated to the last 40 years of Moses life.

Moses life can be divided into 3 groups of 40 years.

1. First 40 years : In the Palace of Egypt
2. 40-80 : In the Wilderness of Midian
3. 80-120 : Leading the Israelites

In The Palace Of Egypt (Ex 2:1-15)

When Moses was born, his parents kept him from being killed by the Egyptians by hiding him in the house, the author of Hebrews called that an act of Faith Heb 11:23. They can see that Moses was no ordinary child. Later on, they floated him in a basket, and by grace of God, he was picked up by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Miriam his sister, arranged that the mother of Moses were to nurse the child under the employment of the Pharaoh’s daught. That is when the mother taught Moses his faith. She must have made Moses understand that God preserved his life is for a greater purpose, to save the children of Israel

He spent this early years preparing for his work to lead the people of Israel, he was learned in all wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22) and is mighty in words and deeds.

When Moses became of age, he refused to be known as the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter (Heb 11:24-26) He wanted to suffer with his people, he sincerely feels that he is ready for his task. He used his own wisdom and strength to try to save the Israelites. He killed an Egyptian bullying an Israelite, and he also tried to mediate between his brethren. When Moses realised that his deed to kill the Egyptian was known, he fled to the wilderness of Midian.

This was the beginning of Moses second phase in life, where God is molding him.

In The Wilderness Of Midian (Ex 2:16-25)

All that was mentioned about this phase of Moses life, is that he married a midianite woman called Zipporah, (Ex 2:21). Moses had more or less, lose that fervour to work for God, he is contented with his life in Midian. We can tell from the name of his son Gershom which means “I have been a stranger in a foreign land” .

He most likely had not much news , and he must have thought that God did not want to use him. For a good 40 years have passed. AT that time, he is given training in humility and patience.

I guess, that Moses must have often wondered, whether God ever cared if his people are suffering in Egypt, will God care for the people just like the way he would for his sheep? He must be wondering where is God when the people were suffering, why didn’t God make use of him to deliver the people?

In the worst case, he may have pictured God enjoying himself up in heaven while the people suffered. that God is not really a God that cares if his people is suffering. As times gone by, these feelings must have somehow numb Moses.

Perhaps he may have concluded in his mind, “Fine, let the people suffer, since God did not bother, let me just live my life quietly with Zipporah and ignore this whole matter completely”

Little did he know that Gods plan is slowly unfurling.

The Imagery Of The Burning Bush

Once, Moses was out there in the wilderness tending his sheep, that is when from a distance, Moses saw that there was a bush that is on fire. Due to the tough condition of the Midianite desert, it is not uncommon to see scrubs and bushes suddenly catch fire and burn. Usually, the fire will last for a few minute, until the poor plant is burnt out.

But this particular plant is very special.. It was burning for a long long time. that sight caught Moses was curious about what makes this bush so special. He wanted to find out what prevents the plant from burning out like other common scrubs (Ex 3:2-3)

It was then, when he approach it, God spoke from the midst of the burning bush, calling him “Moses, Moses!” (Ex 3:4). It was then Moses realised why the bush did not burn up. It was because God was dwelling in it.

Moses hid his face, he was afraid to look upon God.

Moses realised, that while he was busy accusing God that he was enjoying himself up in heaven while the children of Israel were burning and groaning under the yoke of the Pharaoh. God has always been dwelling among the bushes in this place at Mount Horeb (Ex 3:1). The fact of the matter, is that God was dwelling among the thorns and thistles in Mount Horeb. In fact God was suffering, the fire that was burning the bush was tormenting him all along and that torture was endless, since the bush refused to be burnt out.

In fact, whenever we are suffering, sometimes we tend to think that God is sitting high and mighty in the heavens and he cannot empathise with us when we suffer. But this imagery of the perpetual burning bush tells us that as we are suffering, God is indeed suffering alongside with us.

Can God Indeed Suffer?

Sometimes we tend to think, God is a spirit (Jn 4:24). So many of us will think that it is impossible for God to feel physical suffering such as pain and hurt. But does that mean that God is unable to feel suffering? On the contrary it is not the case.

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” (Gen 6:5-7)

“Now the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, 11 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night.” 1 Sam 15:10-11

“How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, And grieved Him in the desert!” Ps 78:40. The psalms of Asaph describing how God felt when the children of Israel provoked him during the 40 years in the wilderness.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Eph 4: 30

Although God cannot feel physical suffering, but emotional suffering is usually much worst that physical pain. An attack of the mind is usually much worst that physical suffering. Over here, it is possible to grieve God. God is grieve whenever man disobeys him, God is grieve when people do not believe him, and God is grieve when the heart of man is constantly thinking of evil things.

Therefore Paul encouraged the Ephesians not to grieve the Holy Spirit.

In the example of Moses and the burning bush, God can hear the suffering of the people of God and in fact, he is grieve when he see the people suffering. Hence it is why he wanted Moses to deliver the people out from Egypt. Let us hear what God said to Moses

“I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians,…….. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them….” -YHWH (Ex 3:7-10)

Applying This To Our Lives

As a Christian attempts to apply his faith into his life, and to take that small and difficult path to heaven, There will be many trials that they have to go through,

Just like Paul and Barnabas encouragement to the churches “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22). It is inevitable that a Christian will need to go through trials in order to finish is walk with faith.

Sometimes sufferings can come in the form of Physical suffering

“From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness- besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” – Paul (2 Cor 11:24-28)

Sometimes it can be comes in the form of mental suffering, when someone attacks your belief, and scorns you for doing the right thing or even revile you and malign you for your good work.

“For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us,leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

” Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”]

who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness-by whose stripes you were healed” – Peter (1 Pet 2:19-24))

But as Christian who needs to suffer for our faith, we must often remind ourselves, that while we are suffering, God is not up there enjoying himself in heaven, but in fact, through the Holy Spirit he is also with us, facing the trouble. In fact, Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit because he did not want to leave his children alone, like orphans.

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” – Jesus when talking about the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:18)

In fact, this Holy Spirit is with us, facing the trials and tribulation in our faith. In fact one day, if Christians were to face direct persecution of their faith, the job of the Holy Spirit is to give them the peace and to teach the believers what to say to their persecutors.

“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” – Jesus (Lk 12: 11-12)

Therefore, the imagery of the burning bush, reminds us that God is always with us when we are suffering, and now even more so as his Holy Spirit is dwelling in us. God no longer just dwell in the burning bush, but he dwells in everyone of us. Just as we are suffering, God is suffering alongside with us, giving us comfort and strength to face our trial.

As conclusion, I would like to quote what Paul’s says when he feels alone in his trial.

“At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” – Paul (2 Tim 4:16-17)

It is difficult to pass our trials, it is even more difficult when the people whom we rely for help for, is not ready to help us. Yet for Paul’s case, it was God who still stood by him and strength him, in order that he is able to fulfil his ministry to the Gentile.

Let us all have the same heart of Paul as we face the trials of our lives.