“Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.
So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, "Why are you striking your companion?" But he said, ‘Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid and said, ‘Surely the matter has become known.’
“When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock. When they came to Reuel their father, he said, ‘Why have you come back so soon today?’ So they said, ‘An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock.’ “He said to his daughters, ‘Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.’ Moses was willing to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses. Then she gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, ‘I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.’
“Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.”
“Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, ‘I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.’ When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said also, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
“The LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.’
“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ And He said, ‘Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.’ Then Moses said to God, ‘Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, “'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.'” Now they may say to me, “'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?’" God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM,’ and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “'I AM has sent me to you.'” Exodus 2:11-3:14
Moses as a Type of Christ
So we have this famous story of Moses and the burning bush. The first thing we have to understand is that Moses typifies Christ. According to Deuteronomy 18:18 the Messiah would be a prophet like Moses. Remember, it’s trying to show this. A wicked king was determined to destroy all the Jewish children. Moses was protected through the faith of his parents in Egypt for a season and then he comes out of Egypt and goes to the promised land. So Jesus faced the same prospect. A wicked king was going to destroy all the Jewish male children and Jesus was protected in Egypt for a season through the faith of his parents and then he comes out of Egypt and returns to the promised land. It’s showing Moses as a type of Christ.
But in Hebrew you have a word play: “Moshe” – “to draw out”-- and he lives up to his name. He was drawn out of water and so you see the same word in the Hebrew text. He drew out the water for us and always his name is being played out in the text of Exodus. These things don’t come across well or they don’t come across at all virtually in the translations. Now remember, just like Jesus, the first time he comes to save his Jewish brothers, they reject him. They accept him the second time when their anguish and their suffering has become excruciating and they’re desperate, and so it is with the Jews; the Jews don’t accept Jesus at His first coming, they’ll accept Him at His second coming. Initially they looked upon Moses as an Egyptian, the same as they would look upon Joseph as an Egyptian.
Remember, Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognize him at the first coming either, they recognized him at the second and wept bitterly. And so it is with the Jews – they look upon Moses not the first time but the second. The way they saw him was as an Egyptian, while Jews think of Jesus as a Gentile. They think of Him as a Gentile. Moses -- he’s an Egyptian -- that’s how people see him. Similarly, with Jesus, give him blonde hair and blue eyes. They thought Moses was an Egyptian. They thought that Joseph was an Egyptian, a Gentile; well Jews think that Jesus was virtually a Gentile. Now this is not true, they objectively know He’s a Jew, but subjectively they relate to Him as a Gentile. This conditioning was to look upon Him as a non-Jew. It’s the same with Moses, same with Joseph. He looked like an Egyptian, he talked like an Egyptian – you know he was an Egyptian prince – He’s an Egyptian; he’s not one of us.
It’s showing Moses here as a type of Christ. But also with what we see with Moses is what you see with Jesus. He tries to save his own people and they reject him but the Gentiles accept him. Remember? When he tries to stand up for his own people they reject him. So he goes to Midian and to the Midianites and when he stands up for them, they accept him. Then his own people turn to him. And so it is with Jesus. At first they reject Him, the Gentiles accept Him, and then His own people turn to Him. It’s showing Moses as a picture of the Messiah.
An Old Testament Manifestation of Christ
Another feature is “The Angel of the Lord”, the definite article. Not an angel but the Angel as we talk about on the Vow of the Nazarite tape and as we talk about on the Judges 1 & 2 tape. The Angel of the Lord with the definite article, Ha Malak Adonai, is a Christophony, an Old Testament manifestation of the Messiah. It’s not an angel because it is God Himself. The text says that God spoke to Moses from the bush but “the Angel’”spoke as God from the bush to Moses. In Judaism the Angel of the Lord is called the Metatrone, the one who dwells at the center of the throne. Now the Metatrone is here – the Angel of the Lord is here – He’s talking to Moses and He’s identified as being God.
The Hebrew word for angel, like the Greek word “angelos,” means “messenger”. So the Metatrone, the Angel of the Lord, is God’s messenger yet He is God Himself. The idea of God becoming a man is unfathomable in popular Jewish thinking, however Jacob wrestled with the Metatrone, the Angel of the Lord, an embodiment of God. Adam heard God walking in the garden. The incarnation of Jesus, while important, was not in the absolute sense a precedent. God had come in incarnate form before. He walked in the garden with Adam but He was also the Angel of the Lord. Hence we see this is a Christological passage. It talks about the Messiah, God’s messenger who would come and dwell with His people. Even the idea of the bush not being destroyed even though it burned. Remember in Isaiah Jesus was incorruptible: “He will not suffer His Holy Ones flesh to see decay.” His corpse did not rot in the earth.
Moses is a good picture of anybody who really wants to serve God. In fact, he’s one of the best pictures. The first thing we see about Moses is this: Moses as a prince of Egypt, grandson of Pharaoh, was educated in the wisdom of Egypt before he was educated in the wisdom of God. He had the best education anyone in the world could have had, but when he encountered the God of his fathers he realized what Egypt had amounted to nothing. Somebody can be totally uneducated and once they meet the true and living God, among other repercussions, they will become smarter. Moses was trained in the wisdom of Pharaoh before he was trained in the wisdom of God. Now the Egyptians deified Pharaoh. Pharaoh was a divine being to them. Egypt in the Bible taught in 1 Corinthians is a metaphor for the world and whenever you see a man worshipped as God other than Jesus Himself it typifies the Antichrist who is coming. Pharaoh was worshipped and deified as God. Moses could have been in that family but we are told in Hebrews that he chose the reproach of Christ instead of the pleasures of this world. He was a prince of Egypt, he had the best Egypt had to offer in terms of position, power and education, but he chose the reproach of Christ. Moses already knew about the Messiah, and it was the Angel of the Lord he would meet.
So, he tries to help one of his own people and his own people reject him and he has to flee for his life. He flees to the wilderness and winds up where the law would eventually be given – Mt. Horeb.
So here we have Moses, in figure like Christ. He takes a Gentile bride, the church. He comes to save his own people and he is rejected. He goes into the wilderness and is accepted by the Gentiles, by the non-Jews who think he is an Egyptian. It is an amazing thing that not only Jews look upon Jesus as a non-Jew, but even a lot of so-called Christians look upon Jesus as a non-Jew.
Into the Wilderness
This pattern of being forced into the wilderness as a result of rejection is a recurrent characteristic of those whom God calls. We think of King David. The prophet Samuel anoints him and instead of him assuming the throne he has to leave town in a hurry to the cave of Adullam and then out into the wilderness.
Then there is Rabbi Saul of Tarsus. A Pharisee of the Pharisees from the Rabbinic school of Hillel, disciple of Rabbi Gamaliel, and grandson of Rabbi Hillel. Whereas Moses had the finest education Egypt had to offer, Paul was educated in the best Yeshiva. He was an educated Roman citizen and a Rabbinic well-versed in Greek philosophy, fluent in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin, and had been an enemy of the Gospel. But he spent years in the wilderness just like David and Moses.
As Moses fasted 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights; Jonah gave Nineveh 40 days to repent; it rained 40 days and 40 nights when Noah was in the ark; and the children of Israel sojourned 40 years in the wilderness. It is always 40.
As a new believer, I had a naive idea. I said “Lord I’m educated in science and Lord I make a few thousand a week. And Lord now I’m going to give it all to you.” I wind up in Israel thinking I’m going to be an evangelist to the Jews in Israel in the Last Days. I had a miserable, rotten job filling prescriptions because it was the only thing I knew how to do. I thought when I got saved my days of selling drugs was over. I’m trying to explain to old ladies in Yiddish how many to take because they didn’t know Hebrew but I didn’t know either at the time, not well. I’m out in the middle of nowhere. So I looked out the window and there was sand. Why was there sand? Because I was in the desert. Literally, there were Bedouins with camels. I left New York to live in a wilderness? I gave up a high paid position for this? This is what You brought me here for? The wilderness, this? I thought You brought me here to use me! “Oh no, that comes later. I didn’t bring you here to use you in Israel, I brought you here to use Israel in you!”
Rejection. I discovered that much like the Jews in New York, a lot of the Jews in Israel didn’t want to hear about Jesus either. Only in New York sometimes they would throw rocks. In Israel some of them weren’t beyond throwing hand grenades, at least the Yeshiva boys. We got stoned on the promenade in Haifa. We were actually chased by mobs with rocks. I used to give out tracts for Jews for Jesus in New York and old ladies used to spit on me, and sometimes the JDL, (Jewish Defense League) would come and harass me.
I was on a kibbutz trying to improve my Hebrew and I began teaching evangelistic Bible studies to small groups of Israelis. A lot of people didn’t get saved. What did You bring me here for? I used to be able to write checks and send money away to missions and evangelism. Now I’m broke all the time. I was the prince of Egypt, now I’m nothing. I thought You said You were gonna use me. Nope. Rejection. Wilderness. Moses didn’t know why this happened to him. Alright, You’re the God of my fathers and I tried to stand up for my people and I tried to do what was right and I tried to use my position, my power, my education for You, Lord and I just wound up rejected and exiled to the desert. Something was happening in that wilderness that he didn’t understand at the time. How was he able to lead the children of Israel 40 years through that same wilderness? He was able to lead the children of Israel, a nation of 1.5 million adults plus Egyptian stragglers plus children through that wilderness for 40 years because he had spent 40 years in it himself. Wilderness is a place of death, scorpions, cobras, and vultures swarming overhead. No water -- unless you find an oasis. One here, one there. How do you survive in the wilderness? Well, that’s what you must learn, Moses.
After I taught you how to survive in the wilderness, then I can use you to lead a whole nation through the wilderness.
You see, we’ve come out of the domain of Pharaoh when we got saved, we’ve come out of Egypt but we have yet to enter the promised land that flows with milk and honey. We’ve come out of the world but as 1 Corinthians 10 says we haven’t entered heaven. We are sojourning in the wilderness.
The reason Moses was able to do it was because he spent so many years in that wilderness. There are things that no university, no seminary, no Bible College can ever teach you. The finest theological institutions in the world can teach you about the Bible but its only in the wilderness where you can be taught what the Bible is about. To know about the Bible is good, an academic knowledge of Scripture is helpful, it’s practical. I’m not demeaning learning Greek and Hebrew, literary criticism and Biblical history and archeology. It is good to know about the Bible but it’s not good enough. It is important but it’s not what is most important. Learning about the Bible is necessary but what comes first is learning what the Bible is about. That, no man can teach you. That is something only God can teach you. How can you lead people through wilderness? Let the leaders be tested! How does this person handle this appointment? Crisis in health? Marital struggles? Problems in ministry? Financial setback? How does this person handle those things? Once this person has handled those things in the strength and wisdom of the Lord then and only then is that person equipped to be God’s vehicle to encourage others through that same wilderness. Only then does God say “go” to Pharaoh.
After You've Been Through the Wilderness
Only once we’ve been through the wilderness will an academic education be of any practical value. I’ve seen people with the silly notion that they’re going to go to university or Bible college then they’re going to go into the ministry. It doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t even work that way in secular profession. Take a defense contractor in the States like Boeing or Macdonald Douglas. They’ll try and recruit people with Masters Degrees or Doctorate Degrees from the best engineering schools. They’ll go to Imperial College in London or they’ll go to MIT or something like that. They’ll get the best people. And then they’ll say; “Now we’re going to train you to be an engineer!” “But I graduated MIT!” “No, you work for us five years because it will take five years before we get any real use out of you!”
You graduate with a degree in Medicine in the States; you become an intern and then a resident. In Britain you become an assistant Registrar and then a Registrar. “But I’ve already been to medical college!” “No, no, no, no.”
You finished Law School, now you have to do your articles and go clerk. Do Paralegal work. Then you become an assistant Solicitor, then you become a Junior Solicitor. Five years from now you can call yourself a Lawyer. “But I have a degree!”
It doesn’t work that way in Engineering, it doesn’t work that way in Medicine, it doesn’t work that way in Law; much less does it work that way in Ministry. Only after you’ve been through the wilderness will the education do you any good. Now go to Pharaoh. Now you’re qualified.
You can become very disoriented in the desert; everything looks the same. Because of dehydration you become prone to see things like mirages. You don’t know where you’re going! You can see which way the sun rises and the sun sets and that will give you some bearing but the best way to navigate through the wilderness is at night. The Bedouins use the stars. It’s quite a skill to learn how to survive in the wilderness but to see a whole nation survive in the wilderness. Never despise the day of small things. When God calls you, and everyone of us has a ministry, the first thing to expect is rejection because we can only be the Lord’s ministers in the character of Christ. The first thing Christ experienced was rejection.
“Who hath believed our report, to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed, he grew up before him like a tender shoot out of dry ground, he had no form or comeliness that we should look upon him, we esteemed him not.”
That’s what Isaiah said about the Messiah in Isaiah 53:1-2. Before God can use you, you have to experience rejection.
God prepares people for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Only after you are no longer in the wilderness -- only in retrospect -- do you see what God was doing in that wilderness. When Moses was in the wilderness he didn’t know that his own people who rejected him were going to be brought to a place of desperation where they would accept him. His mission field wasn’t ready yet.
The same can be seen in the life of David after Samuel anointed him to be king. “Well, David you’re gonna be king. Saul is pursuing you, he’s going to kill you.” Rejection -- the outcasts of Israel joined themselves to David. Everyone who was in debt; every loser; every nobody. But we read later on about David’s mighty men -- the commanders of his army; the generals of the Israeli armed forces. Who were these generals in the Israeli armed forces? Who were the commanders of the army of the Lord?
Who are David’s mighty men? The same losers! The same outcasts! The same down and out people who joined him at the cave of Adullam. God took these losers and made them into David’s mighty men. God took these nobodies and made them into the commanders of the armies of the Lord in the wilderness. First they learned how to outfox Saul, then they learned how to outfox the Philistines. Then they conquered the Philistines. Where did they learn it? David taught them.
David’s a type of Christ, the Son of David, Ben David Yeshua. The Lord himself, the Son of David will teach you things in the wilderness you’re never going to learn anywhere else -- how to outsmart the enemy. But it wasn’t pleasant out there. Just think of Moses -- “I was a prince of Egypt, I had all this money, power, position, privilege, I’m an educated man and I’m out in the wilderness. ‘God, you said you called me, I was drawn out of the water for this?’”
Rabbi Saul of Tarsus: “I’m going to be an apostle to the Gentiles, I have to sneak out of town in a basket at the wall?” Something happened to Paul though in Arabia. Paul was actually able to write about the last supper in 1 Corinthians 7 in a way that’s almost mysterious. He said, “I received from the Lord that which I also delivered unto you”. He wasn’t at the last supper. How did he receive it from the Lord if he wasn’t there? Where did he get it? He got it out in the wilderness! He got it out in the desert. It may have been in the desert where he was caught up into the third heaven in 2 Corinthians whether in body or in spirit he didn’t know but he saw things that he couldn’t tell you about because they were too unspeakable, too amazing, too incredible. So it is with Rabbi Saul of Tarsus. So it was with King David; so it was with Moses. So it is with anybody who really wants to serve the Lord.
The Purpose of the Wilderness
But after a long time, almost out of the blue, something happens to Moses in that wilderness. At some point, David came in from the cold. He returned from the wilderness he’s in, at some point Paul came back from Arabia. At some point God is going to call you back in from the wilderness, after he’s taught you everything you need to know to be prepared for what lies ahead. In this fallen world there is no other place and no other way to learn it and those things are essential.
When God has you in the wilderness, not only is He preparing you for your mission, he’s preparing your mission for you. Things are going to be tough but now we begin to understand what God is really doing. And out of nowhere God speaks to him from a burning bush and says, “Here is the sign. When you lead these people out, you’re going to come right to the same mountain. This is where I’m going to give you the covenant, the Law, the Torah.”
In other words, in the ministry you can never lead someone to a place where you haven’t already been yourself. After you’ve been there, after you know what it’s like to encounter the living God then He can use you to bring somebody else there. But unless you’ve been there yourself, you’re not bringing anybody else.
Moses was eighty years old when he encountered God in the burning bush. One of the lies of the world is the idea of retirement. The only thing retirement should mean for a Christian, if their health permits, is now you are able to serve God full-time instead of part-time. The world says your prime is when you are middle-aged. But God says your prime is when you are old-aged. It’s just the opposite of what the world says. Somehow the church has allowed the world to put its perverse model on us. God however, doesn’t see it that way. God sees all the other stuff as preparation for old age. He doesn’t see it the way the world does.
Unfortunately, the church listens to the mentality of the world, more than it does the mentality of the Lord. Your secular career in business is over now. You no longer have to hustle to make a living and put the kids through University because that’s done. The testosterone and estrogen levels have depleted. The lusts of the flesh are not going to wax as heavily against you. The world says youth, middle age. God says, no youth/middle age, that’s preparation for old age. The Hebrew word for “elder” means somebody who’s older. Do not allow the world’s idea to come into your thinking as a Christian. The Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation when he was in his 90s, an incredible age in his time in history.
The Result of the Wilderness
The man or the woman who God brings into the wilderness will be entirely different than the man or the woman who God brings out. The one who goes in know their strengths, the one who comes out knows their weakness. Then they know God’s strength! His strength is always magnified in our weakness. The man or woman who God brings into the wilderness is one person, the man or the woman who God brings out although itss the same person are completely different in character, in perspective, in demeanor.
When he goes in, he knows all about his abilities, when he goes in he’s confident. When he goes out he has no confidence in himself. Then God can use his background. Once we learn not to trust our education, our cleverness, our background, our position, once we learn not to trust those things, once we learn our insufficiency, then God will use those things. Our strength has to be in Him. The person who goes into the wilderness knows their strength, the one who comes out only knows their weakness that they may experience God’s strength.
And so it happens, the pattern gets clearer. You want God to use you? The first thing to anticipate is rejection. You will be rejected by your own brothers, your own sisters, and your own people. That’s the rejection that hurts. Jesus was rejected by His fellow Hebrews, Moses was rejected by his fellow Hebrews and Joseph was rejected by his fellow Hebrews. Joseph, Moses, Jesus, Paul, you, me get rejected by their own people. All that education, all that experience, all that money, power, position, prestige goes into the wilderness with you where it means nothing. It means absolutely nothing until God speaks from the burning bush. And speak He will. “How can I go?” Because, I’m sending you! “Who are you?” I am who I am! You see when Moses was a prince of Egypt Moses knew who he was. What he needed to find out was who God is.
You never find out who God is until you meet Him in the wilderness. Anybody can be spiritual when things are good. Something will happen to you in the wilderness. You won’t know what it is; in the beginning it will intrigue you. Let me get a closer look at this. For then you’ll quickly realize you’re standing on holy ground. It is on holy ground where God wants to use you to bring others to Him. Bring them to the holy ground. “Lord that’s why you brought me out here?” Yeah! “But they rejected me.” They weren’t ready and you weren’t either. Now they’re ready and so are you. “But how can I do it, I can’t talk there, I can’t do this.” Oh yes you can, you could always do it; if you couldn’t have done it you wouldn’t have been here, I wouldn’t have wasted my time bringing you to the wilderness if you didn’t have the capacity to do it. Then, you thought you had the capacity to do it, now you realize you only have the capacity to do it in My strength. Go do it, go do it. From the burning bush he hears the voice of Jesus and he responds with “Hineni,” (Here I am, what would you have me to do?)
There is not one of us that God doesn’t have a calling in our life for some ministry. I don’t know what it is. It may be something to do with leadership; it may be in a mission field or evangelism. If God has really called you to something, step one will be rejection; step two will be a wilderness; step three will be a burning bush.
And I promise you, that man or that woman who comes out of that wilderness is going to be very, very different than the one who first went in.
(1) It is usually believed that the Tetragrammaton Yahweh, YHWH is He who was, He who is and He who is to come, I am who I am. And in Simcha Torah and in John Chapter 8, they picked up stones to stone Jesus because He said “before Abraham was in Greek Ego Ami, I am!” Jesus identifying Himself as God.