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The Power of God's Presence

Exodus 3 and the burning bush

Postby Troy Seal » Tue May 21, 2019 10:42 am

I often get into debates with my atheist teacher. He likes to cite the time in the Bible where Moses talks to the burning bush. Whenever he brings this event up, I have no idea how to address it as I am a new Christian, and know little about the events of the Old Testament. As I think about it myself, I do wonder... How could a burning bush talk? Better yet, how could it be God?
Troy Seal

Re: Exodus 3 and the burning bush

Postby jimwalton » Wed Jun 12, 2019 10:41 am

Without knowing your exact question, I’ll have to speak generally, and then you can ask further.

I guess I don’t understand what your teacher’s point of debate is. First, the bush didn’t talk. Exodus 3.2 says that the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. The bush looked like it was on fire, but it wasn’t burning. So, we know that God often manifested Himself as fire (like in Gn. 3.24; Ex. 19.18; 13.21). The term there is belabbat-‘es. The “b” at the beginning (the letter beth) is a beth essentiae, which, if we read it exactly as in Ex. 6.3, it should be translated “The Lord appeared to him as/in the form of flames of fire. The bush was not burning. It was not on fire. The Lord appeared as a flame, but it’s not a physical blaze. It’s the manifestation of the presence of God. This is a theophany, not a fire. In Genesis 15 God appeared to Abraham in a smoking fire pot; here He appears to Moses in a flaming bush. On Mt. Sinai He appears in lightning, smoke, and cloud. In the wilderness He appears in pillars of cloud and fire.

Then you’ll notice in verse 4 that the bush doesn’t talk. God called to him from within the bush. It is God speaking, not a plant.

Then you ask, “How could it be God?” God has spoken to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. One of the distinctives of Christian theology is that God is personal, He communicates, and He reveals Himself in many ways, one of which is through speech. John writes, in his book Covenant: "God has a plan in history that he is sovereignly executing. The goal of that plan is for him to be in relationship with the people whom he has created. It would be difficult for people to enter into a relationship with a God whom they do not know. If his nature were concealed, obscured, or distorted, an honest relationship would be impossible. In order to clear the way for this relationship, then, God has undertaken as a primary objective a program of self-revelation. He wants people to know him. The mechanism that drives this program is the covenant, and the instrument is Israel. The purpose of the covenant is to reveal God."

So, how can it be God? That’s easy. My question in retort would be, “What makes anyone think it’s impossible that God communicates with us?”

I have no idea if I’ve addressed your question. Write back and we can come at it again.

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