The Bible is filled with stories about God revealing himself to Moses through different means, such as a burning bush or Ten Commandments.
Old Testament readers will remember how God often appeared as fire as a symbol of His holiness. At a fiery bush where Moses encountered Him for the first time, He called out Moses’ name and He responded by commissioning Him to deliver his people from Egypt.
The Burning Bush
Moses first meets us when he’s wandering around in the wilderness and witnesses something peculiar: an unusual bush that was on fire but wasn’t being consumed. After going over closer, he discovers there’s an audible voice coming from it, instructing him to take off his shoes as this place is holy ground (Exodus 3:2-5). From that moment forward, this spiritual encounter with a burning bush dramatically transformed Moses’ life: from herding sheep and living an idle lifestyle, God called him into greater things than simply leading people out of slavery (Exodus 3:2-5).
God chose the burning bush as a metaphor of His holiness and desire to communicate with Moses, knowing that Moses needed a clear understanding of who He was in order to fulfill his role with the Israelites.
God always spoke directly and directly with Moses when He addressed him, calling his name as an affirmation that He knew who He was talking to directly. God then reminded Moses that He is indeed the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and had heard their pleas to help his forebears in Egypt as slaves.
God then issues Moses an order. He instructs him to return to Egypt and speak on behalf of Israel before Pharaoh. Moses initially expressed concerns over not being an effective speaker; however, God assured him He will assist with that endeavor.
Moses heard God declare His existence independent from any force or substance and eternal and unchanging. Furthermore, “I AM that I AM” highlighted His covenant-making role which provided Moses a firm foundation from which to lead his people out of slavery and into their promised land.
The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also referred to as the Decalogue or Lord’s Law, form the cornerstone of Judaism and Christianity. They represent God’s laws which prohibit idolatry, adultery, murder, theft, false witness and blasphemy among other offenses. Moses received them on two tablets of stone from Him on Mount Sinai as proof.
Laws were given to Israel collectively rather than individually because sin had kept individuals from drawing closer to God and fulfilling their role as His holy people. God used these laws as part of his master plan to reconcile himself with a fallen creation.
At Mount Sinai, Israel experienced an unforgettable event. Thunderings, lightning flashes, mountain smoking and trumpet sounds all became unforgettable experiences to their people gathered there; some were so terrified by them all they asked God not to speak directly with them!
No matter the shock factor, it is vitally important to remember that God gave this code of conduct through Moses to all humans – it wasn’t his law being spoken aloud but that of His creator and Fatherhood, God.
Noteworthy is the fact that four of the Ten Commandments address humanity’s relationship to God while six lay out principles for relationships among humans. God understood that His new creation could never fully keep his law, so He laid down guidelines as to how they could relate with each other and Him.
Be mindful that humans were never given commandments as a way of earning entrance into heaven, yet many Christians today assume this to be the case. Instead, many view God’s laws through an overly simplistic lense: obeying all 10 Commandments will ensure entry to Heaven if their sins are forgiven by God; clearly this is an incorrect perspective on His laws and scripture – God seeks relationships with his creation, offering grace, forgiveness and salvation in exchange for repentance freely given from its members.
The Ten Wilderness Years
Maimonides saw Moses’ experiences during Israel’s forty year wilderness wanderings as teaching him an array of lessons that would prepare him for his work as prophet and leader of his people, specifically that God cared deeply about and interacted directly with them; through these encounters, Moses learned that He is both loving and compassionate towards them, even at their most vulnerable moments.
As soon as Moses heard God calling his name from a burning bush, he was confused and uncertain of its meaning. Moses soon realized he would need to sacrifice everything associated with Egypt – its wealth, power and glory; as well as slavery that had oppressed his people for generations – in order to fulfill his new calling – something he was terrified about at first but ultimately made possible through a radical decision of massive proportions that changed history forever.
Moses was being told to enter a new relationship with God, one which could be described by the Hebrew phrase, “vayikra,” meaning, “I will become with you.” This call for an everlasting covenant between Him and His people was difficult for Moses to accept, yet life-altering nonetheless.
Moses endured many trials during these years in the wilderness that tested both his faith and resolve to lead as their prophet. For instance, upon seeing Aaron die of leprosy he felt abandoned by God; also when Canaan became home for giants Moses was terrified and angered – this test demonstrated to him how only trust could come through seeing Him at every turn.
The Ten Plagues
God first provided Moses with His commandments – an expansive set of laws covering every aspect of Israelite life – including instructions for sacrifice (Leviticus 1-7), rules pertaining to priestly duties (Leviticus 8-11), laws concerning what food may or may not be consumed (Leviticus 11-12) as well as regulations concerning bodily impurity elimination (Leviticus 16) among other regulations that are binding forever upon all Israelites. These are to remain part of their legacy as an entity known as Israel today and over time! These laws remain part of their heritage forevermore!
God instructed Moses on what his next task should be. He instructed him to go and inform the Israelites of it being time for them to leave Egypt and take Aaron along as proof that His message had come from Him and would be taken seriously.
As soon as they reached camp, God instructed them to gather the elders together. He then called Moses by name as an indicator that He wanted someone important present. Finally, He used “Moses, Moses!” as an insistent plea to him to speak up.
Moses responded that he did not feel worthy to carry such a great load, since he was simply an ordinary shepherd with no military experience or conquered territory to his credit. God assured Moses that Israel would listen to his voice and reveal Himself in unprecedented ways.
God then told Moses to stretch out his hand over Egypt, prompting a wind from the east to bring an immense plague of locusts that devoured crops and livestock – no doubt leaving any observer shaken! The sight must have been shocking for any observers who witnessed such destruction by these insects.
Jewish scholars have struggled for generations to comprehend the order and number of God’s plagues, as well as how He intended for them to be understood. One notable rabbi known as Rashbam (c. 12th century) argued that only some plagues came with advance notice – others simply hit without warning! According to him, this was God using these terrible events to draw Pharaoh closer to Himself through repentance.