Moses: Out of the obscurity of the Midian wilderness

INTRODUCTION. A post about the Lord’s ability to snatch those who have made more than one too many mistakes and nevertheless to rescue them and use them for His glory.

Moses had ruined his life. It’s that simple.

By God’s providence, even though he was a Hebrew, he had grown up in Pharaoh’s household and had all the advantages that a man could have. Then, Moses made a foolish decision; he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew and, as a consequence, his life of privilege vanished like smoke. As a fugitive, he ran into the safety of obscurity, and in a few days, he had fallen from Pharaoh’s palace into the wilderness of Midian. There, for forty years he pastured his father-in-law’s flock and lived the mundane life of a Midianite shepherd.

There in Midian, Moses was decades beyond simply being a has-been. He was separated from his relatives, separated from his people, hiding from his past with no future and a dreary present. It seemed that the best Moses could hope for was to quietly live out his days in obscurity along with the other Midianite shepherds as he regretted the loss of all that he had squandered. He had no hope of a great name. No hope of a great work. No hope of a legacy. Now all hope was long gone. Or was it?

No, all hope was not gone because the LORD had plans for Moses. For after forty years of obscurity and regret because of his own sinful choices, Moses encountered the LORD in the burning bush (Exodus 3). The LORD then called him into His service and Moses was catapulted from the dusty desert into the presence of Pharaoh, the most powerful ruler on earth (Exodus 5), to be the instrument the LORD would use to give His Law to the world and to lead a million Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt toward the Promised Land. It’s an amazing story.

But Moses’ story is not unique. Actually, variations of Moses’ story occur over and over again in the Bible when the Lord chooses to call a no one out of nowhere and then takes them in His hand as an instrument for His use. The Lord is always the decisive factor. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). The Lord is the one who determines the outcome of every situation. What the Lord has planned must certainly come to pass. And so, in the Bible, no episode is ever hopeless or complete until the Lord has finished His activity and given His verdict.

Even more remarkable is that this is not just something that the Lord did with people who lived thousands of years ago in the Middle East. The Lord does this same kind of thing thousands of times every single day, calling those who are dwelling in obscurity and desperation and inviting them into a grand adventure with the King of kings. In my own life, I can well recall being in my own “wilderness of Midian.” As Paul Simon says, “I had squandered my existence for a pocketful of mumbles” (“The Boxer”). It seemed that the best I could hope for was to live out my days regretting the opportunities I had missed.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4). God had plans for this has-been, to use me for His kingdom and to allow me the privilege of being one of the disciples of Jesus Christ “to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called me out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). The Lord received this prodigal into His family and instead of punishment gave me a robe and a ring (Luke 15:22-24). He wrapped me with a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) and has allowed me to sit at His table as one of His sons (2 Samuel 9:11, 13).

The point is this: The Lord is the one who determines the outcome of anyone’s life. As the Lord called Moses from nameless obscurity to be the leader of the entire nation of Israel, and as the Lord called Paul to be His chosen instrument to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15-16), so He calls all His elect from whatever forgotten corner of the globe they may inhabit into His service for His glory. The Lord is the one who does these things.

SDG                 rmb                 8/15/2022                   #557

The Angel of the LORD and Moses (Exodus 3)

This article is another of our studies on the mysterious character of the angel of the LORD. As we go through the appearances of this person in the Old Testament, it will quickly become obvious that this is no ordinary angel. In fact, my conviction is that this is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity before His appearance in Bethlehem. My goal in these posts is to demonstrate how the Scriptures present the angel of the LORD as divine and thus to show that He prefigures Jesus Christ. I also want to discover what characteristics the angel of the LORD displays which will later be manifested by Jesus in His earthly ministry. Finally, an objective in all my posts is to show the beauty and the power of the Scriptures, and to make plain that the Scriptures are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).


The basic story of Moses and the burning bush is very well known. Many people in our culture even today can tell you that Moses was in the desert and God spoke to him out of a bush that was burning but was not being burned up. It is as we dig deeper down into the details of Exodus 3, however, that we begin to see the complexity and the mystery of what, on the surface, appears to be a simple story. Our focus here will be on the angel of the LORD and trying to determine his identity. As the story opens, Moses has been a shepherd in Midian for forty years. One day, he wanders over into the west side of the wilderness and comes near Mount Horeb.

Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of the bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not being consumed.

COMMENTS: Observe that the Scripture explicitly says that the angel of the LORD (AOTL) appeared to Moses. The AOTL was visible to Moses, as if the AOTL allows God to be seen.

Also, “the AOTL appeared to him in a blazing (flaming) fire from the midst of the bush.” We will see later in Exodus 3:4a that “God called to him (Moses) from the midst of the bush.” The repetition of the exact phrase is the literary means of intentionally connecting God with the AOTL.  

The final comment from this verse is the author’s choice of the Hebrew word for “blazing,” elsewhere translated as “flaming.” This same Hebrew word appears in two other passages involving the AOTL, in Judges 13:20 when the AOTL announces the conception of Samson and in Isaiah 10:17, an allusion to the destruction of the Assyrian army by the AOTL.

The point of these comments is that they begin planting seeds in our thinking that this AOTL is not just an ordinary angel but may be much more.

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.”

COMMENTS: In commenting on Exodus 3:2, we had observed that the AOTL appeared, and that God called to him from the midst of the bush. The message being communicated by this repetition of phrase is that persons who do the same things are very closely related to each other.

There is further mystery here, as “the LORD saw that he (Moses) turned aside,” but then God is the one who called to Moses from the midst of the bush. For those keeping track, we now have the AOTL, the LORD, and God all in the midst of the bush.

One of the characteristics of this appearance of the AOTL, and of appearances of the AOTL in general, is that there is intentional ambiguity about identity. When the AOTL and God and the LORD appear in the same scene, it is difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins. This is done intentionally in the text to convey the idea that there is a lot of overlap in these characters. So, right now it seems that the AOTL is closely related to God.

Since God is now calling to Moses from the midst of the bush, we need to ask the question, “What happened to the AOTL?” The AOTL does not appear again in the chapter. Where did He go? Did He just disappear? Also, when did God enter the scene? The solution could be that the AOTL is the visible manifestation of God. It could be that the AOTL is “the image of the invisible God” (spoken of Jesus Christ in Colossians 1:15).  

Another interesting observation is seeing how God calls Moses. “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” In an earlier encounter with the AOTL in Genesis 22, we saw that the AOTL called Abraham by saying, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Genesis 22:11) Again, it is significant when the Scripture presents this sort of repetition: A double calling of the name with a response of, “Here I am.” This serves to create further ambiguity between God and the AOTL. “If they speak the same way, maybe they are the same person.”

Up to this point, then, both the AOTL and God act from the midst of the bush, but also both God and the AOTL call people in the same way. Hmmm. They certainly have a lot of similarities.

16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has appeared to me, saying, “I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt.”’

COMMENTS: We are skipping down to this verse (3:16) to see what God instructs Moses to tell the people of Israel: the LORD, the God of Abraham has appeared to him. What is interesting is that, in this chapter, only the AOTL is recorded as having appeared to Moses (Exodus 3:2). What do we conclude from this? The conclusion seems to be that when the AOTL appears, it is as if the LORD Himself has appeared. An appearance of the AOTL is an appearance of the LORD.

GENERAL COMMENTS: It is difficult to tell how many people are in this scene. We see the AOTL, the LORD and God all mentioned in this chapter, but the Person talking with Moses is only one person. In other words, the name changes between the AOTL and the LORD and God, but it is obviously the same person speaking throughout.


Even though the angel of the LORD is only mentioned once (in 3:2), it seems that throughout the chapter, the AOTL is the visible manifestation of the LORD and of God. Just as Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, could say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” so in the Old Testament the one who had seen the AOTL had seen the LORD.

SDG                 rmb                 3/18/2021