Stephen's Sermon Part 2e of 8
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
In Exodus 3:132 it says that this incident occurred at Mount "Horeb." But there is no contradiction; Horeb and Sinai are different peaks or elevations of the same mountain. They are represented as springing from the same base, and branching out in different elevations. The mountains, according to Burckhardt, are a prodigious pile, comprehending many peaks, and about thirty miles in diameter. From the part of this mountain called Sinai, the Law was given to the children of Israel. This is the highest mountain in that country.
Moses, at this time, was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, in the desert adjacent to Mount Sinai, where there was good pasture; but none of the other shepherds dared to go there, because it was commonly believed the Divine Being dwelt there.
An angel of the Lord.
“An angel of the Lord” signifies a "messenger,” and is applied to the invisible spirits in heaven, to people, to the winds, to the pestilence, or to whatever is appointed as a messenger "to make known" or to execute the will of God. The word “angel,” therefore, denotes nothing about the "nature" of the messenger. That "title" might be applied to any messenger, even an inanimate object. The nature and character of this messenger are to be determined by other considerations. The word may denote that the "bush on fire" was the messenger. But a comparison with the other places where this occurs will show that it was a heavenly messenger, and perhaps that it was the Messiah who was yet to come, appearing to take the people of Israel under his own care and guidance. Observe, in John 1:1133, the Jews are called "his own." In Exodus 3:234, it is said that the angel of the Lord appeared in a flame of fire; in Exodus 3:435 it is said that Yahweh spake to him out of the midst of the bush; language which implies that God was there, and which is strong evidence in support of the doctrine that the angel was Yahweh.
In Exodus, God says, “For mine Angel shall go before thee. . . . Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee. . . and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite” (Exodus 23:23; 32:34; 33:2). This angel is depicted as an extraordinary messenger sent to conduct them to the land of Canaan. After Luke called him an angel, he related that He said: “I am the God of Abraham,” etc. (v. 32). His words signify that He is the eternal God, who alone is, and in whom all things have their being. We must, therefore, consider that this was the essence of God; it could not have been an angel. All these circumstances seem to point to the conclusion that this was none other than the future deliverer of the world, the second person in the Trinity, the Son of God, the angel of the divine presence, and of the covenant, who came then to take his people under his own guidance and care. The angel of the Lord who appeared to Moses beside the mountain was the Son of God. Paul, in the 10th chapter of First Corinthians (1 Corinthians 10:436) affirmed that Christ was that guide.
In a flame of fire in a bush.
“In a flame of fire,” or as some say, what appeared to be a flame of fire. The "bush" seemed to be on fire, or to be illuminated with a special splendor. God is often represented as covered with this splendor, or glory (Luke 2:937; also see Matthew 17:1-5; Acts 9:3; Acts 12:7.).
At this point, there is something that needs to be clarified: that there was never since the beginning any communication between God and men, except by Christ; because we can have nothing to do with God, unless the Mediator is present to purchase His favor for us. It is undeniable, that God never did appear to men as he really is, but under the guise of some shape agreeable to their comprehension of Him. There is another reason why Christ is the presence in the bush; because he was appointed by the eternal counsel of God to be the minister of salvation for men, and He appeared to Moses in order to save His people, Israel. This agrees with that which is written in the 2nd chapter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 2:1638), that Christ never took the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham; because, although he took upon Him the shape of an angel for a time, yet he never took the nature of angels, as He did take upon Himself or was made very man.
31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,
When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight.
It would not be an extraordinary sight to see a bush on fire, and it probably would not be enough to cause Moses to leave his sheep to investigate. But, here was something he had never seen before, a bush that burned, but was not consumed. And what was even more wonderful, was that an angel of the Lord, or the Lord himself appeared in it and spoke to him, though this part had not yet happened, only the former part.
The scene struck him with wonder, and excited his curiosity, since it was a phenomenon which all his Egyptian learning could not explain. Until the Lord spoke, he may have thought that Satan was behind it, since he is a master of deception going about to see whom he can destroy. He takes on many strange forms, even pretending to be God, and he fools many good men; in olden times he deluded the nations. Today, he uses cults, faith healers, name it and claim it preachers, modernism, progressivism, etc., and he has been very successful.
“AND MOSES SAID, I WILL NOW TURN ASIDE, AND SEE THIS GREAT SIGHT, WHY THE BUSH IS NOT BURNT” (EXODUS 2:3).
And as he drew near to behold it.
He wanted to satisfy his curiosity; to find out the reason why a bush that was on fire was not burnt. As he got closer, the Lord may have touched him with a feeling of His presence, which is something that Satan cannot imitate. There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit imprints on our minds certain marks and tokens of God’s presence.
He had the curiosity at first to look into it; but the closer he got the more he was struck with amazement; and he trembled, and dared not look at it, because he soon became aware that it was not a fiery meteor, but the angel of the Lord; and none other than the Angel of the covenant, the Son of God himself. This made him tremble, as it would anyone who sees an angel. Stephen was accused of blaspheming Moses and God (Acts 6:1139), as if Moses had been a little god; but from this it appears that he was a man, subject to the same feelings as we are, and particularly that feeling of fear that comes upon a man at any appearance of the divine majesty and glory.
The voice of the Lord came unto him.
The Lord spoke to him from the midst of the bush. He did not see him. He merely heard a voice. God’s appearance to Moses at the burning bush is important to Stephen, because it shows that God’s presence is not limited to the temple. God is bigger than the temple, and Moses did not need the temple to be close to God.
32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.
Saying, I am the God of thy fathers.
“I am the God of thy fathers,” who made a covenant with them, promised the land of Canaan to them and to their posterity, and to bring the children of Israel out of their servitude and bondage, and into the possession of the Promised Land. Now we see the purpose of the vision given to Moses; namely, so that the word of God might have his its authority. Visions alone would do little good, unless they are accompanied by doctrine; since doctrine is the cause and purpose of all visions.
The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
There may be a couple of reasons for why He called himself “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” First, He gives himself titles which enhance our comprehension of him and bring His word to our remembrance. Second, He is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because he committed unto them the doctrine of salvation, and that through them and their descendants He might be known to the world. But God had in mind the present circumstance of his people when he spoke to Moses on this occasion, since both this vision, and the hope of the delivery of the people, and the commandment which he was about to give to Moses, depend upon the covenant which he had made in the past with the fathers.