“And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is. His name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” – Exodus 3:13-14
God’s appearance to Moses in the ‘burning bush’ is a timeless story. I have written Nuggets in the past about God’s name that He revealed to Moses on this day, but in this Nugget I am going to focus on the geographical aspect of the story – where it happened (ie, the Desert!) A few years ago I took a very interesting class on Bible Geography and the teacher, Dr. Jonathan Lipnick, said to us, “The physical setting of the Bible plays a major role the theology of the Bible. To understand the God of the Hebrew Bible, you must understand the place where He has that relationship with His people. The Bible would not be the book we know if it were situated anywhere else.” This is a favorite quote of mine and is so very true!
The scene of Moses and the ‘burning bush’ occurred in the desert of Midian according to Exodus 2:15. This is where Moses had lived as a shepherd for forty years since fleeing Egypt. Even then God was preparing Moses to lead Israel as his intimate knowledge of the land would be extremelly important when he led the children of Israel back to this very spot! (Exodus 3:12)
The Hebrew word for desert is מִדבָר– midbar. It is often translated as ‘wilderness’ in the KJV, but it is a desert wilderness, not one with trees. Scripture indicates that the desert is the setting for many Biblical narratives and often God’s choice place to speak to His servants and to give them a greater vision – either of Himself or of the work He has for them to do. In general, the desert is a still and quiet place. The desert of Israel is certainly my favorite place! Its sweeping and majestic landscapes are a great place to reflect on God. Many prophets, Moses being one, received revelations from God while in the desert. David and Paul also spent much time there and their writings are integral to the Scriptures.
The Hebrew word for ‘speak’ in the present tense is מְדַבֵּ֛ר (pronounced m’dah-bear) and has the same consonants as the Hebrew word midbar (מ-ד-ב-ר), but the vowel marks are different and hence, it sounds different. I think that it is most amazing that the same Hebrew letters are used for two words that at first seem so different – the desert being a place where we normally do not hear people speaking. But from the Bible narratives, it seems that God speaks the MOST in the desert! It is not that God is more real in the desert than in other places. God is everywhere present. It is just that we are so easily distracted from knowing God due to the many distractions of life. In the desert, we detach from the noisiness of everyday life that demands our attention and can focus on God. It is then that God can speak to our heart.
Moses is one of the greatest servants of God. God’s calling to Him was very special. I think it is amazing that God spent 40 years quieting Moses’ heart in the desert before He spoke to Him. Bruce Feiler in his amazing book, “Walking the Bible”, speaks of the children of Israel as being for the most part, ‘desert people’. It makes sense that the land of Israel is almost 1/2 a desert area. Perhaps God has caused the Jewish people to be ‘desert people’ as Feiler states, because they were also the people who heard God’s voice and wrote it down since both the T’nakh and the New Testament were penned by Jewish hands.
We have been speaking of literal deserts in the land of Israel, but maybe we today feel like we are in a desert of sorts in the circumstances of our personal life. If we find ourselves in a desert of God’s making, let us not fret, but rather rejoice that God is wanting to speak to us! Perhaps He has a new path for our life to take. Our perhaps He wants to confirm our current path. Regardless, if we maintain a quiet heart like Moses did, I am sure we will hear God’s Word to us.