Moses and the Burning Bushby R.C. Sproul
Length: Approximately 4 hours. To read (103 pages)
Buy on Amazon
With his signature teaching and writing style, R.C. Sproul succinctly but emphatically demonstrates the significance of Moses’ wilderness encounter with God at the burning bush.
Who Should Read This Book?
Those who have been blessed by the teaching ministry of R.C. Sproul will not want to miss this relatively short work, published in March 2018 a few months after Dr. Sproul went home to be with the Lord. For those who are not yet familiar with Sproul, this book could serve as an accessible introduction to his writing on a topic, the holiness of God, that was clearly of great importance to him over the course of his ministry.
I’m certainly not among those most qualified to say what kind of legacy R.C. Sproul has left here on earth. It takes no giant of the faith, however, to know that Dr. Sproul always wrote and spoke in a way that took even the most difficult theological or philosophical topics and made them understandable for the layman. This book is no exception.
The book begins by outlining Moses’ life leading up to the burning bush encounter. From there, Sproul walks through the story, drawing out the full implications of what happened, what it meant for Moses, and what it means for us.
If you haven’t recently thought deeply about the story of Moses’ meeting God at the burning bush, you might gloss over the full implications of that event. Adults are sometimes prone to subconsciously treat Bible stories like the burning bush encounter as ones that can safely be relegated to coloring pages for children’s Sunday School activities. Dr. Sproul’s book destroys any such lingering notions.
The theological significance of God’s manifesting himself to Moses is far greater than many Christians may have realized. As Sproul puts it, “That moment in biblical history when Moses encountered the presence of God in the burning bush is a watershed episode, not only for the life of Moses, or even for the history of Israel, but for the history of the entire world.”
Sproul sets the stage in the first chapter by making the case that Moses is the most important person in the Old Testament. This is so, he writes, not least because Moses was “the mediator of the old covenant, just as Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant.” What happens in Moses’ life, then, is well worth our careful study.
Recalling a conversation from his college days with a philosophy professor, Dr. Sproul highlights the reality of God’s transcendence and immanence as displayed in the burning bush. “God is above and beyond the created order,” he recalls his professor saying, yet He “is not a remote deity who exists east of the sind and west of the moon”. Rather, Sproul writes, it was in the burning bush that “God made himself known by manifesting His presence in this world.”
Perhaps one of the more familiar parts of the story is God’s instructing Moses to stop and take off his shoes before coming closer. In contrast to the French existentialist Sartre who maintained that human beings cannot escape from hellishness because they are cut off from all things sacred, Dr. Sproul maintains that the sacred is inescapable, intruding everywhere in the world. Yet, in Moses’ case, it was not the particular patch of dirt that was holy in itself. “Rather, what made that ground holy was the presence of God.”
It would, perhaps, be easy to pass over God’s revealing His name to Moses without too much thought. Aside from the significance that names had in the Ancient Near East, Dr. Sproul points out that the name by which God chose to be identified is significant. As the one who calls Himself “I am who I am,” God “introduced himself in terms of the eternal present.” The very name of God emphasizes that “the real difference between God and humankind is being. He alone has being in and of Himself; He alone has eternal being.”
The concept of a self-existent being is crucial for Christian apologetics in particular because if, as some secular humanists claim “there was ever a time when there was purely nothing” then there could only be nothing now. However, the importance of the self-existent “I am who I am,” Dr. Sproul argues is this: ”If anything exists, then something somewhere, somehow must have the power of being in itself.” Of course, that something is not a “something” at all, but rather the personal God who revealed His name to Moses.
Finally, Dr. Sproul shows the reader how the story of Moses and God’s calling on his life foreshadow the Mediator of the new covenant. God revealed Himself to Moses as part of His plan to deliver His people out of slavery in Egypt. By contrast, after God revealed Himself once again through His son “the greatest exodus in human history took place when Christ freed his saints from the bondage of sin.” Jesus was like Moses, but so much greater, “because His work of salvation was the ultimate liberation.”
R.C. Sproul’s teaching has played an indispensable role in my own spiritual development. I wanted to enjoy this book, but I have no doubt that I would have been just as richly blessed by it even if I had not already been so familiar with Dr. Sproul’s teaching.
His goal with this book was one that would probably seem ambitious to some people. Taking a story that some Christians might only dimly recall from Sunday lessons as a child and elevating it to one of the watershed moments in all of human history is no small task. By the end of this short book, however, I think there will be relatively few honest readers who could remain skeptical of Dr. Sproul’s assessment of this event’s importance.
As pointed out above, one of the hallmarks of Dr. Sproul’s ministry over the years has been his unique ability to teach on a level that is both accessible and engaging. Readers who are already familiar with Dr. Sproul will not be disappointed in that regard. He also sprinkles personal anecdotes and knowledge of prominent philosophers throughout the book in his signature way, integrating them seamlessly into the flow of his discussion and argument.
Those who have some prior experience with Sproul’s teaching ministry will likely find that some of the material in early portions of the book seems familiar. Granted, no author writing a book for a general Christian audience can assume any particular level of familiarity with his or her other writing. In any event, even for someone who asks “Haven’t I heard this before?” there is more than enough new material in this book to make it worth reading.
Sproul writes that “One of the church’s biggest problems is that we don’t understand who God is.” This book is no comprehensive treatise on theology proper (clocking in at barely 100 pages in the hardcover version), but the passion that Dr. Sproul always brought to his teaching–especially when teaching on the topic of God Himself–is evident on every page of this book.
The theme of God’s revelation of Himself and His holiness to humanity is one that runs throughout Scripture and Dr. Sproul’s book will prove helpful to any Christian who desires to see the “big picture” of God’s Word.
“Ultimately, it’s not that there is no access to God, but rather there is no escape from the sacred, because everywhere the sacred intrudes upon our culture and our world.”
“We don’t come to church just to have our attendance taken; we come to church because the Lord has redeemed us, and the people of God should have their hearts filled with reverence and adoration and should come into the corporate assembly of the people of God to worship Him.”