In Exodus chapter 3, we see Moses standing on a mountain in front of a burning bush, which is a very well-known Scriptural passage. The miracle is that the bush is not consumed by the fire, which means these flames have no fuel to sustain them. This failure of such a fundamental law of nature is what makes Moses take notice:
“I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned,” (verse 3)
It is clearly a divine fire, as Moses appreciates when he sees the angel and hears its voice. This provides a clue to why the bush is not consumed: God is in control. He chooses to reveal His name to Moses here, on this mountain, which must have been a wonderful privilege for Moses.
He is also told that God will deliver His people:
“Then the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians…” (verses 7-8)
This speech provides the second, and most important clue as to why the bush survives. God is saying that He is a God of deliverance, of protection and of mercy towards His people. He could have consumed them all, just as He did in Noah’s day when they were being just as disobedient to Him. But He made a promise that He would never again consume mankind in that way (see Genesis 8:21). And here we see that promise in symbol as the bush is protected from being consumed by this fire. This matches the speech God makes, where He promises to deliver His people. We should remember that God is able to consume mankind today in a moment, but in His mercy towards us He chooses not to. He wants to give us a chance to turn to Him.
This same picture of mercy and deliverance occurs elsewhere too. We find it in Daniel chapter 3, where three men are able to walk about in a fiery furnace belonging to Nebuchadnezzar without being consumed. On that occasion, an angel like the son of man is with them, and is the visible sign that they are being spared. This makes us think of the Lord Jesus Christ, the ultimate way in which God shows mercy towards His people. On one occasion, his disciples asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans who did not receive him. Jesus’s reply once again shows that he understands God’s desire to show mercy:
“You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy people’s lives, but to save them,” (Luke 9:55)
This particular mountain where God revealed His name to Moses, and also His promise to deliver, is the same place that Elijah comes to many years later when he is at his lowest ebb (see 1 Kings 19:8). No doubt remembering this important message from Moses’ day helped Elijah to feel closer to his Father in heaven.