Exodus 3:2, ‘And the angel of YHWH appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.’
The Hebrew word used for ‘bush’ here (סְנֶה) derives from a root that means ‘to prick’, and so it is thought to indicate some sort of thorn bush. It would seem, then, that the bush in which YHWH appears as a flame of fire was some sort of pricking, thorny bush. In Gen 3:18, we see that thorns are a result of God’s curse against sin…and this includes the thorns in the bush of Exodus 3:2.
With this in mind, what we see in Ex 3:2 is nothing less than YHWH ablaze with glory, suspended in the thorns of humanity’s curse. And what is it that moves YHWH to appear in this manner? He has ‘come down to deliver’ His people so that He might ‘bring them up’ out of their slavery to Himself (v.8).
YHWH God, the covenant Lord of His people, descends into the midst of His people in order to deliver them from their suffering and bring them to Himself. And this Deliverer appears to His people as the one suspended in glory in the midst of the thorns, radiant upon the wood of a desert shrub, ablaze in unapproachable holiness within the wreath of His people’s curse. Further, it is precisely as the Deliverer suspended upon the wood of His people’s curse that YHWH declares His Name to Moses and so to all generations: I Am Who I Am. Yes, consider that this decisive and paradigmatic declaration of God’s Name—the declaration that lies at the root of all other Old Testament talk of God’s Name—takes place only and precisely while YHWH, descended as the Deliverer, shines with holy radiance from the thorn-bearing branches of Horeb.
The Only True God, YHWH the Covenant Lord, is declared to His people in His Deliverance of them….He Himself is declared in His essence as He descends into thorns of their curse to deliver them. This is what we see in Exodus 3, and this is what we see all the more in John’s Gospel. Indeed, the bush of Exodus 3 is patterned upon and so anticipatory of the tree of John 19, the tree where Jesus—wreathed in the thorns of His people’s sin, lifted up as the image of the cursed one—is set ablaze with and as the radiance of the glory of the unseen God, the I Am.