God is a bit like a bug zapper. “Harry no! Don’t look at the light!” said one bug to another bug. “I can’t help it; it’s so beautiful.” Those were the last words of Harry the Bug in the movie “A Bug’s Life.” The Tabernacle was definitely a Bug Zapper, and God was the Fire in its midst.
In Exodus 3, an 80-year-old shepherd “turns aside to see a great sight.” He sees the Angel of Yahweh, the Word of God, the God/man, in a thorn bush (or tree), burning but not burnt. When the Lord sees that this shepherd turns aside to see this sight, he calls to him, “Moses, Moses!”
The Story of Moses immediately follows the story of Joseph. Joseph was a shepherd who became a prince of Egypt and so saved Israel. Moses was a prince of Egypt who became a shepherd and so saved Israel. Their stories are exact opposites, and yet just the same: to save Israel you must believe that “God is Salvation” and you . . . are not.
When Moses was forty years old and a prince of Egypt, he visited his Hebrew kinsman as they labored for the Egyptians. When he sees one of them being oppressed, he comes to his defense and ends up killing the Egyptian oppressor, alienating his kinsman (Hebrew and Egyptian), and fleeing into the wilderness of Midian. In Acts 7, we learn that Moses supposed that the Hebrews would understand that “God was giving them salvation by his hand.”
Moses had a messiah complex. He must’ve thought: #1 I’m the man for the job. #2 I have (or will have) a plan—I’m “educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” #3 I have the tools—I’m “mighty in words and deeds.”
Maybe you have a messiah complex. Are there people that you think you must save? Some people actually think they can use knowledge of God to save people from God, including themselves. That sounds a little like me, which would mean that I have a messiah complex and I’m a victim of a false messiah (anti-Christ); “I” am in bondage to “me.”
Fifteen years ago, because I refused to confess that God couldn’t save all and that God didn’t want to save all, I was removed from the large church that I pastored. Some said that I had a “messiah complex.” I’m sure I did, and still do! But I don’t think it fully explains why I would not recant; it might explain why I was tempted to recant—to remain a prince, to work my plan, and to keep all my equipment, my tools.
Well, Moses had been herding his in-law’s sheep for forty years (And it had been 400 years since the time of Joseph) when the Lord called to him out of the bush saying, “Come I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel out of Egypt.”
Moses must’ve thought, “You can’t be serious! I used to be the man for the job. I used to have a plan. I used to have all the tools.”
Moses said, “Who am I, that I should go…?” “You’ve got the wrong guy.” And God said, “But I will be with you. (You ask, ‘who am I;’ what matters is who I AM is).” Moses said, “They will not believe me or listen to my voice. (You’ve got the wrong plan).” God said, “I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt.” Moses said, “But I am slow of speech. (I don’t have the tools).” And the Lord said, “Who made man’s mouth? I will be with your mouth.” Moses said, “Send someone else.” Exodus 4:14, “Then the anger of the Lord burned Moses.”
Moses is still standing in front of the God/man, in the thorn tree, burning and not burnt. But now Moses begins to burn. The Word of God is the Fire of God which Moses now feels as the Anger of God; he’s like a bug caught in the bug zapper of God.
To demonstrate, I brought my car battery and some jumper cables to church. There’s fire in the battery and I’m to speak the Word of God which is fire (Jer. 23:29). But if I attach the jumper cables to my lips, I’ll get burned. That’s because flesh is a poor conductor of electricity. And yet a little copper wire wouldn’t burn and could even start a car, for it’s a good conductor of electricity—it offers little resistance.
What could be more resistant to the Messiah, than a messiah complex in you? When Moses was 40, he thought he was the Messiah, and so he was unable to save anyone. When Moses was 80, he thought he was unable to save anyone because he had not been able to make himself into the Messiah. Whether it’s arrogance or shame, it’s still a messiah complex. Original sin is a messiah complex.
Moses began to burn, or part of Moses began to burn, and clearly more would still burn, and something in Moses cannot burn . . .
Whatever the case, God allows Aaron to speak for Moses, but then he says, “You will be like God to him,” and later, “You will be like God to Pharaoh.” Moses can’t make himself like God, but God can make Moses like himself.
Moses, literally, calls down fire upon Egypt; he follows the pillar of Fire with an entire nation behind him; he speaks face to face with the fire on the Mountain and in the Tabernacle. And his face glows with light—he’s like a walking, talking, burning bush. And yet, there’s still more to burn. He strikes the Rock in anger, dies in view of the Promised Land, and sinks into Sheol. He is not seen again for 1500 years. But then he shows up on a mountain in the Promised Land with the Messiah whose face is shining like the sun. Moses “appears in Glory (Luke 9)” with him; He looks like Jesus.
Moses had a messiah complex; but far more consequentially, the Messiah had a Moses complex.
He has a “you” complex; He actually thinks he’s you, and that you are his body.
Fifteen years ago, on a retreat I was listening to someone exegete Exodus 1-4 while suggesting that we needed to name the reason that our world fell apart. In anger, I didn’t write “arrogance” or “messiah complex” (although that explains my anger); I wrote “Jesus.” And just then my wife received a word for me: “I’m calling you to walk in freedom, to free people. Totally stripped of all, God has been allowed to clothe you. I will show you the way to go.”
I think I built my world with a messiah complex.
I think it fell apart because the Messiah has a Peter complex.
And what does he clothe me with? Himself: the Messiah.
I don’t feel very free (I wonder if Moses did). And I don’t think that I free many . . . if any. But if I do, it can only be because I’m a little copper wire and God is Love, free Love; he is Grace. When you love because you’ve been loved, you testify that there is Love and that this Love is free; you testify to Grace. We are saved by Grace through Faith, and this is not of ourselves. God is Grace, God is Love without resistance, and you are his tabernacle of Fire.
We are the Messiah’s Complex—a symphony of notes played on all the instruments in the orchestra, the One Life lived by all the parts of a body harmonized by the Spirit of God; tongues of Fire.
And how does the Messiah realize his complex? He gets us to turn aside and see Jesus Christ and him crucified. On the tree, he is crowned with thorns, and he bleeds fire.