THE BURNING BUSH
by Henry Law
"He looked, and, behold, the Bush burned with fire,
and the Bush was not consumed." Exodus 3:3
Wondrous is the sight which here meets our view. It is a
Bush in flames, but not consumed. Destroying fire fails to destroy.
Perishable wood refuses to be fuel. Reader! this surely is no new object to
you. But know that it abounds in lessons which your search cannot exhaust.
It must be so. The unsearchable riches of Jesus are in this mine! He,
who is the Wonder of Wonders, is the true Wonder of the Bush.
Reader! you must see Christ by faith, if ever you would
see God and enter heaven. You must know Christ in heart, if ever you would
know peace in conscience and hope in death. Ask then the Holy Spirit that He
would make the blazing Bush to be a blaze of saving light within your soul.
The way to the burning Bush lies through an avenue of instructive thoughts.
Moses is mercifully rescued from an early grave of
waters. Pharaoh's decree dooms to death. But Pharaoh's daughter is the means
of life. When God has purposes to work, He can make foes his tools!
The oppressor's court becomes the refuge of the oppressed. The Hebrew child
is caressed as an Egyptian prince. But the perils of the Nile are scarcely
greater to the body; than the perils of the palace to the soul. Worldly pomp
is very dazzling. Worldly luxury is very entrancing. Worldly pleasures are
very ensnaring. But there is an ark of safety in the flood of vanities, as
in the flood of waters. Moses is neither dazzled, nor entranced, nor
ensnared. He looks above, and sees a splendor far more bright. He
deliberately chooses scorn and affliction and loss and poverty, with the
people of God. And he finds such scorn to be the truest honor—such
affliction to be the purest joy—such loss to be the richest gain—such
poverty to be the most enduring wealth.
Reader! it is an important principle, that none can tread
the world beneath their feet until they see a fairer world above their
heads. When the Lord is set before you, your eyes are dim to lower objects.
The beauty of the all-beauteous One makes other loveliness unlovely. Moses
proves the mighty energy of soul-elevating, soul-purifying faith. This
stirring principle turns his whole course from ease and affluence and self,
into one stream of daring activities for God. He beholds with aching heart
Israel's crushed tribes. He boldly presents himself to avenge their wrongs,
and to erect the standard of their freedom. But what is the welcome which
awaits him? Alas! he is thrust away with a rejecting taunt, 'Who made you a
prince and a judge over us?'
Reader! your eyes are open to such pitiable folly. You
sigh over a serfdom, which is content to do a tyrant's bidding, rather than
defy a tyrant's rage. But such may be your own case. The Gospel, like Moses,
approaches men. It tells them that they grind in Satan's prison-house.
It calls them to arise from the dust, to lift up the head, to burst the
fetters, to dare to be free. It shows them Jesus, the Captain of Salvation,
inviting them to the banner of His cross. It assures those who this Leader
never lost a battle—and never lost a man. It beseeches them to cast off the
filthy fetters, and to stride boldly towards the sparkling crown. What
answer is returned? Alas! multitudes hate the voice which would arouse
them. They hug the bonds which bind them to perdition's cell. They little
think how soon each link in that chain will become a deathless scorpion and
a quenchless flame!
'Then Moses fled at this saying.' Reader! take heed. The
decree may issue, he 'is joined to idols; let him alone.' An unwelcomed
Savior may depart forever. The wings of love may fly away in judgment.
He was hidden as a stranger in the land of Midian forty
years. But the God who was his shield in the crowd, was his sun
in the desert. It is sad, that the Lord's servant must be earth's
outcast. But it is sweet to see how heavenly wisdom can make the hardest
usage to yield our choicest blessings. The sweetest honey is from the stony
rock. There was work for Moses which required lamb-like meekness with
lion-like resolve. He must be calm as the ocean when it sleeps—firm as
the rock which smiles at storms. These are the lessons of tribulation's
school—therefore, in tribulation he must be schooled. Metal becomes
pure by long process in the furnace. The wisdom which is profitable in the
busy haunts of busy men, grows in retirement's still shade. In the
seclusion of Arabia, Paul drinks calmly of truth's fount. In the wilds of
Midian, Moses sits at the feet of God.
At last the appointed time of rescue came. God's works
are the reflection of decrees ordained of old. When His purposes were ripe,
a marvel startles the shepherd-prophet. A Bush blazes before him, each
branch, each fiber reddened in the flame. But neither branch nor fiber
received hurt. The brittle wood waved an uninjured head. Well might Moses
wonder. But wonder deepened into awe, when from the Bush a voice was heard,
even the voice of God.
Reader! it becomes us now to ask, what is the Gospel
of the burning Bush? Jesus Himself appears in His person, suffering, and
His person—He is God, and yet He stoops to be made
man. He is man, and yet He continues to be God forever. Withdraw the
Godhead, and His blood cannot atone. Withdraw the manhood, and no blood
remains. The union gives a Savior able, and a Savior fit. Look to the Bush!
It shows this very union. The wood denotes the poor and feeble
produce of earth. It exhibits the 'tender plant'—the 'root out of a dry
ground.' But it holds God as its inhabitant. The voice out of its midst
proclaims, Your God is here.
His sufferings—Fire wraps the Bush. No clearer
image can depict the hot assaults of wrath. The life of Jesus knew these
well. It was one struggle with keen anguish. Earth was a thorny path. Hell
shot its every shaft. Heaven darkened with the horrors of its frowns. All
the fierce pains which infinite displeasure could inflict, made Him their
prey. He wrung out all, which all the ransomed would have tasted, if
hell-agonies had been their doom forever!
His all-resisting might—In vain the fire assailed the
bush. It stood unharmed. So every blow recoiled from Jesus. Sustained by
His indwelling Deity, He trod all foes beneath His feet. He burst the
bands of death. He shivered the grave's gates. He stood victorious on the
ruins of hell's empire. He mounted in triumph to the heaven of heavens.
We have next an unquestionable type of the whole
family of faith. Persecutions and trials are the fire, which assails
them with ceaseless fury. But still they thrive and strengthen and bud and
blossom and flourish. How can it be? Deity indwells them! And where Deity
resides there must be undecaying life.
The Church's story is a mirror of this truth. How often
do we see it as a tiny bark tossed in engulfing waves. The powers of the
mighty, the craft of the subtle, the rage of the frantic, have seized it
with terrific grasp. Evil men have done their worst—evil spirits have aimed
blows—evil fiends have put forth spite. Surely the fragile Bush must sink in
ruin! But no! It defies all foes. It stands, and will stand forever, verdant
and fragrant and fruitful. But the power of resistance is not its own.
The Lord is in the midst of it! He has chosen it as His abode forever.
They are precious tidings. 'In the midst of the seven candlesticks is one
like unto the Son of man.'
It is true that Jesus, as God, holds all space within His
hand. 'His center is everywhere, His circumference is nowhere.' But still
the Church is the chosen home of His unbounded love. Here His
all-protecting might, His all-preserving care, His full delights, repose. He
received it from His Father as His spouse—His jewels—His peculiar
treasure—His portion—the fullness of His body—the completeness of His
mediatorial glory. He is engaged to seat it, as an undiminished family,
before the throne. If one member be injured, Christ is marred; if one be
absent, Christ is maimed. Hence He is ever with it—all heart to
love—all eye to watch—all hand to help—all wisdom to
direct—all power to beat back foes. Let, then, the fire rage! It must
be mightier than Almightiness before the Bush can droop to nothingness.
Do these lines meet the eye of one who plots and strives
against Zion's (the church's) welfare? Vain man, forbear! The promise ever
lives, 'Lo! I am with you always.' Can you tear the sun from its high seat?
Can you beat back ocean with a feather? Can you bind the lightning with a
straw? Such task would be easier than to pluck Jesus from the Bush. Because
He lives there, His people shall live also!
Here, too, another mystery is solved. Grace seems
but a tender plant in the believer's heart. It has to contend with nipping
frosts and desolating storms. Satan's rage burns hot against it. The
world brings fuel upon fuel to consume it. The flesh blows
fiercely to fan the flame. But grace still thrives! Its roots spread.
Its branches rise. Its fruit ripens. Why? Christ walks within His garden—a
guardian-God. His hand sowed each seed. The dew of His favor nourishes it.
The smile of His love matures it. Hence it overtops all fiery foes, and
lifts its head towards heaven.
Believer, think much of the 'goodwill of Him who dwelt in
the Bush.' Fears then will flee away. If you stood alone, it would be
presumption to hope. Because you are not alone, it is offence to tremble.
Look back. Many conflicts are behind, and yet you
live. How is it? You reply with Paul, 'The Lord stood with me and
strengthened me.' 'The Bush burned with fire, and the Bush was not
consumed.' Your present fight is hot. But you hear a much-loved voice, 'Do
not fear, for I am with you.' 'The Bush burns with fire, and the Bush is not
You look forward. The horizon is dark with clouds
of tribulation. But the same voice cheers, 'Do not fear, for I am with you;
when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned.' The captive
youths, a cloud of witnesses, an army of blessed martyrs, wave you forward.
They tell that persecuting flames may be divested of all their sting.
Rejoice then. The Bush shall burn with fire, but it shall not be consumed!
Reader! pause here, and search your conscience. Is your
body a temple of Jesus Christ, through the Spirit? Is Christ dwelling in
your heart by faith? Is Christ in you, the hope of glory? If it is not so,
touch not the comfort of the burning Bush. Remember, there are thorns and
briers, 'whose end is to be burned.' No Savior saves them. Tares must be
bound in bundles for wrath's full-heated furnace. A terrible voice wails
from the region of the lost, 'I am tormented in this flame.' 'The day comes
that shall burn as an oven and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly,
shall be stubble.' 'The smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever.'
Reader! here are words by which, through grace, you may
be saved. Turn not away to everlasting burnings. If you are so mad, this
warning will lie, as a hot coal, upon your soul forever!