by Octavius Winslow
The Typical Glory of the Redeemer
"The Burning Bush"
And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. Exodus 3:2
There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. Exodus 3:2
Suddenly, the angel of the Lord appeared to him as a blazing fire in a bush. Moses was amazed because the bush was engulfed in flames, but it didn't burn up. Exodus 3:2
The entire theocracy of the Israelites was interwoven with a system of symbols and types of the most significant and instructive character. It was thus the wisdom and the will of God that the revelation of Jesus to the Church should assume a consecutive and progressive form. Not a sudden but a gradual descent to the world, marked the advent of our adorable Redeemer. The same principle of progressiveness is frequently seen in a saving discovery of Christ to the soul. Not by an immediate and instantaneous revelation, not by a single glance of the mind, is Jesus always made known and seen. Long and slow is often the process. "Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise." Observe, it is a gradation of light. The Sun rises—beam follows beam, light expands, Christ is more known; more known, He is more admired; more admired, He is more loved; and more loved, He is more implicitly obeyed and devotedly served. Thus, the "path of the just is as the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day."
Thus has been the revelation of Christ's glory to the Church of God. In her infancy—her nonage—she was placed "under tutors and governors, until the time appointed by the Father." Not prepared to sustain the sudden and full revelation, God disciplined and trained her by various types and ceremonies; thus, wisely, and, it must be admitted, graciously, shadowing forth His dear Son by gradual but increasingly clear and luminous discoveries, until the "fulness of time was come," when He appeared the great Antitype of all the types, the glowing substance of all the shadows, the full signification of all the symbols, the "brightness of the Father's glory, the express image of His person."
With the glory of Jesus, the typical part of the old dispensation is replete. And although this economy was composed principally of mere types, they nevertheless were God's appointed means of transmitting a gradual revelation of His mind and purpose to His Church and the world, and of developing, by a series of the most expressive symbols, His stupendous plan of redemption; nor can they be passed by in the study of revealed truth, without rendering unintelligible and obscure a very extensive portion of the sacred word.
In considering the typical glory of Christ, it would be impossible in the compass of a single chapter to present an adequate view of all the types of the Old Testament which set forth the Lord Jesus in His person and work. We have, therefore, selected from the many a single one—the burning bush—as embodying a mass of truth relating to our adorable Immanuel. On the history with which it stands connected, it is not necessary to enlarge. It will be sufficient to our purpose to remark, that Moses, to whom the wondrous spectacle appeared, was now preparing for a post of signal labor, responsibility, and honor. Brought up in the palace and educated in the court of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, he was but imperfectly qualified to take his place in the front of a suffering and tried people, delivering them from their oppression, sympathizing with their sufferings, establishing their economy, framing their laws, and conducting them through a rough, intricate, and dangerous desert, to a land of promised rest. From this school of luxury and repose, God transferred him to one more calculated to train him for the toils, the hardships, and the perils of the wilderness; and to qualify him for the office of legislating for a Church, whose God was Jehovah, and whose history was at that moment written in "letters of mourning, lamentation, and woe." He sent him into the land of Midian, and for forty years was he employed in pastoral servitude for Jethro, his father-in-law. Engaged in this lowly calling, by the side of Mount Horeb, "the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and be looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burned. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And He said, Draw not near here: put off your shoes from your feet, for the place whereon you stands is holy ground. Moreover He said, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God."
Now this type—a type it doubtless is—is radiant with the glory of Christ. Who but the Holy Spirit, the Glorifier of Jesus, can unfold it? It shadows forth Christ in the mysterious constitution of His complex person, and in the great work for the accomplishment of which He became so constituted. In these two points of view, in connection with the import of the solemn admonition annexed to it, let us proceed to consider this expressive symbol.
The first point demanding our attention is, THE DIVINE MANIFESTATION. That Jehovah was here revealed, the evidence is most conclusive. When Moses turned aside to see the great sight, "God called unto him out of the midst of the bush." It was not a mere vision that he saw, no hallucination of the mind had come over him; he could not be deceived as to the Divine Being in whose immediate and solemn presence he then stood. How awe-struck must have been his mind! how solemn his impressions, and how sacred his thoughts! But if further proof were needed, the declaration of God Himself sets the question of the Divine appearance at rest; "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." No truth could be more clearly established.
But in which person of the sacred and adorable Three, it may be asked, did God thus appear? We have every scriptural reason to believe that it was Jehovah Jesus; that it was a manifestation, anticipative of His future appearance in the flesh, of the Godhead of Christ. Thus, then, the type sets forth the glory of the Divine person of our dear Lord. How solemn, and yet how delightful to the mind, and establishing to our faith, is the truth, that the same God who under the old dispensation, on so many occasions, in so many gracious and glorious ways, and in so many remarkable and undoubted instances, appeared to the ancient believers, is He who was born in Bethlehem, who lived a life of obedience to the law, and died an atoning death upon the cross; the Savior, the Surety, of His people! What reality does it give to the salvation of the saints! Beloved, remember as you hang over this page, the same Jehovah who spoke from the midst of the flaming bush, and said, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," speaks to you from the cross, and in the Gospel, and says, "Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest." O "glorious Gospel of the blessed God!"
The second point of consideration in this remarkable type, as setting forth the glory of Immanuel, is THE SYMBOL in which He appeared. It is full of instruction. And what symbol did our Lord select in which to embody His Deity? Did He choose some tall cedar of Lebanon, or some majestic oak of the forest? No; but a bush—the most ordinary and insignificant, the most lowly and unsightly, of all trees—was to enshrine the Godhead of Him whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain. And what is the truth it conveys? Oh, most glorious and precious! It points to the incarnate glory of the Son of God—the lowliness of His nature. Referring again to the type, it will instantly appear that the unveiled, unclouded, and unembodied glory of Jehovah would have appalled and overwhelmed with its ineffable brightness the awe-stricken and astonished man of God. He could not have looked upon God and lived. "There shall no man see me, and live," says the Lord. It was therefore proper, yes, it was merciful, that all the manifestations of God to His people in the old dispensation, should be through the medium of objects on which the eye could look without pain, and on which the mind could repose without fear. Veiled in a cloud, or embodied in a bush, God could approach the creature with condescending grace, and reveal His mind, the creature could approach God with humble confidence, and open his heart. How kind and condescending in Jehovah to subdue and soften the splendor of His majesty, thus tempering it to the weak vision of mortal and sinful man!
But this was typical of that more wondrous and stupendous stoop of God in the new dispensation. All the subdued and obscure manifestations of the Godhead in the former economy, were but the forecasting shadows of the great mystery of godliness then approaching; and possessed no glory by reason of the glory that excels. But mark the condescending grace, the deep abasement, the infinite lowliness of the Son of God. When He purposed to appear in an inferior nature, what form of manifestation did He assume? Did He embody His Godhead in some tall archangel? Did He enshrine it in some glowing seraph? No! "For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham." He lowered Himself to our lowly and degraded nature—He selected our fallen, suffering, sorrowing, tempted humanity—He takes into union with Deity a creature, not of the highest rank and beauty, but a spirit dwelling in a temple of flesh; yes, not merely the inhabitant of the temple, but He unites Himself with the temple Himself, for "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us;" and even this flesh not connected with its state of primeval glory, but associated with all the humbling though sinless infirmities of its fallen condition.
Behold, too, the lowliness of Christ in the world's eye. In Him it sees no glory and traces no beauty; His outward form of humiliation veils it from their view. He is to them but as a "root out of the dry ground, having no form nor loveliness." On this point we shall more fully enlarge when we come to consider the humiliation of the Son of God.
There is yet another part of this significant type to be considered, equally important and rich in the view it conveys of the glory of Jesus in His work. "The angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a fame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed." The symbol of fire was expressive of the holiness and justice of God. It is thus frequently employed: "The Lord your God is a consuming fire." "And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire." "Our God is a consuming fire." But that which formed the greatest wonder—which riveted the eye, and attracted and enchained the feet of Moses to the spot, was the bush unconsumed. "And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burned."
But a more marvellous and stupendous spectacle meets us in the cross of Christ– Jesus enduring the fire of His Father's wrath: wrapped in the flame of His justice, and yet unconsumed! Let us turn aside from all inferior objects, and for a while contemplate this "great sight." It is indeed a great sight! The Son of God is laid upon the altar as a "burned offering," -a sacrifice for sin. The fire of Divine justice descends to consume Him—holiness in fearful exercise heaps on its fuel, and the flame and the smoke ascend in one vast column before the throne of the Eternal, "an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor." But behold the astonishment! Jesus suffering, and yet rejoicing! dying, and yet living! consuming, and yet unconsumed! These prodigies marked the offering up of our great High Priest upon Calvary. The dark billows of sorrow rolled over the human soul of Christ, but the Godhead remained calm and peaceful, its tranquillity unruffled by a wave of grief, its sunshine undimmed by a cloud of dark ness. He thus passed through all these throbs, and throes, and agonies of death, descended into the grave, rose again, lived, and still lives, the fountain of life to the created universe. Behold the God! Do you say He is a mere creature? Preposterous thought! Mad conception! Soul-destructive belief! Had He been less than divine, suffering as He did for sin, the devouring fire would have consumed Him in its unquenchable flame.
To the heart-broken sinner, how attractive and glorious is this spectacle of the Almighty Redeemer sustaining the wrath and suffering the justice of God for transgression! Mourning soul! turn aside, and behold yet again this "great sight." "Put off your shoes from your feet, for the place whereon you stand eat is holy ground." Lay aside your fleshly reasoning, your carnal views of self-justification, self-salvation, and human power—put off all your fleshly ideas of God, of His grace, and of His goodness; divest yourself of all your unbelieving and hard thoughts of His power, willingness, and readiness to save you. Thus prepared, approach—gaze, wonder, and adore! No one can stand on this holy ground, but he who stands in his own nothingness-none are welcome here but the poor, the empty, the bankrupt, and the vile. Are you all this? is this your case? Then draw near! God will speak from amid the flame of the sacrifice, and say to you, "Fear not!"
One feature more in this beautiful and instructive type remains to be considered, that is, the especial design of God in this miraculous appearance. After calming the troubled mind of Moses by revealing to him who He was, verse 6, He then proceeds to explain the gracious intentions of His advent. "And the Lord said, I have surely seen the afflictions of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their task-masters; for I know their sorrows. And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them out of that land into a good and a large land, into a land flowing with milk and honey." -verses 7, 8.
But a greater work, a mightier and more glorious deliverance, did our Almighty Redeemer come down to effect. To this the Spirit of Christ which was in the prophet Isaiah testified. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." The Lord saw from heaven the affliction of His chosen people who were in Egypt—the land of spiritual darkness, bondage, and oppression: He heard their cry by reason of their hard taskmasters—He knew their sorrows, and He came down to deliver and to bring them out of that land into a good land—a large place—a land truly flowing with milk and honey. Oh, from what a land of gloom, from what an iron furnace, and from what a hard oppressor, has Jesus delivered His people! He has rescued them from a state of nature, and brought them into a state of grace; from ignorance of God, of Christ, and of themselves, in which the fall had involved them—from the guilt of sin, and the condemnation of the law—from the captivity and tyranny of Satan, and from their hard and oppressive servitude. And, oh, into what a land of rest, blessedness, and plenty, has He brought them! Into covenant relationship with God, as His adopted children—into a state of pardon and acceptance—into the enjoyment of His love and presence; to know God as their reconciled Father—to know their oneness with Jesus their exalted Head, and their union with the body as its members—to a state of most holy and blessed liberty, as chosen, called, and adopted saints. Into the experience of all these blessings has a greater than Moses brought us. "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." Let us, then, "give thanks unto the Father, who has made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son," "even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come." Truly is Jesus, our Great Deliverer, "counted worthy of more glory than Moses."
This remarkable incident in the history of God's ancient Israel, which we have thus far been considering, as setting forth the typical glory of our Immanuel, is perhaps as equally illustrative of most important truth, bearing upon the experimental and practical experience of each believer in Jesus. It presents a true and beautiful outline of the Church of God. We are reminded of the two opposite natures of the believer—the fallen and the restored, the fleshly and the spiritual. The one low, sinful, unlovely, and of the earth-earthly; the other elevated, holy, glorious, and of heaven-heavenly. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
The conflict between these opposite and antagonist natures in the child of God, is also presented to view. As the bush in which the Divinity dwelt was surrounded by flame, so the regenerated man, in whom the eternal God deigns to dwell by His Spirit, is perpetually encircled by the fire of conflict, trial, and suffering. Nature and grace, sin and holiness, are as contrary the one to the other as any two principles can be. They can no more agree, commingle, nor coalesce, than can the opposite and antagonist elements in the natural world. Nor can there ever be a truce between them. They must necessarily and perpetually be at variance, hostile to, and at war with, each other. The contest is for supremacy. The great question at issue is, "which shall reign in the believer—sin or holiness, nature or grace, Satan or God?" Oh, what a fiery conflict is this! Hear the confession of an inspired apostle, drawn from his own painful experience: "I don't understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good. But I can't help myself, because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things. I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. I want to, but I can't." Who cannot trace the conflict here? Sin, he deeply, inveterately abhorred. The prevailing tendency, the habitual and fixed inclination, of his renewed mind, was to holiness—the bent of his desires was towards God. And yet, in consequence of the native depravity of his heart, the influence of sinful propensities, corrupt inclinations and desires, he felt like one chained to a body of death, from which he longed to be delivered. Here was that which defined the two natures, marked the perpetual conflict between both, and which distinguished the holy man from the sinner.
In addition to this spiritual conflict, there are the flames of suffering and trial which often encircle a dear child of God. This is the baptism of fire, connected with, and ever following, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. "He shall baptize you," says John, "with the Holy Spirit, and with fire." God has His "fire in Zion, and His furnace in Jerusalem." "The Lord tries the righteous.," "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." But it is not the furnace of justice nor the fire of wrath. Jesus, the Surety, has passed through and sustained all this; He has quenched its flame, and extinguished its embers. But it is the discipline of everlasting love and mercy. And though persecution may be permitted to rage, and the confessor of Christ may ascend to glory in a chariot of flame—though trials of various kinds may overtake the child of God, his grace and his graces "tried with fire," yet both the persecution of the Church and the trials of the believer are but the fruit of eternal and unchangeable love, and will prove purifying, sanctifying, and saving. Nothing will be consumed but the tinsel of the world, and the dross of sin, the alloy so much and so frequently found mixed with the pure gold.
But contemplate one more surpassing and precious truth—the Church is unconsumed! And why? Because He who dwelt in the bush dwells in the Church. The believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The High and the Lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, dwells in him. Christ is in him the hope of glory. It is impossible that he can perish. Why has not the poor, feeble bush been consumed? why has not grace declined, and faith failed, and love become totally extinguished? why has not "the fiery dart" of Satan prevailed, and the fierce and hot flame of persecution and of trial utterly consumed? Because greater is He that is in the believer than he that is in the world. Believer in Jesus! tell me not only of the sin that dwells in you, often bringing your soul into bondage and distress; tell me also of the grace that dwells in you, which as often gives you the victory, and sends you rejoicing on your way. Tell not only of the burning fiery furnace seven times heated; tell also of Him whose form is like the Son of God, who is with you in the furnace, and who has brought, and who will yet bring, you through with not a hair of your head singed, nor the smell of fire passed upon your garments. Tell not only of the "trial of your faith," "though it be tried with fire," but that also, through the ceaseless intercession of Jesus within the veil, that faith never yet has failed. Tell not only of the burden that has oppressed; tell also of the grace that has sustained—not only of the sorrow that has wounded, but also of the Divine sympathy, tenderness, and gentleness that have soothed and comforted, bound up and healed that wound. Oh, to hear more frequently the shout of victory and the song of praise breaking in sweet music from the lips of the redeemed! How much more would Jesus be glorified!
Unconverted reader! there is a fire—what if it be already kindled—that will never go out; a flame now burning that will never be quenched. Have you not read of it in God's word? "Behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." "Then shall He also say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." "If your hand offend you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched." "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" Flee, then, from the wrath to come! This moment flee! Linger not upon the confines of a world "kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men," but hasten from all below to Christ. "Escape for your life; look not behind you, nor stay in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed." Jesus is your only hiding-place, your refuge, your covert from the tempest. Away from a world doomed to woe; away from all refuge in your own obedience to the law, in works of human merit; away from self, from sin, from all, to Jesus. Until you have reached Him, you are suspended by a hair over the bottomless pit: in one moment, and at any moment, it may break, and you are gone; and once lost, lost forever!
Dear tried and suffering reader, do you resemble this burning bush? are you in the fire, passing through the furnace? does some strong temptation assail you—some sore trial oppress you—some deep sorrows wound you? He who dwelt in the bush dwells in you! and He who kept the bush unconsumed amid the flame, will keep you! Let your greatest care and deepest solicitude be to "glorify God in the fires." Be more prayerful for sustaining and sanctifying grace, than for the removal of your trial. This will bring richer glory to God. Beseech your Father that the flame may not be extinguished until the alloy is consumed, and the tried gold has come forth reflecting more vividly from its surface the image of Jesus—your soul partaking more deeply of the Divine holiness.
"Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!"