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THE BURNING BUSH. Exod. ij. 2, 3. 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. And Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
IF God have on some occasions revealed himself to persons, when, like Saul, they have been in the very act of committing the most heinous sins, he has more generally favoured them when they have been occupied, like the shepherds, in their proper calling. Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, when God appeared to him in a burning bush, and gave him a commission to deliver Israel from their bondage in Egypt. By this extraordinary appearance God not merely awakened the curiosity of Moses, but conveyed to him some very important instruction; to elucidate which we shall, I. Shew what was intended by the burning bush
It was intended to represent the state and condition1. Of the Israelites in Egypt,
[They were cruelly oppressed, and every effort was made to destroy them. Nor had they in themselves any more ability to withstand their enemies, than a thorny bush has to resist the action of fire. Yet not only were they preserved from destruction, but they even multiplied in proportion as means were used to prevent their increase.]
2. Of the church of God in the world
[The church, whose state was typified by that of Israel, has at all times suffered by persecution, though it has enjoyed
some intervals of comparative rest. And, considering that all the powers of the world have been confederate against it, we may well be amazed that it has not been utterly consumed. But it has endured the fiery trial to this hour, and still defies the impotent attacks of all its adversaries.] 3. Of every individual in the church
[The declaration that “all who would live godly in Christ Jesus should suffer persecution," has been verified in every place and every age: “the third part are, and ever will be, brought through the fire.” And it is no less than a miracle, that, when the believer has so many enemies, both without and within, he does not "make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience." But the furnace, instead of destroying, purifies and refines him; and his very graces are perfected by the trials that endanger their existenced.]
Having pointed out both the primary and more remote signification of this phenomenon, we shall, II. Account for the miracle which it exhibited
Well might the sight of a bush burning, but not consumed, excite the astonishment of Moses : but his wonder would cease when he found that God was in the bush.
The person here called “the angel of the Lord” was Christ
[The angel expressly called himself “ The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;" which sufficiently proves that he could not be a created angel, seeing that it would be the most daring blasphemy in any creature to assume that incommunicable title of Jehovah : yet it was not God the Father: for St. Stephen, recording this history, informs us, that “God sent Moses by the hand of the angele." consequently the angel was God the Son, and not God the Father. Indeed Christ, who is elsewhere called " The angel of the covenant,” was the person, who, in all the appearances of God to man, assumed the human or angelic shape; thereby preparing the world for the fuller manifestation of himself in his incarnate state. And it is on this account that he is called “ The image of the invisible God.”]
It was his presence with the Israelites that prevented their destruction
[He was in the bush, and therefore the bush was not consumed: so he was in the midst of his oppressed people; and
therefore the Egyptians could not prevail against them. Christ was among them before he gave them any symbol of his presence; for it was he who rendered the assistance of the midwives unnecessary, and emboldened them to withstand the commands of Pharaoh. He was afterwards with them in the pillar and the cloud, protecting them from the Egyptian hosts, and stopping the progress of their enemies till they were overwhelmed in the sea. When, for the punishment of their sins, he refused to go with them, they were sure to be overpowered: but whenever he returned in mercy to them, they prospered and prevailed.]
It is that same presence that preserves the church and every member of it
[Christ has said, “ Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world;" and hence it is that “ the gates of hell have never prevailed against the church;" yea, we are assured, they never shall prevail. We are also told that “he dwelleth in the hearts” of all his people", and is “their life ;” and that, whereinsoever they live and act, it is not so much they, as Christ in them. It is by this consideration that he encourages them to “go through fire and water," persuaded that no evil shall happen to them? And to his continued interposition and support they must ascribe their preservation in every danger, and their deliverance from every enemy m.] Let us now “turn aside and behold this great sight” (let
us turn from every worldly thought, and inspect this wonderful appearance, not with curiosity, but
profoundest reverence); let us OBSERVE herein, 1. To what state God's most favoured people may be reduced
[Your afflictions may be heavy. But are any discouraged by reason of their great trials? Be it known that tribulation is the way to the kingdom; and all, who arrive there, have trodden the same path". Nor need we be alarmed at any fire that is kindled for us, since Christ will be with us in the midst of ito, and " bring us out of it purified as gold.”] 2. What they may expect at God's hands
In seasons of great trial we are tempted to think that God has forsaken us: but he never was more immediately present with the Hebrew youths, than when they were cast into the furnace; nor did he ever feel more love to his own
h Eph. ii. 17.
Son, than in the hour when he cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Let us then learn to trust God, and expect that, when we walk through the fire, we shall not be burnedP.]
3. What in the midst of all their trials should be their chief concern
[Moses in his valedictory address to the twelve tribes, congratulates Joseph on “ the good-will of Him who dwelt in the bushy." And most truly are they blessed who are thus interested in the divine favour. To them God is “a wall of fire" for their protection': but to others he is “a consuming fire" for their destructions. Alas! alas! in what a fearful state are they, who shall be “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone,” into “ a fire that never shall be quenched," and in which they shall continue unconsumed to all eternity! Oh! “who can dwell with everlasting burnings t?” But, if we are reconciled to him in the Son of his love, we have nothing to fear: we have nothing to fear either in time or eternity: for, however painful our state in this world may be, he will support us with his presence; and in the world to come, we shall be for ever beyond the reach of harm, even in “his immediate presence, where is the fulness of joy for evermore.” Seek then his favour; yea, seek it with your whole hearts ---]
LXIV. GOD'S PRESENCE WITH HIS PEOPLE. Exod. iii. 12. And he said, Certainly I will be with thee.
THERE is nothing more amiable in the character of a saint than true and genuine humility. Without that virtue, all graces are defective, and all attainments worthless in the sight of God. But it is no uncommon thing to see other dispositions assuming the garb of humility, and claiming an excellence which they do not possess. The Prophet Jeremiah, when called to the prophetic office, declined it under an idea that he was “a child, and unable to speak.” But God said to him, “ Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I shall command thee thou shalt speak 4.” His
a Jer. i. 4—7.
pretended insufficiency for the work was, in reality, no other than a cover for his dread of the dangers to which it would expose him: and therefore God, in order to remove the impediment, replied, “Be not afraid of their faces; for I am with thee, to deliver theeb." Thus Moses, when God said to him, “ Come now, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt;" replied, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” This was specious enough, and had the semblance of true humility; but it was only a pretext, and a cover to his fears and unbelief. He had, forty years before, exerted himself with great vigour in behalf of that people, and had even slain an Egyptian who was contending with them: but they had thrust him from them, saying, “ Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us ?” and Pharaoh had sought his life, as forfeited to the laws of the land. Now, therefore, he was afraid that the people would shew the same disregard of his efforts, and that his slaughter of the Egyptian would be visited with the punishment which the laws of the land denounced against him. This, indeed, did not at first sight appear to be his real motive: but his numerous refusals of the office delegated to him, repeated as they were under a variety of pretexts, clearly discovered at last what was in his heart, and justly excited the displeasure of God against hima. But the very first answer of God should have been quite sufficient to remove every apprehension. God said to him, “ Certainly I will be with thee:” and, having that assurance, he should without hesitation have gone forth to his destined labours.
Let us consider,
As relating to him, it comprehended all that he could wish
[True, his work was arduous, and to unassisted man