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The vision here recorded, this great sight, this most stupendous vision, is in fact the greatest sight which ever eyes saw, until they saw Christ. Indeed, they saw no more than this when they saw Him. When He would show the Jews His glory and reveal to them all His greatness, He could only say, “Before Abraham was I AM.” He had nothing greater to reveal than this; and this was seen here. Here, in the bush, was I AM. The fire which burnt but consumed not, the glory which illumined with dazzling brightness, and yet destroyed not, was the glory of present Godhead. The bush of Horeb was transfigured, as Christ was afterwards transfigured upon another mountain. A flame was in the midst of it. Its branches, and its leaves, and the thorns which covered it were white with a light which was transparent, because the “glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb was the light thereof.”
So that the sight which we have now to see is really a revelation. God is here before us, making known Himself; telling the Jews, and telling us, about His own nature; showing Himself and yet hiding Himself, because He shows Himself beneath the veil of a figure, under the cover of a bush which burns with unconsuming fire. It is a sight and at the same time a revelation, a great sight and a great revelationthe greatest anıl most dazzling revelation which the old world had, or, I might say, which the world has had at all; for when our Lord presented Himself to man in man's flesh, He added nothing to its brightness, but rather softened its too exceeding glory, by showing to us the great Jehovah come down to earth, as man to live with man.
The two constituent parts of the revelation are a fire and a bush,-a fire which kept on burning from its own internal energy, and a bush which continued standing although filled with the fire.
I. We will look upon the fire first and then upon the bush.
The fire was not like other fires. It was different from that element to which we give the name of fire. Fire lives by being fed, and consumes the food which sustains it, existing by means of destruction, building itself upon the waste and ruin of other things. The fire within the bush was of another character. It did not prey upon the branches. Had they been its food, it would have died out when fuel failed it; but the fire continued burning. It was this which struck Moses, “ The bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.” The fire was self-fed. It was fire celestial. It came from the throne of God. It was the symbol of God's presence. It was a ray from the eternal glory. The things of Heaven are not like things of earth. The saints, we know, when there will hunger no more and thirst no more, but will be like the angels, who need not food, and are, as it were, self-replenished and self-nurtured, because fed from within by that life of God with whom they are one. And this was self-existent fire; that is, it had not any natural aliment; it was sustained from within; it had a life above nature; it lived upon itself; it was because it must be and could not cease to be ; for it was the emblem and the sign of God.
God was in the fire. When God came down to Elijah, He was neither in the earthquake, nor in the wind, nor in the fire, but in “a still small voice,” for then he would reveal His love and gentleness. But God was in this fire, for now He would make His greatness visible. God was in the fire, because now it was His purpose to teach the Jews, His people, and the world, as long as the world lasts, by means of them, that He is I AM. “I AM the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” They live because I live. They live by me. “I AM THAT I AM." “ Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you; this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations."
God was in the fire, and the fire was like God. God is absolutely self-existent. He not only is but He must be., By no possibility could He ever not have been, or now cease to be. All which is not God, exists by God, and if He withdrew His Provi. dence must cease to be. But God depends on nothing. He is “the beginning and the ending,” “the first and the last.” As He was in that beginning which had no beginning, so He is, and so He ever shall be. He is “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God,” to whom “ be honour and glory for ever and ever.” He changes not. He cannot change. He is Father, Son, and Spirit, three Persons, one God. He is “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” Created things revolve around Him like planets round the sun; but He is motionless. The fixed stars are His emblem, shining, since first he made them, from unchanging spheres. We cannot understand Him. We know that in His essence He is love, though what essential love is we cannot fully know
But we know that He is “I AM.” This He tells us of Himself. “I AM." I exist, that is, eternally unchangeably, by strict necessity. In time past, in time present, in time to come, I AM. This is His name, mysterious, great, incomprehensible. We cannot understand, but we are able to adore it and to believe.
II. But this was not all. If God was in the fire the fire was in a bush. The bush was part of the revelation. I AM revealed Himself to Moses and to the world, and the thing through and in which He revealed Himself was a bush. If the fire was an emblem of His personal presence, the bush was a token of the manner in which His presence was made known.
The bush was a tree, having a root by which it clung to the earth, and a stem springing from the root, and branches spreading ont of the stem, and leaves growing upon the branches. It was one hush, but it had many parts, greater parts and these again divided into lesser parts, and the lesser into so many separate and single parts, yet all having one life, which flowed upwards from the root into every remotest portion. It was an outward visible thing; it could be touched, it could be seen. It was like another tree of which our Lord spoke when he said, “ I am the vine ye are the branches ;" that is, I am the whole tree, ye are the parts, one with Me and with each other in Me. In short, that hush which grew in the desert at the foot of Horeb, and in which Jehovah was made manifest to the world, was God's Church.
In the first place, it was the Jewish Church, the vine which had been promised to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacoh, and which God was then about to bring from Egypt, casting out for it from Canaan the heathen nations, and planting it in that goodly soil which flowed with milk and honey. Room was to be made for it. It was to take rout and fill the land until the hills were covered with its shadow, and its branches stretched out unto the Mediterranean Sea, and its boughs unto the river Jordan. His own right hand was soon to plant it, and for Himself its branch was to be made strong. The fire in the bush was God in His afflicted Church, telling them, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt,
. . for I know their sorrows, and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land into a good land and a large." His Church, the Jewish nation, was in the furnace of Egypt; but the same form which was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in that other Babylonian furnace long after, was with His people now, revealing Himself by fire within His Church, making known to the world His glory, and the glory of His Church as one with His.
But the bush was not the Jewish Church only. It was the Church of all time. The Jewish Church was itself a type of that Church Universal into which in the latter days it was to be unfolded. The bush was not the Church of the Jews only, but also the Church of the Gentiles, the Church of all nations as well as the Church of one nation. The Church in all
is the body in which I AM is revealed ; and He who once flamed like fire in Egypt, and in the wilderness, and in Palestine, now burns and is glorified throughout the earth within His Church. His Church, which is one body, one divine society, the world-wide kingdom which is the stone cut out without hands, and fills the whole earth, having all Christians for its members, and the ministers of Christ for its guides and governors, and our ascended Lord for its Head in Heaven, is the outward means by which He makes His glory known to all mankind. He gives her of