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A Flame and a Bush
Carolyn Lieber Stoebe
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And when Jehovah saw that he (Moses) had turned aside to look, God called to him out of the midst of the thornbush… Exodus 3:4, Recovery Version
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not out of us. 2 Co 4:7, Recovery Version
When God called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt He could have appeared to him in many ways: from the top of a mountain, sitting on a cloud, or even shooting forth as lightning. Instead, the King of kings and Lord of lords came as a flame in a thornbush.
This burning bush symbolizes something important to us. The thornbush represents fallen man and the curse. The flame signifies God. Here in Exodus God gives us a picture for the ages—through the redemption of Christ, God delights to dwell within fallen, thorny men.
If you look around you can see all kinds of people. Some are beautiful, cultured, and accomplished. Despite outward appearances, though, each one of us is a thornbush due to the damage of the fall.
So, what does the God of the universe do with all these flaming thornbushes?
He gathers us together as the church, an assembly of prickly people, and calls us to be one.
Do you ever get poked by your brothers and sisters in Christ? Just this week a well-meaning sister whispered a question into my ear. I know she didn’t mean for it to be hurtful. As I forgave her I couldn’t help but see my own barbs—a comment better left unsaid, a reaction to my teenage son, my grumpy face on a difficult day. I poke others too.
But the thorns are only part of the story. There is also the flame. Prickly as we may be it is God’s delight to dwell in us, and the more we open to Him the more He shines to others through us.
The apostle Paul also saw the vision of the thornbush. He called it something different, though, a treasure in earthen vessels. Whether the flame and bush, or the treasure in the jar, it is the same wonderful story—God has chosen to dwell in something humble and earthy. God delights to dwell in man.
Forty years after that initial calling, Moses referred once again to the thornbush. In Deuteronomy 33:13 and 16, when he blessed the tribes of Israel, he said “…May his (Joseph’s) land be blessed of Jehovah with the choicest things of heaven….the choicest things of the earth,...and the favor of Him who dwelt in the thornbush.” Even in his old age, the vision of the thornbush was still precious to this man of God.
And so it is to us today. The God of the universe chooses to burn within me and you. Perhaps like me you wonder why a great and glorious God would do this. The answer to this question can be found in 2 Corinthians 4:7 where the apostle Paul says, “That the excellency of the power may be of God and not out of us.”
Lord, thank you for redeeming us. We treasure You as our flame within. Shine in us and speak through us more this week that the excellence of Your power may be known to our family, friends, and neighbors.
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