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A Consuming Fire

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
February 7, 2024 12:01 am

A Consuming Fire

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 7, 2024 12:01 am

The burning bush wasn't the first time God revealed His glory in the appearance of brilliant flames. Nor would it be the last. Today, R.C. Sproul visits several passages in Scripture to discuss what this radiant glory ultimately reveals about Jesus Christ.

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When God appears to Moses, He calls them by the repetition of His name. When He says to them out of that burning bush, Moses, Moses.

Now when the Shekinah glory appears to Saul of Tarsus, the voice comes again out of the midst of that brilliant, effulgent glory, saying to him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? Moses' encounter with the burning bush that was not consumed was an incredible event as we've already seen this week. But what was happening there? Was this a miraculous bush that couldn't burn or was something else taking place? This is the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

Thanks for joining us. We've begun a study this week on Renewing Your Mind of Moses and the burning bush, and I want to remind you that if you'd like to continue this series and receive the companion book, simply give a donation of any amount at in support of this daily outreach, and we'll send you this resource bundle as our way of saying thanks. So what was happening there at this bush? Why wasn't it consumed? As we'll see today, there is great significance to this fire, and Moses was not the only one to have an encounter like it in the pages of Scripture.

Here's Dr. Sproul. We're going to continue now with our study of Moses and the burning bush and all that was involved in that particular encounter. In our last session, I mentioned that from a redemptive historical perspective, that particular incident was not only life-changing for Moses himself, but was a watershed moment for all of human history.

And we looked at the basic narrative in the first two sessions, and from now on I want to be looking at some of the theological implications and ramifications from this event. So I'll turn your attention again tonight just to the first part of chapter 3 of Exodus where we read these words. Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn. Now according to Jewish tradition, this area of the desert is populated by the most common of bushes that were bramble bushes, and the assumption of the Jewish historians was that this particular book was a simple ordinary bramble bush of no great significance in itself. And when this experience occurred to Moses, the first thing I think we have to understand is that there was nothing at all supernatural about this bush.

It was a common ordinary bramble bush doing what common ordinary bramble bushes do in the desert. And it's not like there was a miracle performed where God caused a bush to burn that could burn forever without losing any of its substance from the burning process. And here's one of those occasions when we read the Scripture that the words that we read in there can be a little bit misleading, because Moses is describing this experience from what we call a phenomenological perspective.

That is, he tells about it from what it looked like. He's walking along with his sheep there in the desert, and he sees this strange phenomenon of a bush burning, and he turns aside to see what this bush's burning is all about. And he's astonished to see that though the bush is burning, it is not consumed. Now, I'm suggesting perhaps that what Moses saw was a fire in the bush. It wasn't beside the bush. It wasn't on top or over the bush like the flames and tongues of fire that came down on the day of Pentecost on that occasion. But rather, from Moses' viewpoint, the fire was coming from inside the bush. But what I'm suggesting to you is that the significance of the statement that the bush was not being consumed indicates that the bush itself was not burning. The fire was in the bush, but not of the bush.

Now, what does that mean, and what's the significance of that? Well, it indicates that the fire that Moses saw was independent of the bush. It was not using the bush for its fuel. That's why it wasn't consumed. The fire that Moses saw was burning from its own power.

It was generated from itself and not from a conflagration of the bush. So what we have here clearly is a biblical example of what we call theophany. And the word theophany means, we have the first part of the word, theo, that comes from the word theos, for God, and the second part, phane, it comes from phaneo, which means to make manifest. The God that we worship is the Spirit. He is invisible. His invisible substance cannot be seen by the human eye. But there are occasions in redemptive history where the invisible God makes Himself visible by some kind of visual manifestation.

And that's what we're encountering here with this experience. Now, to have a bush with a fire in it is what we call in theology, when the fire is not consuming the bush, an activity that is contra naturum. An activity that is contra naturum. Contra means against, and naturum means nature. So that this activity that Moses is looking at is something that is completely contrary to nature.

This is not a natural phenomenon. It is a supernatural phenomenon. And usually the phrase contra naturum is used to describe what we call the miraculous. I'm not convinced that this was necessarily a miracle that he was witnessing, but it was a supernatural reality. And what he was seeing, plain and simple, in this fire was a visible manifestation of the glory of God. We hear in the Bible about the outward appearance of God's glory. And we call that the Shekinah glory, the glory that is refulgent, the glory that radiates from the very being of God that is so powerful, so majestic that it overwhelms anyone whoever comes in contact with it. And I want us to see that throughout redemptive history, at critical at critical junctures, at critical moments, God manifests Himself to people through the Shekinah glory that is communicated chiefly through some kind of fire.

And I want to take some time tonight to look at some of these episodes, particularly in the Old Testament but not exclusively there, where we see the Shekinah glory of God that flows out of God's inner, perfect, holy, transcendent being. Let's go back for a moment earlier in the Pentateuch to the fifteenth chapter of Genesis, where in Genesis we find the record of God speaking to Abraham and making the promise to him there that he will be the father of a great nation. Remember that Abraham was called by God, and God said, I will be your shield and your very great reward. And Abraham said, what reward can you give me? He was already one of the richest men in the world. He said, I have all these things, but I don't have an heir.

I don't have a son. My heir is my servant, Eliezer of Damascus. And God said, no, no, no. Eliezer will not be your heir, but I'm going to give you a son from your own loins.

In her old age, your wife will bear you a son, and he will become the father of a great nation. And we know the rest of the terms of that covenant. And we're told that Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. But as God spelled all these things out that he was going to do for Abraham, Abraham had the basic struggles that we all would have in a situation like that. And so he said to God, how can I know this?

How can I be sure that this will happen? Well, I think I've told the congregation at St. Andrew's on other occasions that one of the strangest phenomena I know of in Christendom is this practice that people have when I go to a conference and a speaker along with other speakers. People come up afterwards, and they ask me to sign their Bible for them as if I wrote the Bible. But it's a practice, and so I try to do it. But then they not only want the signature, but they want me to give them my life verse.

And I don't know where this idea ever came from. I mean, how can you take one verse out of the whole Bible and make it your life verse? The whole Bible is our life verse, but people ask for that. And I'm a little bit mischievous when I sign Bibles and I write down my verse.

I write down Genesis 15, 17. And the people thank me, and they walk away. And usually what happens is about a half an hour later they come back to me, and they say, did you make a mistake on this verse that you wrote down there?

And I say, no. And they say, well, I went and looked at this verse that you said was your life verse, and I can't make any sense out of it at all. And then I take some time to explain it to them. So let me just read verse 17 of Genesis 15. And it came to pass when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. And I say to people, if I've ever locked up in a prison and I'm in solitary confinement and I could only have one verse in all of the Bible at my disposal, that's the verse I want.

And people look at me like I'm crazy. What are you talking, what's going on here? You go through this garish ritual that God commands Abraham to cut all these animals in half and this gory mess of placing the animals in a pathway like an aisle, like a gauntlet. And then this horrible fear comes upon Abraham in this night vision. And it says, in this darkness, in his sleep, Abraham sees the smoking oven and a burning torch moving between the pieces. Well, obviously what's going on, well, maybe not so obvious to everybody, but it's obvious to me what's going on here in this text is the cutting right of a covenant where God is demonstrating to Abraham through this vision of fire, of a torch, of a burning oven that passes between the pieces. And that is the vision of the Shekinah that's God in this dream moving between the pieces of these animals that have been cut in half. And what God is saying dramatically to Abraham, Abraham, how can you know that I'm going to do what I say I'm going to do to you?

Here's how. I've just run the gauntlet. And what I'm saying to you is that if I fail ever to keep a promise that I make to you, may I be like these animals cut in two. May the immutable God suffer a mutation. May the eternal become temporal, the infinite, finite. I'm not swearing on my mother's grave to you, Abraham. I am swearing by my own being.

I'm putting my deity on the line when I make this commitment to you. And the author of Hebrews picks that up in the New Testament when he says, because God could swear by none greater, He swore by Himself. And it was an oath by fire.

It was an oath demonstrated by the Shekinah glory made visible to Abraham in the darkness of the night. Now, here we have Abraham and Moses both having this experience of encountering the Shekinah glory of God in this fire that changes their lives. Go fast forward to the New Testament, and we go to the book of Acts, where the Apostle Paul has his experience of conversion on the road to Damascus. We read in Acts chapter 9 these words, Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the way, that is, who were Christians, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.

When he later recalls this before Agrippa, he adds a great light, brighter than the noonday sun, a blinding light, which was seen not only by Saul but those who were in his entourage. And he fell to the ground, and he heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And he said, who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goats, so trembling and astonished. He said, Lord, what do you want me to do?

I hope he didn't miss the parallel there, that when God appears to Moses, he calls him by the repetition of his name, which I'll comment further on at some later date, when he says to them out of that burning bush, Moses, Moses. Now when the Shekinah glory appears to Saul of Tarsus, the voice comes again out of the midst of that brilliant, effulgent glory, saying to him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? And this is the moment, this is the encounter that turns Paul's life upside down and makes him the greatest apostle of the biblical era.

What is it that happened? What did Paul meet? He ran right up against the glory of God, right up against the brilliant, resplendent beauty of the Shekinah. Now there are other places where this takes place, but let me remind you of one that you're all familiar with, that accompanied not only the call of Moses and the call to Saul, or the promise to Abraham, that accompanied the very moment of the birth of Jesus. Strangely enough, the Shekinah glory wasn't in the cave, wasn't in the manger.

It wasn't with Mary and Joseph. It was like it appeared to a bramble bush out on the fields outside of Bethlehem, where the shepherds were there tending their sheep. And we read in the Christmas narrative by Luke, that the glory of God shone round about them. And I like the old translation, and they were sore, afraid, terrified.

So the angels had to calm them down and say, don't be afraid. The angel of the Lord's coming here accompanied by this visible display of the Shekinah, the angel of the Lord's coming here, visible display of the Shekinah glory that should make us all tremble. Nevertheless, they said, we are coming with good news, with the best of all possible news, for unto you is born this day in Bethlehem, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And we're going to explore in the weeks to come how this Shekinah glory that changes Moses' life and changes Saul's life and changes Abraham's life and changes all the world history in Bethlehem is not just linked to God the Father, but is understood and inseparably related to the second person of the Trinity. That whenever God appears in theophany with the Shekinah glory, it's not just God the Father we're dealing with here, as I hope we will see in our next time together that ultimately what is being displayed is the glory inherent of God the Son from all eternity. So, it's not so much what was in that bush, it's who was in that bush. Who was speaking to Moses centuries before Moses would speak to him on the Mount of Transfiguration, which was clearly the most magnificent display of the Shekinah glory anywhere in the New Testament, where just as that bush was burning from inside and not the bush itself, so in the transfigured Jesus, the glory that was displayed there on the mountain was not a reflection, but a glory that burst through from His concealed deity, because where the Shekinah is, dear ones, God is. God is.

It's not so much what was in that bush, it's who was in that bush. I just love that summary line from R.C. Sproul, and I'm finding this series so helpful in that it's making me consider more deeply a section of Scripture that had perhaps become too familiar to me.

Are you finding that that's true for you this week? If so, don't forget to request the entire series from Dr. Sproul, as you'll only hear four of the messages this week on Renewing Your Mind. Simply give a donation of any amount at or by calling us at 800 435 4343, and we'll send you the 10-message DVD, the companion book, and you'll unlock lifetime digital access to the messages and study guide in the free Ligonier app. This offer ends tomorrow, so give your gift at and finish this 10-part series online as you wait for the DVD to arrive. Dr. Sproul said today that it's not so much what was in that bush, it's who was in that bush, and that's what we'll consider further tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-07 03:34:56 / 2024-02-07 03:42:32 / 8

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