February 29, 2024

Burning, Yet Not Consumed

Sinclair Ferguson
Burning, Yet Not Consumed

By revealing Himself in a burning bush, God gave Moses an unforgettable parable of who He is. Today, Sinclair Ferguson marvels at the God who is infinite and independent yet present with His people to preserve them.


Yesterday when we were continuing our reflections on the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush, I was saying that knowing that He is “I Am” is, in one sense, just the beginning. It certainly was for Moses. If you were able to take a mental helicopter ride over the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, I think you’d share my amazement at just how much Moses learned in the next forty years about the character of God.

But Moses must have reflected often on the meaning of the dramatic experience he had at Mount Horeb. What initiated it in the first place was the sight of a bush that was on fire but was not consumed. It must have taken at least a few minutes before it dawned on him that here was a bush burning, but apparently the fire was self-propagating. It was in the bush, and yet the bush wasn’t the fuel that kept the flame alight. In fact, the bush was burning but it wasn’t burning up. A fire was present in the middle of the bush, and yet the fire was completely independent of the bush for its existence. This was a fire like no fire Moses had ever seen.

I suspect that the more Moses thought about this, the more he played and replayed the scene over and over in his mind in later months and years, the more he understood what was happening. It was as though I Am, Yahweh, the Lord was saying, “Moses, there is none like Me in heaven or on earth. I Am who I Am. But I want you to know who I am, to understand as far as you are able, what kind of God I Am is.”

And so, He created something like Himself as a kind of picture, an active parable of a God who is absolutely independent, uncaused, in need of nothing, sufficient for Himself: a fire who simply burns, uncreated fire. And yet, at the same time, He is the I Am who makes Himself present in history and among His people, like the fire in the bush, without them being consumed. In fact, He comes not to consume them, but to preserve and save them. He is infinite and independent, but He’s not a prisoner of His infinity. In the mystery of His being, He can make Himself known in history. And more than that, He can come to be with His needy people and save them.

I wonder if this reminds you, as it reminds me, of the piece of paper that was found sewn into the coat lining of Blaise Pascal when he died. Here’s part of what was written on it:

The year of grace, 1654,
Monday, November the 23rd. From about ten-thirty in the evening to about half an hour after midnight.
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and savants.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
God of Jesus Christ. Deum meum et Deum vestrum.
Your God will be my God. My God will be your God.
Forgetting the world and everything, except God.
He is only found by the paths taught in the gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Him whom you have sent, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
I separated myself from Him. I fled Him, renounced Him, crucified Him.
May I never be separated from Him.
He is only kept by the paths taught in the gospel.
Total and sweet renunciation.
Total submission to Jesus Christ.
Eternally in joy for a day of trial on earth.

Moses met with God as the Fire that burned but was burning in a bush that was not consumed, the Fire that came to save the people, the Fire that transforms our lives.

I think we want to say a simple “amen” to that.