What’s a Burning Bush Have to do with Us Anyway?
If you were Moses and you saw a bush burning by you, would you walk over and see what it was all about? Or, would you figure it was there for a reason and go back to the exciting job of shepherding the sheep?
This morning I had an interesting time with the Lord. I’ve been reading Madam Guyon. She was a French woman who lived in the 13th century who was imprisoned for her faith. Why? Because she relentlessly pursued the burning bush. She wrote about “union with God.” Her premise is that God will “burn up” everything in our lives that keeps us from being one with himself. She even goes so far to say that our purpose on this earth is to enjoy God. Now that’s a whole different blog for another day.
Madam Guyon quotes 1st Peter as he writes about our faith being like gold refined by fire. She writes “The fire must melt and dissolve this dross by force so that it can rid the gold of every alien particle. Over and over again, the gold must be cast into the furnace until it has lost every trace of pollution. Oh, how many times the gold is plunged back into the fire…far, far more times than seem neccessary. There comes a time, at last, when the goldsmith can find no more mixture that adulterates the gold. When the fire has perfected purity, the fire no longer touches it. Now the gold is fit for the most exquisite workmanship. (p. 128 in Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ).
I love fires. My favorite times in life are around fires: camp fires, after parties where friends stay and relax by our fire, beach fires, smores all hot and gooey. I love the way we let our hair down in front of a fire, and reveal who we really are, deep inside. Or, how we can laugh and laugh at a game of telephone (which I always change just to shake things up!)
But, I am not so fond of God’s kind of fire. Hebrews 12:29 says, “Our God is a consuming fire.” He allows the circumstances of our life to be “burned up” so that our faith, which Peter tells us, is more precious than gold, is proved and purified.
The Message tells it this way:
“7I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.”
Madam Guyon writes again, “God’s justice and God’s wisdom must come like a pitiless and devouring fire. That fire destroys all that is earthly. The fire destroys the sensual, the carnal, and all self-activity.
All this purging is necessary before the soul can be united to its God.
You can be sure, dear reader, you will never be motivated enough to allow this purging process to happen to you! Humans, by their very nature, are very reluctant to submit to such a transformation. All of us are great enamored with self and very fearful of its destruction. You can be sure you would never consent if it were not that God takes it upon Himself to act upon you. It is he who comes with power and authority.” (p. 130).
So, does God’s willingness to allow, and even invite, us into fire filled situations make him a harsh or scary God?
This past season for me has been one of fire. I knew the Lord was burning up a LOT of impurities in my life. He is still taking me through many losses of people, situations and ministry opportunities which mean a great deal to me. It’s been torturous at times.
At my lowest point, as I camped out in our Blue Room, being quite blue, sobbing with visceral cries, in between the sobs, I cried out over and over, “I trust you Father, I trust you. No matter what happens I trust you.”
I think at that moment the loving goldsmith named God looked down and smiled at me, saying, “You are starting to get free of those impediments to the gold of your faith.”
In the fire, I have experienced his love. The words of Isaiah 43:2 proved true: “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
How about you? Do you know the fire? Are you burning now, holding on for dear life? Are you laying in the ashes, wondering how you will ever get up? If so, you are in good company.
Moses, Isaiah, Peter, the people lining the hall of faith in Hebrews 11 are all cheering for you because they have walked your road too. I am cheering for you too; because one of the greatest lessons of the desert is God’s compassion and faithfulness while he prepares us to be “one with him.”
Moses had to keep his eye on the prize: the freedom of his people. We must do the same. As we courageously follow where God takes us to put us on display as evidence of his victory (the Message), we have the unique privilege to live and abide with the very One who created us and cares about everything in our lives; especially the fire!