What Does The Burning Bush Represent?

by Tony Warren

  "And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
  And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt
." -Exodus 3:2-3

The Burning Bush     Nearly everyone knows the exodus story of the Lord's appearance to Moses in the midst of the Burning Bush. And at first glance, God's use of a burning bush to make His appearance may seem to be unimportant or inconsequential to the deliverance at hand, but we all know that God does nothing capriciously or without a purpose. It was not done just to get Moses' attention, there is a spiritual portrait in the fire. So what does the Burning Bush represent? In other words, the Lord chose to appear to Moses in the midst of a "Burning Bush" for a specific reason. There is a deeper spiritual truth to why this revelation came in the midst of this bush, and why we are told the bush was not consumed by the fire. The Hebrew word translated bush is [ce'nah], and speaks of a thorn bush. It is from a root word meaning to prick. it was a bramble or prickly shrub. We also know that it is a thorn Bush by it being spoken of in the New Testament by the Greek word [ba'tos] (see Mark 12:26; Luke 6:44), which also means a thorn bush. So the question is, why did God choose to appear in this particular type of bush when sending Moses deliver Israel from bondage in Egypt? The logical reason is that God is using this thorn bush as a type of His dwelling with God's people who are redeemed from the curse of the law. Obviously the thorn bush symbolizes something, just as the Garden of Eden does, or the seven golden Candlesticks does, or the four beasts do, or anything else that the Bible says the Lord dwells in the "midst" of. When we see God appearing in the midst of anything, it is for a reason, and that reason is not to alert us that God "actually is" that thing.

Proverbs 25:2

God speaks in dark sentences, parables, proverbs, allegories, symbolisms, cryptic imagery, in order that the kings (those who reign) might search out the matter and come to a deeper spiritual understanding of His truths. And in this instance I believe the thorn bush is a token or sign to signify the people of God under the curse because of the fall, are not consumed by the fire of God because of the Angel (Messenger) of the Lord who dwells within the midst of them. The curse of God is represented by thorns and thistles, which are prickly or thorny bushes:

Genesis 3:17-18

Thorns and thistles are not the original and natural fruit of the earth, but were part of the curse of God brought forth by the corruption of sin. Mankind is under this curse of God and is often pictured as the thorn (Numbers 33:55; Jeremiah 4:3-4; Matthew 13:7) and bramble bushes that are the adversaries of the children of God. At the day of judgment, they will all be gathered together and burned as stubble. This is the imagery revealed as the vissage of the thorn bush. It will be consumed by the fiery wrath of God. These men are pictured as thorns to illustrate this. Even as the wicked men who accosted the Apostle Paul were spoken of as thorns in the flesh (2nd Corinthians 12:7), the messengers of Satan sent to beat him. That is what unsaved man is symbolically. They are fuel for the fire.

But here in Exodus the Lord is about to set Covenant Israel free from Egypt, which is also a type of the redemptive work of Christ. And this is the perfect opportunity for God to reveal the mystery of how a consuming fire does not consume the thorn bush brought forth by the curse. Moses takes careful note of this God breathed phenomenon, and something particular sparks his curiosity.

Exodus 3:3

What does the Burning Bush represent? Note again exactly why Moses was curious. It was because the bush was in the midst of the fire, and yet it was not burnt or being consumed by the fire. He was so fascinated by this that he had to find out why the thorn bush is not consumed. In reality, in his example, God wants us to turn, observe and understand why the thorn bush was not consumed. And the mystery is revealed that it is because the Messenger of God dwelt within the midst of it. Grace reigns over the Bush through the act of Christ being made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13; 2nd Corinthians 5:17-21). Therefore, though the fire of God blazed around the thorn bush that would normally and naturally be consumed, the phenomenon is seen that it was not consumed. And this is because of the efficacy of the work of Christ in becoming a curse for us. A glorious portrait of the mercies of God in Christ, the Messenger of the Covenant (Malachi 3:1) come to set Israel free from bondage. A miraculous vision of the promise of God fulfilled in the Messenger of God.

Exodus 3:4

Moses turned to see this glorious vision, and what he saw was the glory of the gospel set forth in the imagery of the Burning Thorn Bush. And God calls out to him and explains that He is the Lord God, tells him that he stands on holy ground. Where does the ground receive its holiness? It is obviously from the same place that the Burning Bush does. From the holy Messenger of God who dwells within its midst. And He proceeds to tell Moses that He has seen the affliction of His people in bondage, and has come to deliver them. Thus the imagery of God the Saviour of man, by becoming the curse for us, is complete. The message that we should see here is that, because of this Angel (Messenger) of God in the midst of this thorn bush, it is not consumed by the fire.

Galatians 3:13

Christ has redeemed Israel from the curse brought about by the fall. Because in being made a curse for us, He has ransomed us, having stood in our place (Matthew 20:28; 1st Timothy 2:6) hanging on a tree and taking upon Himself our sins, He suffered the wrath of God redeeming us from that curse. For it is written, cursed is anyone that hangs on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). And it is this Messenger of God that sends Moses, as an appointed vessel, to deliver this good will toward His people Israel. This Messenger of the thorn Bush is its redemption, the promised glory and good will of God toward men (Luke 2:14), whereby they are not consumed by the consuming fire of God.

Deuteronomy 33:16

The good will of Him who dwelt within the Bush is toward God's people Israel (Matthew 1:21-23) ransomed, to the glory of God. What Moses saw was the miracle of the similitude of the work of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, making the curse of no effect to His people. In other words, they are not burned up in God's consuming fire because He broke the curse of the law for them. The text of Exodus doesn't say the Bush spoke to Moses, it says God speaks from out of the midst of the Bush. And I believe that it is the same picture as when God speaks from out of the midst of the Church, or out of the midst of the Holy Temple or from the midst of His Disciples. The same portrait of Christ in the midst of His Church.

Daniel 3:24-27

The servants of the Lord had no harm done to them by the fire because they had the Messenger of the Covenant dwell within the midst of them there. It was because the Son of God dwelt in the midst of them that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not consumed by the fire. And just as the Lord appearing in the midst of this fire illustrated that it was by His presence they are not consumed (Daniel 3:28), so our Lord appears in the midst of the Bush because it represents His servants that are not consumed. Where Christ is in the midst of them, His people can never truly be harmed.

Matthew 18:20

Wherever you find the election, there you will find the Lord speaking from out of the midst of them. Herein we find the hidden wisdom kings, those who reign, have searched out and found (Proverbs 25:2) the hidden treasures. They do not learn that the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar wasn't hot enough to burn Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They glean that it was because in the midst of them Dwelt their Lord and Saviour. Therefore they were not consumed by the fire. The same spiritual portrait of Exodus and what the Burning Bush represents in relationship to Moses and the deliverance of Israel.

Some have raised an objection declaring that the Bush simply represented God. But while it is clearly biblical to say that we are likened unto a thorn bush that God placed under the curse, is it really biblical to say that God is? Except in the sense that Christ became the curse for us. Throughout scripture the thorn or bramble is seen as representing wicked man by reason of the curse. Why would God paint a portrait of Himself as a thorn or bramble bush "except" as He is the redeemer of men from the curse? Comparing scripture with scripture, is God ever seen illustrated as a thorn bush in other places? Not at all. People may believe that the Bush is simply God in view, but that is really not what the text actually says. It says the Angel, or more accurately Messenger, spoke "from the midst" of the burning Bush, which was not consumed. And the [malak] or Messenger of God that appeared in the flame is the Lord Jesus, the holy reason that this bush is not consumed.

Exodus 15:7

The fire of God is to consume the wicked thorns as stubble, and yet this thorn bush is not consumed. It would seem that God wants us to know this pertinent information to point us in the right direction. What does the Burning Bush represent? The portrait is of the imagery of a holy fire upon a thorn bush, that is not consumed. As opposed to what would normally happen, as a thorn bush would be utterly consumed as stubble (1st Corinthians 3:11-13). The imagery that Moses beheld is a thorn bush not consumed by fire, because of the work of the Lord tha dwelled within its midst.

Exodus 3:2

It doesn't say God was the thorn bush, because that would go against a myriad of scriptures that prefigure the thorn bush as that which is from the curse. What struck Moses was the curious fact that though the thorn bush appeared burning, it was not consumed. And that is the lesson that God is teaching. That the bush that God all throughout scripture says represents the curse and the wicked and that must be burned as stubble in the judgment of God, is here with God and is not consumed by the fire. Every image God creates in the Bible has some deeper spiritual truth. And there is a reason that God appears to Moses to send Him as a type of Christ to deliver Israel from bondage. There is a reason the Messenger of God appears in the "midst" of this thorn Bush. And there is a reason we are specifically told that the bush is not consumed by a consuming fire. The reason is that it symbolizes the people whom God has redeemed from the curse and therefore are immune to the consuming fire of God. Which is the fate of the wicked of the world who are represented by thorns without a redeemer.

Hebrews 6:8

All the world is unsaved, and they are pictured as the thorn bush that will burn in the fire, while we are convinced of better things that accompany salvation through Christ. That is why in Exodus the Lord appears in the thorn bush that is not consumed in the fire. See also the example of Christ equating the unsaved to a thorn Bush in his parables.

Luke 6:44-45

Again, God is equating unsaved man under the curse of God, who bring forth bad fruit or works to a thorn Bush. This is the same type bush that the Messenger of God spoke from, and yet that wasn't consumed by the fire. And so it would necessarily follow that that bush represented the redeemed of the earth through Christ. And because of this Covenanted work of redemption, they are not consumed by the fire. Consider what Moses said in verse 3 Exodus chapter 3:

Exodus 3:3

We can't help but consider that this reads very much like the imagery we see in Revelation chapter one, where John turned to see another vision of a great voice that spoke to him from the midst of the Seven Golden Candlesticks. When John turned, he also saw our redeemer, Lord and Saviour. But he saw the exact same redemption illustrated in very different imagery.

Revelation 1:12-13

Like Moses, John turned and saw Christ, the Messenger of the Covenant. And here the imagery is that His eyes were as a flame of fire and His feet were like fine brass that burned in a furnace. Again, the same symbolism of redemption, the refining of the election in the fire wherein they are purged from sin, but not harmed. When John turned he saw Christ speaking from out of the midst of the Candlesticks, which represented (Revelation 1:20) the Churches. Identical to when Moses turned and there was the Messenger speaking out of the midst of the burning bush, which represented the Church that was not consumed by the fire. Same scenario, same revelation, same portrait of Christ as the Messenger of the Covenant who is the only deliverer of the Israel of God, but different imagery. The point is that it is the Messenger of the Covenant, as a refiner's fire, who prevents the Church from being consumed.

Malachi 3:1-2

Christ is the Messenger of the Covenant who is as a refiner's fire to purge the people of sin, deliver them from the curse, that they may dwell in the presence of the Lord and not be consumed. And that is the same "context" that we see in Exodus, of God sending Moses as a type of Christ (Acts 7:37-38) to set Israel free from Egypt. It is the representation of the redemption of His people. This only further serves to support the biblical conclusion, because the redemption of His covenanted people is the whole point of the story of the Burning Bush.

Exodus 3:8

The true "Promised" land was spiritual, and was a kingdom wherein its people are protected from the all consuming fire, which is God's judgment. The Bible is replete with examples of the aspect of God as the all consuming fire (Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 9:3 and Hebrews 12:29). Moses is sent to be the type, a shadow too prefigure what would be fulfilled in Christ setting the people of Israel free from spiritual bondage brought about by the curse. He did so by becoming sin for His chosen people, suffering the fiery wrath of God in their stead, and being raised again from that dead without seeing corruption and without being consumed by that fiery judgment of Hell.

Matthew 5:22

The final judgment of Hell is pictured as the fire of God's wrath that will burn up the wicked, but that will not burn the elect. Even as when speaking of the Covenant with Israel, God says they are a people whom the fire will not kindle upon nor burn. It will not consume or eat them up.

Isaiah 43:1-3

Thus by His Covenant with Israel, through His righteousness alone, the fire will not consume His people. All those who are under the Covenant of Christ have died in Christ and were raised up with Him, unconsumed and made pure through the fire (Zechariah 13:9; 1st Corinthians 3:15-16). Therefore, the servants of God live with Christ in their midst, and are not under the curse of death. Even as Christ told the Sadducees when they asked about the Resurrection:

Mark 12:26-27

This language of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob references the Covemnant of God with His people. God is practically telling us point blank that the episode of Moses and the Burning Bush symbolized our redemption in Christ, the Messenger of the Covenant. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead, they live, and it is because of the work of Christ that death has no power over them. They are free from the penalty of death, brought forth by the curse. The wages of sin is death, which is symbolized by the all consuming fire of God. But the gift of God is Christ, made the curse for us.

Romans 6:23

Therefore God spoke to Moses from the Bush saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob live because of the Messenger of the Covenant. And as with all God's sons and daughters, they are therefore not consumed by the fire.

Acts 7:35

The Messenger of God appeared to Moses in that Bush, and by His hand was sent to deliver Israel out of bondage. And in this example we have a better understanding of how, in the midst of the fire, this bush is not consumed. How it is because of the Messenger of the Covenant who speaks from the midst of them. It is because He is the only one who could have brought them through the fire unharmed, and refined them from the dross of sin even as Gold and Silver is made pure.

So in conclusion, we see in this great image how the Burning Bush symbolizes the glory of God in His good will toward men. The sign of the Bush is both as mysterious and as awe inspiring to us today, as it was to God's servant Moses thousands of years ago. A wonderful reminder to God's faithful people that the curse of the law satisfied for us in the broken body of Christ hanging on that tree at calvary. How by being made a curse for us, His resurrection secured eternal life not only for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but for all God's chosen people. The Burning Bush is a sign of God's eternal presence within the midst of God's chosen people, redeemed from the curse of the law, and brought into communion with God through the Messenger of the Covenant, Christ Jesus.

May our righteous father grant that we might, as his Prophet Moses, turn to behold the magnificence and glory of God in the similitude of the Burning Bush. May we stand in Awe of the mercies of the most Holy God, and in gratitude and appreciation for His good will and pleasure, by which it is not consumed. And may we come to experience the real satisfaction of this intimate relationship between the Messenger of the Covenant, and those redeemed thereby. In Christ's name,



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Copyright ©2012 Tony Warren
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Created 4/06/12 / Last Modified 4/15/12
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