I have been doing some meditating on “the burning bush” of late. It was probably just an ordinary bramble bush which is common in that climate. In its ordinariness it was highly combustible yet despite its tinder dryness the bush was not “consumed”. The flame was of God not the bush. Here we see, symbolically, the transcendence of God. The writer of Hebrews says that God is “an all-consuming fire” in his holiness. Normally a fire would make short shrift of an arid desert bramble bush. This is what any of us would expect and it would be the natural result according to all scientific explanation, but the transcendent holy God is also the God who draws near to us. Paradoxically he is both far above us in his might and holiness and at the same time as close as our thought or breath. This immanence (nearness) is a wonderful mercy!
Lent calls us again and again to the desert, where we follow Jesus in his temptations, and it is here that we become aware of our ‘fallenness’ and God’s holiness. We become keenly aware of our shortcomings and that we continually ‘miss the mark’. Like Isaiah in the temple we realize in the presence of God’s holiness that we “are undone!”
The unburning “burning bush” symbolizes our great hope. In Christ God has drawn near. While we were still at enmity with God, Christ: took on flesh, moved into our neighbourhood, and died for us. Through the radical nearness of the incarnation and the cross, we are not consumed. The God who once walked with humans in the cool of the garden, walks again with those who draw near to him. James sagely invites us to “draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”
In this Lenten desert we recognize our sinfulness in the stark light of his burning holiness, yet we are not bereft for God in his mercy does not abandon us to our fate but rather draws near and draws us to him.
The desert is a great place to take a Lenten sojourn, but we can be thankful that we don’t live there. Even as I make my jaunt into the desert, I know I can and will return to the lush place of still waters purchased for me through the cross and Resurrection!
On another note: it has been gratifying to see more friends coming to our morning Study and Prayer times. There have been times in past where I was the only one and sometimes only two of us but recently others are coming or returning. It was a bit of a slog, but perseverance is paying off. I’m not terribly interested in numbers, but I am interested in people, so it is good to gather with a handful to look at the Word. Lately we’ve been studying Acts. The questions have been challenging and we are all learning a lot. Thanks for your prayers.