Lawrenceburg, Ky., January 13, 1877.
MY VERY DEAR BRETHREN G. & B.L. BEEBE: - In the first number of the present volume of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES I discover the following request made: “If it is not asking too much, I would like to have the views of some of the ministering brethren on Moses’ vision in Exodus 3:1-6. A.K.” If you will not think it presuming in me, I will endeavor at least to gratify the wish of A.K.
Without tarrying to give a detailed history of Moses, I will simply say that he was a Jew, born in Egypt, which is in Africa; but at the time of seeing the vision he was in Midian in Asia, a refugee from Egypt for having slain an Egyptian in the defense of one of his brethren. Here he again avenges a wrong done to the daughters of Jethro, the Priest or Prince of Midian, which paves the way for his marriage to Zipparah, the Priest’s daughter. In those instances he displays a disposition to avenge misdeeds, which was a specific trait of his peculiar character throughout his eventful life.
In the first verse on which ou views are solicited it is said, “Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the Priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the back side of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.” As Horeb signifies desert, solitude, &c., here is typically portrayed another trait of his character, that of a shepherd over a flock in a desert. In this capacity, as well as in others, he evidently exhibits a type of Christ, as he says in Deut.18:15 – “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken,” &c. He not only kept the flock of Jethro in the desert, but as a Mediator vigilantly kept charge of the children of Jacob in their exodus from Egypt, and during their forty years travel in the wilderness. – Compare with Deut. 32:9-12.
Verse 2: “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.” Marvelous phenomenon! A bush burning with a flame of fire in the midst, and yet not consumed. I suppose that this bush, this strange sight, represents the church undergoing the “fiery trial that is to try her.” “Behold, [saith the Lord,] I have refined thee, but not with silver, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Isa. 48:10. And again, “I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; they shall call on my name, and I will hear them; I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, He is my God.” Zech. 13:9. Also see Isa. 31:9 – “Whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.” The circumstance of this burning bush, unconsumed and inconsumable, should inspire the children of Zion with intrepid courage and invincible confidence, however severe the fiery ordeal through which they may have to pass, for it can but refine them, for our Refiner ever sits in Zion to purify them, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness. See Mal. 3:3. It was the solace of poor, afflicted Job in his deep distress, that he could say, “When I am tried I shall come forth as gold,” for “the bush was not consumed.” What a wonder! Here is “an afflicted and poor people” in a world of relentless enemies, defenseless as to carnal weapons, their enemies praying for and predicting their speedy destruction, and destroying them at times by thousands, a burning fire in their midst; but wonderful to tell, instead of consuming them, it will carry on a purifying process that will eventually bring them forth pure as the virgin gold. In vain may the cohorts of anti-christ rave against the “little flock,” and boast of their numerical strength, and that they will soon have the whole world to throng their “broad road.” The Old School Baptists alone take courage in the fact that they enter the “strait gate” and the narrow way that but “few” find, but it only leads to life; yes, eternal life; and when we consider that the fiery trial is but a brief and momentary one, surely it “is not to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.”
“And Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.” It is a great sight truly, why the bush is not burnt. It is yet an inexplicable sight to Moses’ disciples, and has been for many years. They used to say when I was a boy, more than sixty years ago, that these “old Hardshells will all be gone in a few years,” and they continue to say so yet. Mr. Benedict, the New School [so called] Baptist church historian, said many years ago, that before his stereotype edition reached the remote parts of our own country, “they would be among the things that were.” This, however, only proves to us the truth of what Moses said in Deut. 33:29 – “thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee.”
I suppose it does seem so to them, because we have no nurseries [Sunday Schools] in which to raise our children for transplantation in our churches; no theological schools in which to manufacture preachers to “convert sinners;” no missionary boards, directors, or funds to prepare, equip and send out hirelings over sea and land to make graceless proselytes; and then on the other hand, “a consuming fire” burning in our midst all the time, how is it that we are not consumed? But fortunately for this people, this fire consumes nothing that is righteous; and were it not that their righteousness is of the Lord, that he is our righteousness, we should very soon be consumed. Take away their newly-constructed paraphernalia and men-made trappings, and then expose “Moses’ disciples” to such a fire, it would be as fatal to them as the sword of Samuel was to Agag.
“And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.” He “turned aside,” and this may teach us that the natural course of Moses [the law] is not the way to the church. There appears to be something very peremptory in this double call. Is Moses approaching forbidden ground? Yes, for the Lord says, “draw not nigh hither.” Is not this to teach us that by the works of the law, by Moses, we are not to approach to the church?
“Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” In the shoes of Moses, or walking in a law righteousness, we are not to approach the holy precincts of Zion, – must wear a different kind of sandals there, – be “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Yes, that is the way we must be shod to enter that hallowed sanctuary. The adobes of Babylon may be easily entered in Moses’ shoes. But such a fire as there is in Zion would play destruction with them, “filthy rags” and all. Moses’ day is past with Zion now; the anti-typical Joshua now takes the lead, and she must follow him. “Wherefore [says Paul] the law was [not is, as some say] our schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Gal. 3:24-29.
The law with its types and shadows was a directory to bring the children of Israel to Christ; and therefore it “stood only in meats, and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation,” and no longer. But after faith is come we are no longer under Moses; he does not bring us to Christ now, for we are not under the law, but under grace. Rom. 6:14. We must therefore put off Moses’ shoes, or the works of the law. Moses bore the ministration of death and condemnation, but they must not enter here, for we have a Mediator between Moses and us; therefore,
“Since my Savior stands between,
In garments dipp’d in blood,
Tis he instead of me is seen,
When I approach to God.”
Moses is not permitted to cross over Jordan and enter Canaan, [figurative of the gospel church,] but may climb Mount Nebo, where he could see the promised land; but the Lord says, “Thou shalt not go thither.” There he must die, and there the Lord buried him where he is not to be found. And in like manner, “The law and the prophets were until John; since that time the kingdom of heaven is preached,” &c., and Moses is buried, “shall not go thither.” Hence the mandate, “Draw not nigh hither.”
“Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Much might be said on these conspicuous names, and the conspicuity of the characters they represent; but fearing that I am already being too prolix, a few brief remarks must suffice.
Abraham, [father of a great multitude,] the father of the faithful in all ages, [if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed,] is to be looked to as a pattern in many instances. The Lord says, “Look unto Abraham your father,” &c. Isa. 51:2. Look at his insuperable faith when God promised him an heir. “And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb; he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Rom. 4:19,20. Then when the Lord called upon him to immolate upon the fatal pile his only begotten son whom he loved, he seemed to forget the paternity of a loving father, and without a word of remonstrance or a moment’s delay, immediately set out to execute the tragical deed. What could he have thought of the promise of God [“In Isaac shall thy seed be called”] now, when he raised the deadly weapon to slay his son? How was it to be fulfilled? The apostle answers this question: “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure;” for his faith is an invincible bulwark to stay Moses’ approach to the seed of Abraham. Well may we “look to Abraham our Father” in the time of trial.
“The God of Isaac.” In the mournful scene just related, no doubt Isaac prefigured the church. In thus being presented as a sacrifice we have no word of complaint, no act of resistance. How like the children of Abraham, when brought before the dread tribunal of God in our experience! The uplifted sword of justice seems ready to immolate us, but we dare not enter a word of complaint – we cannot resist, it is just. At this critical juncture the sacrificial Lamb is interposed and slain “instead” of us, as the ram caught in the thicket by the horns was slain “instead of Isaac.” Here is another insurmountable barrier to Moses. He has received all that is due him.
“And the God of Jacob.” Here is another of those prominent characters that shall stand out conspicuously to the anti-typical Israel, as “a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on a hill.” In the first place he is a supplanter. He supplants his elder brother, obtains the blessing, but not by his good works, for he was a treacherous boy, but is placed in a position where “the elder shall serve the younger.” He becomes a wanderer and a refugee, and eventually is brought to the “house of God, and the very gate of heaven;” and then he becomes a prevailer, a prince of God. But in a wonderful encounter he is smitten in the hollow of his thigh, and limps all his days afterward; but the Lord blesses him in a peculiar manner – promises him the land of Canaan with all its riches, which is typical of the gospel church. He is given the name Israel, [a prevailer with God,] entails it upon his entire posterity; and “Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation;” and as before shown, Moses must not approach there.
“Therefore Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” Moses was faithful in all his house as a servant, fully authorized as a minister of condemnation to execute the rigorous sentences of the law even to death, without pity or mercy upon all that came under his ban, for the stern demands of justice must be administered without favor or affection; his undimmed eye sees every departure from absolute perfection, and his authoritative voice is, “Pay me that thou owest.” But as to the debt and demands of every description that he held against the church of God, [the burning bush,] the Redeemer of Israel has met, canceled, and fulfilled all to jot and tittle, and justice, even the justice of Moses, must defend her. Hence she will eventually “sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” For Moses as a servant must now be as potent in her defense in slaying every intruder that would harm her, as he was rigid in her condemnation when under the law; but now she is “not under the law, but under grace.” Moses is faithful in serving the church, and ever ready to unsheathe his glittering sword to smite the myrmidons of anti-christ, and cut off every other invader that intrudes upon the holy habitation. But Christ as a Son, over his own house, has rendered to Moses all that he claimed, and as the Days Man between that house and Moses; yes, and who dwells in that house, from whence his majestic voice is heard saying, “Draw not nigh hither.” Then, although the billows may roll and rage furiously, and the furnace burn vehemently, still he says, “When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burnt, neither shall the flames kindle upon thee.” Isa. 43:2.
The foregoing remarks are submitted first, brethren editors, to your judgment; and if deemed worthy the space they may occupy in your columns, then to the consideration of A.K., and others who may examine them. Not having heard the views of any one else on the subject, and feeling my own insufficiency to expound the scriptures. I wish them submitted to the closest scrutiny.
Devotedly, your friend,
J. F. JOHNSON.