Exodus 3 – Holy Ground
““Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.”Exodus 3:5-6 NIV
When was the last time you entered a room and felt compelled to take your shoes off because the space you were in was inhabited by God? When was the last time you walked into a place and did not dare speak because you did not want to disturb the working of God that was happening there? When was the last time you sat down as gently as possible in a seat at church because you were encountering the extraordinary?
Maybe those examples are a little too lofty. How about this: When was the last time you went to church and actually expected to meet with Jesus there? Actually anticipated encountering the Holy Spirit? Actually believed you would hear from God?
God commanded Moses to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. There was nothing special about the ground that he walked on or the sand under his feet, but rather the space gained holiness, or should be set apart from the ordinary, because God was there. In a space that God inhabits, measures should be taken to treat it as special.
This burning bush moment wasn’t the norm for Moses, I don’t believe. He spent his days in fields with sheep, working strenuously, daydreaming frequently, praying occasionally. If he regularly spoke with the living God (and that God spoke back) I believe we would hear about it more than just once in Scripture. So can this singular encounter with God be considered normative for Christians today? Probably not, but I do think it should be happening much more frequently than it currently is.
Unlike Moses, we have been gifted the very presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit, and that Holy Spirit lives in every follower of Christ, revealed especially when two or more are gathered (Matt. 18:20). That was a promise given to us by Jesus, that he would be with us. Now he did not say that every time he was with us it would be an incredible, awe-inspiring display of his power, but he did promise to be there.
So I think we’re missing moments with God more frequently than we should be, and I think that is because we are waiting for bushes to catch fire, or a booming audible voice to shake us to attention, or for the wind to howl and the building to shake and for the pastor to inform us that God is here. Then we’ll take off our shoes. But if Jesus is one who keeps his promises, then every time we gather is a moment worthy of our attention, because the presence of God is in fact already among us.
So instead of looking for the extraordinary with desperate longing, maybe we should be acknowledging the constant reality of God’s presence among us and acting accordingly. Instead of hoping one day God will sweep through our church service or Bible study or youth group, maybe we take off our shoes every week, because we know he is already there. I wonder if we would encounter our God more frequently if we acted like he is already among us. After all, he promised he would be (Matt. 28:20).
Photo by Megan Burgess