While doing some reading I came upon the phrase “holy ground” and of course my ADD brain went several different directions at once. Aside from being a great name for a coffee shop (get it?) it’s an image from Exodus where Moses is summoned by the Lord to Mt. Sinai and He commissions Moses to go back and set His people free. God, in the form of a burning bush, tells Moses to remove his shoes because he is standing on holy ground. This got me thinking. Why would God want Moses to do that?
This may sound obvious (I have a knack for that), but when you take your shoes off you are barefoot. This assumes no socks of course, which would have been the case with Moses. Why does God want bare feet on His holy ground, right there in His presence? The answer I got while praying about this surprised me and I hope it does something for you too.
At first I was thinking that having our bare feet on God’s holy ground sounded like a bad thing. After all, it’s our flesh in direct contact with where the Lord is. We are unclean. Feet are unclean. We cannot, on our own, have direct contact with a holy God. So why not have some kind of covering on our feet, on our flesh? I mean, that sounds like a Biblical picture to me, having our sin covered and all.
But think about it. Shoes, sandals, are man-made things. We make them and use them to protect our feet, which is fine. But when we are in God’s presence, when we are on His holy ground, we cannot stand on anything that we have made. We cannot stand on our own works in His presence. Our works don’t bring us closer to God, they actually separate us from Him. They must be removed.
Since God is the one who calls us into His presence, we are holy. He makes us holy. His calling upon us transforms us, it isn’t something we do. He commands us in Deuteronomy and Peter repeats the command to “be holy, for I am holy”. In God’s presence, because He has called us, we can stand barefoot. We do not and cannot stand on our own works, because we have been made holy. The two can’t coexist.
What about the shoes? I’ll bet you that Moses put them back on when he left that mountain. What do shoes do? They provide protection and make it so we can move around easier. Out in the world we need protection from the world. We are to walk in it and on it, but separate from it. As Paul puts it, our feet are shod “with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). Actually, we wear new shoes. These aren’t the old shoes of our old works or of our own design, these shoes also come from Him. It’s like when Adam and Eve traded in their fig leaf suits for God’s sheep skin suits. Instead of being covered by their own works, they are covered by God’s grace, the Lamb that was slain.
Are you standing on your own shoes on holy ground? Are you expecting God to be impressed with all that you are doing for Him? God gives grace. God gives mercy. You don’t get more grace or more mercy for doing stuff for God because they aren’t used as a reward. They are used as a gift. Take off your shoes. Feel God’s grace and mercy squish between your toes. When it’s time, put on your gospel shoes, walk into the world, and be used of God to lead people back to that holy ground. Show them how to untie, unbuckle, and unvelcro their shoes and stand in the presence of the living God.
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