Best of Daily Reflections: Holy Ground, Part 3 - Barefoot Before God
“Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground."
When Moses approached the burning bush, God said to him: “Do not come any closer. . . . Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” As I explained in yesterday’s reflection, people in the ancient world often took off their shoes when entering a temple. For Moses, removing his shoes would have been a familiar sign of respect, reverence, and submission.
I find it curious, however, that God’s command to Moses involved both distance and closeness. Moses was told not to come any closer to the bush. Yet, at the same time, the Lord instructed him to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. By taking off his shoes, Moses would actually be closer to the holy ground, touching it with the skin of his feet. So, standing barefoot before God, Moses kept away from the holy fire, and, at the same time, touched the holy ground. Distance and closeness were held together in tension. Moses’ bare feet signified both reverence and intimacy.
As Christians, we mustn’t forget God’s holiness. As it says in Hebrews, “God is a devouring fire.” Therefore we worship “with holy fear and awe” (12:28). Yet Hebrews also invites us to draw near to this same God: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (4:16). Because of what Jesus has done for us as our high priest, we are free to approach God’s throne, not just with holy fear, but also with bold freedom.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How can we worship God with reverence and experience intimacy with God? In your own relationship with God, do you tend to be more reverent or more intimate?
PRAYER: Holy God, because you are a devouring fire, I worship you with awe. In holy fear, I’m inclined to keep away from you. After all, I don’t want to be consumed by your fire. Yet, you invite me to draw near. Because of what Christ has done for me, I don’t have to be afraid that I will be burned up in your righteous judgment. Rather, when I approach you, I know in advance that I will receive mercy and find grace. Thank you, Lord!
Help me, gracious God, to come before you with bare feet, so to speak. On the one hand, may I always approach with reverence, honoring you as the holy one. On the other hand, may I touch you, holding nothing back from you, experiencing the fullness of your love and grace. Amen.