When the LORD saw that he [Moses] had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush. ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ (Exodus 3:4-5 NRSV)
If you have ever been in a worship or prayer meeting with me then you will have noticed that I always take off my shoes and put on ballet shoes.
It is not because I like to dance, although I do on occasions. It is not because it is a superstition that I have to do it, as if I am out praying while I walk or prayer-walking I will wear shoes. In fact at times I forget that I have my shoes on until I start praying so have to take them off, because it is too uncomfortable to leave them on!
To be honest if I can keep my shoes on during a prayer meeting in particular, it says to me that there is very little of God’s presence there. That is why I wear ballet shoes (it is a bit safer than going completely barefoot), if God is there then I go barefoot as a recognition that I am on holy ground, wherever that may be!
From this Scripture I am in good company! Moses was commanded by God to take of his sandals, as was Joshua on a similar occasion (see Joshua 5:13-15). This was not because the ground in that place was intrinsically holy, it was just ground, but it was because God’s presence was there, and wherever God is, it is a holy place.
‘Remove the sandals from your feet, …’
In those days you did not walk on lovely well made paths or roads, at best it would be a well-worn track! One consequence of this, and the fact that there were animals all around, your sandals which would protect your feet would get dirty when you were walking around. This is why people would take off their sandals and wash their feet when they entered a tent or a building, so the dirt from the outside world would not be carried around inside.
In everyday life we all get dirty, we still sin even though we don’t generally want to. As a result of this we need our feet washing regularly by God. Jesus understood this, even though Peter did not (see John 13:1-20), and we are to wash each other’s feet as well. When we come to God we need to ditch all that could get in the way of our relationship with him. We need to try to keep short accounts with God and with each other, sometimes we will succeed in this, other times we will fail, but even then we can bring to him.
‘… for the place where you are standing is holy ground’
After ditching the dirt we need to recognise God’s majesty, power and holiness. The fact is that God is God, and we are just human beings.
God is holy whether we respond to it or not, God asked Moses to respond by taking off his sandals, and that is how I respond to God’s presence. How do you respond to God’s presence? Are you quiet or noisy? Do you respond in a physical way, or only in your spirit?
How you respond is not important. What is important is that you do respond in the way God asks you to. We all need to ask God to help us to be more sensitive to him, and to his leading.
Father God, help us be more like Moses, who turned aside when he heard you, and responded to your leading. Help us to ditch the dirt in our lives, so that we might live more aware of you in all we do, and especially in times of worship and communion with you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.