Holy Ground

(Text: Exodus 3:1-12)

In these verses, we see something called a “theophany”, a fancy word that means God appearing to man. This is the famous burning bush story many of us are familiar with.

And inside this one event, there are some important things God is revealing about Moses, about Israel, about God’s Himself, His character and nature, His covenant with Israel, and about God’s relationship with us today.

1. A Holy God draws near     (Exodus 3:1-4a)

Moses is now 80 years old. Forty years of living as an Egyptian prince, then forty years as a Midianite shepherd. And the situation doesn’t look that good: He’s keeping someone else’s sheep. He is about 2 weeks journey from home, on the “west side” or the back side of the wilderness – nowhere important.  He’s completely alone and separated from his family.

So, Moses is a nobody, who was nowhere, and with no one. Not exactly a picture of success. Just another reminder that the hero of this story is not Moses. The hero is God. And it’s at this time God appears to Moses.

God reveals Himself to Moses in a burning bush that was not being consumed. This was to get Moses’ attention. (A bush burning in the desert was not that uncommon, but a bush that burned and stayed green, didn’t turn to ash, didn’t wither, but just kept burning, that was unusual.) This was a fire that didn’t need fuel, but was self-sustaining.

A Holy God draws Moses near, not because of Moses’ resume, but in spite of it. Not because Moses is great, but because God is great. And God has drawn us near. He has loved us with an everlasting love. God has great affection for you, and has shown that clearly by giving us His Son Jesus.

And like the bush that burned but was not consumed, God is not in need of anything we have. But God is merciful and gracious, and He finds delight in drawing near to us, in dwelling with us. If you battle with feelings of being unworthy, know that in Christ God makes you worthy. You are His. And He has drawn you near.

2. A Holy God reveals Himself    (Exodus 3:4b-6)

God called, Moses answered. God used a burning bush to draw Moses near, but then stopped Moses from getting too close. God even tells Moses to take off his sandals because he is standing on “holy ground”.

To say God is holy is to say God is separate, God is transcendent, God is good, and God is near. All of these are in mind when we say God is holy. And because of this, where God dwells is holy – it is set apart for His use. That’s why God tells Moses he is on holy ground. He’s telling Moses, come closer, but not too close. Take off your sandals because the place you’re standing is in my presence.

In this culture, servants often went around with bare feet. To take off your shoes is to signify you are in the presence of one who is greater. Moses surely knew he was in the presence of One greater.

It’s nothing short of amazing that this holy God, here in the OT, before Christ came and paid for our sins, invites a sinful man to draw near. What mercy. What patience. What love for a perfect holy God, to draw near to sinful man, and to invite sinful man to draw near to him.

And not just draw near, but to reveal Himself to us, and to dwell with and in us. To trust in Christ is to know God. To place your faith in Christ is to be transformed, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be set apart, to be consecrated for God’s use. You are no longer your own. You are His. And He has made you holy. In Christ, you are made righteous, you are redeemed. And so God draws us near to reveal Himself to us, and to make us like Him.

3. A Holy God reveals His mission    (Exodus 3:7-12)

Here at the burning bush, this is the first time in the Book of Exodus that God speaks audibly to man. And for the second time in Exodus, we are told that God hears the cries of His people, that He knows their suffering, and has a plan to deliver them.

This promise to give the Hebrews their own land reminds us, that while this act of delivering the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt is new, this mission is not new. The mission is a continued fulfillment of God’s covenant promises. In this moment, Moses is being reminded that God has not forgotten His people in slavery. God has not forgotten His covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

God’s mission is to redeem His people and draw them to Himself. Not just for Moses, but that was the mission Jesus came and fulfilled. A holy God drawing near to sinful man because sinful man was made holy by the Son of God.

And the heart of that mission is the same for us – to seek out God’s people and lead them out of slavery through the spread of the gospel message to every person we can, to point them to the Deliverer of our souls, to share with them the powerful, wonderful news of the Holy God breaking in and rescuing sinful man with the blood of Christ.

“Who am I to carry this gospel?” You are a child of the king, restored and redeemed and made righteous in His sight. Live that way, that our holy God would be glorified, and that we would see many rescued from darkness and brought into the light.

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