January 4, 11th Day of Christmas HOLY GROUND, MOSES
Scripture: Exodus 3:1-5
3 One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”
4 When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
“Here I am!” Moses replied.
5 “Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.
In today’s Scripture we come to the familiar passage of Moses and the burning bush. We have previously mentioned that God does not seem to be in a hurry in accomplishing his purposes. His people have been in slavery to the Egyptians for 400 plus years. He has “remembered” his people (God’s “remembering” means he has decided to act, to move forward.) Now God has chosen an eighty-year-old man to lead the exodus of a million plus people!
Moses was minding his own business caring for the sheep. He had never in his life encountered God directly before this time. Curiosity leads him to this puzzling bush afire. As he approached, an angel of the Lord from the middle of the bush spoke his name. Imagine a voice coming from a bush! This angel of the Lord is none other than the God the Word (John 1:1). The bush was not consumed because God came to save people, not to consume them. God is often represented by fire throughout Scripture: Cherubim in the Garden of Eden, fire on the top of Mt. Sinai, pillar of fire leading the Israelites in the desert, “our God is a consuming fire” (Heb.12:29).
At this point, Moses was a novice in dealing with God. God’s words were, “Do not come closer” after which he immediately told Moses the reason. “Take off your sandals, you are standing on holy ground.” Why take off the sandals? Nothing dead is to stand between God and man. Sandals were made of leather, the skin of a dead animal, plus there was to be nothing “common” when coming into contact with the holy. The entire book of Leviticus makes the point that God is wholly other. When we speak of holy in relation to God, not only does it mean “completely other than human,” even pagan religions in this time spoke of their gods as holy. The Bible is unique in that when speaking of God, holy also describes God’s moral character, his moral perfection.
Moses, like Jacob hundreds of years before, failed to realize he was standing in God’s presence. But like Jacob, God spoke to Moses helping both men see the bigger picture of what he was doing. I am wondering how often we enter worship like Moses, unaware of where we truly are? We might come out of curiosity or habit, pretty much oblivious that we are in the presence of God. How many times have we missed realizing we are standing on the holy ground of God’s action in our lives? Something to think about. Familiarity can be a dangerous word when it comes to God, as Uzzah found out (2 Samuel 6:6-7). An epiphany isn’t relegated to January 6th as Jacob and Moses discovered.
Music: “Infant Lowly, Infant Holy” Chris Rupp and The Hound and the Fox
Praise and glory be to the omnipotence of the eternal Holy Father, who in his providence created the world out of nothing. Praise and glory be to the wisdom of this only-begotten Holy Son, who redeemed the world with his blood. Praise and glory be to the living kindness of the Holy Spirit, who enlightened the world in faith. Praise and glory be to the holy and undivided Trinity, who formed us without our deserving it in their image. We give praise and glory to you, most blessed Trinity, for the blessing of our creation, by which you granted us bodies and souls, you adorned us with your image and likeness, and added us to your Christian flock, making us sound and whole in our senses and in our members, above all the creatures who are beneath the heavens, and gave us your holy angels as our guides and ministers. For all this be pleased that we may praise you, Holy God, world without end. Amen.
―Latin, 11th century, from The Oxford Book of Prayer, p.60
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