“When good is found and we embrace it with abandon, we embrace the Giver of it…Yes, in church on Sunday at 9:00 AM, but also in the seemingly mundane. In traffic at 5:15 PM. In a parent-teacher meeting. In the colors of a sunset. On the other end of a tragic phone call. Every second is an opportunity for praise. There is a choosing to be made. A choosing at each moment. This is the habit of praise. Finding God moment by revelatory moment, in the sacred and the mundane, in the valley and on the hill, in triumph and tragedy, and living praise erupting because of it. This is what we were made for.”–David Crowder, Praise Habit: Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi, 13-14

I’m required to wear shoes at work. I want to wear shoes at work. Even if I heard the voice of God on my way in saying, “Take off your shoes, the place where you are working is holy ground,” I would be hard pressed to be obedient. I mean people walk in an out of that store every single day with only God knows what on the bottom of their shoes. The other day a teenager walked in wearing only socks. Maybe he had heard God’s voice on the way in to the store; maybe he was a lazy teenager.

But that is where Moses found God, isn’t it? Out in the desert, at his place of ‘employment,’ there in the place where only God knows what walked by or through every day, Moses heard the voice of God say, “Take off your shoes, the place where you are standing is holy ground.” I find it strange, maybe I’m over-analyzing, that God did not say, “Come over here and before you do take off your shoes because the place where I am at is holy ground.” No that’s not what God said. According to the strictest translation of the OT (ESV), God said, “Do not come near; take off your shoes, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). Maybe I’m over-analyzing. Maybe I’m terrified that the place where I work, the unholy of unholies, is actually a place where I might find God and embrace him with abandon.

I have always been taught that it was God who made the place where Moses was standing holy. Yet God seems to be saying that Moses had something to do with it also. We cannot deny what God said, “The place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Did Moses have something to do with the consecration of the ground upon which he stood? Did God want Moses, who probably spent a lot of time complaining about those damn sheep, to see the sacred space created each day by his work with sheep? Could it be that there is no such thing as unholy ground if we are standing in a place practicing God’s presence?

I’m sure there will be all sorts of arguments to the contrary: Humans are sinful, we don’t make things holy, we foul things up, Moses was a sinner, only God is Holy. Yeah. Sure. Right. OK. I’m not going to win a theological argument by proposing that it was Moses, not God, who made the earth holy by his presence, by simply standing in a place where sheep likely urinated the day before. On the other hand, who is going to prove me wrong?

Still it is striking, isn’t it, that before Moses arrived the ground was just ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And nothing more. But after he arrived the ground where he was standing was holy because God declared it so. Moses didn’t decide that it was holy. To him it was just urine soaked, sun baked soil. When he arrived, however, God declared it sacred. God declared it sacred. Does he say that about the soil upon which we walk? Could he?

Someone asked me the other day: “This post makes me wonder how you would describe the high calling of working in a video store?” I confess that I find it difficult to practice the presence of God at work. It is extremely difficult to find God in the faces of mostly unhappy and lethargic people who are convinced that we charge too much for our rentals and that it is perfectly unreasonable that their credit card should be on file with our store. I wonder to myself: How can I find God in the face of a customer who is intent on renting the latest installment of ‘American Pie’ or the most recent Zalman King exploration of the world of porn? How can I find the face of God, I’d settle for a burning bush, when a customer is challenging me to a fist fight in the parking lot because his credit card was declined?

There’s also the issue of Jesus. I’m not sure, but something tells me Jesus would not be wearing a Slayer shirt, reek of alcohol and tobacco, curse at me if he had late fees, pre-order the latest episode or Halo, or rent Mega-Shark vs. Giant Octopus. I could be wrong. Seeing Jesus in the face of customers who refuse to buy their children candy (’because that junk food is bad for you’) but then rent or buy them Hot Tub Time Machine because, evidently, their minds don’t matter, is impossible. I’m not opposed to seeing Jesus there or meeting God or creating holy space, but, to be sure, it requires some imagination. I do not know if I have that sort of intestinal fortitude.

Then again, maybe it’s not so much about meeting God or recognizing him or receiving a calling from him in a burning widescreen high definition television playing Blue-Rays. Maybe it is simply about the very way I treat all those people just in case it is Jesus. “But Lord, when did we give you a cup of water or visit you in prison or give you a break on late fees?” (the implication being, of course, that when these things happened, Jesus went unrecognized.) Maybe it is the attitude that accompanies the service of the least and lowliest, the bawdiest, the raunchiest, the rudest, the crudest, and credit inhibited that matters. My co-worker said to me last night, after I was challenged to a fight, “What’s sad is that those people are allowed to breed.” I chuckled, politely, but inwardly I was cringing and my heart was broke.

Can it be that the very ground where we stand is somehow or other made holy just by our being there? Is that so much of a stretch? Maybe my problem is that when I go to work I refuse to take off my shoes because I’m convinced in advance that there is no way God could make such a place holy or would even declare it holy. Maybe the problem is that I refuse to see that place as a place where God might show up at any given moment. Maybe I am so intent on God not being in that place that I have refused to invite him in, or see him already there, or practice his presence because he loves all those that ’shouldn’t breed’. Maybe I’d rather have something to complain about than something to praise him for.

I don’t know what sort of shoes Moses was wearing. Maybe he had on a nice soft pair of Nike’s or some really comfortable Wolverine’s. All I know is that something happened after he arrived on the scene that day. Or maybe it had happened a week prior when Moses walked his sheep through that place. Whatever it was that happened, God told Moses to take off his shoes because the place where he was standing was sacred ground. And I think Moses had something to do with that.

When I go to work this evening to sell Starburst and Peanut Butter Whoppers and Coca-Cola and Jennifer’s Body, I’m going to take off my shoes for a while. I’m going to go ahead and take the chance that there might be holy space at my job. Could be that I spend way too much time waiting for God to show up when, in fact, God is already there and he is waiting on me to show up, take off my shoes, and let Him speak.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, August 26th, 2010 at 9:06 am and is filed under Christian Living, Devotional. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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7 Comments(+Add)

1   john hughes    
August 26th, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Jerry,

As usual I am a fan of your writing. No exception here, except, as you have already anticipated, I can’t buy in to any argument that Moses contributed to the holiness of the location. “Holy” in this instance simply means “set apart by” and “hallowed by” the presence of God. That ground was holy whether or not anyone ever passed by for the simple reason that God was manifested there. Moses had nothing to do with it. No other element needed. In fact, the implication is that if Moses had not taken off his shoes he would have profaned the site.

Anyway, to me your inclusion of your opinion on this issue only distracts from your otherwise excellent article.

But thanks as usual for the devotion. I really enjoy and get a lot out of them.

2   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
August 26th, 2010 at 6:33 pm

There is no such thing as “holy ground” anymore. We are holy, not because we have achieved such unachievable, but because we have been made holy.

And that holiness must be worked out in the person of Jesus Christ. And it is His grace that has allowed me to “breed” because Jesus chose to “breed” and I was born and then again. I honestly, before God, no longer see the sins of others as most repugnant; I see mine as most repulsive and consistantly in dire need of God’s mercy and grace.

The removing of Moses’ shoes was God’s way of teaching Moses reverance to the presence of God. His feet and shoes had nothing to do with God’s manifested presence. The ground God desires to be holy is our hearts, everything else with then fall in place.

3   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
August 27th, 2010 at 12:10 am

“Holy” in this instance simply means “set apart by” and “hallowed by” the presence of God.

John, I wonder if you can sustain this definition without resorting to a theological proposition you already had in mind. And the fact remains that God didn’t say, “The place where the bush is burning is holy.” He said, “The place where YOU are standing is holy.” No other place is mentioned, only the place where Moses stood.

If Moses had not walked up to the site to see the bush and if God had said nothing, would the ground still have been holy?

Rick,

To suggest that the [only] ground God wants to hallow is our hearts is, to me, myopic at best and beside the point at worst. If we are here only for the sake of our own sanctification then there’s not much point in us hanging around after conversion.

jerry

4   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
August 27th, 2010 at 4:23 am

Our holiness only sanctifies us, but as I had said, should be worked out into the world through the Person of Jesus Christ.

5   John Hughes    
August 27th, 2010 at 7:27 am

Jerry,

I just find your argument very odd.

For example:

“Jerry, YOU are standing on a grave. Step off of it. That is a revered piece of ground.” [You have no part in what makes it revered]

But whatever.

Peace.

6   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
August 27th, 2010 at 11:04 am

John,

saying ‘whatever’ does nothing to help me understand what you are saying. you seem to think I am denying that God had something to do with it, which I am not. after all, it was God who did the declaring, not Moses.

try not to miss the point of what I am saying: the places we go, the things we do, the work we engage in…these things matter to God and he declares those places holy–precisely because we go in obedience. but if we didn’t go….well, what then?

jerry

7   John Hughes    
August 27th, 2010 at 12:59 pm

the places we go, the things we do, the work we engage in…these things matter to God [AGREED] and he declares those places holy [YIKES! A TOTAL NON-SEQUITUR] –precisely because we go in obedience.

When I go in obedience to do God’s work I am the one who is holy (i.e., set apart for God) not the place I stand or sit, etc.

In one sense I guess it is possible for humans to invoke a holy place, for example if I should witness to a stranger sitting next to me on the bus our seat would become a holy place, or should I worship God at a sun-set or become suddenly awear of God and worship while watching my child at play it could be said my backyard became a holy place. But in all these examples it was because God was there and there was a special manisfestation of my awareness of Him.

But in the case of the burning bush the ground in question would have been holy had Satan been standing there because its holiness was derived from God manifesting there, not anything to do with the person. It was a unilateral, sovereign move of God, holy by definition.