“When Holy God draws near in true revival, people come under terrible conviction of sin. The outstanding feature of spiritual awakening has been the profound consciousness of the presence and holiness of God.” Henry Blackaby
We know from chapter two vs. 11 of the book of Exodus that Moses as a young man (40 yrs. old per Acts 7:22) knew the Hebrews were his “brethren”, and that he felt compassion towards their suffering and felt some level of responsibility for their well being. It is not unusual for chosen sons and daughters of God to begin to get a grasp of their calling way before they develop the character to fulfill their calling. Such was the situation with Moses.
His compassion and sense of responsibility was from God. His methods (murder of an Egyptian in vs. 12) and uninvited intervention with two fighting Hebrews (vs. 13) were not from God and resulted in his fear (vs. 14), fleeing (vs. 15) and settling in a foreign land called Midian (vs. 15).
In a matter of weeks Moses went from a bustling city teeming with Egyptians and Hebrews, among whom he was of significant personal stature being a supposed son of Pharoah’s daughter (2:10), and having grown up with all the advantages therein, to dwelling in a mostly desert land with scattered nomadic peoples among whom he was an unknown entity. And instead of carrying out royal duties, he found himself shepherding sheep and goats – an occupation that Egyptians abhorred (see Gen. 46:34); and worse yet, the flocks didn’t even belong to him (3:1).
This shepherding of Jethro’s flock was not a weekend gig until he found something better. Moses did this for another 40 years according to Acts 7:30. So it was after 40 years of nomadic shepherding another’s flock, that God decided Moses His chosen servant needed a personal encounter with Himself. God chose to appear to Him or better to get his attention by lighting a bush on fire, but not allowing it to burn up (3:2). Moses had seen a lot in his life, but this was a first, and thus he focused his attention on the burning, but not burning up bush (3:3). When God saw He had Moses’s undivided attention, He “…called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” (3:4). I love that God addressed Moses in a personal honoring way before He proceeded to reveal Himself to Moses. Moses heard God’s voice and responded, “Here I am” (vs. 4), which is another way of saying, “I’m listening. You have my undivided attention.”
To that reverent response, God said, “Do not come near here: remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (vs. 5).
I have no doubt that God was very active in Moses’s life prior to this encounter. God chose Moses to be his leader of His people before the foundations of the earth and was fashioning and forming him throughout his first 80 years on earth. But now He is ready to formally commission Him to be the Hebrews’ leader and deliverer, and for Moses to be able to aptly respond to that, he must know the God with whom He is dealing. And the first thing God wants Him to know is that He is holy.
When God says, “….the place on which you are standing is holy ground”, He is not saying that particular piece of ground was in and of itself “holy”. Rather He was saying because God had chosen to manifest or reveal Himself to Moses therein, and because God was and is holy, therefore the ground there had become holy.
This is the first time the word “holy” appears in the Bible. This word is translated from the Hebrew word, qodesh, which has the basic idea of “sacredness or apartness”.
Moses had grown up in the land of Egypt, wherein thousands of gods were worshipped. These non living gods or idols were man made and could be thus manipulated by man. They were commonplace and utilitarian. They were a dime a dozen and probably multiplying all the time by enterprising god/idol makers.
God, after introducing His holiness to Moses, would then reveal Himself to him as a covenant keeping God, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (vs. 6), and as a merciful and compassionate God in vs. 7-9. But He first wanted Moses to know He was a holy God. He was not like any of the gods Moses had been exposed to so far in his life. God was in a class all of His own, and Moses must be washed clean of all of his former thoughts and beliefs about all these gods to be able to truly know the one true God. He must not transfer any of the beliefs about any of the gods he had been exposed to to this God.
In Egypt people walked by their gods all the time, especially if they were in a hurry. The living holy God of the Universe could not be treated in such a common familiar lackadaisical way. Removing one’s shoes and taking stock of whose presence one is in is what is required when relating to the one true holy God.
Now while this is the first time God introduced the concept of His holiness to anyone, He has always been holy, and thus He has always related to man since the creation of Adam as the holy God that He is. So one might ask, Why did He never introduce Himself formally as holy to Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc.? Or how did He reveal Himself to them as holy, even though He never specifically identified Himself to them as holy?
In Part III I hope to address those questions. God bless you and may He continue to reveal Himself to you as the holy God that He is!