5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” -Exodus 3:5
My sandals were starting to become uncomfortable. I slipped them off and pushed them to the side with my toes, further under the keyboard stand. As I rehearsed the worship set for Sunday with the rest of the band, I kept feeling the stage carpet against my left foot and the ice-cold metal sustain pedal on the bottom of my right foot.
It wasn’t unusual for me to play in rehearsal with no shoes on – I’d done it before. You know, if the feet hurt, the shoes come off. Our worship pastor had even asked if I usually played with my shoes off because he’d seen some who do that because of personal convictions. I shook my head no, not me.
As I played through songs that praised Him for his holiness (a contemporary arrangement of Holy, Holy, Holy for one), I began to ask that question that plagues all mothers of toddlers and preschoolers, “Why?”
Why did God ask Moses to take of his sandals?
If God granted the knowledge for shoes to be created, then why take them off?
Did it have more to do with Moses’ heart?
Did God want a proverbial barrier removed between Himself and Moses?
I wanted a deeper “why.” I’ve come to learn that everything about God and Scripture involves so many beautiful layers and intricacies that boggle the mind. Surely there had to be more?
So I posted my question on Facebook – that great repository of friends with knowledge and wisdom who might be willing to think this through with me. Here are some of the amazing responses:
That’s an interesting question, Tara. When I think about things like this I look at the overall context of the verse within the rest of the chapter. And, even more importantly in some cases, the culture and/or society at the time. My guess, though I don’t know this, is that this could be a cultural thing. In places considered holy by the Jews it’s possible that they took their shoes off. So in this case, I believe (sorry don’t have a Bible in front of me for the conplete context) Moses is approaching the burning bush but doesn’t yet know it is God. So God tells him to remove his shoes because this is a holy place. That would be the clue to Moses that this burning bush is God. -KSB
I have never thought of this, Tara. I like thinking this way though. This is how the great theological minds learn and gain new understanding of God. Praise Him that He allows us to question Him.
I have always just assumed it was an outward show of respect, to remove the dirt of the unholy ground before standing in God’s presence. -H.T.
Totally not related to my comment above exactly but may provide some more insite, when my great-grandfather was buried my mother was pregnant with my sister. Because he was Jewish and buried in a Jewish cemetary my mother was not allowed into the actual cemetary (she stood outside) because she was carrying new life. I don’t know the basis of this belief, but basically the Jews believed that new life should not be within a place where there is death (i.e. the cemetary). Not having been raised Jewish I’m not totally familiar with all the beliefs, I just know bits and pieces. -KSB
Tara, I’m down with your no-barrier thought, but also, I think that since the shoes wade through all the muck and garbage so our feet don’t have to, that by removing them, you’re removing the filth in the presence of God. So maybe it’s symbolic of not only removing a barrier, but also acknowledging that there should be no filth, or sin, in His presence. Removing the filthy part is an attempt, however pathetic as we can’t remove anything on our own without his Holy hand, to purify oneself before Him. I definitely get the ‘don’t come any closer part,’ though, because to see Him clearly would be to spontaneously combust in pure awe! Not a pleasant end to the day, I would guess. Or possibly the best ending of all to see God and then find yourself in Heaven because your body couldn’t handle it! -D.S.S
OK Tara, went digging in my “Dictionary of Biblical Imagery” and found some neat tidbits: wearing shoes signified freedom therefore going barefoot was a sign of slavery or of being beholden to another. Also bare feet symbolize one’s inner state, serving as an image of spiritual poverty- another reference to slavery. The last reason listed is simply for reverence. The only two times God requires the removal of shoes are for Moses and for Joshua when he was confirmed as the “new’ Moses. Only priests with ceremoniously washed feet could enter God’s presence and the men were most likely wearing sandals made of animal skins which would be difficult to cleanse….for people on stage now I think it’s more the spiritual poverty thing- it also feels strange and will help you remember just exactly why you’re playing/singing. Does that help at all? -J.C.C.
I forgot to type the fact that slaves were kept barefoot so as to limit their chance of survival if they ever did escape. So going barefoot on purpose would be a very meaningful symbol of your heart’s desire. -J.C.C.
My husband thinks Facebook can be socially destructive, but in this case it was fantastic! Many more commented how the information touched them as well. See, God can work through Facebook, too.
A couple of days later, I am reading Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson and this quote nearly jumped out and bit me…