Tuesday 09 June 2020

Bible Book:

Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ (v. 5)

Exodus 3:1-15 Tuesday 9 June 2020

Psalm: Psalm 29


Today we take a leap of about 500 years from Abraham to Moses. It is another story often used in contemporary preaching and devotional material, as well as frequently depicted in art, but again we approach it today from the perspective of our Trinitarian theme for the week, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’. Maybe the words in verse 5, "Come no closer!", feel familiar at this time of physical isolation – perhaps they hint that there is something dangerous about the holiness of God.

We recall that Moses, a Hebrew raised as an Egyptian, has recently fled from Egypt after committing murder in defence of another Hebrew, a slave. He has married and is living as a nomadic shepherd in the wilderness. In a period of confusion in his own life about his identity and his loyalties, he experiences this remarkable encounter with God, who gives him a mission to lead the Israelites from slavery to freedom.

Initially we are told that it is "the angel of the Lord" who is present in the bush as a flame of fire. As the passage continues, it is clear that this messenger of God is also God’s very self. This passage too has been seen as a reflection of the relationship between the first and second persons of the Trinity, where we understand Jesus to be both truly God and also, in some sense, the messenger of God. 

Moses notices that the bush is on fire but not being consumed and so decides to "turn aside and look". God notices the attentiveness of Moses and now, with both Moses and the Lord fully focussed on the other, the encounter can take place. The conversation begins with a warning; the place is ‘holy ground’ and Moses is instructed to take off his sandals. Moses does more than that, he covers his face, overwhelmed by the holiness of Yahweh. Holiness is not something meek and mild, but rather something wild, dangerous and unrestrained.

In this passage we see another seminal incident in the formation of the people of God that comes with a revelation of the holiness of God.


To Ponder:

  • Have you ever felt an overwhelming sense of God’s holiness? How did it make you feel?  How did you respond?   
  • The enigmatic revelation of the name of God as "I am who I am" leads to an important Jewish belief in the absolute holiness and un-utterability of God’s name, Yahweh. How aware are you of the holiness of God when you address God in prayer?
  • In R. S. Thomas’ poem ‘The Bright Field’, he refers to this incident as the very meaning of life ("life … is the turning aside, like Moses, to the miracle of the lit bush"). You can read the poem in full here.
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