Have you ever had a “burning bush” moment and realized you are standing on holy ground?
Have you ever felt like you’ve been wandering in the desert for weeks, months, even years, hoping and waiting for a sign from God to give you an answer, solve a problem, heal you, or maybe just give you clear direction and a deeper sense of life purpose? Then, you are standing on holy ground.
Or maybe you just want to make sense of life. You’ve got questions and you’re looking for answers.
Maybe you’ve just lost your job, or a relationship has ended, or you’ve made some very bad choices. Maybe you’re at the end of your rope. And you just don’t know what to do next.
When you find yourself in any of these situations, even though it may not seem like it, you are in a very good place. You are standing on holy ground. And what you do next is so important. You have the opportunity to hear God’s voice and follow His guidance.
Distractions and decoys
But sometimes we get caught up in the world’s decoys and distractions that either subtly, or not so subtly, pull us away from fulfilling our God-given purpose. The distractions can sometimes seem harmless. But they occupy our days with meaningless activities or things that fall far short of what God is calling us to do and be.
And then there are the decoys that can actually lead us in the wrong direction, and influence us to make choices that bring harm to ourselves and others.
I used to think of a decoy as harmless, just something that gets me off track. But recently I looked up the word decoy and was surprised at its meaning.
Here’s what one dictionary says: “a person who entices or lures another person or thing, as into danger, a trap, or the like.”
It comes from a Dutch word which refers to a cage, and the practice of using a tame bird to lure wild birds into a cage, more often than not, for the purpose of eating them.
When I was a kid, my dad would sometime go duck hunting with his friends. He had a wooden duck tied to a string he floated in the water to make the real ducks think it was safe to be in that pond. But the purpose of the decoy was to lure the ducks to the pond so he could shoot them and provide some food for our family.
From the hunter’s point of view, this is totally normal. But if you’re a duck: Watch out! Those hunters will do everything they can to make you think you’re safe, when their real intent is to shoot you and cook you for diner.
What are the decoys in your life?
Basically, a decoy in life, lures you away from freedom into captivity, where you cannot fulfill your life purpose.
There are lots of decoys in the world today that lure people away their spiritual freedom as a child of God. Sometimes they’re activities we get addicted to like drugs, alcohol, pornography, or cheating on our taxes.
Other times, these decoys take on the form of addiction to ways of thinking that harm us, like greed, resentment, pride, self-depreciation, or worrying about anything and everything.
Right about now, you’re probably wondering, Hey James, I thought this podcast episode was about standing on holy ground. What do all these distractions and decoys have to do with being on holy ground.
Well, more than you think.
Right now, you are standing on holy ground
At the very moment when you’re distracted or deceived by decoys, God is right there talking to you, protecting you, and guiding you to a better path. In fact, whenever you’re distracted or attracted to a decoy, it’s a sure sign that God is calling you to a higher purpose in life.
The question is who will you listen to, who will you follow?
Whenever you are at a crossroads in life and turn away from the distractions and decoys toward God, whenever you listen to and obey His voice, you are standing on holy ground. It’s not the dirt, the grass, or the gravel under your feet that’s holy. When you hear and obey God’s voice, you’re standing on the Rock of Christ, and that is holy ground indeed.
Moses and the burning bush
The only time in the Bible holy ground is mentioned is in reference to Moses.
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.
So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:1-5 NIV
God was about to reveal His nature to Moses as the great I AM THAT I AM. And God was going to commission Moses to bring the Children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt.
This was holy ground for Moses, not the soil, not the geographical place. The holy ground Moses was standing on was his spiritual curiosity that impelled him to respond to a sign from God. It was his ability to hear God’s voice, discern God’s nature, and eventually accept God’s purpose for him.
“Take off your sandals”
So why did God tell Moses to take off his sandals? It was a way to express humility.
Servants usually wore no shoes. And often in ancient cultures you would take off your sandals when you entered someone’s home, because they had all the dirt of your travels on them. It was a sign of respect. For Moses it symbolized being in God’s presence, and the fact there was nothing between him and this moment of God revealing Himself.
We don’t know exactly how long Moses had been a shepherd at this point but it could have been decades. He was 40 when he fled Egypt and about 80 when he returned to bring the Israelites to freedom. During those forty years God was preparing Moses for the huge task ahead of him, but Moses didn’t know that.
He could easily have wondered if his life would ever amount to anything more than just tending his flocks. He might have been carrying around a bit of guilt for killing an Egyptian (see Exodus 2:12 below).
But whatever Moses was thinking at the time, God called to him and he responded. Hearing and responding is the holy ground.
There are lots of ways to respond to God’s voice. When my youngest daughter was a little girl, one Sunday her Sunday School class talked about Moses taking off his sandals because he was on holy ground. After class was over, she gleefully took off her shoes and ran around church saying that she was on holy ground. It wasn’t holy ground because it was a church building. She was on the holy ground of pure childlike innocence and joy.
Even though the phrase “holy ground” isn’t used in referring to anyone in the Bible except Moses, there are definitely people who stood on holy ground at times.
Holy ground looks different for different people
But holy ground didn’t always look very holy.
I’m thinking of Manasseh, king of Judah.
Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. He did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, following the detestable practices of the pagan nations that the LORD had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites.
Manasseh led the people of Judah and Jerusalem to do even more evil than the pagan nations that the LORD had destroyed when the people of Israel entered the land. The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all his warnings. So the LORD sent the commanders of the Assyrian armies, and they took Manasseh prisoner. They put a ring through his nose, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon. But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the LORD his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed, the LORD listened to him and was moved by his request. So the LORD brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh finally realized that the LORD alone is God!
Manasseh also removed the foreign gods and the idol from the LORD’s Temple. He tore down all the altars he had built on the hill where the Temple stood and all the altars that were in Jerusalem, and he dumped them outside the city. Then he restored the altar of the LORD and sacrificed peace offerings and thanksgiving offerings on it. He also encouraged the people of Judah to worship the LORD, the God of Israel. 2 Chronicles 33:1, 2, 9-13, 15, 16 NLT
Manasseh’s holy ground
Manasseh had gone after so many distractions and was lured by so many decoys, he was not only bringing harm to himself, which eventually landed him in a foreign prison, he also caused a large majority of the population of Israel to follow his wicked ways. But in spite of all this, God still led Manasseh to holy ground.
Manasseh’s holy ground was actually being a prisoner in Assyria. It’s where he met God, perhaps for the first time. It’s where he symbolically took off his sandals and humbled himself before God. This was the crossroads for Manasseh where he turned away from idol worship and turned to God. As a result, God delivered him from captivity and restored him to his kingdom.
This is very encouraging to me. Whatever mistakes we’ve made in the past, big or small, or however we’ve been influenced by the distractions and decoys in life, however far down the wrong path we’ve gone, there is always an opportunity to find the holy ground of humility, to hear and obey God’s voice.
Saul’s holy ground
Perhaps the most dramatic example of this is when Saul was on the road to Damascus with the intention of capturing Christians and putting a stop to their claims that Jesus was the Messiah.
Paul was so upset with these upstart Christians. He was “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” (see Acts 9:1 below)
But on his way to Damascus, Saul stumbled upon his holy ground. A blinding light engulfed him and he heard Christ speaking to him, rebuking him, and telling him what to do. You can read the whole story in Acts, Chapter 9.
The ground Saul was on was about as far away from being holy as possible. He stood on hatred for anyone following Jesus. But that’s right where God met him. That’s right where Christ spoke to him. And that’s right where Saul was humbled and found his holy ground.
For three days he could not see. For three days he ate and drank nothing. (see Acts 9:9 below) For three days he humbled himself in prayer. For three days, he took off his sandals, so to speak. For three days he remained on this holy ground of humility and seeking guidance from God.
At that point Ananias came to him and healed his blindness. After just a few days talking with the followers of Jesus in Damascus, he began preaching in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. (see Acts 9:19, 20 below)
Just as with Manasseh, Saul’s holy ground didn’t look very holy. Saul was actually at war with holiness. But God saw in Saul’s heart, the desire to do what’s right.
Many today are standing on holy ground
If there is someone you know personally, or hear about in the news, who is “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” it’s encouraging to remember how Christ appeared to Saul. They may actually be very close to their own holy ground. They may be just moments away from Christ appearing to them, revealing a holy path them.
And maybe this could even apply to you and me, in a small way. Is there anything you are angry about? An injustice, a misunderstanding, a lack of love, or unprincipled action? You’re so upset, you just can’t think straight and you rush out thinking it’s all up to you to solve the problem? Like Saul did?
If your true motive is for what’s right to prevail, not your opinion of what’s right, but right in God’s eyes, then you are very close to holy ground. It’s time to be still, be humble, take off your shoes, so to speak, and listen for God’s voice and see where He leads you.
Jesus’s holy ground
Probably the best example in the Bible of not being enticed by the distractions and decoys the world throws at us is when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness.
Actually, these were not subtle and harmless distractions coming to Jesus. The devil was putting some pretty alluring decoys in Jesus’s path. Well, alluring perhaps if Jesus was just an ordinary human. But the Son of God was not fooled at all by the glitter of the devil’s promises of power.
Jesus was out in the wilderness, but he was truly on holy ground. He stood squarely on the Scriptures, quoting a verse from Deuteronomy each time he was tempted.
This gives you and me a powerful example of how to stand on holy ground. Every time you feel distracted from your God-given purpose, every time you feel attracted to a way of thinking or acting that’s not from God, you are on holy ground. You can quote the Bible with the same authority Jesus did.
You are standing on holy ground more than you realize
Every time you resist temptation, you are on holy ground.
Every time you return love for hate, you are on holy ground.
Every time you forgive, you are on holy ground.
Every time you obey God, you are on holy ground.
Every time you follow Christ, you are on holy ground.
Every time the Holy Spirit guides you, you are on holy ground.
What is this holy ground? It is the Rock of Christ. It is the firm foundation of knowing our inseparable relationship with God. And it’s humility, knowing we can’t solve a problem without God’s help.
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. God puts us on this holy ground. 2 Corinthians 1:21 NIV
You are standing on holy ground right now
Now, it’s also true that every time you make a mistake, big or small, every time you are angry at injustice, every time you are engulfed in self-righteousness, you are on holy ground. You just don’t realize it.
Your holy ground is not a geographical location. If you went to the exact spot Moses saw the burning bush, it would not be holy ground for you, unless you had the humility to hear God’s voice.
If you were in prison like Manasseh, or on the exact spot on the road to Damascus where Christ appeared to Saul, these places would not be holy ground to you, unless you came with the same spirit of humility they did.
The fact is you are always on holy ground. You are always a nanosecond away from hearing and obeying God’s voice, no matter how far you may feel from God at the time.
Right this moment, you are standing on holy ground.
Take off your sandals, anything that would make you feel separated from God.
Be quiet. Be still. Be humble. And listen.
God will tell you what to do next.
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
Exodus 3:1-5 NIV
1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.
3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
Exodus 2:12 NLT
12 After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.
2 Chronicles 33:1, 2, 9-13, 15, 16 NLT
1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years.
2 He did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, following the detestable practices of the pagan nations that the LORD had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites.
9 Manasseh led the people of Judah and Jerusalem to do even more evil than the pagan nations that the LORD had destroyed when the people of Israel entered the land.
10 The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all his warnings.
11 So the LORD sent the commanders of the Assyrian armies, and they took Manasseh prisoner. They put a ring through his nose, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon.
12 But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the LORD his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors.
13 And when he prayed, the LORD listened to him and was moved by his request. So the LORD brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh finally realized that the LORD alone is God!
15 Manasseh also removed the foreign gods and the idol from the LORD’s Temple. He tore down all the altars he had built on the hill where the Temple stood and all the altars that were in Jerusalem, and he dumped them outside the city.
16 Then he restored the altar of the LORD and sacrificed peace offerings and thanksgiving offerings on it. He also encouraged the people of Judah to worship the LORD, the God of Israel.
Acts 9:1 NIV
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest…
Acts 9:9 NIV
9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
Acts 9:19, 20 NIV
19 Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
2 Corinthians 1:21 NIV
21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. God puts us on this holy ground.