Standing on holy ground
The story is found in the book of Exodus. Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, on the backside of the desert near Mount Horeb in the land of Midian. He was thinking about his people who were in bondage, slaves in the land of Egypt. It was out of concern for them that he had struck and killed an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew and had been forced to flee for his life. Now he was a fugitive from Egyptian justice.
As he sat musing, he saw in the distance a bush burning. When it continued to burn and was not consumed, Moses went to investigate. Suddenly, out of the bush there came the voice of God, “Put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.”
God was not referring to the past, to Moses’ ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He was not talking about the future, Moses’ successors, Joshua, Saul and David. He was speaking about today, the here and now. This is holy ground.
As it was for Moses so it is for most of us, I think. We are not overly impressed with the present. The past is much more attractive with its heroes galore. And the future seems loaded with possibilities. But the present is so drab it seems all but hopeless.
But it is always the present that seems to interest God. That day out in the desert, God took hold of a man, broke the grip of Egypt and brought a nation forth to freedom. And today God speaks, saying, to whomever will take time to listen, “The place on which you stand is holy ground.”
We are tempted to believe, “God would never speak to someone like me.” But you are important. God doesn’t waste time making nobodies; you were created for a purpose. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, man or woman, boy or girl, “a butcher, a baker or candlestick maker,” you are a part of God’s plan if you will have it so.
She lives in a rest home now after a long life of service to God through her family, community and church. Gradually she has lost her sight and she suffers severe arthritis pain. One afternoon when her minister was visiting with her, she reached out in her darkness and touched his arm. “Why does God keep me here,” she asked, “When there is nothing I can do?”
God gave her minister the words he desperately needed: “Because you have a mind with which to think and because you still can pray. There is a tremendous need for prayer in our world today.”
Oh, my friend, this very moment will you hear God speaking to you? “The place on which you stand is holy ground!”
Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years before retiring. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.