What does the phrase “holy ground” mean?

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Holy Ground

The phrase “holy ground” is found twice in the Bible, once in the Old Testament and once in the New. In the Old Testament, we read about it in the narrative when Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law and he led the flock to Horeb, the mountain of God. Then, the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was burning with fire but the bush was not consumed. And, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).

The practice of putting the shoes off before entering a temple or even private houses was a universal custom in the Middle East. Since shoes or sandals carry dust and impurities, the reverential Orientals considered it sacrilegious to enter a clean or holy place with shoes on. So, the Lord asked Moses to take His shows off.

The place where Moses stood was holy ground, not because it was an old sanctuary or sacred spot previously unknown to him but because of the presence of God. Moses didn’t even look at God (Exodus 3:6). For “God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24) and no one can see Him and live (Exodus 33:20).

In the New Testament, the Exodus 3:5 incident is referenced again in Acts 7:33 by Stephen who was summoned by the Sanhedrin to answer to the accusation of blasphemy. Stephen narrated to them the history of God’s dealings with His people and His great patience and mercy towards their rebellious nation. Stephen used the Moses experience to show that God’s presence was not limited to the temple of Jerusalem (Exodus 3:5). Unfortunately, his faithful testimony and defense of God infuriated the Jewish religious leaders and they stoned him (Acts 7:57).

The Holiness of God

The Bible declares that God is holy (Psalm 99:9). The angels who surround His throne, being impressed with His outstanding perfection of character cry out, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty” (Revelation 4:8 also Isaiah 6:3). God revealed this scene to His prophets, so that they may keep His divine character constantly before the people, that they might be encouraged to put away their sins and aspire likewise to holiness.

The Lord commanded His people saying, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 20:7). The Almighty desires His children to be pure and without stain. He calls them to put repent of their sins and live “holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4).

Even though the Lord lives in an unapproachable glory, He declared, “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15). What an assuring thought, that the One who is so great as God condescends to live in the hearts of men by faith (Ephesians 3:17). Even though humans may be insignificant in their own sight, it is their privilege to receive God’s love and presence.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

This answer is also available in: Español

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