God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”(Exodus 3:4–5)
Imagine if God interrupted your life the way he confronted the shepherd that day. If suddenly, even violently, a bush along the road caught fire, and God himself began to speak to you.
Moses was tending a flock, leading the animals through pastures and to water, like he had done so many times in the forty years since he left Egypt. Then a flame burst before him, disrupting his life and dispatching him to battle the strongest man in the land. What Moses saw in that flame was so intense that he was afraid to look (Exodus 3:6). What he heard was almost as terrifying: “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). God chose this mundane moment, and this bush, to reveal his glory to Moses and save his people from slavery.
The ground had not always been holy. The dirt under Moses’s feet was as subjected to futility as any, bearing its own bondage to corruption (Romans 8:21). Then God was there. For a few precious minutes, the soil that had long been cursed became a sanctuary. And the bush that lived there became the unquenchable match that ignited the exodus.
Another Burning Tree
Hundreds of years later, God set another tree on fire. Instead of appearing in the branches, however, he was now nailed to its beams. Unlike the angel of the Lord in the bush, Jesus took on human flesh, making himself vulnerable to death, even death on a cross.
When his hour had come, Christ embraced the humiliation of crucifixion. On that day, holy fire fell from heaven on the sinless Son of God. Like the bush at the foot of Horeb, this tree was not burned up. The wood held strong. But Jesus was consumed, swallowed in the Father’s righteous fury against what we had done. Even after rising from the dead, he still bears the burn marks (John 20:27).
Like Moses all those hundreds of years earlier, a centurion saw the fire and collapsed in wonder. “When the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (Mark 15:39). He looked into the face of a dying man and saw what Moses had seen: “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). He saw the one from whom, through whom, and for whom are all things.
Jesus Became Sin
Jesus became sin, went to the cross, and rose again that we, by the Spirit, might finally see what the centurion saw — that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened (Ephesians 1:18), and filled with Christ. The apostle Peter writes, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8). Any heart that loves him, believes in him, and enjoys him has been transformed by him.
If we live by faith at the foot of the cross, God has invited you onto holy ground. If we have seen the glory of Christ in the pages of the Bible, it is only because God has set our hearts on fire. Now, we ask in wonder with Cleopas and his friend, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). Yes, because God showed up in the verses and showed us his glory.
Do Not Hurry Past
Do not take this ground for granted. If you have seen the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, plead with God to see more. Don’t hurry past the glory pouring out of the pages of Scripture. Pray “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 3:16). If you ask him, the same God who split the Red Sea in half and wiped out all of Pharaoh’s armies will strengthen you to know the breadth and length and height and depth of his love (Ephesians 3:18–19).
In your time alone with God, in worship with your church family, in fellowship with other believers, remember the holy ground on which you stand. Here, where chains fall. Here, where fears bow. Here, where healing comes. Here, where hope grows. And, like Moses, be prepared to take what you have seen and experienced wherever God calls you.