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 desert 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." 6 Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
Do you remember your last trip to the shoe store? You go in wearing what you think is a nice, new looking pair of white sneakers. But, when you walk through the door, you realize your definition of white does not even come close to the brand new shoes on display throughout the room. Your definition of white looks more like a dingy yellow compared to the color you see lining the walls and spread out across various fixtures. It seems your definition of nice isn’t so nice after all.
Moses never had such an experience. The shoes in his local shoe store were probably colored of brown or browner. At home, he probably did not have more than one pair to choose from. His morning routine did not include matching the blue suit with the brown shoes or finding the black loafers because his pants were grey.
Moses dusted off his sandals as he walked out the door. With his eyes still heavy from the early morning call to tend to the sheep, he didn’t even notice just how worn the leather was wrapped around his feet. Upon, those dingy sandals, Moses led his father-in-law’s sheep to green pastures in hopes the animals could find something to eat.
As he wondered why he had traveled so far, nearly two days after he left, the dust beneath his feet turned into green grass, a place where his flock could find food. While his flock feasted, his eyes scanned the landscape spread out over the horizon in search of predators that might threaten the sheep. That’s when he noticed something that seemed a little bit out of place. There was a bright light coming from a bush. Wait, that’s not a bright light. That is fire. So, how is that bush still standing? The curiosity that struck Moses was too much to ignore. He would have to get a closer look. As he inched closer, each step was deliberate and taken with care. You know, like when you tried to sneak in to the house late at night because it was past your curfew.
There, was something extraordinary going on inside that bush. Moses had to get closer. He had to find out what it was.
But, before he could get too close, he heard a startling voice. You can imagine his surprise. It would be about like you would feel if your mother called out because she heard you sneaking in. He froze between his careful steps. But, did someone call his name? There it is again! I guess I better speak up. From all the thoughts racing through his head, like who is calling my name and where is this voice coming from, he could only manage to utter three simple words. “Here I am,” Moses replied.
What followed this extraordinary event was a realization. An awakening if you will. As the voice directed Moses to take off his shoes, the command brought an understanding. His dusty, worn out sandals were not worthy to be in the presence of such a powerful being. But, it was not just his shoes that needed to go.
Moses was told to whom that voice belonged. The voice said, “I am the God of your Father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” And upon that declaration a change of lifestyle was about to take place.
Moses was too scared to even look up. Being in the presence of God warranted a major change. Remember, this was not YET the Moses we remember who delivered God’s people from Egyptian bondage. This was not YET the Moses who held up the rod as the Red Sea parted. This Moses was a runaway hiding out in the desert.
But, he remembered the stories his mother had told him all those years ago about his great grandfather, Abraham whom God had made some kind of promise. He remembered the one about Isaac. How he found favor with the Philistines because of some story he made up about his wife. He remembered Jacob, because he was the father of all those kids. These were the people God appeared to. Not to a man on the run from the law because someone saw him murder an Egyptian. Not to a man that has to tend sheep that he does not even own. I better keep my head down, Moses thought as he looked at those old dirty, dingy sandals that were no longer on his feet. I never realized just how dirty they are, he must have thought. But, from now on things would be different.
What is so amazing about this encounter is what God asked Moses to do. Or better yet, what he did not ask him to do. He did not say, take off your shoes and transform your life and THEN you can serve me. God said get rid of those dirty shoes and I will take care of the rest.
That scenario sounds awfully familiar. God promised me the same thing. He says, “get rid of that old, dirty life and I will take care of the rest.” But so often, I look at my dirty shoes, not realizing just how dirty they truly are. If I am not in the presence of God, that dingy yellow might not look so dingy after all.
Perhaps our next trip to the shoe store should happen in a quiet place as we approach the throne of God. But what kind of shoes are you wearing? Are they green with envy? Or, red with anger or hatred? Maybe you are so comfortable in your sin that you do not even realize its there. Instead, your sin has become just another part of your routine.
As I was preparing for this sermon, I came across a website that displays ugly couches. Basically they post photos of ugly couches with some kind of caption underneath about just how ugly it is. There was one particular couch that caught my eye. It had some kind of retro pattern, like a grayish color. It had some khaki colored stripes with some spots that were once red, but now faded to pink. There were green spots that started like big blotches and got smaller toward the other end of the pattern. Hideous would probably be a good way to describe this couch. But, as ugly as it was, it was the caption that caught my attention. It read, “Ugly as sin but extremely comfortable, great for naps.” I thought, what a great excuse to get that thing in the house. Try running that one by your wife. Honey, I know it is extremely ugly and in no way does it go with the drapes, but its really comfortable. There is no way it’s going to stay in the living room. But, how often do we use that very same excuse for sin in our life. I know its ugly. I know it shouldn’t be there. But, it’s just so comfortable. We just dust if off like an old pair of shoes and lace ‘em up for another day. And before we know it, we don’t even notice how ugly that sin is.
The hammering of your heart as you look at a co-worker that is dressed provocatively. Or, does your heart even beat fast any more, because it has become routine... You can hear the Holy Spirit calling out for you not to speak falsely. But, you drown it out. The next lie comes easier and more quickly... You start out passionately serving God and thinking of all the ways you can win souls for Christ. But, now you only seek service. "What is in it for me?" you ask... Sound familiar? These are the shoes that don’t look so dingy when they are on our feet despite the stains and yellowish glow.
There is only one pair of shoes that is spotless, blameless, made up of a bright white. You might be thinking, those are the expensive ones right? The ones in the front window. The ones I sure can’t afford. Well, you’re right. In fact they are so expensive, you could work your whole life, you could even inherit Bill Gate’s fortune, and you still couldn’t afford them. But, the good news is, they are already paid for. God says, just take off your shoes, the blood of my son, Jesus Christ has already paid for the rest.
Remember Moses? He did lead the people out of Egypt. But, it was not Moses who set them free. Moses did hold up a rod as the sea parted. But, it was not Moses who stopped the current and provided dry ground. It was God, the same God we worship today. The same God who uses ordinary men like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to do extraordinary things. He did great things through a man on the run from the law, a man tending his father-in-law’s sheep. But, first he had to take off those dirty, dingy shoes.
What kind of shoes are you wearing?
In Exodus, chapter 3, Moses approached the throne of God. “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”