St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Take Off Your Sandals

Sermon on Exodus 3:1-8b, 10-15

Text: 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.” 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.
7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob — has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.

When we enter a house, especially at this time of year, we tend to take off our shoes. Often it doesn’t matter if we are going into someone else’s house or our own, we take off our shoes. The reason is obvious. We don’t want to track snow, mud, or whatever may be on our shoes into someone else’s house. Out of respect for them, we want to leave our filth at the door. Today, as we come before our God on worship, we want to do something similar. As we study the appearance of God to Moses in the burning bush, we also are encouraged to TAKE OFF YOUR SANDALS. We 1. Start By Drowning The Old Adam and we 2. Come With A Holy, Heartfelt Respect.

The portion of God’s Word that we are looking at this morning, is a familiar one to many of us. We recall how God spared Moses’ life when he was a baby by having the daughter of Pharaoh adopted him. He grew up hearing that God had a special plan for him. He wanted to lead his people, the Israelites, from the slavery of the Egyptians. When he killed an Egyptian, who was hurting an Israelite, he was forced to flee from Egypt. He spent the next forty years in the wilderness of Midian, tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro. This man, who wanted to lead his people, was tending sheep far away from everyone else.

One day, as Moses was tending the flock, he looked over and saw a thornbush on fire. However, as he watched it, he noticed that it did not burn up. So Moses, being curious, went over to investigate this strange sight. Something unusual was happening. However, we are told in verse two why the bush did not burn up, “The angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.” Who is the angel of the LORD? It becomes quite clear as we read through the rest of this section of God’s Word. This is the Lord himself, not one of the angels created during one of the six days of creation. We see this as the angel of the LORD identifies himself with the words (verse 6), “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Later, the angel of the LORD referred to himself as, “I AM.” (Verse 14) There is only one being who can make that claim, the claim of unchangeableness, the claim of an eternal state of being, and that is God. God himself was in that bush, as he appeared to Moses.

We note the first thing that God said to Moses. “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Verse 6) God told Moses to take off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground, holy not in and of itself, but because God was there. Taking off the sandals when one entered a house was a common custom in Moses’ day. The person would take off their sandals lest the place he entered be defiled by his dust or dirt. It was symbolic of leaving the filth outside as you entered the house. It showed respect for the owner of the house.

So God, in essence, was telling Moses to leave behind his filth as he came into God’s presence. So also we are encouraged to take off our sandals, if you will, as we enter into God’s presence. Whether it be when we come into God’s house or approach him in prayer, we are to take off our sandals, leaving behind the filth that has clung to them. Each of us has filth that we are to leave behind. That filth is our sins. When we enter into God’s presence, we take off our sandals as we confess our many sins to him, and each person’s list is unique to them, but also very real. For some, the list might include lust. For others, the list includes a hair-trigger temper that goes off at the slightest provocation. For others, the list includes a grudge that we nurse and hold against someone. For some, the list includes laziness and an unwillingness to step in and help when the occasion arises. Each of us has a list, longer that we would like to admit to, even to ourselves.

However, we come to God, humbly confessing our sins. The reason for this is to remind ourselves again how unable we are to save ourselves. We cannot live the perfect life that God demands. As we confess our sins, take off our sandals, if you will, we are confessing our complete inability to save ourselves. This leads us to ask for the forgiveness that Jesus won for us. When Jesus came to the earth, he did so to cleanse the entire world of its filth of sin. Just as God spoke to Moses on Mount Horeb, so Jesus speaks to us from another tree on another mount. That tree is the cross and the mount is Calvary. By his words and actions, he tells us that he won the victory over sin, death and the devil. He tells us that we have been cleansed.

I said earlier that it seems, especially at this time of year, we tend to take our shoes off more often because of the extra mud that is outside, and we do not want to track it in with us. Maybe, at this time of year, as we focus on Jesus’ suffering and death and are reminded that it was for our sake that he did this, we think more about putting off the filth from our lives. We want to put off our sin, drown our Old Adam, out of thankfulness for all that Jesus has done for us. As we approach God on holy ground, whether it be in church, prayer, or whatever, let us take off our sandals by confessing our sins to him and pledging to live more and more as God would have us live, out of love for him.

What was Moses’ reaction to the voice of the LORD from the burning bush? In verse six it says, “Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.” Moses’ reaction was quite natural for a sinful human being standing before the holy God. He was afraid as he stood before God because all he could see was his sin. He knew that nothing sinful could exist in the presence of holiness. He was afraid.

Moses also hid his face out of a holy, heartfelt respect for God. He realized who was there in the flames of the bush. This was no one less than the almighty God, the Creator of the universe. Here he was, a mere mortal, standing in the presence of God. Out of respect for God, Moses would not even presume to look at him.

May we also keep that same sort of awe and respect, whenever we approach God in prayer. We are addressing the almighty God. We do not want to be flippant in our prayers. We want to pay attention to what we are saying and think about what we are praying. This can be difficult for us to do, especially if we are praying the same prayers or using the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer or the table prayers. We can whip through them and never give a single thought to what we have just said. As we come to God in prayer, remind yourself to come with a holy, heartfelt respect for God.

This is also true in the way that we speak about God or refer to him. Sometimes, people try to bring God down to their level and refer to him as “the Big Guy” or “the Man Upstairs.” Do these terms for God give him the honor and the respect that he is due or do they trivialize who God is and what he has done for us? Remember that this is the almighty God about whom you are speaking. We want to show to him the honor and respect that is due him as our Creator and Lord.

Yet, God does not hold himself off like a distant entity. He has also revealed his love to us. He sent his Son Jesus into the world to be our Savior. Because of Jesus’ work, we are redeemed and have been adopted into God’s family. He tells us that we can call him “Father.” God is not some cold, impersonal entity out there. He is very much a part of our lives and cares deeply for each of us.

Since this is true, we want our entire lives to be ones that give a heartfelt respect for God. We want all of our lives to give glory to God. As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Even the most trivial tasks such as washing the dishes, doing chores, finishing homework can all be done out of respect and honor for God. We come to him with a heartfelt respect.

At the end of the day, there are few things that feel better than taking off your shoes. It feels good to let your feet free. This is no less the case when we take off our sandals and approach God. There’s an old saying that goes, “Confession is good for the soul.” This is true. It does make us feel better. There are many descriptions in the Scriptures that describe how terrible people feel when they hold on to their sins and how much better they feel when they confess their sins to God. We can have that same sense of peace of mind as we take off our sandals with all of the filth of our sins clinging to them in confessing our sins and then hear the beautiful message that those sins were also paid for by Jesus. Having been assured of this forgiveness, we approach God with a holy, heartfelt respect. As you take off your shoes later on today, think of Moses on Mount Horeb and how you can approach your God in peace and respect because of what Jesus did on Mount Calvary. Each and every day we take off our sandals because, indeed, we are standing on holy ground. Amen.