"Loose thy sandals from off they feet" - by Keith Petersen
October 6, 2015
“Loose thy sandals from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”
Perhaps no other truth is so misunderstood in Christian history than of the reality that, when God takes a soul from a natural realm in which is embodied an authority of darkness and translates that soul into the kingdom of the Son of His love He expects a full and holy response to the complete and utter holiness of this latter estate. It is by morally lingering here in our minds and hearts that we lose the brightness and the vibrancy of the heavenly calling, and, reflexively, God is denied this full response for which He is looking.
It is only Christian doctrine to admit that the Lord is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and become higher than the heavens”; but, we are, perhaps, less ready to confess that, while our Christian privileges in and through Christ confer redemption, justification and an eternal standing and place before God, we also bear a distinct responsibility to walk before God in holiness while here. The Word is plain – “be ye holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1). This is not optional – it is a commandment of God.
Of course, having said this, it is important to add that Scripture sets out that “ye have this treasure in earthen vessels” and that John writes “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” This is another side of the truth; however, it cannot be used to discount in any way the reality that God is calling us to holiness. It can readily be seen with many Christians that, as with Jacob, there can be an outlook in which the 10th part might be given to God but the other 90 percent is for the soul’s own earthly enjoyment. God in His grace and love “affordeth us all things richly for our enjoyment”; but, lest we settle down unduly into earthly circumstances Paul writes “have your mind on the things [that are] above, not on the things [that are] on the earth”.
Moses’ history in relation to the burning bush is of considerable interest in this respect. The first thing of note is that in leading his flock he came “behind the wilderness, and came to the mountain of God—to Horeb.”
We are to recognize that we are in a wilderness here morally. Our brother’s hymn is “This world is a wilderness wide”. Yet, this does not mean that the moral elements of Christianity are unavailable to us – Moses came to “the mountain of God.” The word “mountain” is used 362 times in Scripture – telling us that God intends us to understand the principle of elevation in relation to the moral dearth of this scene – “[As] mount Bashan is the mount of God, a many-peaked mountain, [as] mount Bashan” (Psalm 68). This is lovely since it conveys to us that God provides what can elevate us out of the ruin of this world (it is “many peaked”) – a world that “lies in the wicked one.” For any honest person – let alone a true Christian sensitive to the nature of this world system – the evil and inequities of this world should produce a profound sense of how the sin of a fallen creature has had its ruinous effects.
The next aspect is that Moses is distinctly affected by the reality that the bush was burning but not consumed. He said, “Let me now turn aside and see this great sight, why the thorn-bush is not burnt.” God’s angel was in the flame of fire and the Lord intends that His existence arrests the soul. At the first, Moses was simply arrested by something that showed a power beyond the ordinary – which is the power of God.
Once the Lord “saw that he turned aside to see, … God called to him out of the midst of the thorn-bush and said, Moses, Moses! And he said, Here am I.”
What a wonderful moment this is in the life of oneself here – when you understand that God is “calling” your name. Think of the immensity of the reality that, amongst the myriad of those who throng this earth today – evidently some seven billion as this is written in 2015 – that God knows and calls your name. How many people in this world know your name? Few, certainly – and, yet, if you are a believing Christian the God of the universe “has predestinated, …. has called … has justified … has glorified” you. Does this not speak closely to your heart as to the intense interest that God has in you personally? And, if such is true, would He not be looking for a full and proper response from you in return?
And thus we see that the very next statement that the Lord makes to Moses is “Draw not nigh hither: loose thy sandals from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” This vital teaching shows us that any relationship with Divine Persons involves holy ground. We cannot casually approach God on any ground other than that which entirely suits God’s Nature – a God of light “in whom is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
Do we not need our sandals for this life? Do we not need provisions for our living here? Yes – and the Lord said “your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things.” But, He says, “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” The scripture is plain. There is a reason that the first and great commandment is to love God with all the heart and strength and understanding. This is not some arbitrary commandment of God; but, is intended to instill in our hearts and minds that the love of God towards us is beyond measure and, thus, that the relationship must be entered into by us fully in our own measure. Concurrent with this, there is immense value in the fullness of our relationship with Divine Persons in that, like the apostle John laying in the bosom of Jesus, the nearness provides intelligence and, reflexively, safekeeping from the influences of this world.
We have to learn, of course, our own untrustworthiness; but, it is properly learned in relation to the holiness of the relationship into which we have been called by this God of love. Thus, Moses learns that his staff – a natural resource for him – is untrustworthy without God’s power. It is turned into a serpent and it is only under the Headship of Christ that he can overcome – at the Lord’s command he takes the serpent up and it becomes a usable staff. The teaching is plain and direct – Moses has been brought to a holy place and can only be maintained in that character through the power and direction of God.
In like measure, he learned that his own heart was untrustworthy. His hand when put into his bosom came out leprous, and at God’s directive when put back into his bosom then came out free from the leprosy. Not only are we corrupt and untrustworthy as fallen creatures – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and incurable; who can know it?” – but, even as Christians our hearts can cause us misdirection if not governed by the indwelling influence of the Holy Spirit. Certainly many a Christian has been governed by natural affections which then caused them to move in a direction divergent from what was actually in the mind of the Lord. The Apostle Paul – greatly to be esteemed perhaps as much as or more than any in scripture other than the Lord Himself – had “great grief and uninterrupted pain in his heart” for his Jewish brethren which caused him, as recorded in the latter part of the Acts, to return to Jerusalem in an evident attempt to make a final appeal to them. However, his appointment by the Lord had been as apostle to the nations. His endeavors bore no fruit – the Lord had told him at the outset of his ministry that “they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.”
The great question remains: How can we be holy in our path here? Certainly, there is no question of holiness in Heaven – everything attached to the flesh – to the old man – is not only gone but cannot fit into a Heavenly realm – “nothing common” shall be there (Rev 21:27). But, can we actually be holy while here – beset both outwardly by the snares and the influences of this world and inwardly by the struggles of the flesh to assert itself? The Scripture is clear that holiness in our path here – whatever other scriptures are given to balance this as indicated in the third paragraph of this paper – is the expectation of God. Jude says, “to him that is able to keep you without stumbling, and to set [you] with exultation blameless before his glory” – this is a powerful attestation to this expectation, bearing, as it does, on our path here rather than on our place in a Heavenly home.
The answer is simple enough – we must recognize that God has set us up here with a new nature and in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This brings out the entire thrust of God’s desire and intent in relation to His own. Two scriptures are forceful in this respect: “Whoever has been begotten of God does not practise sin, because his seed abides in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been begotten of God” and “Walk in [the] Spirit, and ye shall no way fulfil flesh's lust”. These two scriptures should consolidate this question in our minds and hearts. God has provided the capacitating power in and through the Holy Spirit. However, it is more than that – we are to recognize that what God has transacted for us is a new and sinless estate. Born anew – or, born again – involves a final nature that is not only totally without sin and which alone can suit us for our calling in Christ; but, leads to the Lord’s words that “God [is] a spirit; and they who worship him must worship [him] in spirit and truth.” We can only answer to this in the realization of a suitable nature (we must see that the old man is gone both from God’s eyes and our eyes in the Cross of Christ) and in the understanding that the Holy Spirit will unswervingly, as a practical reality, “guide you into all the truth”. Finally, we have the apostle Peter’s statement that “ye may become partakers of [the] divine nature”. I know of no more illustrious statement in all of Scripture than this latter statement.
The entire question of walking here in holiness raises a lateral question. We know that, if our minds turn towards fleshly attractions and influences, we can deflect in an instant from a proper and holy Christian walk. What, then, is the power to keep us in a path suitable and holy? We can understand doctrine as to holiness; but, recognizing doctrine and actually fulfilling Christian precepts in our path here can, through natural influences, suffer a considerable disconnect.
The answer is always and simply “love”. Fidelity to Christ is always the staying power to ensure righteousness while we remain here – “Love never fails.” In His address to the first assembly in the Revelation the Lord’s only rebuke was “but I have against thee, that thou hast left thy first love.” This is sobering language and not to be glossed over – does the Lord have anything against you, dear reader?
It is important to recognize that the Lord does not say that there was no love; but, only that the “first” love had been left. This is a critical matter. Love should deepen and flourish as time goes on – not, diminish! What came in to diminish the love in Ephesus towards the Lord? What dangers lie in this diminishing! The Lord – seen as One “who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamps” immediately says in this section that “Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works: but if not, I am coming to thee, and I will remove thy lamp out of its place, except thou shalt repent.”
This is alarming language. As Christians we are here as those who are to “appear as lights in [the] world” – if the lamp has been removed by the Lord He is giving us a sober word for us as to our testimonial path here. Is Christendom in great confusion today? Clearly so – there are very many denominations, the unity of the Holy Spirit as mandated in Ephesians 4 (“ using diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace”) is not maintained, various creeds and doctrines abound and there appears to be a general – presumptuous – thought that, as in the close of the book of the Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
But, there is a great King, and His word is, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” There is no question that we, as Christians – speaking generally – have considerably fallen from what is set out in the mind of God in Scripture. What is the antidote? Righteousness and holiness – “that ye may do what is right” (2 Corinthians 13:7). What is the power for this? The Holy Spirit. What is the catalyst? Love. Love for Divine Persons, love for the truth (ultimately, the same thing as the Lord “is the way, the truth and the life”), love for the brethren, and love towards men that our testimony be properly distinctive and not an admixture of the world and Christ.
My hope is that our minds and hearts have been stimulated in our consideration and attitude of our Christian calling and state. Why should we be casual towards what God has called us into? The scripture says “If ye have tasted that the Lord is good” – may we find that as a constant reality and may we be ever attracted into this provided realm of holiness and love.