What’s Up with Moses’ Shoes?

Travel anywhere having to go through an airport and you see one common sight going through security checkpoints… people removing their shoes in order to proceed. As Moses approached the Burning Bush, God instructed him to do the same thing (Exodus 3:5). BTW, the same thing happens to Joshua as he encounters God (Joshua 5:15).

I have known many people from different cultures, from the Middle East, to North Africa, to Asia, and one common thread when entering a person’s home is to remove your shoes. It is not only an issue of cleanliness (eliminating mud, dirt, filth and whatever one perhaps stepped on) but it is also a sign of respect. Moses needed to stand before God in respect and recognition that he stood on God’s turf. If we refuse to remove our shoes, it is an insult to the homeowner; let’s not insist on having our own way.

Literally and Figuratively:
In Africa, I was amazed at the locals ability to walk around barefoot. Whenever I tried to “go native” there was hot pavement, sharp stones, and all sorts of debris that caused me pain. Shoes protect you from feeling thorns, stones and debris found on the road. So, when you walk down the road barefoot, you feel everything you step on. When you walk down the road in shoes, you pass along quite easily, oblivious to what could be painful to others without shoes.

At this appointment service for Moses, he was commanded to remove his shoes. Perhaps God wanted him to walk through life “barefoot” so that he could feel and understand every bit of pain and sorrow his people experienced. Moses could not isolate himself from the plight of his people. He could not put on his figurative shoes of indifference, caring for himself, at the cost of feeling the distress of God’s people. We also should take off our shoes of apathy and be sensitive to opportunities to do kindness to others.

When it comes to shoe removal, it seems that as Moses stood there on the mountain, in the presence of God, there was a thin strip of leather that came between Moses and the Holy Ground. The shoes were a man-made and self-imposed barrier, and God wanted Moses to actually touch the holy ground in order to experience the transference of holiness to his chosen leader. Touch is a powerful method and symbol of transference (Exodus 29:10, Leviticus 16:21-22, Acts 13:2-3) and God wanted nothing between them, even something so insignificant as a shoe.

Since God said to remove the shoes, we might think that to be a rather silly request or requirement, but there is a simple truth here; we cannot come to God on our own terms. We come to God only on his terms. There is no self-style worship or obedience allowed. Also, when you think about the greatness of God, aren’t we supposed to stand there feeling rather insignificant? Is there anything more emotionally humiliating that standing barefoot while everyone else is dressed up for a black-tie event? We come before God in humility, not strutting into his presence any way we feel like it.

Maybe we all should come to worship with bare feet.

When Moses Met God

The newest sermon series at King’s Grant is on the great “I AM” statements of Jesus, and the first message goes back to where we first read about that name (Exodus 3:14). Let’s dig in to this story just a bit.

Moses is a fugitive from Egypt since he killed the Egyptian (Exodus 2:14-15) and is living on the backside of the desert (Acts 7:23, Exodus 7:7). Perhaps he had been praying for the deliverance of his people, remembering their suffering. It is good to know that God calls people who are busy.

  1. Gideon was busy threshing wheat (Judges 6:11)
  2. Samuel was in church (1 Samuel 3:3-4)
  3. David was caring for sheep (1 Samuel 17:20)
  4. Elisha was plowing (1 Kings 19:19-21)
  5. Four disciples were fishing (Mark 1:16-20)
  6. Matthew was collecting taxes (Matthew 9:9)

You can’t steer a parked car, so keep moving and stay busy while listening for God’s call.

What Moses Saw (Exodus 3:1-4):
God takes an insignificant bush and ignites it, turning it into a miracle. That is exactly what God wanted to do with Moses. He was a weak bush and would be an empowering fire (Exodus 19:18, 24:17, Deuteronomy 4:24, Judges 13:20, Hebrews 12:29).

What Moses Heard (Exodus 3:5-10):
God spoke and told his that he was the God of his fathers and that he had seen the suffering in Egypt. Then he told Moses that he would send Moses to get them. He must have wondered why God would choose such a failure.

What Moses Did (Exodus 3:3-4:17):
Rather than rejoicing and saying, “her I am, send me,” Moses began with the excuses and argued with God. He gave five excuses why he was not the right guy for the job.

  1. I’m a Nobody (Exodus 3:11-12): Moses was looking to himself rather than looking with faith at the one who had called him. God tells him that it is not about him, and assures him that “I will be with you.”
  2. I Don’t Know Your Name (Exodus 3:13-22): God’s name of Yahweh had been known for generations (Genesis 4:26) and familiar to the Patriarchs (Genesis 14:22, 15:1, 25:21-22, 28:13, 49:18). What Moses asked was, “What does your name mean? What kind of God are you?” It is a dynamic name, from the verb “to be” or “to become.” He is the self-existing one who always was and always will be. He is faithful and dependable. The name “I AM” will be used by Jesus in John’s gospel to equate himself with this same God (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51, 8:12, 10:7, 9, 11, 14, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1, 5).
  3. The People Won’t Believe Me (Exodus 4:1-9): What Moses really meant, was, “I don’t believe you.” He was so concerned about his credentials before the Jewish leaders, and God gave three signs to convince them that Moses was the chosen servant (1 Corinthians 1:22).
  4. I’m Not a Good Speaker (Exodus 4:10-12): This completely missed the message of God’s power. Since “I AM” is going to be with him, he cannot say “I AM NOT.” Seems Moses may have had false humility, seeing himself as a worthless failure. Humility is not thinking about less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. In God’s presence he is all that he needs to be.
  5. Someone Else Can Do It Better (Exodus 4:13-17): Moses called him Lord and then refuse his marching orders (Luke 6:46, Acts 10:14). In anger God appoints Aaron to be the mouthpiece for Moses, but he wasn’t always a help to his brother (remember the golden calf episode in Exodus 32?) and his sister was critical of him and brought trouble into the camp (Numbers 12). It turns out that Moses was very capable to speaking in public, as seen in Egypt and in the Deuteronomy speeches.

The lesson is simple: God knows us better than we know ourselves. We need to trust and obey. When we share our weaknesses with God, they are really only excuses for not wanting to do what he is asking. Remember that we are not telling God anything he does not already know (Judges 6:15, 1 Samuel 9:21, Jeremiah 1:6). God will empower us for the task. We must simply be FAT… Faithful, Available and Teachable.