Bible Readings for February 20th
Exodus 3 is a critical passage for understanding how God’s holiness and his love fit together. In this encounter, God both approaches Moses and tells Moses to keep his distance. So, when Moses turns aside to see how a bush could burn but yet not be consumed, God calls out to Moses, warning him, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are a standing is holy ground” (Ex. 3:5).
This scene raises a question: If God’s presence is too holy for Moses to come near, then why does God come near to Moses in the first place?
The answer to this question comes as soon as God begins to speak—quite simply, Yahweh approaches Moses because of his love for his people. God explains that he has heard the outcry of Israel and that he will surely rescue them from out of Egypt. This will not be a simple mission, since Pharaoh will not let Israel go unless he is “compelled by a mighty hand” (Ex. 3:19). God therefore promises he will do exactly that: “So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go” (Ex. 3:20).
It is important that the way we think about God captures both sides of what God does here—on the one hand God comes near to Moses out of love for his people, but on the other hand God instructs Moses not to come near, since God is holy.
First, we need to recognize the seriousness and severity of God’s holiness—that is, we need to honor the do not come near nature of God’s holiness. The holiness of God is a blazing, consuming fire (Heb. 12:29), the kind of consuming fire that melts mountains like wax before him (Ps. 97:5). If we are the people of God, then we should not trifle with his furious holiness.
But second, we should also recognize that God’s deep love for his people compels him to pursue them and redeem them. God’s holiness and his love, then, fit together. In fact, the goal of God’s love is to make us holy precisely so that we may come near to him to dwell with him in holiness—so that we can become his holy people and so that he can be our holy God.
To make his people holy, however, will require far more than for God simply to lead his people out of Egypt. In fact, our holiness will require nothing less than the crucifixion of God’s own Son, so that in Christ, we might become holy, just as God is holy (1 Pet. 1:13–16), and so that we may with all confidence come near to God in the holy places (Heb. 10:19–22).
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.