from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD
Question: What is the first occurrence of the word “holy” in the Bible? (Big hint: “holy” does not occur in Genesis.)
Answer: Exodus 3:5. Moses was born in Egypt into the home of Hebrew slaves. As an infant, he was miraculously saved from death by his parents’ bold faith. Though raised in the royal palace, his sympathy for the Hebrew people got him in trouble, and he had to flee to the far side of the desert. This prince was now a shepherd, pasturing flocks near Mt. Sinai.
Through the sight of a bush that was burning but not consumed, God lured Moses into their first of many personal encounters. He called out to Moses by name, “Moses, Moses!” (Exodus 3:4). As Moses began to come near, God gave him his very first lesson in knowing Him:
“Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5, NASB)
The first thing God taught Moses about Himself was that He was holy. What would Moses have understood about God through this warning?
- God was “above” him. He was unworthy of God. He couldn’t trifle with Him or assume familiarities.
- The very fact that God revealed Himself through a miraculous sign, rather than through a bodily appearance, communicated that He was separate. He was holy. He was completely above and beyond our human limits.
- Moses would have been filled with a sense of awe and mystery regarding this transcendent God who had come near and reached out to him.
But as their conversation unfolds in Exodus chapters 3 and 4, a remarkable relationship begins to take form. Moses is honest about his fears regarding God’s assignment—even stubborn. How does this holy God respond? With amazing patience. He responds to Moses’ candor with candor of His own. He teaches. He prods. He challenges. He even grows angry and scolds. But He doesn’t give up on Moses or push him away. He takes steps to meet each of Moses’ concerns, even when they’re unreasonable. Here is a holy God who is gentle and patient with His weak and fearful creatures.