Exodus 3:2–6; Exodus 20:22–26; 2 Chronicles 3:1–2 (read online ⧉)
The concept of “holy ground” has a long-standing history. In popular imagination, church buildings and their lands are—by their very nature—holy ground. Whether it was vampires (or other unholy creatures) or Immortals (e.g., Connor MacLeod) or something else, the concept was powerful.
While popular imagination puts holy ground more in the realm of something magical (or a convenient plot device), it does not deny or invalidate the reality of holy ground.
So, what could holy ground be? The simplest one is where God says so. The only place where holy and ground are together in this way is here in Exodus (This passage is quoted in Acts, so that mention doesn’t count). However, the concept of a place set apart as holy is not unique to this verse.
Sometimes, as later in Exodus 20:22–26, is a place set aside as holy (in this case, an altar), but it is not, in and of itself, holy ground. Yet, it is.
The burning bush in Exodus is pretty simple. However, this holy ground, that God said was holy ground…we don’t even know where it is. Perhaps, then, it wasn’t so holy.
David had a confrontation with God. The place where he offered a sacrifice to remove his sin, which was causing the destruction of the people, was a threshing floor. It was a place of work.
Using it, though, for a holy act, it became a holy place. So holy, in fact, that the temple was built there. We know where that place is right now. It wasn’t called holy ground, though.
What made the former threshing floor holy ground was the acts that would occur there. It wasn’t just praising and worshiping God. It wasn’t just praying to God. It was the place where God “set his foot”. This was the formal Godly residence on earth.
Just as the (not-so) burning bush (miracle notwithstanding) was holy ground, so were the uncut rocks, or piles of dirt, or a beautiful temple. It wasn’t the place per se that was holy, but the encounters with God that made that space, for a time, holy.
For generations, for example, the sanctuary of the church was holy ground. As the megachurch rolled in, however, it transformed into a worship center. It’s not that God was not encountered, it was just a change in the understanding of how it worked.
Even now, as we “gather” online, there are places (hopefully) of Godly encounters. They just happen to be living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, other rooms, cars, even backyards. This is one of those things that Christian mystics can teach us…any place is holy when we are knowingly, purposefully, seekingly in the presence of God.
※ Prayer ※
Lord, help us to seek your presence so that we are overwhelmed by your glory. Help us to find holy ground wherever we are. Amen.
※ Questions ※
1) Other than a church building, what are some other “holy grounds” for you?
2) What makes a place consistently a holy ground?
3) Why is it critical to our theology, our relationship with God, and our Christian growth to understand that holy ground is not just at a church building (especially right now)?