5 And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.

There is much to be discussed about God’s command that Moses not come any nearer until he had first “put off the shoes” from his feet. For starters, this illustrates that there are conditions to enter God’s innermost circle. Some things in the gospel have no conditions upon them, they are given freely to all, such as the gift of life and having the spirit of Christ within us, but other things do have conditions. If we are to dwell in the full glory and holiness of the Lord, there are preparations that we must all perform.

This leads into a second point, which has to do with the fact that Moses was performing a ritual with God. He was learning a specific manner of dress and behavior, a certain way of conducting himself with the Almighty. This foreshadows the exhaustive detail that Moses will give to the Israelites for the dimensions of the tabernacle, the ornate instruments to be housed therein, the dress and decorum of its priests, and the appropriate offerings to be made there. Ritual would become a hallmark of the Law of Moses, and we see him being inducted into its patterns here in this verse.

A final point worth considering is why God commanded Moses to remove his shoes. One reason might be that shoes tend to be the hardest article of clothing that we wear, preventing one from treading softly. They also tend to be the dirtiest article of clothing, carrying all the dust and dirt from everywhere that we have been. Taking off the shoes can therefore be symbolic of setting aside our sins and our hardness, proceeding forward as gently and cleanly as we can. We remove our burdens so that we can better come to God. The symbolism of shoes and feet will return at various times throughout the scriptures, such as when Jesus cleans the feet of his disciples, and in many of these instances the symbolism remains consistent.

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