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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 3

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 5


‘Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’

Exodus 3:5

The text is a call to reverence. I need hardly say how much that duty is dwelt upon in Scripture, both in the way of precept and of example.

We must all have been struck with the feeling expressed towards God in the Old Testament. What a profound awe! what a prostrate yet loving adoration! what an admiring sense of His goodness! what a longing, what a hungering and thirsting, after the knowledge, after the sight, of Him!

What is reverence? What are its ingredients, its component parts? What hinders and what helps it in us? And what are some of its blessings?

I. I need not say—for all agree in it—that Gospel reverence must be a thing of the heart. It seems to be compounded of two things: the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of ourselves. It is the contact between the sinful and the Sinless. It is the access of a conscious transgressor to One who is altogether holy. It is the mind of a created being, who has also fallen, towards One whom he desires above all things still to belong to, still to return to, still to be with, and still to serve.

II. The hindrances to a spirit of reverence lie on the very surface of our life. Things that are seen obscure the things that are not seen. We cannot help feeling earthly things to be very real. ‘What can be so real,’ we all say to ourselves,’ as this work, this person, this house and garden, this bright sun, this fair world, which is here before my eyes?’ Compared with these things, all other knowledge, we think, can be but guessing. The reality even of the Maker is put out of sight by the thing made.

Irreverence is fostered by everything approaching to unreality of expression in prayer. It is one of the many advantages of our Church Prayers that they are for the most part extremely simple, and (what is not less important for a mixed congregation) perfectly level to humble spiritual attainments. There is little or nothing in them which it is hypocrisy for a very humble Christian to use. An advanced and devoted Christian finds them enough for him, but a backward and very failing Christian can use them without feeling them unreal. There is something perhaps in the mere fact of their being prescribed to us which gives us confidence in using them. It is not so always with other prayers. It is not so always even with our own private prayers: we are apt, some of us, to use expressions which, if we examine them, we shall find to be beyond our mark; beyond the mark of our desire, I mean, and not only of our experience. All such prayers are irreverent. They do not express the mind of a poor sinner kneeling before his holy God. They are more or less the prayers of one who thinks wickedly that God is such a one as himself, and can be misled by words, when the heart is not in them.

III. We all of us, more or less, mourn over a want of reverence. There are times when we terribly miss it.

But God would not have us left here, left thus. Reverence may, by His gracious help through Christ by the Holy Spirit, be gained—yes, regained. We bless Him for that hope. We do believe that He desires not our death but our life: O let us come to Him! We must practise reverence, as well as pray for it. We must always recollect ourselves thoroughly before we begin to worship. In private, we must, if I might so express it, meditate and study God’s presence. We must not begin our prayers without trying to set God clearly before us a living Person to whom we are coming, to whom we are about to speak.

—Dean Vaughan.


(1) ‘One sometimes fears that the power to see great sights is dying out of our eyes. Reverence is the hush that falls upon the spirit which beholds such sights and understands, at least, something of their significance. The vision of God is the greatest of sights; reverence has its source in the cleft of the rock upon the mount of vision. See God in Christ and you fall at His feet in worship and surrender. See God in your own heart, and you will

… Still suspect and still revere yourself

In lowliness of heart.

See God in the flower that blossoms in the hedge, and it will stir—

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

Reverence is the mother of many graces: considerateness, courtesy, self-respect, humility are among her children.’

(2) ‘To take off one’s sandals was simply the Oriental sign of respect as of those who are entering the presence-chamber of a great king. Translated into Christian language, this command to Moses reminds us that an outward decorum belongs to the worship of God. And though the spirit of reverence can express itself in more than one way, yet devout stillness and humble attention play no mean part in the services of the Christian Church—most of all when they betoken the whole gesture and attitude of the inward man.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Exodus 3". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/exodus-3.html. 1876.
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