You, Me, and the Ground (3)

This theme was originally intended to take up one post. We are on to three already. Some of this stuff is just so interesting that I couldn’t help myself. I really enjoy exploring new concepts and theological ideas. This little study has pushed my thinking in new directions. In this post, I will complete the theme and draw out some implications. 
Ground and Worship

The ground is to be worked and the fruit of that labor is to be used in the service of God. In the Old Testament the people were required to bring a portion of their crop to the temple. They were to provide for the priests and the poor through their little plot of ground. This generous gesture was considered an act of worship. 
“We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord…and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our ground, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our towns where we labor” (Nehemiah 10:35-37).
Holy Ground

God’s presence is always transformative. It even has an impact on the ground. Regular ground is quickly changed into “holy ground” when God shows up. We see this in the story of Moses and the burning bush. Moses could have come upon this bush an hour before his encounter with God and there would have been no reason to take off his shoes. When God comes on the scene everything changes. A bush becomes the holy of holies and the ground surrounding it becomes dangerous to walk on. The implications of this are staggering when one starts to think about the new heavens and new earth. God’s presence will permeate the world in a way not yet known. All ground will be holy ground when Christ returns.

“Then he said, ‘Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground‘” (Exodus 3:5).

Ground and Hope

At death men return to the dust. Scripture often talks about death as “sleep.” This is because our bodies will only be laid in the dust for a limited time. The promise of resurrection means that we will rise from the dust again. “From dust to dust” will not be the final words spoken over us. God will do a miraculous resurrection work. He will create us a second time from the dust!
“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

Implications of our Connection to the Soil

  • Our creation from the dirt creates an inextricable tie between us and the earth. We were meant to be here. An unearthly existence is unnatural for human beings. This is why our ultimate hope is not eternity in heaven, but eternity on a new earth with resurrected bodies. God’s intention for human life lived on earth will not be thwarted. The ground beneath our feet should be a daily reminder that we belong on the earth.
  • Our interrelationship with ground should inform how we evaluate what has value in life. We often spiritualize things and demean normal human existence. You can do this only when you conclude that we were not meant to be here and that our goal is to journey through this place as detached and unscathed as possible. The fact that we were created for this earth brings value to every created thing along with every human task. The ground beneath our feet should be a daily reminder of the value of tangible earthly things.
  • Creation from dust should invoke humility and awe in all human creatures. When we recognize that God formed us from a clump of dirt how can we be anything but amazed. When we recognize that our origins are in the mud how can we boast about anything. The ground beneath our feet should be a daily reminder of our creatureliness.
  • The ground we exist upon is first and foremost a gift of God.  Eden, the Promised Land, the New Earth, and  your back yard are gracious gifts of the Creator. He gives us soil to live upon. He gives us space on his created earth to work and enjoy. The ground beneath our feet should be a daily reminder of God’s grace toward us.
  • The reality that we have come from dust and will return to dust invites us to look our mortality square in the face. It’s amazing how effectively we push this reality away. The ground beneath our feet should be a daily reminder of our mortality
  • Our destiny is connected to the earth. We groan along with the earth for deliverance from bondage and decay. We ache for the removal of the curse. The hope of the earth is the hope of the believer—the return of Christ. When Christ returns the dead will be raised from the dust and the earth will be completely renewed. The ground beneath our feet should be a daily reminder of our hope of resurrection and life on a restored earth.

Is there anything else that you would add to this list of implications? Any further thoughts on the importance of our connection to the soil?

3 thoughts on “You, Me, and the Ground (3)

  1. Great post. One interesting thing I thought about as I was reading it is about the holy ground, and the command to Moses to remove his sandals. There is a theme throughout the Bible of the presence of God and his holiness being dangerous to us, as you also mentioned. Those who got too close to the mountain when God dwelled upon mount Sinai were sure to die, touching the ark of the covenant resulted in death, those who touched any of the “holy things” (Numbers 4:15) would die, etc.

    One would think that if the ground was made holy, having something between our feet and the ground would be needed! Yet for the ground, God commanded that Moses place his bare feet on it – which are one of the dirtiest parts of our bodies.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    1. Josh, that is an interesting question. I do not know the answer to it. Here is a section from Douglas Stuart’s commentary on Genesis. Some of his thoughts are helpful.

      “Without yet identifying himself, God began to teach Moses about the holy nature of his presence (v. 5). The theme of the divine Presence is a major topic of Exodus. It often is emphasized by commands requiring distance from God so as not to intrude too far on his holiness, proximity to which carries with it danger to the person not properly prepared (sanctified). This passage, with its come-no-further command, is remarkably parallel to that of Exod 19:9–25, where a series of conditions of sanctification (procedures that confer holiness) and distance (e.g., 19:23, ‘Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy’) are imposed upon the Israelites. Thus what God’s people would eventually have to learn from God through him, Moses now began to learn from God. Moses must do two things: keep a proper distance away from the bush (i.e., from God manifest in the fire) and take off his sandals. There are many references in the Bible to taking off or putting on sandals, but none has any connection with holiness except this one. Presumably, taking off shoes was done when entering the presence of a superior person, which usually would occur formally when one was at the superior person’s house, palace, or tent. Thus Sinai/Horeb is here implicitly identified as ‘Yahweh’s place.’ Thus the very ground is holy—something said of no other location in the Bible.”

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