To be in the presence of the Lord is an awesome thing. Coming before the Holy One of Israel must have been a heart-stopping experience. In many places in the Bible we see mere mortals fall down in wonder when an angel appeared; consider how much more breathtaking it was when God Himself stood before them.
Angels – messengers or servants of the Lord – always deflect the homage that someone wants to heap upon them. They inevitably say, “Don’t bow down before me. Worship God.” We can know when it’s actually Yahweh in these situations because He accepts the honor and reverence. When in God’s presence, the ground on which a person stands becomes holy. All glory and praise is due to the Lord God Almighty.
The first instance we see of this occurs in Exodus 3:5:
Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
Moses has been in the wilderness tending sheep for forty years with the Lord preparing him for this day. He turns aside when he sees a bush burning but not being consumed. In the flames arising from that bush, Moses sees a figure. It is the angel of the Lord (Exodus 3:2). According to the text with what this being says, the ground itself has transformed into something holy.
The question becomes: Is the angel of the Lord Yahweh Himself? Isn’t God a Spirit?
Second temple Jewish literature speaks about the Two Yahwehs, or the Two Powers in Heaven. From their study of the Scriptures, it became evident to the Jews at that time that though Yahweh was One, there were two instances of Him. There was the Yahweh who could not be seen, and there was the Yahweh who appeared often in human form. Amazingly, many passages depicted these two Yahwehs appearing at the same time.
In this scene, the angel of the Lord manifests visibly, demands that Moses remove his sandals, and declares that He is God in Exodus 3:6:
And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
It’s hard to argue that the angel of the Lord isn’t God when He says specifically that He is.
When Joshua led the Israelites over the dried-up Jordan River to the plains of Jericho, he encountered another such manifestation. Rather than the text saying He was the angel of the Lord, it tells us in Joshua 5:14 that this being was “the commander of the army of the Lord.”
Was this entity Yahweh, one of the Two Powers in Heaven? Look at what He told His servant in Joshua 5:15:
And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
He instructed Joshua to remove his sandals for the ground had become holy. Holy ground only becomes that way in the presence of the Lord. The commander of the heavenly host was Yahweh in physical form, and Joshua knew that He was God.
When we see these verses, we know now that this second Yahweh is the pre-incarnate Jesus. He is the One who stood before Moses at the Tent of Meeting, and he is the One who gave up all His heavenly trappings to come to the earth and be born of a virgin.
The ground where God stands is holy. Those who come into His presence cannot help but fall down in awe to worship the very dirt at His feet. Have you ever been worshiping God and His Spirit is so heavy that you can do nothing but fall to the ground?
Besides the knowledge that those who are resurrected finally gain at the end of the Millennium as they stand before the Lord in judgment, it is because God’s presence is so overwhelming that every tongue confesses and every knee bows (Philippians 2:9-11).
Our Lord is a holy God. There is none like Him. When we come before Him in praise and worship, in prayer, or in reading His Word, we are on holy ground. Let us bow down and give Him the glory which is His alone.