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Are You Standing on Holy Ground?

Holy ground is commonly defined as a location that is considered to be sacred or hallowed. For people of faith, the location is sacred because it has a connection to God. The Bible gives us insight into what God considers to be holy ground, and we learn that we can think of holy ground in a number of different contexts.


The term “holy ground" is found in the familiar words of Exodus 3:5 when God spoke to Moses from a burning bush on Mt. Horeb: "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." The presence of Almighty God made the ground holy. Furthermore, the Bible refers to Mt. Horeb as "the mountain of God" (Exodus 3:1), implying that the whole mountain is holy and constitutes holy ground in the eyes of God. 


Also, the term "holy mountain" appears multiple times in the Old Testament with specific reference to Jerusalem's status as holy ground (Isaiah 66:20, 56:7, 57:13, Daniel 9:16, Joel 2:1, 3:17). In Zechariah 8:3, we are also told of God's presence in Jerusalem: "This is what the Lord says; 'I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.'" Jerusalem, therefore, is holy ground where God intends to dwell. The Bible also refers to Jerusalem as "the Holy City" (Revelation 21: 2).


In addition to places specifically designated by God Himself, other locations can be holy ground. When the Magi "fell down" on the ground and worshiped the Christ Child in Bethlehem, they were in the presence of God and on holy ground (Matthew 2:11). Churches have been built and dedicated expressly for the purpose of prayer and worship, and they are holy ground because God's presence is always with believers who gather in His name. God directed Moses to build His first house of worship, a portable tabernacle, when the Israelites were wandering in the desert (Exodus 25, 26, 27). God gave Moses detailed directions and told him that the tabernacle would be a place for Him to be present and "dwell" with them (tabernacle means "dwelling place" or "sanctuary" or "tent of meeting"). Accordingly, we can feel God's presence in a church's worship spaces. We are on holy ground, and we should always remember that God expects us to approach Him in silence with a humble and reverent demeanor when we are in His house (Deuteronomy 10:12, Habakkuk 2:20, Psalm 147:11). Undedicated places where we meet with God can also be holy ground. Such a place might simply be your own backyard, where you are basking in the glory of God's creation and feeling His presence. Jesus conducted His ministry largely outside of synagogues, and He told His disciples that He is present with us "wherever" we meet in His name (Matthew 18:20). It is not necessarily the specific location, but the presence of God that makes a place holy ground.


In a broader context, we must remember that God created the universe and everything that is in it (Genesis 1). All of creation is holy because God is holy, but He didn't create the universe and then withdraw from it. He is also present and actively working in all things (including us!) and all places (Psalm 16:11, 114:7-8, 139:7-10, Nahum 1:3-5, Philippians 2:13, Revelation 21:3-5). This presence is why we don't have to be in a designated sacred place to be on holy ground. Theologian John S. Mogabgab speaks of holy ground in still another, more abstract context: "Holy ground is the place of life-giving rootedness in something larger than our own lives, something deep enough and enduring enough to keep us anchored and oriented in the storm." Thus, our faith can anchor us in a higher type of holy ground where we "stand" on the promises of God (Colossians 2:6-7).


The Disciple Group encourages you to remember to praise and thank God for His mercy, grace, and marvelous works every time you pray. Remember, too, that all of God's creation is holy ground worthy of our respect and that we will feel His presence when we earnestly seek Him and are in communion with Him, wherever we are. Lastly, remember that our steadfast faith will give us the firm footing in life that we need to stay on God's path. We do, indeed, stand on holy ground.