What is considered as holy ground?
The phrase “holy ground” occurs two times in the Bible. Once in the Old Testament in Exodus 3:5 and once in the New Testament in Acts 7:33. The Acts passage quotes Exodus 3:5. A similar thought occurs in Joshua 5:15 where Joshua was told to remove his sandal because “where you are standing is holy.” Otherwise, similar wordings cannot found. But the concept occurs in other passages.
Moses Stood On Holy Ground
The term “holy ground” occurs for the first time in Exodus 3:5 when Moses finds God at a burning bush. The angel of the Lord in this passage is a theophany or an Old Testament appearance of Christ.
The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:2-5 (NASB)
Later in the The New Testament, Stephen refers to this event in Acts 7:33 and reinforces the awesome truth that Moses was standing on holy ground. Why was the ground holy? Clearly the ground was not holy because it contained some unique substance, mineral or gems. The ground was holy because God was present. His presence made the ground holy.
Mount Sinai Was Holy
While scripture never states that Mount Sinai was holy because our holy God was present, we read in Exodus 19:21-25 that the Israelites were to consecrate themselves. The people could not come put to Mount Sinai because the mountain was holy ground. That is, set themselves apart as act of holiness otherwise God would punish them. This implies that the mountain was holy because God Himself was present. Scripture implies that the mountain and the surrounding area was holy ground.
Joshua Stood On Holy Ground
In Joshua 5:15 we also discover that Joshua was standing on holy ground because a holy angel was present – the captain of the Lord’s host. The holy angle was a theophany or an Old Testament appearance of Christ. In Joshua 6:2 reveals that angel was the “Lord.” The following reveals that ground near the “captain of the Lord” was holy.
Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:13-15 (NASB)
Tabernacle Was Holy
In Exodus 26:33 God tells Moses that the tabernacle would have a “holy place” and a “holy of holies.” While we are not told the floor of the holy of holies is “holy ground” it becomes clear that the “holy of holies” in which God would “dwell” would be holy. The two parts of the tabernacle were to be regarded as holy because God would inhabit the Holy of Holies on future occasions. This reveals that the surrounding area where God dwells is holy.
You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring in the ark of the testimony there within the veil; and the veil shall serve for you as a partition between the holy place and the holy of holies. Exodus 26:33 (NASB)
Solomon’s Temple Was Holy
Next we find that Solomon’s temple was also holy. David says in Psalm the temple of God was holy (Psalm 5:7 ). He wanted to enter the holy temple because the temple contained the presence of God. In Psalm 5 David says that he wanted to be near God.
But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You. Psalm 5:7 (NASB)
Numerous Old Testament passages also refer to God’s temple as being holy (Psalm 138:2; Jonah 2:4; Micah 1:2; Habakkuk 2:20).
But the Lord is in His holy temple.
Let all the earth be silent before Him.”
Habakkuk 2:20 (NASB)
These verses help us understand that the temple in Jerusalem was holy because God would be there in all His glory,
O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house
And the place where Your glory dwells.
Psalm 26:8 (NASB)
Jerusalem Was Called Holy
God tells us that the city of Jerusalem is holy and will be holy. Jerusalem is the city of our God. It will be the capital of His kingdom.
But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.
Psalm 2:6 (NASB)
Then you will know that I am the Lord your God,
Dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain.
So Jerusalem will be holy . . .
Joel 3:17 (NASB)
Thus says the Lord, “I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.’”
Zechariah 8:3 (NASB)
Jerusalem is holy because God will dwell there. In the prophecy of Revelation we are told that God will dwell in the eternal and New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-3). The reason the city is holy is because our God will dwell there.
People Can Be Holy
Amazingly the Lord said the people of Israel would be holy eventually; but since they were not holy, God urged them to pursue holiness. Why? Because He was holy.
Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Leviticus 19:2 (NASB)
In Ephesians 2:19-21 God tells us that Christians are growing into a holy temple since the Holy Spirit dwells in every believer.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-21 (NASB)
One could say Christians are a “holy temple.” Are Christians holy ground? We are holy in the sense that God dwells within them by His holy Spirit. But Christians are not practically holy since we still sin (Romans 7:15-24). Yet, Christians are positionally holy since God has declared believers to be legally righteous. That is, we have been justified (Romans 3:24). But we can say that Christians are becoming a holy temple. Some day we will be a holy temple but not in this life. Scripture never says that Christians are holy ground, but some day we will be completely holy.
A song written by Geron Davis provides a wonderful definition of the phrase “holy ground.”
As I walked through the door, I sensed His presence,
and I knew this was the place where love abounds
For this is the temple, Jehovah God abides here,
and we are standing in His presence on holy ground*
We are standing on holy ground
And I know that there are angels all around
Let us praise Jesus now
We are standing in His presence
On holy ground . . .
Holy ground is anywhere God’s presence resides.