When Moses saw a bush burning, but not being consumed, in the middle of the desert he had to know what it was. After the Lord called out to Moses from the bush, he told Moses to remove his sandals “for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5)
Several years later, Joshua found a stranger near his encampment. Joshua asked the man which army he was fighting for. The man replied he was not a soldier for either army, but the commander of the Lord’s armies. Joshua fell to his face and asked for the Lord’s message.
Before answering Joshua’s question, he was told to remove his sandals because the ground was holy (Joshua 5:15).
The word “holy” means separate, sacred, set apart. The ground Moses and Joshua were standing on was made holy by God’s presence. They were told to remove their sandals as a sign of respect and acknowledgment that something wholly different was occurring. Moses went from herding his flock to communing with God. Joshua went from preparing for war to worshipping.
I lead worship barefoot. I take my sandals off before I lead worship as a sign of reverence and acknowledgement that something wholly different is occurring. I am not playing music because it is fun or because I get paid to do it. I do not aim to entertain or impress. My only two goals are to worship and to help others worship.
When I walk up on stage and I remove my sandals, there are two things going through my mind. First, I am reminding myself that this time and place are set apart from other times I play my guitar. This time is set apart to bring attention to our God and His Self. Removing my sandals reminds me of this exceptional responsibility.
Second, I am praying that God will give me the strength and humility to do my job well. Taking my sandals off is a physical reminder of my total dependance on God to have a successful time of worship.
Removing my sandals is not a casual decision. My bare feet are not an indication of a casual heart. My bare feet are not a sign of a naive, cavalier attitude toward the trinity.
Instead, my bare feet are an outward, physical symbol of the internal reverence and responsibility I feel in leading others to worship our God.