I just read Joshua 5:15, where the Lord instructed Joshua to remove his sandals from his feet, “for the place where you are standing is holy.”
As I reflected on the passage, other texts mentioning footwear came to mind. Simultaneously, I remembered reading a book entitled, “Jews and Shoes.” It explained that Jewish people had historically used footwear symbolically and provided the meaning of the symbols.
I searched my office in vain for the book. Finally, I settled for a short personal study on footwear in the Bible. I hope you’ll fi nd it interesting.
Moses, in Exodus 3:5, was told, as was Joshua, to remove his shoes. Both of them complied immediately to God’s request. The removal of their shoes represented God’s presence and their reverence for Him.
Exodus 12:11 says that the Israelites should eat in haste with their “sandals on their feet.” That indicates that they should be ready to go at any moment.
A correlative passage is Ephesians 6:15 telling Christians to be ready to share their faith says, “Your desire to tell the good news about peace should be like shoes on your feet.” Romans 10:15 adds that those who share the gospel of Jesus have “beautiful feet.” Care, of course, needs to be taken; even beautiful feet can step on toes.
The Old Testament book of Ruth contains a peculiar ritual. A shoe is exchanged between Boaz and another man indicating Boaz’ desire to marry Ruth (Ruth 4:7,8). It pictures the process of redemption and the price that Jesus paid to redeem His followers.
Psalm 108:9 reveals that removing and shaking one’s shoe represents victory over an enemy. In the New Testament passage of Acts 12:8, Peter is commanded to put on his shoes because he’s about to be delivered from his persecutors.
In Luke 15:22, a compassionate father placed shoes on a wayward and bankrupt son showing his acceptance and love.
Deuteronomy 29:5 speaks of the Israelite’s shoes that miraculously lasted for 40 years of wilderness wandering, proving God’s remarkable care, power and provision. In Mark 6.9, sandals were to be worn by Jesus’ followers, but no extra sandals were to be brought with them. The inference was that all they needed was trust in Christ and His ability to provide.
Shoes today don’t really represent anything; they simply speak of comfort, cost and fashion. So, for Christians, it’s not about representation, but reality.
And reality asks not what do our shoes mean, but where do they take us and where do we stand? Our shoes should take us “in Jesus steps” (1 Peter 2:21) and we should stand “amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.”
Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.