Blessed are the pure in heart. What does that even mean? In this day and age, do we even know what the word “pure” means? And what’s meant by the word heart? We hopefully know it’s not about someone with a healthy heart pumping pure blood without infections, foreign matter, or other impurities. But what is it?
Blessed are the pure in heart
You may recognize it as the beginning of the sixth Beatitude:
Mt 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Even the last part of the verse leads to nothing but questions. Maybe you’ve heard something like – every knee will bow before God? It comes from a passage in Isaiah:
Isa 45:23 By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.
Given that passage, it seems everyone’s going to see God. Pure in heart or not. So what did Jesus mean when He said, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God?
Blessed are the pure in heart – what does it mean?
In fact, knowing that the Bible says no person has a pure heart, one of two things must be going on here.
One – this beatitude is nonsense. Or pointless. Something along those lines. After all, how can a prerequisite (the pure heart) be the deciding factor on who sees God, when another passage says everyone sees God? And yet another passage says no one has a pure heart?
Or Two – pure, heart and see all mean something other than the obvious meaning.
Let’s go with option Two and see where that takes us. And if it does lead to something useful and meaningful, then option One can also be discarded. Although I haven’t done any of the research yet – language, culture, Etc. – I have faith that I will find the answers I’m looking for. Oddly enough, if you’re reading this and have faith that I won’t find them, then you’ll probably reject what I find. All I can say to someone with that kind of faith is please try to keep an open mind. I also say this to you:
There was a time when I really wanted to find an alternative to the God in the Bible. Especially the Old Testament God. But there wasn’t one. Which led me to come back and reexamine things. Learn what the Bible really says, as opposed to what I was afraid it said. Or what someone who hadn’t really examined it said. Or all sorts of other things that lead us away from the truth.
But the truth is, the answers are there if we honestly look for them. And I have no doubt that when we look at Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God the way it was said by Jesus to the people in His time, culture, language, Etc. – we’ll also find out what it means to us today. And it will make sense. Even to us who no longer have any concept of a pure heart.
What’s the difference between seeing God and bowing before God?
After reading those two passages – one from Matthew and the other from Isaiah – a question came to mind. What’s the difference between the two of then? for they will see God and Before me every knee will bow, as we saw, appear to be contradictory. Therefore, there must be a difference between the two. Given that see and bow appear to be different, let’s start with God. We’ll get to the pure in heart concept after that.
As we read the Bible, we learn different names for God. At least, if we take the time to look up the Hebrew or Greek words that we translate as God we’ll learn that. We see some of it in descriptions, such as almighty, loving, jealous, Etc. But the reality is that when we read the three letters – G o d – they come from various different Hebrew and Greek words.
So, let’s look at them. The Hebrew word from the passage in Isaiah and the Greek word from Matthew.
Before me every knee will bow
Obviously, the word God doesn’t appear in the verse we’re looking at. So let’s extend our view just a bit. That’ll bring in additional context as well as the specific word God.
Isa 45:22 “Turn to me and be saved,
all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other.
Isa 45:23 By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.
Turn to me and be saved
There are a couple things to notice about Isaiah 45:22. Yes, it has our three letters – G, o and d. But it has turn to me and be saved. That phrase is especially significant, since the words Blessed are the pure in heart are from the Savior Himself. Jesus. Son of God. God and man. A happy coincidence that I ended up with the Isaiah passage? Or Divine intervention that led me to it? I tend to look at happy coincidences as God acting anonymously, so to me they’re both the same.
At any rate, let’s look at the Hebrew word getting translated as God in that verse.
410 אֵל, אֵל [ʾel /ale/] n m. Shortened from 352; TWOT 93a; GK 445 and 446; 245 occurrences; AV translates as “God” 213 times, “god” 16 times, “power” four times, “mighty” five times, “goodly” once, “great” once, “idols” once, “Immanuel + 6005” twice, “might” once, and “strong” once. 1 god, god-like one, mighty one. 1A mighty men, men of rank, mighty heroes. 1B angels. 1C god, false god, (demons, imaginations). 1D God, the one true God, Jehovah. 2 mighty things in nature. 3 strength, power. 1)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Yes, there are a number of possible words that could have been used. And yes, God is the most common. It’s also true that there’s nothing wrong with choosing God. Using the Jewish approach and taking all possibilities, only ruling out the ones that can’t be true, it’s an acceptable choice.
However, when we apply context to the verse, there’s one that stands out. One that would have been recognized, or should have been recognized, by those in both Old Testament times and in Jesus’ time. It’s the rather odd “Immanuel + 6005”. Of course, Immanuel is God with us. Jesus. But what about the 6005? Here it is:
6005 עִמָּנוּ אֵל [ʿImmanuwʾel /im·maw·noo·ale/] n pr m. From 5973 and 410 with a pronominal suffix inserted; TWOT 1640d; GK 6672; Two occurrences; AV translates as “Immanuel + 410” twice. 1 symbolic and prophetic name of the Messiah, the Christ, prophesying that He would be born of a virgin and would be ‘God with us’. Additional Information: Immanuel = “God with us” or “with us is God”. 2)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
So it’s essentially Immanuel + Immanuel. And no, that’s not a typo. Remember, when something in the Bible is repeated like that it’s really important. And it’s not something that might happen, or will probably happen. It’s a promise from God that it absolutely will happen.
This “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other” is Jesus. The one who said, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
However, does that mean this passage refers specifically to Jesus, excluding the Father and the Holy Spirit? No – it doesn’t. If you think about it, many of the prophecies had dual meanings. One for the people at that time. What would happen in their lifetime, or at least in the relatively near future? And then there were the Messianic prophecies. The ones referring to Jesus. Meant for those under the New Covenant.
So it wouldn’t make sense to say this Isaiah prophecy was only about Jesus. Just think about how many times the Old Testament has words telling the people at that time to turn back to God. So while God refers to all the various ways He’s presented in the Bible, Jesus has special meaning and interpretation under the New Covenant.
for they will see God
That begs the question, who is the “God” being referred to by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel? Here’s the Greek word we read as God in this verse.
2316 θεός [theos /theh·os/] n m. Of uncertain affinity, a deity, especially (with 3588) the supreme Divinity; TDNT 3:65; TDNTA 322; GK 2536; 1343 occurrences; AV translates as “God” 1320 times, “god” 13 times, “godly” three times, “God-ward + 4214” twice, and translated miscellaneously five times. 1 a god or goddess, a general name of deities or divinities. 2 the Godhead, trinity. 2A God the Father, the first person in the trinity. 2B Christ, the second person of the trinity. 2C Holy Spirit, the third person in the trinity. 3 spoken of the only and true God. 3A refers to the things of God. 3B his counsels, interests, things due to him. 4 whatever can in any respect be likened unto God, or resemble him in any way. 4A God’s representative or viceregent. 4A1 of magistrates and judges. 3)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Once again we see all the various ways God is presented in Scripture, including the three members of the Trinity. It doesn’t seem to be possible to really differentiate on the basis of the one word – God. That really does make sense though. God is one God. Yes, He presents Himself as a trinity. And yet, the Trinity is inseparable.
And if we go through the Old Testament, reading it in order, we see various characteristics of God introduced along the way. But these are descriptions of God’s character – faithful, loving, trustworthy, Etc. They are not different “gods”. It’s not like there’s a god of faith, a god of love, and a god of trust. No – all those characteristics, and more, are part of One God.
Where does this leave us? Blessed are the Pure in Heart
We can’t use the word God to tell us what’s going on here. So let’s turn to the heart. See if there are any differences between Old and New Covenants.
Doing the research for this has been interesting. And hard. Some of the things I found have the “correct” answers. You know – the simple ones? In fact, the overly simple ones. Too simple to actually be of value. Well, to simple to be of value without further explanation.
For instance, here’s one I came across. It’s correct, from a certain point of view. I’ll explain that “point of view” comment in a moment.
The following beatitude blesses the pure in heart (Matt. 5:8). Psalm 24:3–4 describes a pure heart as the requirement for standing in God’s holy presence. The Old Testament spoke often of ritual or cultic purity. To describe purity as a matter of the heart means that it deals with the intentions or the will of a person. The pure in heart are those whose motives or intentions are unmixed. The promise of these people is that they will see God. Exodus 33:11 states, “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” Thus seeing God describes intimate relationship with Him. 4)Hahn, R. L. (2007). Matthew: a commentary for Bible students (p. 86). Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.
Let’s break that down and examine the thoughts in it.
Psalm 24:3–4 describes a pure heart as the requirement for standing in God’s holy presence.
Let’s look at the first six verses of Psalm 24, to get some context included with verses 3 and 4.
Of David. A psalm.
Ps 24:1 The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
Ps 24:2 for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.
Ps 24:3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
Ps 24:4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.
Ps 24:5 He will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God his Savior.
Ps 24:6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Yes, a pure heart is a requirement for standing in God’s presence.
Wait just a minute! Moses as an example of the pure in heart?
That all sounded really good. Well, except for the fact that, as Jesus points our, no one is good. No one has a pure heart. But even putting that aside, all of a sudden that excerpt didn’t sound good anymore. Clean hands and a pure heart are needed to ascend the hill of the LORD? Didn’t that first part of the quote put up Moses as an example when it said, The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend? Moses – pure heart? Maybe in the Sunday school version. But that’s not the way I remember reading Exodus.
Moses killed an Egyptian
Remember this? It’s the first thing we read about Moses as an adult.
Ex 2:11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”
Ex 2:14 The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”
Ex 2:15 When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well.
That doesn’t sound like a pure heart. Not only did Moses kill someone, but he ran away. That’s also not what’d we’d call “clean hands” today either.
Some years later, although in the very next chapter, we find that God is indeed talking to Moses. Not literally face to face. But talking.
Ex 3:1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
Ex 3:4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
Ex 3:5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
Ex 3:7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
Go figure. God – speaking to a man who murdered an Egyptian and then ran away rather than face punishment. Does that mean Moses had clean hands and a pure heart? Or are we missing something here?
Let’s keep going. Maybe we’ll figure this out.
The passage that follows comes immediately after the Burning Bush episode we just read.
Moses and the Burning Bush (part 2)
Ex 3:11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
Moses doesn’t seem exactly thrilled at the opportunity to do God’s work. It seems like someone with a pure heart should be jumping at the invitation.
Just a quick note on timing here. I’ve been trying to write this for the past month, but with no success. Nothing. Then last week I wrote a little thing titled, Don’t settle for less, #01: don’t speak negatively of yourself. It’s based on looking at secular success factors and applying them to a Christian. And all of a sudden, this one’s flowing quite nicely.
Look at Moses as a follower of God, even before the Old Covenant, since he was the one who received The Law from God. So Moses was not a follower of Jesus with the New Covenant – but still chosen by God. And Moses breaks the ultimate rule for success. He speaks so negatively about himself that he’s actually telling God that he’s not good enough for the job. Unbelievable, isn’t it? But then, don’t we do that all the time?
Ex 3:12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
Ex 3:13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
But then, even after God answers his question, Moses throws up another potential roadblock. This time he’s not quite sure that the people will be willing to follow him, even with God’s support. So Moses double check’s with God to find out His name. But not so much the name, as the power associated with that name. So yes, Moses is questioning God’s ability to come through.
Ex 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
Ex 3:15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.
Ex 3:16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’
Ex 3:18 “The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.
Ex 3:21 “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”
That was a rather long answer. And much more detailed than the apparently simple question Moses asked. In doing this, God answers the unasked question in Moses’ heart – God, can you really do this?
Question – is that an example of a pure heart? Is questioning God a characteristic of someone with a pure heart?
This doesn’t seem to be going well, but let’s keep moving along.
Ex 4:1 Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”
Even after that long explanation, Moses still has doubts. It appears that He’s worried the people won’t believe The LORD really spoke with Moses. But is that the real issue here? I’d say no. TO me, it looks more like God is, although not in so many words, calling God a liar. Did I just say that? Yes. Here’s why.
Remember something God told Moses in the previous passage. Ex 3:18 “The elders of Israel will listen to you”. Oops. Moses’ last question was already answered. I suspect we’d do well to try to remember what God tells us.
However, that’s easier said than done. There have been a few times in my life when I know I had “word” from God. You can read one of them in What’s next? – about me, March 2017 update. In that one, part of what I “heard” was “Don’t fight me on this one”. It was like God telling me not to do what I apparently usually did. Had I fought Him on that one, I wouldn’t be writing this today.
Anyway, I bring this up because it’s hard to think of having a pure heart when I’m fighting with God over whether or not to do something. Just as I feel when I read Moses fighting with God over what He was supposed to do. Except that Moses was on such an incredibly higher scale than anything I’ll be doing. But still, in spite of it all, and knowing that this was going to happen, God chose Moses.
Ex 4:2 Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.
Ex 4:3 The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.”
Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. 4 Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. 5 “This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”
Ex 4:6 Then the LORD said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was leprous, like snow.
Ex 4:7 “Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.
Ex 4:8 Then the LORD said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second. 9 But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.”
Although not necessary, God gives Moses some things to do and says If they do not believe you or pay attention. As if God doesn’t know what’s going to happen already. This is for Moses’ sake. To try to put an end to the stream of reasons why Moses can’t do this thing.
If anything, Moses’ heart is looking less and less pure all the time. Although, I have to like the fact that Moses expresses his doubts to God. We’re often told that we shouldn’t doubt. That it shows a lack of faith. But maybe it’s part of a growing faith? And if the questions aren’t asked, how can we grow? And to extend that thought just a bit, could it also be a sign of a heart becoming more pure, rather than showing just how impure it is? Let’s see.
Ex 4:10 Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
Wow. Talk about speaking negatively of ourselves. Even to the point where we’re useless to God. After all he’s seen, does Moses not yet realize that God can deal with any speech problem Moses might have? To borrow an answer from Jesus to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees in John 7:53-8:11 – anyone who has never doubted God is welcome to say that Moses was wrong for doubting that he could pull this off.
Ex 4:11 The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
God points out to Moses what we just saw. God can take care of this problem as well.
Ex 4:13 But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”
Uh oh. Moses is down to the real issue now. The one we often get to straight away. We tell God, “Not me. Send someone else who can do it better. I’m useless.” There’s that negative speaking thing again. But God will have none of it.
Ex 4:14 Then the LORD’S anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. 15 You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. 16 He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. 17 But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.”
Oops. Then the LORD’S anger burned against Moses. Moses seems to have gone too far here. And yet, maybe not.
The funny part here, although Moses may not have thought so, is that Aaron is already on his way. God knew this was going to happen. And before this conversation even started, God has His plan in motion to take care of every one of Moses’ concerns.
It’s like – what’s going on here. Moses seems so far from pure. But God insists that Moses is His guy for the job. And even though it reached this point, God already took steps to ensure that Moses would be His guy. That the job will be done. His way.
OK – anyone familiar with what happened during the Exodus knows that this was just the beginning. Moses got upset. Aaron led the people in making a false idol from gold. Neither was pure. But we also know, the people made it to the promised land. Well, almost.
If you happened to survive reading Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, then you know this comes at the end of the final book authored by Moses.
Dt 34:1 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, 2 all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3 the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. 4 Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”
Dt 34:5 And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. 6 He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. 8 The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.
Dt 34:9 Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses.
Dt 34:10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
So Moses, who God used to lead His people out from under captivity of Pharaoh, got to see the Promised Land. However, he also never set foot in it. Was that the price he paid for all that stuff we looked at? Not to mention the grumblings, hitting the rock when he wasn’t supposed to, and on and on?
You may also remember that Moses never actually, literally, saw God.
Ex 33:12 Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
Ex 33:14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Ex 33:15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
Ex 33:17 And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Ex 33:18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
Ex 33:19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
Ex 33:21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
Or did Moses see God? Not in the Old Testament times. But what about this event?
9:28-36 pp — Mt 17:1-8; Mk 9:2-8
Lk 9:28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31 appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)
Lk 9:34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.
The answer to whether or not Moses saw God gets messy, doesn’t it? Remember, we have all those different possibilities for what the Hebrew and Greek words for God represented. Any member of the Trinity. Any one member of the Trinity, whatever that actually means. Jesus and the Father are one. The Holy Spirit is the mind of Christ. Very messy.
And then, to make things even harder to get a grasp of, we have something John wrote at the beginning of his Gospel.
Jn 1:18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
So with these God inspired words, John tells us no one has ever seen God. And that statement is especially convincing, since the Greek word John uses is the same Greek word Jesus used when He said, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
And yet, if Moses had never seen God, how can this be explained:
17:1-8 pp — Lk 9:28-36
17:1-13 pp — Mk 9:2-13
Mt 17:1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Mt 17:4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Mt 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Mt 17:6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
Mt 17:9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Mt 17:10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
Mt 17:11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
Leave it to Matthew, the Jewish author, to include more details that would be important to a Jewish reader. And to us today.
When we piece together the details from Matthew and Luke, we see that Peter, James and John were freaked out over what they saw on the mountain. But Moses and Elijah were just calmly talking with Jesus. Clearly, they weren’t scared by what was happening at the event we call the Transfiguration. If I saw that, I think I’d be right there with the disciples. So it appears that, at some level, Moses “saw” God. Before this event. Before all of a sudden showing up on a mountain with Jesus and Elijah. And while the cloud hiding God wasn’t new to Moses, the voice saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”, likely was a new experience.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God – what does pure mean?
Believe it or not, we are making progress here. I still believe it’ll all come together. But first, let’s examine the word “pure”. And while we’re at it, we need to also look at “heart”. After all, the two are inseparable in the way Jesus used them.
2588 καρδία [kardia /kar·dee·ah/] n f. Prolonged from a primary kar (Latin, cor, “heart”); TDNT 3:605; TDNTA 415; GK 2840; 160 occurrences; AV translates as “heart” 159 times, and “broken hearted + 4937” once. 1 the heart. 1A that organ in the animal body which is the centre of the circulation of the blood, and hence was regarded as the seat of physical life. 1B denotes the centre of all physical and spiritual life. 2A the vigour and sense of physical life. 2B the centre and seat of spiritual life. 2B1 the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavours. 2B2 of the understanding, the faculty and seat of the intelligence. 2B3 of the will and character. 2B4 of the soul so far as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions. 1C of the middle or central or inmost part of anything, even though inanimate. 5)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Here are the words we should be looking at from the various possibilities. Center of spiritual life. Soul or mind. Seat of thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors. Seat of intelligence, will and character. And maybe especially of the soul so far as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good. Maybe that list makes sense to you now. But maybe not. If not yet, it should soon. I think we’ve seen some clues as to where this is going, this blessed are the pure in heart. But it’s not quite complete yet.
2513 καθαρός [katharos /kath·ar·os/] adj. Of uncertain affinity; TDNT 3:413; TDNTA 381; GK 2754; 28 occurrences; AV translates as “pure” 17 times, “clean” 10 times, and “clear” once. 1 clean, pure. 1A physically. 1A1 purified by fire. 1A2 in a similitude, like a vine cleansed by pruning and so fitted to bear fruit. 1B in a levitical sense. 1B1 clean, the use of which is not forbidden, imparts no uncleanness. 1C ethically. 1C1 free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt. 1C2 free from every admixture of what is false, sincere genuine. 1C3 blameless, innocent. 1C4 unstained with the guilt of anything. Additional Information: For synonyms see entry 1506, eilikrines.See entry 5840 for comparison of synonyms. 6)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Yes – here’s more good stuff. Clean. Purified by fire – really big clue. Cleansed by pruning. Fit to bear fruit. Are you catching on? Those should all sound familiar to a Christian. And even for the Old Covenant, there’s the part about the levitical sense.
Just to be sure, here are some of the New Testament references to explain what I chose for the word “pure”.
Clean / cleansed
Lk 17:11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
Lk 17:14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
Lk 17:15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Lk 17:17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Jesus healed ten men of leprosy. In the levitical sense, all ten of them were cleansed. Physically healed. Ceremonially clean. And yet, in the New Covenant sense, only one of the ten was saved. Only one of the ten was made pure. We’ll find out shortly what that means. Just keep it in mind as we proceed.
Jn 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Jesus is the vine. The Father is the gardener. Any branch that doesn’t bear fruit is cut off the tree. But the ones who do bear fruit, He prunes, so they’ll bear even more fruit. There’s something about that which seems painful. Those who bear fruit are pruned. But it’s so we can bear even more fruit.
That’s why I have a problem with those who say becoming a Christian will lead to a good life, where good means successful in the way of the rest of the world. Jesus never said that. Here, among other places, He says pretty much the opposite. Anyone who follows Him will be pruned. Not for pain. Not to be mean. But to enable us to follow Him ever more closely. To become more Christlike. More pure.
Jn 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
This is close to a denominational issue – whether or not we can lose salvation. We bear fruit, as long as we follow Jesus. Without Him, we cannot produce any fruit – cannot do anything for the kingdom of God. The question is what happens if we stop bearing fruit. Clearly, the end result isn’t good. Thrown into the fire. Not a purifying fire, but the fire of the second death. Hell.
As to whether or not salvation is lost – maybe it’s a case of we never really had it in the first place.
Jn 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”
Here.s Jesus tells us how to remain in Him. How to continue to bear fruit. But knowing that we’ll be pruned from time to time, Jesus still says that this is how our joy can be complete.
All of this is a huge step towards understanding Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Given the process, this clearly isn’t pure the way we normally think of it. Neither is it heart the way we normally think of it. It’s becoming what I’ve previously written about – a grown-again Christian. But just born-again. But continually growing. Becoming more and more Christlike. More pure in heart.
Purified by fire
If pruning wasn’t drastic enough for you, let’s look at fire.
To see what it means and when it’s needed, consider the Letter to the Church in Laodicea, in Revelation.
Rev 3:14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Rev 3:19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
Rev 3:21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Keep in mind, most of the time fire is referenced in the Bible it’s about destruction. However, it’s also used in reference to the Holy Spirit. As in baptism by fire. But the reference in this letter is to people who are very close to the fire of destruction. And it seems the only thing that’s going to help them is the fire of the Holy Spirit. Pruning is for those who are following Jesus already. But these people aren’t following Him. We can assume this church was, at some point, following Jesus. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a church. But they seem to have stopped.
And so Jesus tells them to buy from me gold refined in the fire. If they choose to do so, they will also be refined in the spiritual fire of God.
Christ has an antidote for their problem. If this church is desirous of riches, Christ will sell them a refined gold so that they can become rich (3:18. But the fire that refines this gold is probably associated with a more difficult life than they would seek for themselves. The refining process usually requires intense persecution and suffering, but from this will come a reward more enduring than economic gain.
As I said, this is more than just pruning. This is a major rework. It reminds me more of grafting. Adding a branch from another tree. But in this case, grafting in the Holy Spirit. Remember – the Holy Spirit is the mind of Christ, so it’s accomplishing exactly what’s needed for us to bear fruit for Him. Then we need to allow that branch to grow stronger and stronger. Eventually, if we stay with it, the old branches, our own seat of thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors (from the meaning of the Greek word for heart) can be replaced with those from the Holy Spirit. This is the process of becoming more pure.
The Christian people at Laodicea could have answered Christ with a sense of incredibility. After all, this church was not skirting with doctrinal heresies or involving itself in overt idolatry. Their worst confession before God is that they do not need a thing (3:17). To Christ’s ears this is even more repulsive than if the Laodiceans were apostate. Being self-sufficient is the most grievous of idolatries because it is worship of the self. Those churches that claim to have everything lack the most important ingredient to ecclesial success: dependence on Christ. They have taken no risks; they have banked on their full accounts and resources.
Laodicea is the only of the seven churches to receive no credit for any good virtue. Even the church of Sardis, who had a reputation for being alive but Christ called “dead,” had within it a remnant of faithful that could be strengthened. The church at Laodicea was not a mixture of hot and cold, faithful and unfaithful, but was made up of a bland constituency of cultured Christianity. Christ’s taste buds are repulsed by such food. But even this church is given a chance to change. Christ will not only enjoy the after taste of this converted church, but He will invite them to eat with Him and to experience the feast of the overcomers. 7)Eckley, R. K. (2006). Revelation: a commentary for Bible students (pp. 81–82). Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.
This church and its people could have been cut down and thrown into the fire of death. But God’s love gives even them the opportunity to turn back to Him. t’s the very thing Jesus spoke of in a parable about a fig tree that bore no fruit.
Lk 13:1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Lk 13:6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
Lk 13:8 “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”
Kind of amazing, isn’t it. Even when we get to the point where we don’t care one way or the other about God anymore, He’ll do something to give us a wake-up call. Here’s something David wrote, even back under the Old Covenant.
Ps 25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
Ps 25:2 in you I trust, O my God.
Do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
These are words that would be spoken by someone who truly tries to follow God. For David, it was YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For Christians, that’s something we would likely say. Should say, even. Especially the part about “in you I trust, O my God“. Sure, we’d probably use more modern words. But it’s the thought behind the words that counts. They show that we are / were at least part way towards wanting to be more Christlike. More pure.
I think it’s worth noting though, these words would not be spoken by someone who never even tried to follow Jesus. At least, not with any real meaning behind them.
Ps 25:3 No one whose hope is in you
will ever be put to shame,
but they will be put to shame
who are treacherous without excuse.
This is a very Old Covenant kind of thought. Shame was thought of as something to be avoided in their own lifetime. The immediate reward and punishment kind of Old Testament thinking.
Today, for Christians, we know from the New Testament that shame probably will come in this life. It’s the complete lack of shame in the next life that’s what we look forward to.
I also want to point out, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. I mentioned that someone who was trying to follow Jesus should have said or thought words along the lines of verse 2. Also that someone who never tried to follow Jesus would not have said them.
However, that doesn’t mean someone who never even tried to follow Jesus is without excuse. You may remember something Paul wrote. I’m including the entire passage for context and deeper understanding, but pay attention to verse 20.
Ro 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Ro 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Ro 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Ro 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Ro 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
What we have in that passage is a progression. It starts with the evidence of God, being present since the beginning of creation, that should have been seen by everyone. And yet, it’s not. Not because it isn’t obvious, but because many people simply choose not to see it. In this fallen world, Satan is just able to make us look the other way, misinterpret what we see, not believe what we see, Etc.
From there the progression of how we fall away from God and what that ultimately means is laid out. The final one is interesting: Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. So we move from denying God, to approving of others who also deny God. In essence, becoming one who teaches that denial of God is a good thing. And that the acts which follow from denying God are also good.
In the end, literally and figuratively, this passage shows the differences between someone needing pruning or versus purifying fire, as opposed to someone who will end up being like the tree that is chopped down and then burned in a destroying fire.
The first one, the one who is pruned, is the one who is referred to when Jesus says, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
The second one, the one who receives the purifying fire, might also be in that group. It depends on how they react to it. Remember, they have turned away from God. The question is whether they will return. Or not.
And the third one? Well, see verse 12 below. It’s a passage about John the Baptist, and things he said before Jesus began His ministry. It covers all three of the cases we just looked at.
3:1-12 pp — Mk 1:3-8; Lk 3:2-17
Mt 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ ”
Mt 3:4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
Mt 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
Mt 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Given what we just saw, let’s consider the rest of this Psalm as words and thoughts that should come from a Christian wanting to go through the pruning process. And maybe from what we’d call a lapsed Christian who decides to return to God and go through the refining fire.
Ps 25:4 Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
Ps 25:5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Honestly, this is something we should be doing pretty much all the time. I know some people who at least claim to be Christian, and maybe they are very beginning Christians even though they’ve been going to church for decades, who say they don’t want to ask this question. They know the list will be long, and don’t want to hear it.
I have to say, to me that’s not a sign of a mature / growing Christian. We really should do this.
In fact, David has an entire Psalm dedicated to this one thought. You can read about it in Search me, know my heart, test me. It looks at Psalm 139 as the primary source, but also a number of other Psalms to provide supporting thoughts and practices from David on this topic.
Ps 25:6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Ps 25:7 Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.
This one is a big hint as to where this blessed are the pure in heart is going. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways. And not just the sins of his youth. The ones from when he was older as well. And the same for us.
In a moment, we going to look at just one verse from Psalm 103, which will add more to this thought.
Ps 25:8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
Think pruning. The Holy Spirit. And if necessary, refining fire.
Ps 25:9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
Ps 25:10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
for those who keep the demands of his covenant.
As always, David includes praise for God. Even when everything else in a Psalm is questioning God, like where are you when I need you, praise is always there. Always. As it should be for anyone who truly tries to follow Jesus. I know – it’s not. Been there, done that. But it should be.
Ps 25:11 For the sake of your name, O LORD,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
A request. Yet one David has already said God will do. This is a sign of someone with a heart that is growing pure. Obviously, it isn’t. Wasn’t. And yet, he still does this.
Ps 25:12 Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD?
He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.
Ps 25:13 He will spend his days in prosperity,
and his descendants will inherit the land.
Once again, we need to be aware of the differences between Old and New Covenant promises. For us today, it’s primarily about the next life. However, as we’ve seen in the previous beatitudes, there are beginnings of the benefits even in this life.
Ps 25:14 The LORD confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
Ps 25:15 My eyes are ever on the LORD,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
Of course, if we really had a 100% pure heart, our eyes would forever be on the LORD. However, just as David’s eyes were on Bathsheba instead of God, our eyes also wander. And yet, we can end up being pure in heart.
Ps 25:16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Ps 25:17 The troubles of my heart have multiplied;
free me from my anguish.
Here are David’s pleas for God to be gracious. Although there’s no way to verify the timing of this, many think it is from after David committed adultery with Bathsheba.
Ps 25:18 Look upon my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
Ps 25:19 See how my enemies have increased
and how fiercely they hate me!
Ps 25:20 Guard my life and rescue me;
let me not be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
A return to the original thought on shame. I take refuge in you is very much like us today saying that we lift up our troubles to God. The thing is, just as David really did take refuge in God, we really need to actually give our troubles to God. For more on that, please see The problem of “handing it over to God”.
Ps 25:21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope is in you.
Ps 25:22 Redeem Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!
The ending is so indicative of David’s character. After everything he said, all the stuff he was leading for, he still closes with Redeem Israel, O God, from all their troubles! Of course, he has no small part to play in their troubles if this as after the thing with Bathsheba. But still, we should remember to pray for others, not just ourselves. It’s part of another progression – the progression of a growing Christian, as evidenced throughout this series on the Beatitudes.
One verse from Psalm 103
Ps 103:12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
That, of course, was accomplished by Jesus.
Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
Blessed are the pure in heart – what pure means
Now, finally, you should see what pure is really about. It’s certainly not that we’re 100% pure in heart. Not in this life. As we all know, if that was the requirement, we’d all fail.
No, pure is about this:
5:8 “pure in heart” Our attitudes are crucial. Priorities are equally crucial (cf. Heb. 12:14). From Ps. 24:4 and 73:1, “pure” can mean (1) single-minded, (2) focused or (3) cleansed (cf. Heb. 12:14). This term was used in the OT for ritual washings. Notice the focus is on the heart, the center of mankind’s being, not the intellect or ritual actions. 8)Utley, R. J. (2000). The First Christian Primer: Matthew (Vol. Volume 9, p. 38). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.
That should sound really familiar. It goes back to the things we looked at when Jesus spoke of being pure in heart. Not the English words. The Greek ones. The ones where the people living in Jesus’ time understood the things we just spent all this time looking at.
Unfortunately, for us today, too many people actually think they, or their friends and loved ones, are “good”. Even though Christians all know that Jesus said, “No one is good—except God alone”. And then, somehow, we seem to think we can be pure in heart as well.
No – we cannot. Just like David wasn’t, we aren’t either. However, that wasn’t the requirement. Thee short passage below is. It comes from the Old Testament. Saul has made a big time mistake, He went off to war without consulting with God first. It’s now Samuel’s task to tell Saul that God is replacing him – with David.
1Sa 13:13 “You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’S command.”
No, David didn’t do the Bathsheba thing yet. But the all-knowing God certainly knew what was coming. However, the gracious all-knowing God also knew that in spite of the adultery and the murder, David was still someone who was after God’s own heart.
And that’s the key. Being after God’s own heart. Wanting, truly wanting to be Christlike.
You hopefully notice that I often make a distinction between someone who claims to be a Christian and someone who truly is. Who really tries to follow Jesus’ teachings. Various words to that extent. That distinction is, I have to believe, extremely important.
It’s that distinction which determines where our hearts are. Or, as David put it, where our eyes are. Yes, our hearts and eyes wander. But where do they focus on most of the time? Where are they when we are at that “center” of who we are?
In terms of what we looked at earlier, are we someone who wants to be pruned? To be more centered on Jesus? To bear more fruit?
Or, are we someone who needs that refining fire? Someone who used to care about Jesus and what He taught, but no longer does?
And if you’re someone who never cared before, and you’re still reading this, maybe that’s a sign that you really do want to care? That it’s time to reach out to Him, and become a follower of Jesus.
Conclusion – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God
I think we can wrap this up now. There’s another parable Jesus told that does this. We’ll use the one from Matthew’s gospel, since it has more detail than the others.
13:1-15 pp — Mk 4:1-12; Lk 8:4-10
13:16, 17 pp — Lk 10:23, 24
13:18-23 pp — Mk 4:13-20; Lk 8:11-15
Mt 13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
Mt 13:10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
Mt 13:11 He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
Mt 13:14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
Remember, we looked at this with the Romans passage on the wrath of God. We see, but we don’t really understand.
Mt 13:15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
We need to understand, but not with just our brains. Not just with our intellect. Yes, those things are important and they were given to us by God. And yes, Jesus told us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. But the kind of understanding that comes up here is understanding from the heart. From “knowledge” that comes from the heart of God. Just as it was with David. Just as it can be with us.
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
So blessed are those who can “see” and “hear” with their hearts. Because they do so via the heart of God. A pure heart. Corrupted in our hearts in this fallen world, but pure from the Source.
And finally, the different types of people:
Mt 13:18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:
19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
This is represented by the tree that is cut down, and thrown into the fire. There’s no understanding at all. We all have a choice that’s somewhat on a parallel with Adam and Eve. The rest of creation doesn’t hang on our decision. But our own souls do. We can choose to follow Jesus. Or to follow Satan. And a choice to try to not choose? That’s a choice against Jesus, and therefore one for Satan.
20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.
This is one way to end up in the condition of the church in Laodicea. One way to be a person who requires the refining fire. Someone right on the edge of the wrong fire. This is where our hearts ore centered not on God, but on our troubles and persecution. The really sad part of this one is the possibility, maybe even likelihood, that the troubles and persecution come because we receive the word with joy.
Maybe not the right kind of joy. Not the fruit of The Spirit joy from God, but maybe the joy of just being with people.
One other possibility is this:
1Co 10:1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
A warning from the Old Testament times. Very much like the seed that fell in the rocky places. This is just one reason why it’s important for Christians to read and study the Old Testament. It’s that old saying – those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it.
1Co 10:6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
And Paul goes on to give more warnings. To let us know of more things that will try to get attention from our eyes and hearts. Anything to take our center away from God.
1Co 10:11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
This is the saddest part when it comes to the troubles and persecution that we go through because we’re Christian. Yes, God allows these things to happen. It’s part of the pruning process. And when needed, part of the purifying fire referenced in Revelation. But look what it says:
13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
We are not alone. We aren’t the first ones to go through whatever it may be. If we’re in a Christian community where people are willing to share their experiences, including the troubles – and where it’s safe for others to share what they’re going through – that can be a big part of our ability to stand up under what’s happening to us. But somehow, someway, something is available to us.
The question is – where is our heart? Will we run to God? Or will we try to deal with it ourselves? Or even embrace the troubles, and fall ever deeper into them.
22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.
Another way to fall into the condition of the church in Laodicea. Once again, it’s a matter of the focus of our hearts. If it’s the things of this life, we’re doomed.
23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
Fruit. The key to seeing whether or not we understand and where our focus is. And the thing that points to a heart that’s after God’s own heart. A heart that isn’t pure of its own account, but will be seen by God as pure, because that’s part of His grace.
And that’s what a pure heart is about. It’s about God. The center of our focus. The desire of our heart. Wanting what’s pure, even when we ourselves aren’t.
What about they will see God?
Am I going to tell you what “see God” means?
Actually, no. I’m not. How can I?
I do believe we’ll see God in one of two fashions. One for those whose hearts are focused on the things of this world. And another for those whose hearts are focused on God. Just like there will be two judgments. One for non-believers and one for believers. And just like there will be two reasons why every knee will bow before God. One because it’s forced.
And the other because we know it’s the right thing to do. After all that God has done for us, there’s nothing we can do to make up for it. And it’s not expected. But still, there’s just a sense of absolute amazement, awe, gratitude, thankfulness, and so many other feelings. How can we not bow before Him? Of course, I’m also hoping for a hug, and a “well done”.
Hope to see you there as well.
References [ + ]
|1, 2, 3, 5, 6.||↑||Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.|
|4.||↑||Hahn, R. L. (2007). Matthew: a commentary for Bible students (p. 86). Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.|
|7.||↑||Eckley, R. K. (2006). Revelation: a commentary for Bible students (pp. 81–82). Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.|
|8.||↑||Utley, R. J. (2000). The First Christian Primer: Matthew (Vol. Volume 9, p. 38). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.|