Summary: Deals with the first part of "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
THE WAY OF THE KING
A Pure Heart
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Mt. 5:8).
Religion majors on externals to the neglect of more important issues. It deals with rules, regulations and ceremonies.
This was condemned by God through the pen of Isaiah. He wrote: "The Lord says: ’These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men’" (Isaiah 29:13).
The teachers of the law were precise in their tithing of spices, but neglected justice, mercy and faithfulness. Jesus said of them, “You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Mt. 23:23-24).
Luke tells us that the Pharisees chided Jesus because he did not go through the ceremonial washings before eating. (See Lu 11:37-38)
Although the priests were commanded to wash their hands before going into the presence of the Lord, lest they die, the Pharisees had taken it beyond God’s intent. They had instituted a hand washing ceremony that had no basis in the Law and had in fact become a substitute for heart purity.
In 1Timothy 2:8, Paul used the figure of clean hands when he wrote: "I want men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension." In his statement Paul rejects ritual that is void of reality. Hands that have been lifted against a brother in anger should not be lifted to God in prayer until they have been cleansed.
Paul’s statement to Timothy was probably borrowed from Isaiah, who declared:
Isaiah 1:15-16 (NASB)
15“So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. 16“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil."
Hands speak of external observable actions. They are lifted in prayer and worship and extended in service, but it is the thoughts and intents of the heart that determine the value of those actions. Jesus said:
NIV Matthew 15:18 …the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ’unclean.’ 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
NIV Matthew 12:34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
The condition of our hands, whether they are clean or not, is determined by the condition of our heart, not ceremonial washing. If I hate my brother, no amount of washing my hands will make them clean . The outward sins that defile the hands are rooted in the inward sins that defile the heart. Jeremiah told the people of Israel, "Wash your heart from evil, O Jerusalem, that you may be delivered" (Jer. 4:14).
God exhorts us to do more than merely modify our behavior. He calls us to deal with the attitudes, intents and motivations of our hearts.