“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”
Beatitude may seem to be a plea for moral or ethical purity, its meaning goes
far beyond that. In contrast to the
approach of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, it emphasizes the inner life.
The Pharisees called attention to outward behavior.
Our Lord said they performed their righteousness before men.
Their reward was to be seen by men as remarkable examples of piety and
holiness, regardless of what was in their hearts (Matthew 6:5; Luke 18:10-14).
Jesus contrasts the pure in heart with those Pharisees. He says the true motives of the pure in heart are inward, “in heart,” and consequently known only to God. They are committed in faith to the doing of God’s will. In the power of the Spirit, they think not of personal benefit or gain.
But where is one pure in heart that does not think of some personal benefit or gain? Born in sin, none of us is so totally committed to God. We are by nature self-centered, not God-centered. Because of this inherited nature, we have no power within us to be pure or clean in heart. We are reminded of this as we examine our hearts in the light of God’s pure and holy Law. Consequently, we must cry out with the Apostle,
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good, I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no long I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being (heart) I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:18-24)
The classic example of this in the Bible is the affair that King David had with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his most loyal soldiers. David is God’s chosen king, filled with the Holy Spirit from the time of his anointing (1 Samuel 16:13), but instead of the voice of the Spirit David followed the inner desires of his sinful heart when he saw her from the balcony of his palace. Driven by sinful lust he called her to his house and slept with her. When she revealed her consequent pregnancy, he arranged for the death of Uriah in battle. When the prophet Nathan, David’s own spiritual advisor, confronted him with his deed David was unable to deny it. He had grievously sinned (2 Samuel 11,12; Psalm 51). As the Apostle Paul wrote a thousand years later, “another law” was at work in the members of David’s body, waging war against the law of his mind. He was not free from the enslaving power of sin. He had become again enslaved to it. Only the creative power of the living God could rescue him (Psalm 51:10).
Blessed are the Pure in Heart
Paul’s question is also our question: “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Because of our uncleanness, we are under judgment. The righteous wrath of God awaits us. Because of our sins, we shall surely die eternally, for death is the just reward for sin. Paul’s answer to his question is also our answer: “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 8:25).
In the above quoted passage notice the order in which Paul writes the words “Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jesus was our Lord’s earthly name, given to him by his parents. It points to the fact that our Lord, the divine Son of God, became a man from Nazareth so that he might do what we are unable to do. He was the only human who ever lived his life in total obedience to his heavenly Father. No one could accuse him of sinful motives or sinful deeds. He was the only one completely and radically free from the enslaving power of sin. He was entirely clean and pure in heart. He was Jesus, the Greek equivalent of the common Hebrew name Jo-shua, a name that means that the covenant LORD (JO = Yahweh) rescues and saves (shua) his people.
Jesus was also a descendant of the royal family of David and consequently destined by the promise of God to be Messiah or Christ, the anointed one who would restore peace, justice and righteousness forever (Isaiah 7 and 9). He was chosen by his heavenly Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power (Acts 10:38), so that he might fulfill that office by taking our place before the tribunal of God (Isaiah 53). In him, God condemned sin by judging Jesus guilty of the sins of all men. The Father did not spare his Son, but gave him up to death for us all (Romans 8:3,31-35).
Because he was the obedient Son, on the mountain of transfiguration the Father proudly proclaimed to the frightened disciples his blessing upon his Son, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:1-5). That blessing belongs only to Jesus, the Son of God. He alone is the “pure in heart.”
That blessing becomes ours when by faith we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). The image Paul uses is that of literally sinking into a garment. Since we are naked, helpless and unclean before God, Jesus becomes our clothing. We wear him and he makes us new. It is as if we had shed the dirty, worn-out rags of our past sin-filled lives and Jesus comes to clothe us with these fabulously expensive designer gowns and suits, especially prepared and fitted for us to wear to the most important banquet ever imagined in the history of all mankind. As we approach the door, we are welcomed in and ushered to seats at the head of the table, because we are members of the royal family. Because we “wear” Jesus, we are sons and daughters of God. Our Father sees us as “pure in heart” and welcomes us at his table. We are clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we wear these clothes, our inner lives change. We now correctly think of ourselves as children of the heavenly Father. Our attitude becomes the attitude of such children. Our concern now is to listen to our Father’s voice and do our Father’s will. We no longer think about how to gratify the desires of our sinful nature. That is part of the past, part of our yesterdays. Today we wear these new clothes. Today we are children of God. Today we want to carry out the plans our Father has for us. Today we want to love those we meet with the same love that the Father has shown to us in Jesus his Son.
All earthly distinctions now disappear as well. According to our sinful nature, we pride ourselves in being of a certain gender or race. We pride ourselves in being men rather than women, for instance. Or we are proud that we are black men rather than a white. We take pride in being Americans rather than a Russians. We pride ourselves in being men or women of action rather than people of meditation and thought. We are proud of our culture and look down on the culture of others. The distinctions go on and on. But when we wear Christ, they all disappear. Because we are God’s children, we are learning to love those around us even as we are loved, regardless of any sinful human differences. In Christ, we are all equally sinful and all equally chosen by God’s grace to become sons and daughters of God. In Christ, we are all heirs of the promises first given to our spiritual father Abraham. We are all the children of God. The Spirit of God’s Son lives in us all. Jesus is our banquet garment and together we cry out “Abba, dear Father, we love You” (Galatians 3:26-4:7).
For they will see God.
That is the blessing, but the fulfillment of it lies yet in the future. It is summarized in the clause “for they will see God.” To “see God” is to confront him, face to face, with nothing separating me from Him. To see God in this manner suggests that we gain a most intimate and personal knowledge of Him. We are His children and He is our Abba, our Papa. We come to know Him with all our senses and all our being. We see Him, feel Him, hear Him, taste Him, and touch Him. We know Him inwardly in the deepest recesses of our beings. Our souls and spirits become united to Him.
No one can or has seen God in this sense. We cannot bear the weight and awesome burden of such a vision. Moses spoke with God, face to face, but he only saw the form of the Lord. The Lord revealed himself to Moses in visions and in dreams, as well as on Mount Sinai in both a burning bush and in the terrible cloud (Numbers 12:3-8; Exodus 3:1-6; Exodus 19). He came down to speak with Moses in the Tent of Meeting. But even Moses could not deal with God’s holiness, that radical otherness, that purity of God.
Moses struggled to lead the people of Israel in the wilderness. In order to have the wisdom and strength to do that Moses prayed,
“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.’ 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.
“The Lord replied, “My Presence (Hebrew: face) will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
“Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from you. 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?” (Exodus 33:12 ff.)
Then Moses asked the Lord to show him his glory (Hebrew: properly weight). Moses asked, however, for more than he could bear, for to see the glory of God is to enter totally into His presence. It is to touch and be touched, to see and be seen, to know and be known by all that God is, His goodness, perfection, majesty, power, greatness, knowledge, wisdom and magnificence. Throughout the Bible God’s glory is partially experienced in the greatness of what He does in creation. It is experienced in the wonder of what He does in the history of mankind and particularly in the history of His chosen people. However, human experiences and human words describing these experiences can only hint at the full import of that glory. No one, not even Moses, can deal directly with God Himself in all His glory. To “see” God’s glory is to die, to cease to exist. The Lord said to Moses,
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. But, you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and
live” (Exodus 33:19-20).
Do not despair however, says the Old Testament prophet. There is comfort for us sin-enslaved people. “The glory of the Lord will be revealed and all mankind together will see it” (Isaiah 40:5). The New Testament follows up on the prophecy to proclaim that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14). By faith now we see that glory in Christ. He is the very image of God. By faith in Him we now see God. The veil is pulled back to reveal God’s endless mercy and forgiveness toward us sinners. That is the glory now revealed to us in Christ Jesus.
That glory changes us. The more we gaze into it,
the more it transforms and shapes our lives (2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6). Moment by
moment and day by day we are being transformed by it into the image of Christ.
We are being renewed. In Christ, we
have the promise that when He returns we will be raised from the dead and the
renewal will be completed. Sin and death will no longer be part of our future.
We will receive a glorified body like His. We will live in glory, filled with
His Spirit and seeing His glory and majesty forever (1 Corinthians 15:43; 2
Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:21).
Thus, the glory of God revealed in Christ Jesus is of primary importance in the life of the believer and in the life of the church, the community of faith. The believer considers himself called to do everything to the glory of God. He may no longer gauge his motives from his own standpoint. He is obliged to do everything to glorify God who has so graciously revealed himself in his Son (1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1). His concern is not merely for his own well-being, but rather for the good of others. He bears with the failings of those weak in the faith. He seeks to build up his neighbor in the faith. He pursues unity in all his relationships. In all these ways, he shows that Christ lives in him and is shining through his words and his deeds (Romans 15:1-7).
So, it may be said that the blessing both rests upon us believers in the present and will be fulfilled in the future. By faith in Jesus Christ, we are even now pure in heart. By faith in Christ, we see God’s grace and mercy toward us. By faith in Christ, we strive to bring glory to God in all we do. By faith in Christ we have certain hope that we will share in his glory. That glory revealed to us in Jesus Christ is renewing the image of God in us. Our basic nature is being changed. God’s glory in Christ is preparing us for the day when Christ will return to complete the renewal. On that day we will see God and rejoice in his presence forever.
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