The Old Testament gave rule after rule with regards to what it takes to come into the presence of a HOLY GOD. The “holiness code” in Leviticus emphasized that humans cannot come into the presence of a holy God, as to do so would be dangerous to the person who came to close. (Consider the story of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 and their failure to reverence God in the fire they offered.)
Some have compared the idea of coming close to the HOLY GOD as to coming close to the sun. The sun gives us light, and warmth – but if there was a way to get in a space ship and fly to the sun, the sun would obliterate the spaceship as it drew closer. In like manner, when sinful man comes into the presence of the HOLY GOD, he would be destroyed because of his holiness. As the sun provides light and heat and what we need; so God provides us with life and good and what we need. But, because we are sinners, we could not stand in his presence.
As we examine how man approached God in the Old Testament, we see that after man sinned, God instituted sacrifice. Before sin, man and God had a relationship with one another. But when man sinned, the relationship was broken. It took the blood of an innocent animal for man to come into God’s presence. The blood “covered” the sin of man where man could come into God’s presence.
Hence, God taught that the Israelites could not come into his presence if they ate certain kinds of food, or had touched a dead body, or . . . He wanted man to think about themselves and God. He wanted them to recognize the importance of OBEYING WHAT GOD said – He also wanted them to make them holy – OUTWARDLY AND INWARDLY!
Isaiah in Isaiah 6 came into the presence of God in his “throne room,” and a coal of fire was placed on his lips, purifying him. Hence, Isaiah was not destroyed. We can see the correlation to the coal of fire and purification, as fire “purifies.”
When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, he started with the Beatitudes, and emphasized, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This comes after being poor in spirit, after mourning, after living a life of meekness (quiet strength), after hungering and thirsting after righteousness, after showing mercy. The pure in heart shall see God. To see God we must desire to be holy as God is holy.
It does not boil down to watching what we eat – it boils down to who we are! Purity in heart is THE fundamental quality of our service to God. Even if we obey God perfectly, but do not have the right heart, we will displease him.
“Pure” in the Bible comes from two Greek words. The first word, “hagnos,” means that which is pure and clean. It means that which is free from condemnation. Paul told Timothy to “keep yourself pure.” (1 Timothy 5:22).
The second Greek word is katharos – used 27 times in the New Testament. It signifies that which is clean, or which has been cleansed and free from contamination. It describes physical things, as well as spiritual (a cleansed conscience 2 Timothy 1:3; a pure heart in 1 Peter 1:22).
“Heart” in the Bible suggests that which is most important. As our physical heart must beat for us to live; our “heart” is the inner person, the seat of emotions, thoughts, attitudes and will. Consider Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks in his hearts, so is he.” In Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life.” In David’s prayer of forgiveness in Psalms 51:6 and 10 he knows that God desires truth “in the inward parts,” and he asks God to “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount attacked the outward righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, who went through the motions but whose heart was not right in the sight of God. (Matthew 5:17-20). He tells those who heard him that day that they (and we) must be better than that!
How do we obtain this pure heart? It is through the blood of Jesus. We come into contact with the blood of Jesus at baptism when we are baptized into his death (Romans 6:1-6). I am cleansed from my sins by His blood; purified by his blood, when I obey God’s commands. Holiness, then, is a goal for which each of us must stretch in our daily walk. Purity in heart is a constant challenge for the Christian who lives in this world.
I must strive to serve God daily – 2 Timothy 2:21-22 says, “ Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but PURSUE RIGHTEOUSNESS, FAITH, LOVE, PEACE WITH THOSE WHO CALL ON THE LORD OUT OF A PURE HEART.”
MORE NEXT WEEK!