During his “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus made several pronouncements. For those whose characters were of a particular quality, he declared a specific state of being.
One of those statements was: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matt. 5:8 NIV). And what believer doesn’t want to see God? Since our goal is to be close to the Lord, the meaning of this statement is important to understand.
What does it mean to be pure in heart? What does it mean to see God? Do we do it physically with our natural eyes? Or is there more to it? Also, what does it mean to be blessed, and how do we attain this state of blessing? We’ll try to answer these questions and more in this post.
As always, we’ll start by breaking down our key verse, so we can rebuild it with more clarity. So, again, our key verse, Matthew 5:8, NIV, version reads:
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
I want to start by looking at the word pure. The word pure comes from the Greek word katharos (καθαρός) which means “cleanse,” “purify,” “purge,” or to be “free of mixture.” Considering it in terms of snow is a good way to understand this.
For example, before it becomes defiled by mixing and mingling with our dirt and trash, snow is a brilliant white. When it first falls from above it is pure, as it is of one substance. In order to be considered pure, it must be free of any mixture.
Next, we have the word heart, or kardia in Greek. The “heart” in Scripture deals with feelings, emotions, thinking, reasoning, and decision-making.
What’s interesting is that, in ancient times, people believed that human emotion and thought came from the heart organ. Therefore, in Scripture and other ancient writings, the word heart frequently refers to the mind.
Only later did it become clear that the above activities originate from the head, not the chest. Consequently, we should understand that love doesn’t come from the heart, but it’s a mind thing.
In this way, it’s easier to understand that love is a decision which requires action, instead of just an emotion. As followers of Christ, we are to love God with all our being and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Our decision to love God is made by observing and obeying his Word, and our decision to love others is determined by doing for them what we would like for them to do for us (Lk. 6:31; Mk. 12:31; Lev. 19:17-18). A pure heart, true faith, and a good conscience lead to love (1 Tim. 1:5) which is our goal in this life (Matt. 22:6-40).
Continuing on, the Greek word optanomai (ὀπτάνομαι) is translated here as see which can mean “behold”, “perceive”, “observe”, or “always keep in sight.” This can refer to seeing or perceiving something mentally or spiritually rather than physically.
Lastly, let’s examine the word blessed. Blessed, translated from the Greek word makarios (μακάριος) simply means “happy” or “content.” It can also refer to prosperity.
So, thus far, what we have is: “Happy, or content are those whose minds are pure because they will see, or perceive God.”
Now, let’s go back and ponder the true meaning of the word pure in this verse now that we have all of that in place. To help us out, let’s meditate on these related Scriptures:
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.[a] 5 They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob. (Ps. 24:3-6 NIV)
How good God is to Isra’el, to those who are pure in heart! (Ps. 73:1)
“‘Observe my regulations.“‘Don’t let your livestock mate with those of another kind, don’t sow your field with two different kinds of grain, and don’t wear a garment of cloth made with two different kinds of thread. (Lev. 9:19 CJB)
19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh (Ezek. 11:19 NIV) (The CJB reads “unity of heart” instead of “undivided heart.”)
Based on what we’ve discussed so far, I believe it’s safe to say that the word pure in Matthew 5:8 means “free from mixture.” In other words, to be cleansed and free of idol worship and syncretism, which is mixing the worship of other gods and idols with the one true God, which provoked the Lord to anger and led to the destruction of many Israelites.
It is adultery and betrayal against God to practice idolatry, and he will not continue to tolerate it. The only true God, the God of Abraham and Jesus Christ, is the supreme being and Creator of the universe, and we are to acknowledge and worship him as such. Since he alone deserves this worship, he is not going to share it, or his glory with anyone else (Is. 42:8), neither should he. It all belongs to him.
So, those whose minds are pure, being free from the mixture, or defilement, of idol worship and the worship of false gods, and whose thoughts are fixed on the Lord, are kept in perfect peace because they trust in him (Is. 26:3).
Due to their wholehearted faith in his power and character, they can take him at his word. Therefore, they are happy, content, or blessed.
And since he’s loyal to those who are loyal to him, he blesses them for their faithfulness (Deut. 7:9). When we submit to the Lord, we abide in him and he abides in us. Having been cleansed from all unrighteousness, we are given a new start and a new heart — one that is able to love and serve the Lord wholeheartedly.
Therefore, we can conclude that in Matthew 5:8, Jesus was proclaiming or deeming happy those who are loyal to God, who are not double-minded or divided in their hearts, but seek his face, or blessing. And it’s those who search for him diligently with all their hearts, leaving no room for false gods and idols, that will find him.
They will see God. They will perceive his presence and see him at work in their lives as he blesses them and grants them favor as he sees fit.
Additionally, they’ll receive eternal life, which he’s promised to his faithful children–-to all who trust and believe in his Son, Jesus Christ, his chosen King. Therefore, we are happy or content because we trust fully in the person and the promises of God, knowing he cares and is always there.