Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart February 14, 2024

Photo by Harry Gillen on Unsplash

Who can stand in God’s presence? Psalm 24 tells us, “those with clean hands and a pure heart.” But what exactly does that mean?

Scripture:       

Leviticus, chapters 23-24; Psalm 24; Acts, chapter 21

Psalm 24 (CEB):

The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants too. Because God is the one who established it on the seas; God set it firmly on the waters.

Who can ascend the Lord’s mountain? Who can stand in his holy sanctuary? Only the one with clean hands and a pure heart; the one who hasn’t made false promises, the one who hasn’t sworn dishonestly. That kind of person receives blessings from the Lord and righteousness from the God who saves. And that’s how things are with the generation that seeks him – that seeks the face of Jacob’s God.

Mighty gates: lift up your heads! Ancient doors: rise up high! So the glorious king can enter! Who is this glorious king? The Lord – strong and powerful! The Lord – powerful in battle! Mighty gates: lift up your heads! Ancient doors: rise up high! So the glorious king can enter! Who is this glorious king? The Lord of heavenly forces – he is the glorious king!

Observations:

The Earth is the Lord’s

The psalmist begins with a reminder: The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants too. What if we actually believed that? And by “believe that,” I mean “acted in accordance with it.” I’m sure most Christians would say they believe it, but do we live that way? Do we really treat the earth as the Lord’s?

God has not given us the earth; it’s still his. He has entrusted it to us. That means that we need to treat it well. We need to take care of it, not use it up for our personal benefit. In Genesis 2:15, we read: “The Lord God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it.” It still belonged to God – and still does.

But the psalmist doesn’t only say that the earth is the Lord’s. He also declares that everything in it, the world and its inhabitants too belong to God. And what if we really believed that? What if we treated everything that we have as belonging to God? What if we treated everyone else consistent with an understanding that they belong to God?

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

It’s interesting that immediately after affirming that the earth is the Lord’s, the psalmist asks some questions. Who can ascend the Lord’s mountain? Who can stand in his holy sanctuary? Surely, if the whole earth is the Lord’s, then the sanctuary – the place of worship, where God dwelled among his people – would be particularly important. What must we do to be able to come into the Lord’s presence?

Only the one with clean hands and a pure heart; the one who hasn’t made false promises, the one who hasn’t sworn dishonestly. Clean hands and a pure heart – that means that both actions and motives are surrendered to God. “Clean hands” denotes that our sins have been forgiven. “Pure heart” means that the Spirit cleanses us and brings our will into alignment with God’s will.

And that’s how things are with the generation that seeks him. In fact, that’s how we know that we are seeking God. We long to experience his presence, and we do whatever it takes to come before him rightly. That kind of person receives blessings from the Lord and righteousness from the God who saves.

Application – Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

I fear that too many times we read a passage like this and focus on the wrong things. When we read verse 5, do we hone in on receives blessings from the Lord or do we turn to and righteousness from the God who saves? The fact is that the blessing that we receive is righteousness. God declares us to be righteous – to be in a right relationship with him. What further blessing could we ever hope for? When we recognize our complete inability to make ourselves right with him, he blesses us by calling us righteous.

That doesn’t mean that his blessings stop there; as Jesus said, God knows how to give good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11). But we content ourselves with the blessing of being called righteous, because we know that we can trust God to give us what we need. We don’t need to take advantage of each other, or abuse what God has entrusted to us. We trust God, and we honor him by being faithful stewards of what belongs to him. The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants too. As we live surrendered to God, he gives us clean hands and a pure heart.

Prayer:

Father, thank you for the blessing of calling us righteous. We know that apart from you, there is none righteous – not one (Romans 3:10). We acknowledge your Lordship, and gratefully receive the gift of forgiveness and life through Jesus. Help us to live in ways that reflect our allegiance to you. Guard us against the temptation to use what belongs to you in selfish ways. Show us how to relate to your creation, and your children, in ways that honor you. Give us clean hands and a pure heart, that we may stand in your presence – today and always. Amen.

 

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