Written Word

The Beatitudes – Part 7: Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

We should approach this beatitude with a sense of awe and wonder knowing that one day we will see God. This blessed privilege will not have transpired through our own achievements, no matter how noble and honourable our efforts have been, but through the gracious love of God. What is interesting about this beatitude is that it appears, not first on the list, but in the middle. Why What is it that Jesus is emphasising There is a logical progression in what the Lord is teaching us: He moves from poor in spirit to pure in heart. For centuries religious people have conformed their lives to rules and regulations in the hope that one day they will see God. Yet their ardent devotion was undertaken without reference to what it means to be pure in heart. Just as in spirit tells us the kind of poverty Jesus expects of us, in heart tells us of the kind of purity he expects.

The Pure in Heart

The pursuit of purity was familiar to Jesus hearers, however, their purity was a conformity to external or ceremonial purity. The Pharisees majored on this and in the process incurred the judgement of the Lord. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:25-28). There was nothing in what the Pharisees did that remotely resembled what Jesus wants from his disciples.

Jesus used a word for pure that was rich in meaning. It spoke of something that was free of contamination, undiluted. It was found to be used to describe milk that has not been mixed with water. It was also used to describe the process that separated gold from dross. When gold was refined in the furnace all the impurities rose to the top and are removed and what remains is pure gold. What is there is genuine. We have a pure heart when we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. (Mark 12:30) There is nothing superficial about that. That is genuine.

The purity Jesus speaks about is purity in heart. This is what King David sought from God: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) David is asking God to enable him have undivided loyalty, unfailing devotion to him; he wants to be able to say “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73:25) He is a man in pursuit of a pure heart. God said of David, “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” (Acts 13:22)

The pure in heart live their life as if it were an open secret before both God and man. They have no hidden agenda. They are the same on the inside as they are on the outside and visa versa. Their life displays a commitment to God.

They Shall Receive Mercy

Right now we are still on the pilgrim’s journey that leads to heaven; the destination has not yet been reached, but along the way we get indications of what awaits us. “Though you have not seen him,” Peter says, “you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” (1 Peter 1:8) And John reminds us of what still awaits us: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3) And Paul tells us that when Jesus returns at the end of the world, at a time no one knows, “we will be caught up together with him in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) Paul tells the Philippians of his desire to die and be with Christ (Philippians 1:23). To see God is far more to look at him; it means being in the presence of God who has loved us and adopted us as his children. All that has hindered our relationship with the Lord will have been removed and we will enjoy uninterrupted fellowship with God forever. That is the blessing for those who are pure in heart: they will see God.