Part 3 of a series on The Sermon On The Mount by John Lavric
When Moses was on Mount Sinai he asked to see God but the only revelation of God he was allowed was to be put in a crevice in the rock while God shielded him with His hand while He passed by, then Moses was able to see God`s back. Moses was perhaps the most respected Israelite, yet even he was restricted in this aspect. So as we come to our next beatitude, one which I think rolls off the tongue far too easily without much thought of the amazing thing that Jesus is saying.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (vs. 8)
There was a great desire in Israel to be close to God but His near presence was so awe-inspiring that they trembled in fear. When Isaiah saw the Lord he said, “Woe is me! For I am lost” (Isa 6:5) because he was so aware of his own impurity in the light of God`s holiness. Is there any wonder that Israel would say with King David, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?” They even knew the answer, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart,” (Ps 24:3-4) but that did not help because if they were honest they also knew themselves. As Jeremiah puts it, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jer 17:9) King David, “the man after God`s own heart” said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps 51:10) As we have progressed through the beatitudes we have found that they start with our need and show that need can only be truly met by God. As we have to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” so we must hunger to have our heart set right by God.
Let us try to get a clearer understanding of what “pure in heart” means. First the heart; In Biblical understanding this is the complete person, the centre of all someone is, that includes the mind, the will and the heart, not just the emotion although it does include that.
Second pure, one definition is ‘not mixed’ as we might refer to silver after it has been through the furnace and all impurities removed. This gives us a good understanding of the most important aspect of this beatitude. The worst thing about any relationship is to have divided loyalty or affection. The wronged person is soon aware that they are not the only focus of attention. How much more then does our heavenly Father, whom Jesus said we are to “Love … with ALL our heart, soul, strength, and mind,” (Luke 10:27) who sees the heart know that our love for him is not pure. The last thing that anyone wants is to be like the Pharisees whom Jesus called “whitewashed tombs” or hypocrites because their outward appearance bore no resemblance to the corruption in their hearts. Is there any wonder God told Israel to “Rend your hearts and not your garments.” (Joel 2:13) ‘God does not demand a beautiful vessel, but He does demand a clean one.’ (R A Torrey)
How do we know we have a pure heart? ‘Their whole life, public and private, is transparent before God and men. Their very heart – including their thoughts and motives – is pure, unmixed with anything devious, ulterior or base. Hypocrisy and deceit are abhorrent to them; they are without guile.’ (John Stott) But take heart. ‘One of the most conclusive evidences that we do possess a pure heart is to be conscious of and burdened with the impurity which still indwells us.’ (A W Pink)
Does this mean that we have to do nothing but remain passive in this matter? James answers for us, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (Jam 4:8) We must do all we can knowing that we are still utterly dependant on God. It is “by the Spirit” that we “put to death the deeds of the body,” so that we might live. (Rom 8:13)
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” (vs. 9)
To know we are poor in spirit, to grieve because of that, to submit ourselves to God and to thirst for His righteousness. To know we have received mercy and our hearts are being purified we come to what must be the height of our hope, to be “called the sons of God.”
We must be careful that we do not separate this beatitude from the others as has so often been done, so that it seems that those who make great efforts for world peace have gained some standing with God. The breakdown of all earthly kingdoms, war, strife, separation and a breakdown of relationships all stem from one source, sin! There can never be true peace while the five great enemies to peace reign: greed, ambition, envy, anger and pride.
All mans efforts, although they may be beneficial, cannot bring about lasting peace. They are so often saying, “Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” (Jer 8:11)
‘What peace can they have who are not at peace with God?’ (M Henry) We can only be true peacemakers if we have peace with God and that is only possible through the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I said at the beginning that the beatitudes are a progression, showing the character of the citizens of the kingdom. Those who are sons of God will be peacemakers because they are sons of God, it is not the other way round.
To bring about peace and reconcile us to God, Jesus laid aside all His rights. “For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil 2:5-8) “Through Him having made peace through the blood of His cross, it pleased the Father to reconcile all things to Himself through Him, whether the things on earth or the things in Heaven.” (Col 1:20)
Jesus was always at perfect peace, He could sleep in the middle of a storm and He promised to His disciples that same peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) Because we know true peace with God our main aim should be to bring others to know it too. To point them to the Prince of Peace and to “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Rom 12:18) We don`t see any need to strive for, or pursue, ‘our rights.’ What we pursue is “righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Tim 2:22)
We should be known as peacemakers rather than trouble-makers. We need to pour oil on troubled waters rather than get out our sword and adding to the situation to make things worse. ‘Few things more adorn and beautify a Christian profession than exercising and manifesting the spirit of peace.’ (A W Pink) This does not mean that we sacrifice truth for peace, it is not peace at any price, that would be false. As we will see from the next beatitude by bearing the name of Jesus we will come into conflict but we should not go looking for it. Believe me it will come! “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14) Let us be, in the words of Frances Ridley Havergal, ‘Stayed upon Jehovah hearts are fully blest, finding, as he promised, perfect peace and rest.’