“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 (NKJ)
As a little girl, the second memory verse I learned (after “Jesus wept”) was the beatitude that we will examine today. I learned it quickly and adopted it as my favorite verse to recite at family dinner gatherings. I can’t explain how the choice of this verse came to be; perhaps my mother felt it would help in calming my mischievous spirit. Little did I realize that my mother’s teaching would lead to a fuller vision of God and His Kingdom.
Jesus was intentional in His teachings. His purposefulness is seen in His presentation of each of the beatitudes especially with the placement of this sixth beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” Jesus has to this point shared with His disciples key behaviors of those who enjoy the “happiness and satisfaction” of living by kingdom rules. The Beatitudes in unity and individually, radically flew in the face of how the world defined happiness, satisfaction, and success—poor in spirit, mourners, meek, merciful, hungry and thirsty. Today’s beatitude is no exception to this teaching pattern as it redefines purity and the resulting blessedness of “seeing God.”
In reading this beatitude today, one might comment on its simplicity in meaning and presentation. However, in the context of the 1st century, Jesus’ statement was revolutionary, for he presented it to a nation literally obsessed with purification laws and procedures (Lev. 11-15). Imagine the shock of hearing Jesus say, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” “What does He mean by, “See God?’ No one, not even Moses, has ever seen Jehovah God!” The listeners’ minds must have raced to understand this new teaching, “Purity of heart and nothing else? No Jewish legal system or codes?” This alone was sufficient reason for the scribes and the Pharisees (who benefited from the current religious system) to desire Jesus’ death.
The importance of the heart in sustaining a relationship with God was not a new concept. In the Old Testament, the Lord described the heart, the seat of man’s affection, as “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). David understood the importance of purity of heart as he pleaded with God to create a clean heart and renew a right spirit within him (Ps. 51:10). Who are the “pure in heart”? They are those who mourn the impurity of their hearts to the extent that they do what is needed to cleanse and purify it (Matt. 4:17; 1 John 1:9). When standing in the presence of Holy God, they understand their personal depravity and the need for forgiveness (Rom. 3:23); confession followed by repentance is the proper response in order to receive the blessedness of God’s kingdom. Purity of heart is only possible through a “contrite and meek” heart (Ps. 51:17; Is. 57:15).
Jesus’ stipulation of a “pure heart” as the requirement for “seeing God” was a challenge for a religious system that was founded on its outward practices. “Seeing God” in this beatitude is, to be sure, a reference to what will be achieved in future eternity when the saints, the pure in heart, are able to perceive the holy, righteous One enthroned in heaven (Rev. 5:11-14). However, like Moses who desired to see God’s face (Ex. 33:17-23), the pure in heart begin to have a glimpse of God even in this life. God is seen in His sovereign acts of mercy and grace in the life of both believers and nonbelievers (Matt. 5:45). God’s hand is seen in His providential work within the physical world—in its creation and its sustenance (Acts 17:28). God is seen in His transforming work in the hearts of sinners as God restores them to newness of life (Rom. 6:6-9).
Seeing God is a challenge for people living in the 21st century—both nonbelievers and believers. For nonbelievers, this is not surprising. Satan has blinded them from seeing the possibilities that Christ offers (John 3:3; 2 Cor. 4:4). Kingdom living is at enmity with a world that neither recognizes nor accepts the authority of God, the lordship of Christ, or the leading of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, believers aren’t always the best witnesses for kingdom living. For some believers the ability to achieve purity of heart seems impossible and unattainable. This thought is fueled by the incorrect belief that God is seeking external perfection and flawless behavior from believers. This is a trick of Satan to frustrate and discourage the believer’s efforts to live holy. For other believers, they simply choose to stay in their sin, unrepentant and spiritually impotent.
As children of God, we have everything we need to live pure and holy lives (2 Pet. 1:3; 1 John 3:2-3). The vision of God is clearly in our view (1 John 3:2-3). As we daily renew our minds through study of God’s Word, faithfully pray, and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, our pursuit of purity becomes “second nature” and part of life lived in the kingdom of God. To those who pursue purity of the heart belongs the unclouded vision of God right now which will reach consummation when Christ returns (1 Cor. 13:12, 1 John 3:2). “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Prayer: Father God, we thank You for the simplicity of salvation and that we, through confession and faith, may see You in all your glory and majesty. Give us clean hearts that we might see You and witness to Your love, Your grace, and Your mercy.