Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
As with all the verses of the Beatitudes, there is a kind of balance, or exchange, within this verse. The first part of each of the beatitudes is about a quality of character – and I believe these qualities are to be expected and to be growing in all those who truly love our Lord Jesus and wish to walk more closely with Him. And as you develop each of these characteristics, the Lord brings you the ‘reward’ appropriate for it. But what a tremendous and challenging quality is spoken of in today’s verse! And what a reward!
What does it really mean to be ‘pure in heart’? And is this even possible in our lifetime here on earth?
When I think about this word ‘pure’, I can’t help but think of it alongside the word ‘perfect.’ And to me, perfection is something that is impossible. However ‘perfect’ you do something or make something, someone will always see a way it can be improved. However ‘perfect’ you become in yourself, there will still be something you want to do better, or something that you wish to achieve.
But let’s look at the word ‘pure’ in a different way. When we describe a chemical or an element as pure, what we mean is that the impurities are not present. When we buy jewellery that is pure gold, we know this means that there is only gold, and no other chemicals or minerals present. We even have a ‘carat’ rating for gold. 9 carat gold is less pure than 24 carat gold, and so 9 carat gold is also less expensive than 24 carat gold.
How is the greater purity achieved? We are told in scripture that it is a process of ‘going through the fire.’ That the metal is heated until molten. The impurities, if not burned away and destroyed by the heat, will be on the surface and can be skimmed away. After that, the molten matter can be poured into the mould and cools in form much purer than before.
So… do you feel the heat just now? It could be the refiner’s fire. Do you feel like you are losing shape (melting)? It could be the refiner’s fire. Do you feel like you are losing some things in your life? It could be the refiner skimming the scum away to leave behind only the pure. Do you feel like you are being reshaped? It could be the refiner pouring you into that new mould.
And to continue this picture of jewellery, I imagine gold being purified and moulded into a beautiful gold ring. A ring fit for the finger of the King. So, once refined, purified, and moulded, the ring is now ready for the finger of the King.
This moves us neatly into the second part of the verse. To see God… You know, I have meditated on this many times in my life. I think I could write a whole book about this alone! You can begin your thoughts at a very simple level – because we are told that we are created in the image of God – and so as we look on each other, we also see God.
Jesus was both God and man at the same time. Those alive in his country and in his lifetime had the privilege of seeing God made flesh and walking among us. There were no photographers at the time and so we do not have an image of what he looked like. Some point to the Turin Shroud, but there are still arguments about the veracity of this object and the image it portrays. Some say that He was a man with skin browner than many would be willing to accept… And certainly it is accepted that pretty much all artistic representations of Jesus fall short of the mark by a long way.
God is also spirit. And this is interesting. In one part of scripture He is compared with the wind. You can’t see it. You can’t tell where it has come from or where it is going to. But you can feel the force of it on your body. You can see the effect of it in the world around you. You see the trees bend and the sails billow, the clouds move and the flags fly. You even see the mountains in the desert that are made small by the erosive power of the wind alone.
So what do we really understand when we read the words ‘for they shall see God’?
Of course we can think of the day of judgement and beyond, when our lives have left behind the mortal flesh. And yet I don’t think this verse is at all about spiritual pie in the sky by and by… I think it is about something that develops in this present life, right here and right now.
So what is it? I would say that, for those who submit to the purifying fire of the refiner – for themselves in their own lives (because isn’t it all too easy to point at the other person and think how much the other person needs to ‘get their act together’ and repent…). For those who allow the work of purification, their eyes become opened to what is really happening in their own lives and the world around. God is at work in everyone and everything.
He is here with us now, because in Him we live and move and have our being. The purification of the heart enables you to see God in everyone and everything and every event.
Well, I can’t let this pass without making a certain comment… That these days, all too often, we hear many in the church talk of how they see the devil at work in this and in that and how the other person is in sin and needs to put this right and that right. And then that preacher has not got the scriptures right and so is speaking the words of the devil and if he continues to do so will be going to hell…. Etc.. I am sure you know what I mean and have experienced this, as I have, all too often.
Listen. The verse does NOT say “Blessed are the pure in heart, because they shall see the devils and Satan.” At least in my bible it does not say it. Nor is there a verse anything like this anywhere in my bible or yours.
To me, this kind of talk and living is surely evidence of resistance to the refiner’s work in your life. It could be pride (no thanks, I’m alright, go purify Fred over there – he needs it more than me). It could be arrogance (no thanks, I have the righteousness of Christ. The bible tells me so. So I don’t need this purification stuff. It’s old covenant ain’t it?) It could be love of sin (no thanks, I like it the way I am and wish to carry on the same). It could be many reasons. But I would beware the brother or the sister who sees the devil or Satan at work in everything. That is not a scriptural promise. And it is also not to be confused with the spiritual gift of discernment of spirits. That is another discussion that there is not room for here…
What we do have is this promise: as we submit to the refiner’s work in our lives, we will have our eye’s opened to see God and how he is at work in our lives and the world around us. This will further increase our faith and encourage us. It will give us that confidence and faith that we need to bring with us when we pray. It is that path that leads us to become more powerful and effective Christians, to the glory of God. Amen.