This is the sixth beatitude. It says that the pure in heart are blessed. Looking at the heart first, it is good to note that the cosmology (or is it anthropology?) of Jesus’ day was different than ours. To us, the heart is the seat of emotions, while the head is the seat of intelligence. In biblical times, the head was the seat of intelligence while it was the belly that was the seat of the emotions. The heart (or chest) was the place where the head and the belly met and was the seat of the personality – emotions and intellect combining to form the will. For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are the things that defile a person; it is not eating with unwashed hands that defiles a person. (Matthew 15:19-20; also Proverbs 4:23) So that is why the heart is the necessary location of this purity. “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may become clean too! “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:25-28)
The word pure can have two meanings, both of which apply here. First it can mean “clean”. In 2 Corinthians 7:1, Paul says to cleanse ourselves from defilement (also Hebrews 10:22). Ultimately, this cleansing is found in the New Covenant. I will sprinkle you with pure water and you will be clean from all your impurities. I will purify you from all your idols. I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:25-26)
By far, though, the Biblical meaning of pure is undivided or unmixed. In his confession after his sin with Bathsheba, David uses the term “pure heart”: Create for me a pure heart, O God! Renew a resolute spirit within me! (Psalms 51:10) In the parallelism of the verse a pure heart means to be resolute. As Kierkegaard put it “purity of heart means to will one thing”. James says Purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:8). For this, the prayer of the psalmist is appropriate, Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. (Psalms 86:11 ESV)
One Psalm which I previously wrote on is about the struggle to be pure in heart, Psalm 73. Not to repeat too much from the previous blog, but life is a constant battle to remain undivided. There are some who may seem to have resolute hearts. They are totally consumed by their business, 24/7. Or, maybe the mother who is all about her family. Or, someone else with some cause. That is not what this Beatitude is about. Purity in heart must have God as its focus. He is the creator and he has placed eternity in our hearts so that if one is not focused on eternity his heart is divided with one will he is giving himself over to and one he is desperately trying to drown out.
As I have approached this sermon, the characteristic of Purity in Heart is one which the Holy Spirit is developing in the believer as the New Creation. As purity of heart is worked in our lives, we become aware of the roles we play and our hypocrisy. We will place our motives under scrutiny and our actions will become consistent with the will our Father has.
The promise is that the Pure in Heart will see God. This promise is not only for the future (with present results), Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope focused on him purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure). (1 John 3:2-3), but in a very real sense whole hearted commitment results in a vision of God now By faith he left Egypt without fearing the king’s anger, for he persevered as though he could see the one who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:27)