“Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.”
In the Middle Ages, it was widely believed that the mythical unicorn would only approach a virgin woman, because it was assumed that such an amazing creature would be wary of anyone without childlike innocence and purity of heart. Unicorns were (and still are) regarded as symbols of purity and integrity. Representing such virtues, the unicorn can still be found represented in the family crests of several royal families of Europe – including the crest of the current Queen of England. Innocence by association? I suppose that’s the idea.
In today’s verse, Jesus tells us that the great blessing bestowed upon the “pure in heart” is not to see some mythical one-horned beast but to see the very face of God. David expressed a similar idea in several of the Psalms.
3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive blessing from the LORD,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face. Selah
The first commandment of the Ten Commandments is this: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3) The Great Commandment that Jesus told us about (Matthew 22:34-40), is a bit more explicit:
4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
ONE God, one heart FOR God: that is the commandment. “With ALL your heart” says the Lord God. Not with some small part of your heart, not with whatever is left after the love you have for family, country, or TV shows. Not with one half of your heart, using the other half for yourself. God desires ALL your heart, a heart so focused on Him and His will that you find no other purpose nor love that satisfies you. A heart so consumed with love for Him that it is emptied of all other things – purged of idolatry, lust, deceit, anger, greed, or doubt.
Our modern word “catharsis” – a “purging of emotions” – comes from the same Greek root word used here for “pure.” When we focus on God, we purify our hearts of base things. We then find ourselves naturally drawn to “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report” (Philippians 4:8) – because those things reflect the purity of a heart sold out to God.
Purity of faith in God and Christ is the pinnacle of integrity, and David knew that such integrity brings us into the presence of God. Our prayer then today must be like David’s:
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
In the book of Revelation, we are told that those whose names are written in the Book of Life will join God in the New Jerusalem, and “They shall see His face.” (Revelation 21-22, esp. Revelation 22:4a) We get our names into the Book of Life by accepting the gift of salvation offered through Christ Jesus, and we keep our names there by continuing to overcome temptation and sin in our lives. (Revelation 3:5) And we overcome sin through a whole-hearted – PURE-hearted – focus on God and His will in our lives.
Lord God Almighty, Your holiness and purity deserve all our praise, because Your whole-hearted love for us caused You to seek and to save us from sin and death. Thank You, Father God, for Your blessed Son and the blood He shed to wash us white as snow, purifying us that we might stand in Your presence. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Amen.