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Blessed are the Pure in Heart

The Beatitudes  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We have all broken the covenant of purity and holiness that God made with Israel long ago, but through Jesus, we are offered the opportunity for restored covenant if we just seek God in all we do.

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Psalm 24:3–6 ESV
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

Psalm 24:3-6

The Pure in Heart

Psalm 24:3–6 ESV
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
What do you think the Psalmist (in ) means by “lift up his soul to what is false”?
Matthew 5:3–12 NRSV
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew
Matthew 5:3-12
Matthew 5:3–12 ESV
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), .
Matthew 5:3–12 ESV
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Have you ever met someone who seemed “pure in heart”? Who was it? What were they like?

2 Timothy 2:22-26

2 Timothy 2:22–26 ESV
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:22–26 ESV
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
What does say about purity of heart?
Our Covenant with God has been broken

Our covenant with God has been broken.

One of the reasons I don’t recommend new Christians try reading the Bible straight through from cover to cover right away is because of Leviticus. Most people can get through the strange, but interesting narrative arc of Genesis. And while there are some slow bits in Exodus, it’s doable - especially if you still have the energy and excitement that comes with a first real encounter with God. But Leviticus. Leviticus will slow down or halt even the most seasoned and faithful.
There are just

Our Covenant with God has been broken

Trouble in the Text

so
many
rules.
And if by some miracle, this faithful fledgling should happen to muddle or skim through Leviticus, they immediately encounter Numbers and Deuteronomy: a census of the Israelite people and . . . more rules.
In Leviticus and Deuteronomy, laws are laid out for all sorts of situations: marriage, divorce, childbirth, temple sacrifice, diet, death, illness, mold. . . But in spite of the seemingly esoteric lists of dos and don’ts, I actually really like these two books - especially Deuteronomy.
And short of maybe my 17 year old, you’ll be hard pressed to find many people
The law in the Hebrew Scripture is not just rules for the sake of rules. It’s a covenant that God makes with God’s people. Covenant is beautiful and exciting! A covenant is more than a promise and it’s more than just a legal document. A promise is an emotional contract. Law has legal implications. A covenant is both tied to emotion and legality. It’s a binding way of saying, “These two things belong together.”
A covenant is more than a promise and it’s more than just a legal document. A promise is an emotional contract. Law has legal implications. A covenant is both tied to emotion and legality.
But the law in the Hebrew Scripture is not just rules for the sake of rules. It’s a covenant that God makes with God’s people. A covenant is more than a promise and it’s more than just a legal document. A promise is an emotional contract. Law has legal implications. A covenant is both tied to emotion and legality. It’s a binding way of saying, “These two things belong together.”
Marriage, for example, is a covenant. There are both legal and emotional implications. There is legal contract and promise involved.
Marriage is one example of covenant. Can you think of any others?
The covenant that God makes with Israel is one that sets the people of Israel aside as God’s special people. This involves purity - being holy - being different from the people around them. We see early on and often in the Old Testament a call to holiness and purity.
We see early on and often in the Old Testament this call to holiness and purity. God wants God’s people to be set aside from those around them.

Leviticus 19:1–2 ESV
1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
LEviticus 19:

4 “Hear, O Israel: dThe LORD our God, the LORD is one.2 5 You eshall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And fthese words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 gYou shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 hYou shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 iYou shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4–9 ESV
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
This can feel like a pretty tall order. It’s especially daunting when we read all the rules and laws that follow these statements. In Leviticus and Deuteronomy, laws are laid out for all sorts of situations: marriage, divorce, childbirth, temple sacrifice, diet, death, illness, mold. . .
So the idea we see in the Beatitudes of purity of heart being important is not new with Jesus. The point of this covenant is not to make people follow the rules because God is some sort of strict school teacher. The point is that God’s people be purposeful, compassionate, different people. God’s people are purified and set aside by this covenant.
The point of this covenant is not to make people follow the rules because God is some sort of strict school teacher. The point is that God’s people be purposeful, compassionate, different people.
Likewise, the new covenant we see unfold in the gospels is not just another set of easier rules or different rules because the old covenant wasn’t just about rules to begin with. God didn’t mysteriously have a sudden change of heart about what holiness looks like. The New Covenant offers the ability to live holy lives to everyone.
The New Covenant offers the ability to live holy lives to everyone.
Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1–15 The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1–12)

But the point is not to offer a list of what sort of people God normally blesses. The point is to announce God’s new covenant.

Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1–15 The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1–12)

In Deuteronomy, the people came through the wilderness and arrived at the border of the promised land, and God gave them a solemn covenant. He listed the blessings and the curses that would come upon them if they were obedient or disobedient (chapter 28). Now Matthew has shown us Jesus, coming out of Egypt (2:15), through the water and the wilderness (chapters 3 and 4), and into the land of promise (4:12–25). Here, now, is his new covenant.

If you have a Bible that includes cross references at the bottom of the page, I encourage you to check out all the cross references in the Beatitudes.

The setting brings to mind both Mount Sinai, where Moses received the law from God and gave it to the people, and Mount Zion, from which King David ruled according to God’s law. Jesus’ posture also communicates authority. He sits, like a venerated teacher among his students or a rightful king among his subjects. Jesus is presented as an unrivaled authority concerning the law and the proper authority within the coming kingdom of heaven.

If you have a Bible that includes cross references at the bottom of the page, I encourage you to check out all the cross references in the Beatitudes. Like much of what Jesus says in the gospels, they are full of references to the Torah - both overt references and subtle ones. Sometimes, the connections are as simple as the setting: the Beatitudes even happen on a mountain - just like where Moses was originally given the law. There is an important and obvious connection between the covenants.
These are about the new covenant. The one we just talked about last week as being “sealed in the blood.” None of us can uphold the covenant, which is why Jesus came in the first place.
What is the difference between law and covenant?
What is the differences between promise and covenant?
Like the Jews of Jesus’ time, we find it easier to call out people (ourselves or others) for external violation of the “rules” or law than we do to inspect the internal status of our hearts. In fact, we often fall for the lie that we can behave ourselves by our own power. But this is not about the rules, this is about our hearts. As we have been exploring on Wednesday evenings, centering our hearts on God is not easy. It is, however, necessary.
Like the Jews of Jesus’ time, we find it easier to call out people (ourselves or others) for external violation of the “rules” or law than we do to inspect the internal status of our hearts. In fact, we often fall for the lie that we can behave ourselves by our own power. But this is not about the rules, this is about our hearts. As we have been exploring on Wednesday evenings, centering our hearts on God is not easy. It is, however, necessary.

“Pure in heart” refers to the condition of the inner core of a person, that is, to thoughts and motivation, and hence anticipates the internalizing of the commandments by Jesus in the material that follows in the sermon.

We live in a world that values earning things through hard work.
We live in a world that values earning things through hard work. If someone doesn’t have everything they need or want, we assume it’s because they didn’t work hard. If someone has everything and then some, we assume it’s because they worked very hard. And even though that is not always the case - I know many hard working people who are still struggling to pay the bills every month and Hollywood is full of people who are rich and famous for no good reason - we still just seem to assume that this “hard work always pays off” adage is true.
It’s a pretty difficult shift in thinking to work from the inside out rather than from the outside in.
We can’t conform to these easily because no matter what we say, we all struggle with real faith from time to time.

The Beatitudes are primarily about the character of God and only secondarily about the character of Christians. Because God behaves in the way God does, a person would be foolish not to act in the way the Beatitudes recommend. That the behavior of Christians so often fails to conform to the Beatitudes is a sign not of moral weakness but of a lack of faith. We simply do not trust Jesus, his words, or his deeds. We do not really believe that God will bless the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted. In other words, we do not think it is sensible to behave in the way Jesus did, because we do not believe that God is really the way he describes.

We struggle with purity of heart, because we still want control or comfort or any other number of human desires that do not jive with Jesus’ picture of the Kingdom. We struggle with purity of heart because we’re so worried about outside appearances and changing behavior. There are pieces of our dirty hearts that we want to hold on to.
What do you find it hard to let go of in order to let your heart be purified?
There are many similarities between Jesus’ literary style in the Sermon on the Mount and the Psalms. The most notable example of this is .
Psalm 1 ESV
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
There are many similarities between Jesus’ literary style in the Sermon on the Mount and the Psalms.
The most notable example of this is . The Hebrew translated as “blessed” here can also mean “to find the right road.”

We are purified by Jesus.

The Hebrew translated as “blessed” here can also mean “to find the right road.” So, “You have found the right road if you aren’t taking advice from sinners and trying to fit in with cynics.” We don’t have to be perfect. . . we just have to be on the right road. That road is a life of seeking God through the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. And on that road, we can begin to catch glimpses of God.

We are purified by Jesus.

1 John 3:2–3 ESV
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
1 Corinthians
1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
We are told that the pure of heart will see God, but all through Scripture is the clear message that none of us can be truly pure of heart. That’s hard to wrestle with. And yet, in spite of our shortcomings, in spite of all we’ve missed or gotten wrong, we are purified by Jesus.
We are purified by Jesus.
This right here is the heart of Lent. Sit with this today. We are called to be pure of heart and yet none of us are able to live up to that calling. We walk through Lent as a season of confession and repentance, remembering that not one of us could manage this. We remember and reflect on our great need for someone to save us from ourselves.

8* “Pure in heart” or a “pure heart” is a Jewish expression that comes from the psalm piety of the OT.114 What is meant is an undivided obedience to God without sin. According to Jewish usage, “heart” designates not an area inside a person but the center of human wanting, thinking, and feeling. Since the expression is connected to an established Jewish usage, we may not read into it an anticultic polemic. Judaism has always—along with the more narrow cultic usage—spoken of the person’s purity in a comprehensive sense.115 Matthew also is aware of a holistically understood purity that, while relativizing the cultic area, in no way abolishes it (cf. 5:23–24*; 23:25–26*: πρῶτον). Even the recourse to Ps 23:4* LXX—the psalm that may have been sung upon entering the temple—calls attention to the inner unity of the purity idea rather than to a polemic against the cult.116 As in the other beatitudes, the promise is meant eschatologically. Like early Christianity, Judaism hopes that God, who in this world was visible only to Moses (Num 12:8*; Deut 34:10*), in the eschaton will be able to be seen face-to-face.117 Then all remoteness from God and uncertainty will disappear.

During our “Witnessing God at Work” time together this morning, we heard Jesus’ last words, which are usually translated into English “It is finished.” But it can also have legal or covenantal implications meaning something like, “It is paid” or “it is official”. A clerk would have used this word to indicate when a debt had been paid or when a deed had been dated and signed at the selling of property. It meant the obligations of the parties had been fulfilled. If a father sent his son out to do something important, the son would finish all the work, then come back and use this word as a way of saying that his work was done - mission complete.”

With a clear voice Jesus uttered one last word from the cross: tetelestai (John 19:30). The papyri throw great light on this word. If a promissory note were paid, the one holding the note wrote “telelestai” across it. A deed to property was not in effect until it was dated and signed. When this was done, the clerk wrote “tetelestai” across it.

Another example of its use was when a father sent his son on a mission. The son was not to return until he had performed the last act of the mission. When he did return from a successful mission, he used tetelestai to report it.

What do these meanings say to us? In eternity the Son gave the Father a promissory note that He would pay the price for humanity’s redemption (see Heb. 10:5–7). On Calvary the note was paid-in-full. Tetelestai! The Son reported His completed mission to the Father. Tetelestai! Perhaps when the waiting hosts in heaven heard of the completed work of Jesus heaven rang with it. TETELESTAI! And the Father smiled His approval.

As we walk through Lent, visiting our great need for grace, we ask God to hear us in our despair, and then. . . we acknowledge that God does hear us in our despair. We are made new by Jesus so that we may see God.
Acts 15:9 ESV
and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.

This beatitude opens up a vast wealth of Christian self-understanding and Christian hope. It would be a mistake simply to reject as illegitimate everything that is exegetically not justified in the forum of the biblical text. It is rather part of the biblical texts’ own power that they themselves are able to open up new dimensions in new people. However, these new dimensions and new hopes still must be engaged in a constant conversation with the old declaration of the text. Based on the original meaning of the text one must constantly make sure that purity of heart and vision of God do not lead to a flight from the world or a private piety of the religiously gifted person.131 It must express itself as obedience to God in the world and as hope for a future vision of God that is more than the individual’s own private deep experience. The sixth beatitude stands in a context that speaks of interpersonal relationships, and it does not intend to remove people from those relationships and lead them into religious self-sufficiency. In my judgment the interpretation of the Reformation has come especially close to the meaning of the Matthean text.

Hebrews 10:10 ESV
And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

This psalm attests all the ideas needed for the beatitude in SM/Matt 5:8*. This does not mean, however, that the beatitude merely “quotes” Psalm 24. Rather, the beatitude confirms ideas that were commonly accepted in Judaism at the time.

Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1–15 The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1–12)

In our world, still, most people think that wonderful news consists of success, wealth, long life, victory in battle. Jesus is offering wonderful news for the humble, the poor, the mourners, the peacemakers.

When, not if, we fail to be pure in heart, when our hearts are obviously stained by sin, we are not left to reap the consequences of a broken covenant with God. We are not left to wallow in our own despair and brokenness. We must acknowledge it. We must wrestle with it - but we must do so by asking the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out - something made possible by Jesus’ great sacrifice on our behalf.
When, not if, we fail to be pure in heart, when our hearts are obviously stained by sin, we are not left to reap the consequences of a broken covenant with God.
The Beatitudes are clear that you do not have to be perfect to be included in the Kingdom - you just have to seek God. You don’t have to be pure of heart by your own power to see God. You just have to get on that road, allow the Holy Spirit to begin (and continue) a cleansing work in you. Jesus takes care of filling in where we fall short.

Hebrews 10:10 ESV
And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Thank God we have been made pure and we can begin to see God in the world around us.

The Beatitudes provide an eschatological vision of the way the world will be when God’s rule is reestablished, at the coming of the kingdom of heaven. In fact, the use of the present tense implies not only that the future reign of God is guaranteed, but also that it is already real. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, its presence can already be felt and seen in the world.

We are given a new family

Psalm 1 ESV
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
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