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Clean Hands, Pure Heart

(By Rachel Joyce)

Clean hands are a priority for all of us these days as we seek to avoid becoming infected with any of the strains of the coronavirus.

This sign, “clean hands, clear mind,” caught my eye as I rushed into Staples for a few supplies, and immediately my mind went to Psalm 24:3-5:

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? 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. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Clean hands. Pure heart.

Our God is a holy God and He calls us to be holy, too (Lev 11:44, 1 Pe 1:15-16). Ascending the hill of the Lord is a reference to worshiping in Jerusalem. In ancient times, the temple of God was located in Jerusalem, approximately twenty-five hundred feet above sea level. To put that height into perspective, here’s the elevation of some of our major cities:

  • New York City, USA - thirty-three feet

  • London, England - thirty-six feet

  • Beijing, China - one hundred forty-four feet

  • Toronto, Canada - two hundred fifty-one feet

Going to Jerusalem to worship was quite a climb; it meant ascending the hill of the Lord. And standing on the Temple Mount to worship required cleansing in a mikva, a bath designed for Jewish ritual purification.

Even today, many Jewish people still use a mikvah, and also practice ritual hand washing using a special two-handled vessel. One day, when I stepped into a restaurant in our Jewish neighborhood, I saw this small sink with the vessel for hand washing: In order to be considered ritually clean, before eating bread they need to pour water three times over each hand separately.

In the Scriptures, the phrase "clean hands" refers to purity of life. God’s Word reminds us of the value He places upon purity. The problem is, not one of us is naturally pure. We were born sinners, but God’s love for us is so great that He gave His one and only Son to suffer for our sins so we could be cleansed and brought near to Him (Joh. 3:16). By His sacrifice on the cross, He purged our sins and made it possible for us to become children of God (Heb. 1:1-3).

When we accepted Jesus as our Savior, our sins were completely washed away (1 Jo 1:7, Rev. 1:5). Jesus, the righteous One made us righteous (1 Jo 2:1, Rom 5:19)But even though we are saved by faith in His name, we still live in a fallen world and sometimes we sin. What a comfort it is to know, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jo 1:9). Forgiveness and cleansing are ours.

Because of Jesus, we can have clean hands. Because of Jesus we can have a pure heart. And because of Jesus we can draw near to our God and worship with freedom and joy. Praise His name!


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