Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

     It has been said that the Old Testaments sets the stage for the New.  That the Old Covenant prepared the way for the new one.  That the spiritual principles of the Old paved the way for a greater realization of those principles in the New.  This couldn’t be any clearer than in the relationship between Psalm 24:4 and Matthew 5:8.

     “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) The obvious meaning here is that those who are pure in heart shall receive manifestations of the Divine.  “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?  Or who may stand in His holy place?” is the question proposed by the sweet psalmist of Israel.  He answers his own rhetorical question with, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” (Psalm 24:4)  We see here that the qualifying factor for entering into the divine Presence is “clean hands and a pure heart.”  Let’s dissect these two phrases from the linguistic standpoint and draw some spiritual conclusions.  Let’s begin with the Old and work our way into the New to see if we can build upon the foundation of the Old.

     The Hebrew of the Psalm reads, “bbl rbO mypk yqn”  Let’s look at these words one at a time a delve deeper into their meanings.  The first word, yqn iis transliterated “naw-kie.”  It is derived from the word which means “to pour out, or the pouring out” of a sacrifice.  Thus, the sense here is that the result of the cleanliness is the outpouring of the sacrifice.  That the individual is blameless before God, not sinless.  That the worshipper has taken responsibility for his/her sin and made the appropriate sacrifice according to God’s law and order.  Thus, they are clean.  The second word, “mypk” is transliterated, “kaw-phim.”  This is not the usual word for hand.  The usual word is “dy” or yad.  This word means to pen or turn out the hands as to expose the palm of the hand.  This position of the hands is the proper posture of prayer and worship.  So far we have the idea of cleanliness coming through sacrifice as the worshiper praises and prays to God with the lifting of the hands.  Thus, the translation, “clean hands” while accurate, doesn’t quite convey the entire meaning of the phrase.  The next word “rb” is transliterated, “bier.”  (The reader will notice that I have removed the O from the front of the word as this is a conjunctive vav which attaches to the front of the word and carries the meaning of and, even also.)  The word means “purified”  as in, that which is purified by an act of sacrifice and worship.  The last word is a very significant word of biblical Hebrew.  It is the word “bbl” and is transliterated “Li-vav.” It carries a plethora of meanings that I will attempt to summarize here.  It means, “The totality of man’s inner nature, the seat of emotions, thought, and will, and the place where morals are decided upon.  Thus, this place must be purified by an act of sacrifice.  To put this all together, the spiritual sense of the phrase is:  “The individual who has cleansed their hands through acts of prayer, worship, and sacrifice shall ascend the hill of the Lord.  Moreover, the individual who has their inner nature, the seat of their emotions and will and thoughts purified through an act of worship and sacrifice, shall stand in His Holy Place.”  This sets the stage for the Beatitude that Jesus puts forth.  Perhaps the Lord even had this passage of scripture in mind as the Greek of the Septuagint is the exact same Greek of the New Testament.

     Matthew 5:8 reads in Greek:  “makaroi oi kaqaroi th kardia oti autoi ton qeon ojontai.”    In order to grasp a fuller meaning of the Greek here, let me just offer a paraphrase of the verse rather than a literal breakdown.  The meaning behind the verse is basically this:  “The privileged recipient of divine favor is the one who is guiltless and blameless before God because God is at the center and source of his inner life where moral life is decided upon, having his conscience purified and sprinkled by the blood of Christ sacrifice, this one, will continually see God.”  This is the essence of the Greek behind the passage.  However, notice the “ontai” ending on the verb, to see, which is “ojontai.”  This ending indicates the passive voice.  The passive voice in Greek means that the subject is going to be acted upon.  In the English sentence, “the ball was thrown”, this is the passive voice as the subject “the ball” was being acted upon, mainly, thrown.  So, the subject of the sentence will be the one receiving the action.  Additionally, the verbal tense is the progressive passive voice which means that the action can be and often is repeated.  Please notice the repetitive occurrence of “oi” in the beginning of the verse.  It is the marker of the nomitive case, specifically the plural of the nomitive case which identifies it as the subject of the sentence.  Hence, the “pure of heart” will be the subject of the sentence and they will be acted upon.  Also notice the “on” ending on the back of the word for God “qeon.”  This is the marker of the accusative case, specifically, the plural of the accusative case and identifies this word as the direct object of the sentence.  In the English sentence, “the ball was thrown by the boy.”  The boy is the direct object and he is the one that is acting on the subject.  This is generally how the passive voice works in Greek also.  Hence, God, the direct object, will be acting upon the subject.  So, the essence of the Greek here is this:  “God will repeatedly reveal himself to the individuals who have purified their inner man through the sacrifice of Christ and this will make them blessed, the recipients of divine favor.”  Again, we can see how the translation, al beit accurate, doesn’t quite convey the full meaning of the Greek text.  But, this is a powerful spiritual revelation for the born-again Christian.  Why?  Because, it is one thing for me to chase after God for a revelation of Him and quite another thing for God to continually be chasing after me to reveal Himself to me.  This the promise of this verse and it is what makes us blessed people.  The fact that we have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and the Spirit of God resides in our inner man qualifies us to receive repeated revelations of the manifest presence of God.  This makes us, Blessed!!!  Thus we can see how the Psalm sets the stage for the fuller realization that Christ would pre-qualify us for continued and repeated revelations of God through His Sacrifice.