Blessed Are: the Pure-Hearted

King Solomon questioned, “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’?” (Proverbs 20:9). He’s right. It’s hard to find an Old Testament example of someone who is pure-hearted.

For one thing, the Hebrew idea we typically translate as heart means “the center of the human spirit, from which spring emotions, thoughts, motivations, courage and action” (NIV Study Bible notes for Psalm 4:7). It’s a tall order to keep all that pure!

King David thought alot about the heart, and he knew what Jesus also told us in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said,

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  –Matthew 5:8

David wrote,

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.  –Psalm 24:3-4

Being in the presence of the Lord…seeing God…requires that we have pure hearts. Thankfully, Jesus’ sacrifice made it possible for us to be counted among the pure-hearted. People in Old Testament times didn’t have that confidence during their lifetimes.

As we continue our series, Seeking the Beatitudes in the Old Testament, just one Old Testament figure comes to mind when I look for someone pure-hearted: Joseph.

Genesis 37, 39-47.

Joseph was his father’s clear favorite out of twelve sons. One day he dreamed his parents and brothers would bow down to him. Maybe he didn’t realize it was a prophetic dream. He naively shared the dream with his brothers, who immediately resented him far more than they had before. They were so angry that they sold him into slavery and lied to their father, saying he had been killed. That’s the short version.

God did it, but it
looked like a coincidence.

Joseph ended up in Egypt and somehow came to serve in the home of Pharaoh’s captain of the guard, a man named Potiphar. It’s not really a “somehow.” God did it, but it looked like a coincidence from the outside.

Oh yeah, Joseph was super-handsome and super-qualified for every task he was given. The fact is, “the Lord gave him success in everything he did” (Genesis 39:3) and blessed Potiphar’s household because of Joseph’s presence.

Exhibit A for a Pure Heart

Here’s how we know Joseph was pure in heart. Potiphar’s wife noticed him and invited him into her bed—not just once but daily. And daily, Joseph refused. I don’t think it was because she was ugly or old or any of the superficial reasons one sees on modern TV. Look what Joseph said:

“My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9

Exhibit B for a Pure Heart

Joseph’s pure heart
prevented resentfulness.

Eventually (to make another long story short), the wife got insulted and accused Joseph of trying to rape her. Potiphar threw Joseph in prison where he was so successful—despite it being prison!—that the warden put Joseph in charge of everything in the prison (Genesis 39:22). Joseph also developed a reputation there as an interpreter of dreams. Joseph’s pure heart prevented him from being resentful of either his brothers or Potiphar.

Exhibit C for a Pure Heart

After several years, Pharaoh had a prophetic dream that only Joseph could interpret, which led to Joseph’s installment as second-in-charge of all Egypt (Genesis 41:41-43). Because of Joseph’s careful planning and the success the Lord always gave him, Egypt was the only country in the region to successfully survive a seven-year drought. Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt in search of food, and they bowed to the unrecognizable Joseph—just as he had dreamed so many years earlier. Even in this moment when even the holiest among us might crow just a little, Joseph cried and celebrated the reunion (Genesis 45:15, for example). His pure heart lasted a lifetime.

Joseph Saw God Work

Joseph saw God work and
experienced God’s blessings.

Joseph didn’t “see God” in the way we imagine Jesus meant in the Beatitudes, but he certainly saw God work and experienced God’s blessing even in the most difficult circumstances. Remember what he told his brothers after their father died?

“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  –Genesis 50:20

As Jesus’ many followers heard him preach this inside-out sermon, so different from what they usually heard, I wonder if there were one or two who could remember Joseph’s story and know Jesus’ ideas weren’t as far-fetched as they seem.

Seeking the Beatitudes in the Old Testament: Joseph was pure in heart, and he saw God work. My #heartpurity is #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

We don’t know how Joseph maintained his purity through all those years. What do you do to keep a pure heart? Please share in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!

For more about a pure heart, check out this post from my Intentional Parenting blog: On Purity.

Advertisements

Blessed Are: the Merciful

“Lord, show me kindness when I don’t deserve it.”

“Lord, forgive my sins even though you and I both know I did every one of them.”

Most of the time, we simply say, “Lord, have mercy!”

This is mercy: the demonstration of undeserved kindness or forgiveness. Continue reading

Blessed Are: The Hungry and Thirsty

For our on-going series seeking the Beatitudes in the Old Testament,
welcome a special guest for this month: Leigh Powers. You'll be blessed by
Leigh's reflections on an Old Testament prophet you probably don't know! 
Read more about Leigh at the end of the post.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  –Matthew 5:6

Huldah lived through some of the
darkest days of Judah’s history,
but she never stopped hungering
and thirsting for righteousness.

Scripture remembers Josiah as one of Israel’s greatest kings, but at the center of Josiah’s story is a woman who we sometimes forget: the prophet Huldah. Huldah lived through some of the darkest days of Judah’s history, but she never stopped hungering and thirsting for righteousness. She remained resolutely committed to God and God’s Word, and the Lord saw that her hunger for righteousness was satisfied. Continue reading

Blessed Are: Those Who Mourn

“How did we get here?” It’s one of the questions I ponder after every school shooting, after every senseless act of violence, after every scandal in the public arena. It’s one of the questions I ask God. The longer version: “Oh Lord, how did this country come to be like it is today?”

Sometimes I mourn for the state of our country…our world. Maybe you do, too. Jesus said,

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  –Matthew 5:4

Like many of Jesus’ statements, this line seems backward at first. Like I’m going to celebrate my grief because I experienced some comfort in it?!? It would still be better not to have grieved at all, thank you very much!

Maybe we don’t really understand “blessed.” Continue reading

Blessed Are: Poor in Spirit

Here's our first guest post on seeking the beatitudes in the Old Testament!
I know you're going to be blessed by these thoughts from Rachel Schmoyer.

Recently my church was a host to four homeless families through the Family Promise program. Thirteen churches in our area take turns housing families in the evening and overnight. The day program helps the families find jobs and places to live.

On my way to volunteering at the church one evening, I found myself thinking, “I’m so glad I know how to handle money so that I’m not homeless like these people.”

The Holy Spirit convicted me right away. Was it really because of me that we are not homeless? Continue reading

Blessed Are: Ten Commandments Turned Inside Out

When John was thrown in prison, Jesus backed away from Jerusalem, choosing to live in Galilee. At the same time, though, He took up John’s declaration: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17). As he taught, proclaimed, and healed the sick (Matthew 4:23), people started to follow Him. Before long, the crowd grew so large that Jesus had to climb a little way up the side of a mountain so everyone could hear him.

He sat down, drew His disciples to the front row, and began to teach the people. I imagine He scanned the crowd, praying silently, and took a deep breath before He began. (With no amplification, He would have needed to project His voice, and that takes some lung power.)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…”Matthew 5:3 Continue reading