In the Old Testament book of Daniel, we read the true account of 4 men who made the pages of many of our bedtime stories as kids. There is Daniel – who was thrown into a den filled with hungry lions where he spent the night only to walk out the next day without a scratch because “God had shut the mouth of the lions.” But it’s in chapter 3 we find the account of Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Three men who stood out in the world because at the very core of their being, in their heart of hearts, they were unmixed, sincere, all-in, pure in heart.
This is where Jesus takes us to next in His Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)(NIV)
Faced with the threat of a fiery furnace, these three men choose not to bow down to an idol, a golden statue. In fact, for 20 years they had prepared for this moment. Here is their experience:
The pure in heart guard their soul. They are unmixed, fully devoted to God.
Unmixed is an interesting word, but it describes the pure at heart – no mixed allegiances. God said of himself, “While man looks at the outward appearance, I look at the heart.” The heart – what is said to be the center, the soul of the person. The seat of emotion, our inner most thoughts. The control tower, the cockpit. It’s why Solomon wrote “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego recognized this. While the king recruited them because they were nobility, good looking, strong, intelligent, gifted, these men recognized that God was concerned about the core of their being.
The pure in heart can see God working through their obedience. These 4 men saw God. How? Verse 17 “God gave them knowledge and understanding of all kinds. To Daniel he could understand visions and dreams. When they were presented to the King, he found none equal to the 4 of them. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them 10 times better than anyone in his kingdom. Not only that, but they were also more physically fit than the ones who ate the king’s food.” Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were placed in a position of responsibility and authority by the end of Chapter 2 where they served for the last 20 years remaining unmixed, devoted.
The pure in heart will go through times of refining to remove any and all impurities. When Jesus speaks of a pure heart, he’s talking about one that is sincere, whole and has no little ugly places hidden within it. Hypocrisy is the opposite of sincerity. Jesus said of the religious of his day “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8(NIV)
Listen to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s response in verse 17. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter – we aren’t going to argue this with you – the accusations are correct – we didn’t bow down. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he doesn’t, we want you to know O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
The pure in heart do something about the impurities, are sincere with God and He promises to purify and clean.
In the bible there is a connection between clean hands and a pure heart. In Psalm 24:3 we read “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.” Then we read “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinner, and purify your hearts.” In the old testament, washing your hands wasn’t just something you did before dinner. It was a symbol of spiritual cleansing. When Solomon built the temple to honor God, he had five washbasins placed on the south side of the temple and five on the north side. Before entering the temple, people would stop and wash their hands and as the water trickled through their fingers cleansing away the simple impurities, they would be reminded that it is God who cleanses the heart.
Today that cleansing comes from the washing of our sins away by the blood of Jesus in Baptism. Do you find yourself mixed, impure in heart? Come and be baptized. Have you struggled lately to see God because of impurities you’ve allowed back into your heart? Come and wash your hands of impurities and be reminded that God has cleansed your heart.
I’m looking forward to being with you this weekend as we dive deeper into this beatitude “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”