“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
The heart has eyes, but purity gives it 20/20 vision with which to see God. There was only One born with perfect heart vision to see God, for his heart was pure. Yet, in his humanity, he could only see God through the lens of faith.
The rest of us were born with defective vision. We only see blurry, “through a glass, darkly.” Heart vision impairment is a permanent condition to be fully corrected when this corruptible will put on incorruption, and this mortal will put on immortality (1 Co 15:53). Then we shall see face to face. That hope is born of faith, and hope does not disappoint. We shall see.
In the meantime, we need vision correction, for the purity part. But what needs correction is not just the purity of the eyes of flesh, but the heart itself, for “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jr 17:9).
The beatitude tells us that purity correction is not like putting on a pair of glasses, or contact lenses.
It is making contact with a crucible into which we are poured, and purified as if by fire.
Doesn’t the Gospel deny all that for the believer? Aren’t believers exempt from such crucibles?
The beatitude says, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” That’s a different kind of purity, a different kind of cleansing than we usually associate with this beatitude. It is often seen in terms of sexual purity, where we discipline to look away from lust and other distractions that would dampen our spiritual eyes. But the purity of the beatitude is that which comes from the extreme temperature of a crucible made for purifying precious metals, especially gold.
The Greek word here for “pure” is “katharos,” and it is no mean cleansing. It is not pulling out the little cloth from the lens case. It actually means that which is separated by purging. Katharos refers to the purification that takes place in a crucible, heated to the melting point of gold, silver, or bronze. The heat causes the dross to rise to the top where the craftsman is able to remove it with skimmers. Even the removal is carefully executed, for it is only slag that is removed, the gold stays. The process can last up to four hours, and the furnace is heated to gold’s melting point, which is about 1,943 degrees Fahrenheit! (1064 C°). After the dross is removed, the gold reaches a purity – with the best method – of 99.999% or 24K. One thousandth short of purity. It’s the purest it can get. Almost pure, but not quite. Even the best methods fall short of removing all impurities. When we wear gold adornments, it is difficult to avoid even a mild sense of self-importance, and a tinge of vanity. Yet, we never stop to think that we are not only displaying the beauty of the gold piece, but also its remaining impurities. And only the discerning eye of a skilled craftsman knows that the piece “comes short” of complete purity.
We may strut about the “gold” of our character growth, but the One who is all gold sees the dross behind it.
We are not saved by the success of our refining process. We are saved precisely because our impurities, no matter what the percentage, ruin the whole thing.
“For all have been tried by fire and come short of the purity of God.” To him, even our 99.999% pure gold is nothing but “fool’s gold,” worthy only to be thrown to the slag pile.
But what about our purification process? Doesn’t it count for anything then? All the suffering, the pain, the want, the sacrifices, the constant testing of our character? Our growth in developing even the most challenging of Christian virtues? Doesn’t our time in the oven count for anything, even for what feels at times like 1,943 degrees Fahrenheit?
Is it just a fruitless exercise? Is it then “blessed are the almost pure in heart, for they will almost see God?” Is the beatitude N/A to mere mortals? Who then, shall see God and live?
Job came quite close to 99.999% of pure gold. Even God gave a splendid testimony of his character. “There is no one like him on the earth, a man who is blameless and upright, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8). And Job knew it. “When he has tested me, I’ll come out as pure as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps. I’ve stayed on his path without turning away” (Job 23:10,11).
And therein was the .001% impurity. He thought his process and his pious consistency during all his trial amounted to something before God. Repeatedly Job argued for his purity before God. “You seek out my iniquity and search for my sin, although you know that I am not guilty… There is no violence in my hands, and my prayer is pure [Ahem, 99.999% pure]… I have not departed from the commandment of his lips… I hold fast my righteousness, and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days; I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban… let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!”
And then, in a whirlwind, Job heard God’s voice. “Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be justified?”
It is God who justifies.
There’s only one gold standard acceptable to God. And it is not Job’s or Moses’ or anyone else’s.
In Bethlehem he began as pure gold. Before the faker of gold in the desert, Jesus shook off all impurities thrown at him with his Father’s “It is written.” In Gethsemane and Calvary came the most exacting test. The crucible was heated seven times hotter. He took on all our impurities while remaining in himself 100% pure before God. He left all our dross and slag in the empty tomb so that today we may be declared pure gold in Him. No impurities remaining.
Then, and only then, we may cry out with Job, “in my flesh shall I see God… and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:26,27).
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”