Pastor Terry Goerz,
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Psalm 24: 3–5 “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Saviour.”
This psalm asks the questions:
- Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
- Who may stand in His holy place?
- Who gets to be in the presence of this powerful, wise, almighty Creator God? Who can stand before Him? Who can enter His heavenly home?
The next verse says: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false”.
Now we’re in trouble. Who has clean hands? Or a pure heart? Or doesn’t use words that are false or wrong or hurtful? None of us!
The psalmist is not talking about mud on your hands; he is talking about hands that are doing what is right and true in God’s eyes.
But our hands can hold on to our money way too tightly when somebody needs our generosity. Or our hands can be on a mouse of a computer and click on a site that our eyes should not be seeing. Or our hands can be kept to ourselves when we should have been lending a helping hand. Or our hands can push someone away who needs a hug or some care. Or our hands can make a fist or a slap or a pointing finger that can hurt when we are way too angry. No, we do not have clean hands.
As for our hearts, they are not pure. Our hearts deal with the desires and motivations in life. We can be walking our dog around the neighbourhood, and you go by the recycle bins. Someone has put a box up against the cardboard bin that doesn’t fit in the bin, one for an 80-inch TV. And what happens? We see the box and our heart becomes jealous. We don’t need a TV that large. Our smaller one is fine.
But, still the desire grabs our heart. Or you open up the newspaper and see all the colour ads or watch a TV commercial, and the same thing happens. Envy, jealousy, a desire for something you don’t need arises in your heart.
Or perhaps you have a dark secret in your heart, one that you want no one to ever to find out. But God can see it. Or perhaps your heart holds a grudge and won’t let it go.
Our hearts are not always pure. As for our words, it’s not just profanity or telling a lie. It’s also when we use words that hurt.
A relationship is harmed when words like these come out in the midst of a fight: “Get away!” or “I don’t love you anymore!”
The words do damage. Clean hands? Pure hearts? Good words? Not a chance.
Who can enter into this Creator God’s holy place? Well, if it depends on our clean hands, pure hearts, and words that aren’t deceitful or hurtful, not us. Not anyone.
And we’re in real trouble.
Soon we will mark a dark day. Jesus hanging on a cross in obedience to His Father. And as he is dying he has swirling around Him whatever our unclean hands have done; whatever impure desires, thoughts, and motivations that have come out of our hearts; whatever hurtful words that have spewed from our mouths. Everything that would ever keep us from entering God’s almighty presence is there, on Jesus.
And God pours all His wrath for all our sin on Him as Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”
We call it Good Friday, for on that cross, Jesus gives us forgiveness along with His righteousness and salvation.
When we seek after Jesus, trust in what He has done for us, and hold on to Him in faith, then righteousness, blessing, and salvation come to us. God’s gracious, glorious gift is that His heavenly home is now open to us because of Jesus.
So we now come back to that difficult question. Who can enter God’s presence?
“He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.”
Clean hands. Pure hearts. Good words. Certainlhy not us as we said, but that is the miracle of the cross. We have our unclean hands, impure hearts and bad words given to Jesus as He dies on the cross, and He gives us His righteousness. The righteousness of Jesus’ sin free life is imputed or credited to us and we can now enter God’s presence.
The sin of our unclean hands, impure hearts and bad words are paid for by Christ there on the cross, and now all God sees is Christ in us, the Holy Spirit.
Luther called this “the sweet exchange”. Our sins are charged to Christ and His righteousness credited to our account. Thus He was made sin for us and we were made righteous in Him.
So, who can enter God’s presence? We can, thanks to Jesus Christ our Saviour!