Clean hands and pure hearts1
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
David speaks the good, hard truth here. We can’t approach God and stand before him with blood on our hands and dirt in our hearts. We can’t worship the only true God if we are wholeheartedly devoted to other gods.
We imagine David preparing to ascend the mountain of the Lord, to stand in his holy place, and to meet with God. He washes his hands free of the dirt and blood that covered him in his work as a shepherd and a warrior. But will he ever be clean?
David is right that clean hands and a pure heart are necessary to go before God. But how do we get clean hands and a pure heart?
Later in David’s life he started to see how deeply stained his hands and his heart had become. He betrayed a friend and had him murdered. He made leadership decisions that cost his people dearly. He made parental mistakes that eventually led to the loss of one of his sons. His hands and his heart were covered with blood. And no amount of water could wash it away.
This happens when we approach God confident in our own self-scrubbing. We get partway up the mountain and discover that we missed a spot. We go back and wash again. On the next trip up we stumble and dirty our hands in the earth. We go back and wash again. This happens again and again and, despite our best efforts, we never make it to the top with clean hands and a pure heart. How can we get clean hands and a pure heart?
The answer is trust.
Instead of trusting in idols and false gods, we trust in the Lord. We hold out our hands and hold up our hearts for him to cleanse. We ask him to descend the mountain and come to be with us. We ask him to make us clean and carry us to his holy place.
In Jesus, this is what we have: a God who left the holy place, descended the mountain, cleansed his people, and carries them with him back to the summit.
Where are you in need of cleansing? What sins are you aware of today? What do you need God to forgive you for, heal you of, or set you free from? Take a few moments today to ask him to make you clean in Jesus name. Then, enjoy being with him.