Pure In Heart
“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. ” Psalm 73:1-2
And thus begins this Psalm of Asaph. There is much to prize in this Psalm. There is the honesty of Asaph that characterizes much of the Psalms. There is the ability to articulate not only the struggle but also the “solution” to that struggle.
The opening verses certainly frames the rest of the psalm. It is this truth that keeps Asaph anchored as he wrestles with the reality that non-Christians seem to flourish while Christians don’t.
Depending on your reading of verse 1, you might think Asaph is making a conditional statement. “If Israel is pure in heart, then God will be good to her.” That’s a message that finds traction in our current spiritual climate. If you measure up, if you do the right things, God will love you…will be good to you.
Of course, the opposite would also be true. If you don’t do the right things, if you don’t measure up, then God will not be good to you. He’ll hide his goodness. But I don’t think that’s what Asaph is saying at all. That certainly doesn’t square with the gospel. The gospel wouldn’t be good news if that were the case!
The key to understanding what Asaph means is found in the phrase “pure in heart.” Jesus used that same phrase in the Sermon on the Mount. He said in the section we label, the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) What does it mean to be pure in heart? To be pure in heart is to have a whole heart. A unified heart. It is to have all of our loves and affections rightly ordered. Not around us. But around God. Not around our desires, but God’s desires. As that happens, more and more, we can see God. We can see his goodness. We can see his power. We can see his purposes.
As the Holy Spirit draws us to the cross of Christ, He enables us to see the height, depth and width of God’s love. A love that made His Son, who knew no sin to be come sin that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). As we embrace that good news, our loves are transformed. They are made whole.
In a sense, Asaph’s statement, “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart,” is a conditional statement. As you have a pure heart, a well-ordered, unified heart, then you can and will see that God is good. You will know it in spite of what you see around you. When everything else is telling you the opposite is true, you will know that God is good.
You will not only be able to see that God is good, but you will want to see it. You’ll want it to be true, and, of course, it is true. C. S. Lewis writes in the Problem of Pain, “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” It is the goodness of God that Asaph comes back to in his psalm. It’s what we come back to as well.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
– Psalm 73:25-28