Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
Psalm 73:1 (ESV)
The holy nation of God is made up of those who are pure in heart. For the thing which God is after is a spiritual holy nation. His holy uncompromising love issues forth from pure hearts because the pure heart is that which walks in a clean conscience, so that its participation in the faith may always be instant and authentic.
The aim of our charge is love
that issues from a pure heart
and a good conscience
and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 1:5
These are a peculiar people, for they are no one’s possession except Christ’s. They are not even their own: they see and are ever undone at the immeasurable worth of His buying price for their souls. Today is the day for purity of heart to be sought and acquired in the members of God’s house, lest the jealous yearning of His indwelling Spirit be provoked, and we miss His every visitation.
The prophet wondered aloud regarding the day in which the Lord suddenly comes to His temple: “But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appears? For He is like a refiners fire…” We the temple stand in the midst of that day, a day in which He first visits His own house to purge the iniquity and burn away the chaff.
“It is time for judgement to begin at the house of God.” The names of those who weep over the desolate state of His people are being written in heaven’s books, as well as those who have desolated that temple. Let every one whom God has called into the participation of His Life heed the warnings of His word.
Yet the earnest of heart, who desire no other shepherd than the Good One, who cry for nothing less than the Lord Himself to be fully glorified in them, who long for His perfect will to be done in light of these things – these souls are often heavily burdened with the knowledge of a world in which the darkness often seems to overcome God’s light, and the where Truth has fallen in the streets. I, the one writing this, have at many times been overcome with such grief, and pushed aside God’s peace in my wallowing.
The seventy-third Psalm has, for some time now, been a sharp instrument in the skilled hands of my Physician. It contains the words of a man rightfully disenchanted with the spiritual injustice of his day, yet crippled by the impure response of his own heart toward it. The proverb is true: “the more knowledge, the more sorrow;” and the sorrowful soul that is not allowing itself to be continually restored by the Lord can become just as deceitful and desperately wicked as any unregenerate heart. Those who see the horror of things as they truly are, who hear the urgent call of God to His people, can easily run the risk of feeling as though they have come to something which excludes them from requiring further sanctification. Herein lies the path of becoming both unmerciful and unjust in response to what God is revealing. The great danger of conviction is that we become content with its mere presence, neglecting its call to an ever-deepening repentance within ourselves.
The Psalmist continues…
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
“I was envious of the arrogant…” Here is the confession of a man who observed the order of things correctly, yet had contemplated them unrighteously within his soul. A lack of personal peace due to the success of the wicked indicates this envy within the heart. Envy is not merely covetousness. Covetousness has to do with lusts and selfish desires; but envy more broadly describes a self-centered sense of justice. Envy is, however, a root of restless evil which also supplies the many tendrils of covetousness. But even if we do not directly covet the unrighteousness of men or their gain by it, it is still the sin of envy which robs us of walking in the peace of God. In being envious of the arrogant, we become arrogant. Where God does not appear in our own sight to be the fulcrum of justice, we overstep Him to seek out our own. This is the envy here described. We act in the passion of envy and speak in the heat of our own displeasure. Our reasoning may be absolutely correct, but our heart is not right.
This envy reveals the absence of Godly contentment; it is the frame of those seeking their own justice for all that rightly disturbs their souls. The Devil has learned well to drain the Godly contentment out of those who are righteously dissatisfied with the status quo of man’s systems. For what we envy is the apparent peace of the wicked in light of the apparent disappointment of “I, the righteous,” (though we may not admit to such thoughts). But this is not reality as God sees it; since there is no true peace for the wicked, and disappointment is not the mind of those who trust in the Lord. We think too highly of our selfishly impassioned understandings. A lack of entrusting God’s capable hands to be in control of matters too lofty for us brings about the crippling frustration of envy in our souls, so that in the secret of our hearts, we rail against the Most High over our perceived predicament, as the wicked seem to always prosper.
“The murmuring spirit… has much of the spirit of Satan within it.”
– Jeremiah Burrows
Self-pity is the unrighteous bog in which we soak our hearts when we allow the evil of men to overshadow the goodness of God in our present sight. But we are exhorted by Him to see from eternity, that we may bring back the piercing decree of eternity to lighten this present darkness. The decree from what our own eyes see and our own ears hear among men will not do; since from these, God’s perfect justice and equity can never proceed. But those who have saught and received His heavenly counsel are able to hold fast in the truth in a true heart; since on their behalf, His mercy has triumphed over judgement. By the brightness of His glory before the eyes of their hearts, and in the burning of His coals upon their lips, His rod of discipline and staff of guidance become their acquaintances, and they learn that their own obedience is not yet complete, lest they should hastily decree a final word against the wicked.
By mercy and truth iniquity is purged:
and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.
Let us, therefore, with thankfulness and reverence, fix our eyes upon the things which are of Christ, our only boast. Blessed are those who invite the searching light of God into the unvisited places of the heart, that when His purifying fire comes, it may be gladly received to do its work! In such a place, His triumph over the enemy will be seen.
But regarding the wicked, whom we ourselves emulate by the unrighteous fellowship of envy, the Psalmist continues…
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
Therefore His people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them. And they say,
“How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease,
they increase in riches.
The soul most embittered by perceived injustice most quickly rises within the ranks of the unjust. The unjust were all at one time crying out for justice themselves. For no sooner does a man give himself to earnestly seek God’s justice in light of great evil, than the Devil and the flesh remind him of every wrong that he has suffered at the hands of men – especially the betrayal of his very brothers. When we seek the undoing of unrighteousness to find the peace of God rather than standing in the peace of God to find the undoing of unrighteousness, we inevitably find ourselves likewise setting our mouths against the heavens. Yet what was our Lord’s response to this world, He knowing men’s wicked hearts beforehand? See what it accomplished! For in Him the Spirit blew where it wished. At one time He was quick to rebuke; at another, to extend mercy; at another, to leave men to themselves. All these interactions were enthroned upon righteousness and justice; for He knew what was in man, because He knew where He came from and where He was going. He perfectly discerned others because He perfectly discerned Himself, so that the Holy Spirit was at liberty in Him. The degree to which we discern ourselves determines the degree to which we discern outside of ourselves and are enabled to be more precisely led by His Spirit.
He shall not judge by what His eyes see, or decide disputes by what His ears hear, but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall kill the wicked.
Such is the way of one whose life proceeds from heaven. The desired reward of true righteousness is the singular glory of God, who today still sends His rain upon the just and the unjust alike. The pure in heart know that they are not the protectors of God’s glory – this is why they can stand undeterred in spirit despite the wicked schemes round about them. For the wise do not dare touch the Ark of God to steady it, though it appears for a moment to waver. The tempter prompts good yet undiscerning men to seize the day right when God is about to make it His own. Any ministration which bypasses the direct working of His Spirit is a ministration after the spirit of antichrist. If we are grieved by what we see and spurred to action with the Holy Spirit, then let the justice of God first overtake and trample our own motivations, lest our own decree go forth and not His. The purest justice flows from a vessel which has itself been most refined in judgement; but the heart envious toward evil men reveals its own impurity as it wearies of walking uprightly amidst such a perverse generation…
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.
But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
The response of an impure heart toward evil both within and without God’s house causes our brethren to stumble, for in our envious condition we ourselves are slipping. Let such infancy in grace give way to maturity through both receiving and trusting His good counsel, which He reserves for the ones who diligently seek Him. Holy ground is walked upon by those who earnestly desire to look upon HIS beauty and inquire in HIS temple. Only here is made known in the depths of our being the unfathomableness of His perfection in His dealings with men: of His foreknowledge and His longsuffering, of His mercy and His wrath stored up for their respective days, of the desperate longings of His heart unsearchable, of the boundless symmetry of His way inscrutable. Those who humble themselves to seek the counsel of the Lord regarding their grievances will find not merely words to fill an intellectual gap, but living eye-salve of the Holy Spirit. For He reveals His heart regarding the wicked only so much as we allow our own darkness to likewise be lightened.
Truly You set them in slippery places;
You make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when You rouse yourself,
You despise them as phantoms.
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward You.
Nevertheless, I am continually with You;
You hold my right hand.
The pure in heart do not overstep God’s decree regarding the wicked: they are satisfied with it; for they have seen His decree’s relevance even to themselves, and their own deserved fate, but for His ever-new mercies. They find peace even in the hearing of His heavier counsels, for they know the good of conceding to His way. In this they are not denying His intercession through them, but they uphold its rightful place. Intercession is the extending of God’s heart within us for what He has decreed, not of our own counsels toward Him; and there are times when He emphatically says, “Pray NOT for this people, for their good…” (Jer 14:11) There is a sin leading to death, and we would do well to walk in the discernment of He who sees the hidden thoughts and intentions of every heart. Conversely, within those for whom God still suffers long, there can be a particularly unruly waywardness which requires us to trustingly remove our hands from them, so that He who drew us to Himself apart from man’s devices might be able do the same in them, and we may rejoice in His hope.
We often despise God’s times and seasons, because He uses them to challenge what we suppose should be happening and when. The sooner we trust Him, the sooner we shall see His hour. But we need to trust Him first – then He will do whatever pleases Him, however it pleases Him. The prophet Elijah, who hid himself in virtual exile for years at a time upon the command of God, became so entwined in God’s perfect will that he could confidently say, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to MY word.” (1 Kings 17:1) Elijah lived standing before God Himself, speaking and moving according to whatever he saw his God doing. He was a true intercessor: a man who stood in the gap, just as Noah who “by faith… condemned the world” in his building of God’s refuge for the righteous few. The battle within us is not merely between action and inaction; it is a matter of whose action. There is a Devilish restlessness which saps the Godly strength of a ready soul, and a haughtiness which blinds the eyes to the present desire of God.
The most well-intentioned self-will is the greatest neutralizer of true intercession. The tether which binds fleshly action to a holy burden is sensual and demonic; but those who are being overcome by the heart of Christ will overcome the world by faith. They are secure in daring to say “Thy will be done” because they have chosen to live before the judgement seat of Christ today. For it is here that we discover our need to be led by the hand into the maturity of a living understanding, where our perspective of justice gives way to His own. If we could taste but a drop of His holy anguish over the injustices of wicked men, we would be utterly ashamed of our own imperfect angst. In the covert of His wings vexation is removed from the soul; and the spirit of loneliness and rejection which fostered all manner of sins within us gives way to a renewed strength by returning to the arms of He who never truly forsook us. The burden of the whole world is the Lord’s; and we shall only rightly partake of His burdens if we allow Him to administer HIS rest to our souls, else their weight will cause our hearts to fail, and our flesh give way to defeat. We cannot minister to the Lord if we are not first ministered unto by Him. We may speak much of readiness, yet His love remains bound within us, unable to be fully and freely expressed. But deliverance finds those who at last give up on pride and let Him win; consolation is found by those whom His word breaks in pieces; and His anointing is poured out of broken vessels. The wonderful works of which the pure in heart shall tell are HIS works.
You guide me with Your counsel,
and afterward You will receive me to glory.
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.