Imagine that you are working outside and it’s hot. Just when you think you are about to collapse from dehydration someone is kind enough to bring you an ice cold glass of water. Just as you are about to take a big gulp you see something floating in it, a small bug is doing the backstroke.
Or you’re wearing that brand new shirt (or dress). It’s ironed and ready to go, but just before you walk out the door your child (or grandchild) who just finished breakfast gives you a great big hug. It’s not until they let go of you that you realize they were wearing more breakfast than they ate.
Life is messy. As much as we like clean things dirt, grime, and germs always seem to find us. We have the same problem spiritually. We want to do the right thing and honor God, but often find ourselves choosing sin instead. Like a bug in your drink, or the grape jelly on your new shirt our sin stains us and contaminates our lives which is a huge problem because we serve a God who is absolutely Holy.
Our culture wants to believe that there is no God. They want to believe that the universe happened by some kind of wonderful coincidence. They want this because if we just happened and there is no creator behind our existence then there is no accountability. I can believe and do what I want and so can you, and in the end if we enjoy life and try to be “good” then that is all that matters.
David begins Psalm 24 by shattering that myth. There is a God, He created the universe and everything in it, and as a result He is LORD over it all. The millions of stars that we are still discovering to the billions of one-celled organisms that we don’t even know about yet all have the finger prints of the God who created them and owns them.
Because of all this whether we like it or not, even if we refuse to acknowledge it, God is in charge. That is why David says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” David understands that we are under the rule of the one who created us and so as He considers that he wonders who would be worthy to come into the presence of such a great God.
When you consider the greatness of the One who created all of this, who can possibly stand before Him? Or on a more personal note, “if God is completely holy and I am not, can I come before him?” “Can a race that is tarnished by the impact of our sin hope to have any kind of fellowship with God?”
The answer is simple. If you want to come before a Holy God, you must be clean. In order for us to be in His presence we must be totally pure. That is a problem for us because we are not clean.
David clarifies that the one who hopes to come to God must do so with, “clean hands and a pure heart” (V4).
Clean hands = outside or physical sin. God’s holiness cannot tolerate our sin. Lying, cheating, stealing, sexual sin, murder, these are all obvious. We know that they destroy lives, numb our hearts, and drive us in the wrong direction and yet we still often prefer them to God.
The second part is less obvious.
A Pure Heart = deals with inward sin, the sins of our mind. We are responsible to God not just for what we say and do, but also for what we think. The sins we hide in our minds are equal to those of our bodies in God’s sight. Jesus taught this and that these sins will also be judged in Matthew 5.
With that being said, mankind is in big trouble. God cannot permit sin in His presence because of His holiness and we are covered in it. Like us the Old Testament saints were saved by faith, but their sin was temporarily dealt with through the sacrificial system. The sacrificial system provided a temporary covering for sin, taught that sin has a price (death) and also pointed to the permanent atonement for our sin – Jesus.
In ourselves we can never be as clean as we need to be in order to reach God, but thank God we don’t have to be. His holiness demands that He deal with sin and that He keeps His distance from it, but His great love for us caused Him to destroy sin and death through the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son. His gift to us should cause us to want to live for Him. In light of Him sacrificing His Son for us it is not unreasonable that we sacrifice our life for Him in the form of holiness. Come Clean.