Since I’ve only been back home from NYC for a few days, this writing thing has had to suffer :) I did manage to write some while on vacation. What follows is a short reflection on Psalm 73:1 & 13, and the cleansed heart. After that some pics of me and Ayden in NYC.
Pure in Heart/Cleansed my Heart [v.1]/[v.13]
Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart.
Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence.
As with many of the psalms, psalm 73, if read incorrectly, could lead a legalist to believe that Asaph’s proclamation in verse 1 is giving a Divinely inspired nod to works righteousness. However, this is a gross misunderstanding of the psalm, for Asaph is not declaring that there are some men whose hearts are natively pure and there are others whose hearts are natively wicked. All men are born with wicked hearts; the hearts that are pure, therefore, are not so by nativity, but must be the end product of Divine cleansing. Asaph makes this evident when he says, “Surely, I have cleansed my heart in vain…” (v.13a). Christ means the same when He says: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8). Our Lord isn’t saying that those who have naturally pure hearts are those who will see God, but those who have been born again by the Sovereign working of the Holy Spirit and have been given a new heart, according to the promises of Ezekiel 36:26-27 and Jeremiah 31:31-33, will see God (cf. John 3:3 where regeneration, the new birth brought about by the Holy Spirit, is prerequisite to seeing the kingdom of God).
Asaph in no way teaches works righteousness by saying that the pure in heart merit the goodness of God. Instead, what is clearly established by the use of parallel here is that God’s people, Israel, are those whose hearts have been purified by God. For Asaph, this was Sovereignly done by God who freely gives the gift of faith to His elect, and is followed by the rites of the temple (I’m assuming); that is to say, it was by the Spirit and the blood (which pointed, by type and shadow, to the Lord Jesus). Whereas for Christians it is by the Spirit and the Blood of Christ, the final and truest sacrifice and fulfillment of all the rites of absolution contained in the Mosaic Law, that we are given new hearts, and our hearts are purified. Asaph is not a legalist ;)
The contention of Asaph in vv. 13-16 is not, therefore, that the he is better than the wicked, but that the repentant and believing life of the people of God is hard in comparison to the sinful lives of the wicked who have no conscience, and who are not convicted when they sin. When they lie, cheat, and steal in order to get what they desire, there is nothing that causes them to consider their ways and tremble to know that God is watching them. The children of God are “chastened” by the Lord, and this is where we can take consolation: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:5-6) Is it wrong to think that poverty and suffering are, in some sense, gifts that God sends His children in order to chasten them? To get their minds off of themselves, their possessions, and their position in the world and to turn their eyes and minds and hearts to Him? I don’t think so. Are not the poor the very ones whom God has chosen to be heirs of the kingdom? Are not the weak the very ones who will rule and reign with Christ? They are.
[An Aside: What the Pentecostals don’t understand is that suffering, pain, and death were decreed by God and promised as the wages of sin. It is misleading to say that suffering, pain, and death are the result of sin; therefore, God doesn’t inflict pain, suffering, and death on people. This is not only bad logic, it is very bad theology. Genesis 2:16-17 tells us that it is God who established the rewards and punishments to be meted out for breaking His commandment. And what is implicit here is a very simple principle: It is God alone who can both give life and take life, and it is He who places conditions on life itself, as He is the Lawgiver. That is why He tells the serpent: “You are cursed,” and, “I will put enmity between your seed and her Seed” (cf. 3:14-15). That is also why He tells the woman: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and conception…[etc]” (cf. 3:16). And, finally, that is why He tells Adam: “Cursed is the ground for your sakes…[etc]” (cf. 3:17-19). God’s Word of Judgment here stands in an antithetical parallel relationship to His Word of Creation in chapter 1. It is God who alone grants life and takes it, and places whatsoever conditions upon it He wishes. The Pentecostals are entirely wrong.]
[Here are the pictures :)]