Meditating on the Judgements of God: 1.7 God’s Bench Marks
Psa 25:3,4 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
Before we move on to start considering different types of judgement, we need to pause up and emphasise what we have been saying in the previous two meditations, for not only do these things prevent us from becoming judgement-focused but I feel we have not yet explained fully enough the background against which all judgements should be seen, that which I called the ‘colour wash’ previously.
We simply defined righteousness as behaviour that conforms to the way God has designed us to live. It is at this point many furrowed brows appear. Yes, you say that when God made everything it was very good, and the occurrence of the Fall took away from that, but how do we assess what it was like before the Fall, and therefore presumably, the sort of people God wants us to be?
Well let’s use what we find in Psa 25 to help us. It starts out, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” (v.1,2) David, the psalmist, starts from the point of seeing God as the Creator of all things. That may have various consequences, but he has one particular one in mind: “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?” (v.3) David comes in a point in history where Jerusalem has been taken and become the capital and we might assume he has now established the Tabernacle in the city on one of the high points and this is seen as God’s place of encounter through the priesthood.
But in David’s reflections on the Lord, since Moses He is known as ‘The I AM’, the ever-present one. That together with the thought that He is also the Creator of all things brought a sense of awe to David. The other evening my wife and I sat watching a massive thunder storm. The lightning was amazing but the crashes and rolling roars of the thunder left us both aware of power. It was awesome. No doubt David had sat out on the hillsides of Israel looking after his father’s sheep and had experienced the same thing. Sometimes just sitting outside on a very clear night, the incredible expanse of the stars can create the same thing. It leaves one thinking, ‘Who are we in comparison to this One who is so awesome and so powerful?’ And David thinks the same and struggles to comprehend the sort of person who is acceptable to Almighty God, especially after the Uzzah incident (2 Sam 6:6,7). Let’s look at his descriptions of verses 3 & 4. There are four significant descriptions here: “He who has clean hands/ and a pure heart,/ who does not lift up his soul to an idol / or swear by what is false.”
- “He who has clean hands.” In the Scriptures speaking of hands like this refers to behaviour; for example, “if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands– if I have done evil” (Psa 7:3,4) or “the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.” (Psa 9:16) or “repay them for what their hands have done.” (Psa 28:4) Clean hands therefore speaks of behaviour that is guiltless. It is that simple. Before the fall, Adam and Eve had not known what sin was. Today the New Testament teaching is that sin is not to have a part in our lives (see 1 Jn 2:1 & Rom 6:1,2). God’s goal for your life and mine is sinless behaviour. (Yes, we may occasionally stumble but that is different from wilful ongoing self-centred godlessness!)
- “a pure heart”. References to ‘the heart’ in the Scriptures refer to our inner state, the direction of our will (towards or away from God), our intent and inner desires (to get our own way or live God’s way). This is all about right attitudes and motives. A heart of love for God and for His will for us is the second measuring stick or bench mark.
- “who does not lift up his soul to an idol.” This again is about being godly, about relying upon God and not turning to superstitious worship of ‘beings’ or ‘spirits’ or ‘gods’ who are not God, leaning on or relying on anything that is not God.
- “who does not … swear by what is false.” We night simply say, ‘who lives by the truth’. Lies, unreality, perjury and so on have no room in God’s kingdom. This is all about having truth at the heart of our lives. Truth and integrity are to prevail.
Of these four things, the first is about behaviour, the second about heart motivation, and the third and fourth are about truth. The third is about truth as to the One and only true deity and following him, and the fourth is about the way you live generally, following truth and integrity.
Now I would suggest that each of these things is simple and straight forward and the person who hedges or queries any of them does so because they
- know their behaviour is questionable in some aspect, or
- their attitude towards God may be half-hearted, or
- they place things or fame above God and
- they distort or twist the truth for their own ends.
Each of these issues are very simple when it comes down to it and you either have a person who is righteous and godly in attitude, who holds firmly to God and will only speak or live the truth – or you don’t! These are the sort of characteristics God wants in His people; this is His will for us, this is what He is working for, and the absence of these things raises questions about the need for judgment.