Thoughts on the Beatitudes (11) - Evan Gear

Part XI:
Matthew 5:8— Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God

James opens his letter to the church describing what he calls a double-minded man (James 1:8). Such a man doubts when he prays. He is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind (1:6). Such a person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord (1:7) for he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

It is in some ways a difficult passage but I think it serves as a helpful parallel to this beatitude. James is describing a man who is not single in his heart when it comes to God. He vacillates between two opinions. The God he prays to is generous, yes, but not the one who would bring hard circumstances. He is not one who would ever say “No.” So, when he (or she) prays and receives an answer that is not according to expectations from God, it is as though God did not hear. Prayer is rendered ineffectual. God himself seems either distant or absent or, worse, no-existent.

In order to receive anything from Him. The one who prays must believe that he is. And, not only does He exist, He answers prayer. Sometimes, often even, the answer is not according to our expectations. His ways, after all, are not our ways. But to set your heart on the biblical God and expect at the same time something other than His nature and freedom in the answer is the most unstable of places. It serves only to distance us from Him and blind us to Him. This is where the text before us comes in.
Blessed are the pure in heart.
We read this and, hearing pure, think cleanliness. This, I think, is a mistake. We ought to hear instead a lack of mixture. Our Lord has in view here a united heart, a heart ready to enter his presence. And let me emphasize that: His presence. Ready to come unmixed with our own ideas. In that sense, a heart cleansed of our own expectations to receive from Him (He whom James calls {1:17} the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change) whatever He deems best for us. We wait expectantly the opening of His hand. From it may come difficulty, or hardship, or the call to wait… He will give us the cross but that, that is good and comes from a good, the good hand of God.
If we are pure in this way then, surely, we will see God. We will see Him as Phillip. Remember, Phillip implores Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” To which our Lord replies, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:8-9).”
We will see him now in Christ, that is in this world as this world is. We will see him in our sins and failures, in confession and restoration, in praise and adoration. This is, we will see him in the church and so seeing him there we will notice him in our lives. We will be taught to say with the apostle Paul, for me to live is Christ… And then we will add, as he does, and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21). Why? Because seeing him hear through the veil of suffering and death we are prepared to see him there, in the new heavens and the new earth, where we will behold him face to face. And that according to the promise here, they shall see God.
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