God is Pure
Pure. I carried that word to Kickapoo Creek today. It has become a significant place of refuge during this sabbatical gift. I will circle back to the creek shortly. “Pure” is the seventh word of the seventh week of my sabbatical and it is squarely on my heart. Images of someone or something free of impurities, without dust, dirt, pollutants, contaminates, or sin enter my thoughts. The term brings to my mind wholeness or wholesomeness. The seventh command from Exodus 20 is the foundational passage upon which this stunning attribute of God finds its source. “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). This imperative points us to another unique quality of our Creator. God is pure. Because He alone is pure and has the authority to invite us into a relationship with Him, He can also make us pure. Strangely, or perhaps appropriately, God uses the imagery of a marriage to frame this seventh command. Just as the marriage relationship between a man and a woman is to be pure, so the relationship between God and us is to be just as pure.
God, as many of us already know, never fails to keep His side of this marriage. He is ever pure. I, on the other hand, so often fail to keep my side of the relationship. I am prone toward impurity. It is fascinating to hear how Jesus raises the bar even higher when He properly interprets this specific command. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers a remarkable insight. “You have it heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Every time I turn another human being into an object of self-gratification, I rip apart this seventh word. In reality, I reject God’s pure nature. My confession is not shocking to anyone who reads the Bible the way I read mine or knows me as the fractured man that I truly am. I have committed adultery with my heart and eyes. I have been unwholesome, while God has remained entirely wholesome. My heart’s eyes desperately need constant guarding. These forty-plus years of marriage with Sue have reminded me repeatedly that my relationship with her is to mirror the relationship I have with God. Because He is pure, I can be pure in the marriage I have with Sue and the marriage I have with God. I know that sounds preposterous for some. Hang with me for a moment.
This marriage analogy flows throughout the unfolding Gospel story from Genesis to Revelation. God reminds His people that He is the husband and we are his wife. It would be beyond the boundaries of this specific blog post to list all the passages. I trust the following will suffice. I offer these in no specific order.
“For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is His name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth He is called” (Isaiah 54:5).
“I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride…” (Jeremiah 2:2).
“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD” (Hosea 2:19-20).
“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2).
“Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
“And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:20.
Those Bible verses and so many others are reminders of the fundamental relationship between ourselves and God and His pure and unchanging nature. John Piper, a man in whom I have great respect, has written these remarkable words, “Christ is after a beautiful, splendid, spotless, wrinkle-free, holy, blemish-free, gorgeous wife.” Powerful. Accurate. Francis Schaeffer, a hero of mine, called this kind of language odd. He said, “We would not dare use it if God Himself did not use it.” Truthfully, it is easier for women to grasp the bride metaphor than for men. Yet, in spite of the challenging language, the imagery of marriage is the one God chooses to confirm His relationship with us.
All ten words from Exodus 20 that we often refer to as the Ten Commandments are colossal reminders that the Gospel runs through all ten. None of us has the ability to keep our side of the relationship apart from God’s grace evident through the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Because of Christ’s pure sacrifice, God now sees our lack of wholeness and wholesomeness through the blood of Jesus. Because He is pure, we are pure. Profound. I carried that sizable thought with me to the Kickapoo today. Throughout this sabbatical, I have returned to the little creek near my house that I think of as my Jordan River. I baptize myself today in the purity of Christ’s finished work. I linger there. I pray there. I listen there. I cooperate with the initiative of the Holy Spirit there.
The Kickapoo watershed is clean and set aside for nature lovers like me to enjoy. I cherish looking at the clear water and noticing the wildlife that lives in and around it. It preaches to me every time I return. The prairie grass and creek must ever be stewarded and loved. If that is true and I believe it is, how much more than should this holy relationship between Christ and His Church be constantly stewarded and loved? How much more than should this holy relationship between husband and wife also be stewarded and loved? Faithful marriage or unfaithful adultery is the imagery God has chosen. The seventh word reminds me of that. Because God is a pure husband, I long to be His pure bride. It is what He alone deserves and what I truly desire. Pure. To His glory and our ongoing formation. Amen.