Purity: An OT perspective Part 3

It would be easy to spend at least the next month or more on the Old Testament perspective of Purity, but I’m going to finish this perspective off with a look at what David and Solomon write about purity in Psalms and Proverbs.  As I said,I could take a month or more to talk about the Old testament and Purity, because it’s a great example of the opposite being true.   So many of the Old Testament heroes and patriarchs were just average men who screwed up and did everything possible to screw up GOD’s vision of purity, we could list the names of all of them; but it also shows GOD’s mercy and grace towards those HE loves, in that even though they failed horribly, HE forgave them, and, while not shielding them from consequences, HE gave them grace and walked with them through the consequences.  I’m going to take a walk through what David, the other writers of the Psalms, and Solomon wrote on Purity because as far as David and Solomon are concerned, while one was considered a man after GOD’s own heart and the other was considered the wisest man ever, they both had a problem where purity was concerned.   Since it was such a struggle for them, I believe GOD gave them unique insight into that topic.  David and Solomon would be an amazing character study if you’re ever interested in doing one, I’ve done both in the past and learned a great deal about leadership, being a man of GOD, and how not to be a dad (David’s case especially), but that’s for another time.  For now, let’s dig into what Psalms and Proverbs has to say about Purity.

If you do a word search on biblegateway.com on purity you only come up with 1 reference found in Psalms 119:9 which states: [ ב Beth ] How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.   That verse asks and answers the basic question when it comes to purity.  How do we stay on the path of purity?  We live according to the Word of GOD.   In the Old Testament times they had the law which instructed them on what purity is.   Now, we have the New Testament, which supersedes the law, but it’s still the same concept.  We live according to the word of GOD.  We could stop right there if we wanted to, but I think there’s more.   If you choose just the word pure, there are 9 verses in Psalms and 6 verses in Proverbs, which if you want to look it up, I would encourage you to do it, but I’m going to focus on a synonym of Purity/pure and that word is “Righteous”.   You see, that’s part of why I say Purity is more than sexual abstinence, it’s a life style, a way of living that has us living above the standard that the world gives us.  David and Solomon understood this, mainly because they had failed to do it so often I think.  Psalms has 122 verses dealing with the word Righteous and Proverbs has  76, but I’m not going to look at all 196 verses, that would be one very long blog and probably pretty boring and painful to read, so I’ll just “cherry pick” a few verses from each that are representative of the topic.

From the beginning of both The Psalms and Proverbs, the authors stress righteousness/purity.

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

What’s the focus here?  The focus is the blessing an individual receives by rejecting the lifestyle of the wicked.   That’s in chapter 1 of the book of Psalms.  Chapter 1 of Proverbs, the first 7 verses are similar:

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,[a] knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.[b]

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools[c] despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1 goes on to encourage the reader/learner to seek wisdom and then rebukes those that reject wisdom.   Do you see the connection in Ps 1:6 and Proverbs 1:7 though?  They echo each other but from a different perspective.  The point of Psalms is songs to give glory to GOD, the point of Proverbs is teaching wisdom to a new generation, but the connection for both is the seeking of GOD for wisdom and righteousness.   The world will key on the negative words such as “fools”, “despise”, “destruction” and rail on about how unfair GOD is or how GOD isn’t really a GOD of love, but they’re missing the point.  GOD isn’t going to with hold consequences of our choices, HE will shield us if we repent, but in the end, we have to accept that there are consequences to certain decision we make, and that what the book of Proverbs is all about.  Seeking wisdom so we can make right choices.   The point of Psalms are songs and poems from men with broken hearts who are seeking after GOD for forgiveness, understanding, worship, guidance, etc.   All of the authors (there were multiple writers of the Psalms, but David wrote most of them and compiled the rest into the book of Psalms) of the Psalms echo a general theme, and that is worshiping GOD through this journey we call Life.  Whether the times are good, or bad, worship GOD.  Pursue GOD not just out of a sense of duty, but out of a passion to know THE Creator.

In Psalm 15, David describes the eligibility criteria for those who wish to dwell “in the tent of the Lord”, that Criteria is found in verses 1-5

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?  Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart;

whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others;

4 who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lordwho keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.   Whoever does these things  will never be shaken.

That’s a pretty high standard that David sets, I don’t think he was even able to live up to that standard.  That description is the ultimate eligibility criteria for purity.  That is the standard to which Christians should aspire to….and that we often fail to live up to.  When we dig into the book of Proverbs, there’s so much there that talks about living a life of purity, without it actually saying the  word purity.  It substitutes the word righteous and wisdom, and talks about “the pure in heart”, so it’s difficult to cherry pick from the book of Proverbs.  My suggestion, if you’re interested, is pick a proverb a day and study it, there are 31, so you can use it as a monthly devotional.

So the question then becomes, if this high standard that we aspire to is so hard to attain, that even David and Solomon had difficulty with it, how do we attain it?   Why should we even try if we’re going to fail?  Solomon, I believe addresses those questions in Proverbs 2, specifically verses 1-11

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones                               Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.                                   10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.                 11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

Wisdom.   Discretion. Insight.   Understanding.   These are words that Solomon uses to inform the reader what is available to the one who seeks it.  It is the outcome, the after effect of seeking to live a life of purity.  This can only be done if we are seeking after GOD.  When we seek GOD, the outcome, as well as the benefits are a life of purity which produces wisdom, discretion, insight and knowledge.  You may be reading this and saying, “Kevin, you’re being way to simplistic and I don’t see the connection.”  Well, you maybe right.  I may be drawing a line that is hard to follow, but I believe that the purpose of purity, is to live a life seeking to serve GOD and when we chase after wisdom, we are chasing after GOD.   At it’s very base, a life of purity is a life of wisdom and discretion.   We’ll see more of what I mean as I dig into it in the NEW Testament starting next week (hopefully), because Jesus takes the definition of purity to a whole new level and turns it from an act of expected obedience, to a lifestyle choice that can redefine a persons life.   So, stay tuned, it’ll get better.

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