Q&A: Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

In what ways did the Old Testament require inward devotion to God as well as outward obedience?

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Answer

Yeah, there's sometimes the assumption that the Old Testament is really just concerned with outward obedience, and then Jesus comes along and gives a whole new operating principle based on what's going on in your heart. But that's really a caricature, I think. Probably the easiest way to demonstrate that is just by looking in the Psalter — "clean hands and a pure heart." God was always concerned about the state of one's inward disposition towards his law. Look at Psalm 119. The psalmist loves the law of God. He doesn't just see it as this nettlesome burden that he just can't wait until the Messiah comes and takes it away. He really wants to do what God wants him to. And to the extent that we see the Holy Spirit active during the Old Testament era, surely that would involve concern on God's part for what your heart was leaning towards, not simply whether you were checking off all the correct boxes.

Answer by Dr. Sean McDonough

Dr. McDonough teaches New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.