Aug 26, 2019
(1Thes.2:1-8; Ps.139:1-6; Mt.23:23-26)
“First cleanse the inside of the cup
so that its outside may be clean.”
The Lord rails against the Pharisees again today, calling them from false practice to genuine faith; and in Paul we again see the paragon of true ministry in the Lord’s Name.
In our gospel the Lord calls the Pharisees “frauds,” for they have the appearance of holiness in clothing and posture and minor actions, but inside are “filled with loot and lust.” In our first reading, it is quite evident that the preaching of Paul “does not spring from deceit or impure motives or any sort of trickery,” as does the work of the Pharisees. He is not at all guilty of “flattering words or greed under any pretext,” seeking the glory of God rather than “glory from men.” This, of course, is the central question: do we perform our acts for others to see, from selfish motives of pride and greed and the accolades we might gain from man; or are we laying down our lives for God, giving no thought to our own importance or the opposition we may face? Does our work and our life spring from truth, or does it spring from lie?
“O Lord, you have probed me and you know me,” David sings in our psalm today. Truly the Lord is “the tester of hearts.” He is familiar with all our ways and the motives whence they come. Indeed, “even before a word is on [our] tongue, behold, O Lord, you know the whole of it.” Inside and out He sees us, He scrutinizes us, that He may enter into us and renew us. It is by His grace that the inside of the cup might be made clean and so our work be fruitful in His Name.
And so, what of us, brothers and sisters? What does the Lord see when He peers within our hearts, when His penetrating gaze pierces our soul? Do we meet “the test imposed on us by God” as Paul does and live in “justice and mercy and good faith,” or is there but corruption within us which will not allow the Lord’s light to enter, thus making us blind to His grace?
The Lord surrounds us so, that we call out with David, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; too lofty for me to attain.” Indeed, the Lord is far above and beyond our comprehension and His holiness can seem beyond our ability to attain; but if we have hearts that are open and trusting and loving of His Word, we find that He is “gentle as any nursing mother fondling her little ones,” that He, in fact, shares with us His very life, and so makes us as His own. The Lord will cleanse the inside of the cup. Let Him act upon your soul.
O LORD, you see clearly the inside of our cup,
and would cleanse it by your gaze.
YHWH, you are the tester of our hearts; you scrutinize all our ways. And you know us – you know us well. The greed and deceit within us we cannot hide from your watchful eye. You are not fooled by empty show.
You surround us with your presence, LORD, and test us by our trials. You are far beyond us in eternal glory, and yet you come near. You draw near to us in your Son and so declare to our souls the truth of who we are and what we have done, and what we have failed to do. But you do this not for our condemnation; it is because you love us as a mother her child that you chastise us. It is to make us whole.
O LORD, though knowledge of you is too wonderful for us to comprehend, though great fear fills our souls as you come to us with your piercing fire – though your scrutiny may cause us great humiliation, great suffering, you work gently to heal our hearts of all their affliction.