Proverbs 19-21 Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”?

From Proverbs 19-21

20 21 Solomon Proverbs Ecclesiastes thumbToday’s passage reminds us that all have sinned and everyone’s hearts have been impure in the LORD’s sight. We fool ourselves if we think otherwise. Only the LORD can purify a man’s heart. Has your heart been cleansed?

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

Two themes dominate this chapter. The first is that of justice in society, over which the king presided as head and supreme judge. The justice that he administers, however, is ultimately and ideally a divine order of justice. The second theme is a psychological one, concerning the difficulty of discerning human motives, including an awareness that human beings may ultimately not even be truly aware of their own motives. (Clements, R.E., 2003. Proverbs. In J. D. G. Dunn & J. W. Rogerson, eds. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 454.)

20 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

2 The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life.

3 It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.

4 The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.

5 The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. (Prov 20.1-5)

‘Strong drink a brawler’. The author has seen the dangers of alcohol and what it does to people. Intoxication can influence people to mock and scorn others. Others are more inclined to turn to violence.

‘The sluggard does not plow in the autumn’. Like many other places in Proverbs, the author praises the value of work. Good workers look to the future reward of what they are doing. The sluggard puts work off and expects last minute results.

‘Purpose in man’s heart’. Its hard to understand what motivates a man. With some reflection and consideration people can find the truth about what we feel.

6 Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?

7 The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!

8 A king who sits on the throne of judgment winnows all evil with his eyes.

9 Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”? (Prov 20.6-9)

‘But a faithful man who can find?’ ‘Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”‘ Both verses reflect the struggle every man and woman has with sin. Of course some men are faithful, at times, but none are consistently faithful. Likewise none can say they have made themselves pure.

A pure heart is the work of God. A dirty rag cannot make itself clean. Man cannot purify himself, only the LORD can.

‘The righteous walks in his integrity’. The context suggests he has been honest with his sin before the LORD. The righteous have been made clean by the LORD. His children are blessed because they are under his influence and his blessing from the LORD.

Anon, 2009. 1000 Bible Images, Stuttgart, Germany: German Bible Society.
Anon, 2009. 1000 Bible Images, Stuttgart, Germany: German Bible Society.

10 Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

11 Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.

12 The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made them both. (Prov 20.10-12)

‘Abomination to the LORD’. Deceitful trading practices undermine trust and society. The LORD hates the dishonest greed.

‘Makes himself known’. Peoples actions reflect their inner being. This applies to a persons purity and righteousness as well as their corruption.

Story of Jesus

Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”?

In the gospel Jesus spoke about what defiles a persons heart.

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mk 7.14-23)

No one can purify their own heart. Only the LORD can do this.

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn 1.8-9)

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