The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 20:9


In asking the Lord for a text for this evening, I kept coming back to verse 9. But this lends itself to a gospel message more fitting for a Sunday morning, and you are all familiar with the gospel. So let’s approach this a little differently. Let’s pretend that I have written a gospel tract, and I am asking you to proofread and improve it. It is a small tri-fold designed to whet the appetite – not to thoroughly explain all the nuances of salvation. Some people need a full broadside with the gospel, while others can endure only drips and drops. This is for the second group. It is printed on glossy white paper, with an interesting illustration and information about our church. The title quotes this verse – “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?”

Turning the page you find a reference to Matthew 23 where the Lord Jesus addresses a crowd of people. His theme is the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. Matthew 23:25 – “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” The principle is obvious – if the inside of anything – including a human being – is filthy, then it doesn’t matter in what condition the outside appears to be – the thing is dirty. If the heart is wicked, then the life is going to be either openly wicked, or as in the case of the Pharisees, the life is going to be full of hypocrisy.

At the top of the second page there is that rhetorical question again.

“Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” Does Solomon suggest an answer? No, he leaves the question totally unanswered. A good writer might do that for effect, making you think and work to come up with the correct reply. But sometimes the answer is left blank because there is no answer. That is the case here. “No one can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin.”

Do you think any of the great men and women of the Bible would raise their hand to say, “I have; I have. I have made my heart perfectly clean”? The tract points out some of the history of Abraham; I don’t think he’d ever make such a statement. Next several of David’s sins are pointed out. We might think about Job, but he too had his faults and failures. If during their last moments of physical life, they repented, they confessed, they received the last rites, would they have been able to say “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” No honest and thinking person would ever say “I have done it; I have been able to cleanse my heart.”

The best of men, would all admit themselves to be the worst of men. Which of Job’s friends said in 14:4 – “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one”? It wasn’t Eliphas or Bildad; it was Job himself. The man knew the truth. But Eliphas did agree and said in 15:14 “What is man, that he should be clean? And he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?”

Next our little tract points out that in the last hundred years mankind has seen a great many near miraculous accomplishments. Advances in medicine are so amazing that no 16th century citizen would have even dreamed of them. Who would have thought we could take a heart out of one man and put it successfully in another? My father-in-law often laughed at the fact he had the valve of a pig implanted in his heart, and it was working just fine. A hundred years ago, who would have thought we could talk to one another through the air for hundreds of miles with no wires or cables? In a little over a century we have seen man begin to conquer flight, the sky and now even space. But to have heavier than air ships levitate and move across the sky without anything to cause the lift or move the craft is nothing but fiction – science or non-science fiction. Scientists are trying to find economical ways to send material into space, but this is really difficult. It will always require a great deal for man to break the power of gravity against us. And similarly it will always take some thing beyond our wicked selves to make us clean in the sight of God. “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” Absolutely no one.

Following those thoughts would be another heading – “We have a horrible problem.”

Then would follow – Psalm 24. “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.”

David, and his son Solomon, use the same kind of language “clean pure hands” and “hearts.” Both men speak of the same sort of thing, but from opposite sides of the fence. “Who can stand before the most holy God?” No one but he whose heart is pure – perfectly pure. But “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” Absolutely no one. Depending on how much paper we have available, we could expand and expound both men’s points. There are plenty of verses which say that no man in his sin shall ever approach the Lord. And there are even more verses which declare that we are all sinners. There is no way to overcome or diminish either of those points – at least with the climbing gear of man. This isn’t just a fence – this is a wall the likes of which not even President Trump has considered. God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness are more mutually exclusive than the same poles of the most powerful magnet.

The tract points out – In our natural condition – in the condition in which all human beings enter this world – none can never enter the presence of God’s holiness. Furthermore, there is nothing we can personally do to remedy the situation. “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” Absolutely no one.

The third heading rewords our opening scripture.

“Can anyone say, I have been made clean; I am pure from my sin?” This time the answer is positive – yes, there are such people. No SINNER can change the condition of his own heart, but the LORD can do it for him.

Christ Jesus told a group of those same self-righteous Pharisees as Matthew 23 – “If the Son … shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” I admit that the context is slightly different, but the principle is the same and absolutely true – “If the Son of God, the Saviour, shall make you clean, ye shall be clean indeed.” How is that possible? How can that be done? The little tract goes on…. It is not only possible, but it is accomplished as Christ takes our sin upon Himself and pays the penalty which those sins require. Christ – “his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” “He was wounded for our transgressions… and with his stripes we are healed.” That healing is the equivalent to our cleansing – our purifying.

And thus, through Christ Jesus our Saviour, some people do say, “I AM clean, I am pure from my sin.” Some people do “ascend into the hill of the LORD? And stand in his holy place. Because the Lord has cleansed their hands and purified their hearts.

On the back page is the exhortation: “But this cleansing comes with a pair of God-designed ingredients.”

There will be no cleansing without a broken heart of repentance. Following that would be a short explanation of the nature of repentance – an agreement with God’s assessment of us and an admission of our sin. And with that repentance there must be a heart-felt surrender and trust in Christ Jesus as the blood sacrifice necessary to accomplish the cleansing.

Finally at the bottom of the page would be another quote – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” cleansed.