People everywhere have different customs and quirks about cleanliness. I remember when I was little, my grandmother, who lived in a small hut on the Amazon with no windows, no furniture, not even a bathroom, used to sweep the dirt ground around her house every afternoon. Also, though she only possessed a few pots and pans, they were always clean and spotless, shiny actually, as she proudly hang them from the ceiling of her humble kitchen.

People in the Old Testament lived with rules of cleanliness that had been stipulated by the Mosaic Law. There were rules about which foods were good to eat and which were not; which types of contacts caused one to be “unclean,” which animals were clean, which were unclean. There were rules about certain offerings that were consecrated to the Lord and how to handle them. There were rules about animals that could and could not be offered on the altar to God.

These rules almost always dealt with ceremonial, not moral purity, but they were related somehow. They all reminded the people of God that their God was Holy and He took the subject of purity very seriously. God had specific commands about purity which He specified in the books of Leviticus and Numbers. Some of those things have obviously lost their cultural significance, but God there is one thing that has not changed: God is still holy and He expects His people to be holy. We may not be required to wash before we pray anymore but “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) is still true.

This weekend we will tackle a difficult passage from Haggai. It is difficult because in order to understand it you have to get into the laws of purification in the Old Testament. And people today don’t understand why all of those laws were necessary. God challenged His people to look at the core of their heart and stop thinking that just because they were busy with God’s work it meant that God should be blessing them. But instead, bad things were still happening to them and they didn’t know why.

Well, God straightened them out and told them that the reason He was not blessing them was that at the core of their heart was impurity. Therefore, everything that they touched was impure.

So we come to church on Sunday morning, but if we are harboring anger in our heart for something that another brother (maybe even a spouse) did, does that mean that God will look the other way when we pray that morning?

We faithfully give our tithing and offerings but we find every possible way to cheat the government when we do our taxes, does that mean that our gift, no matter the amount, is unacceptable to God?

We never miss one prayer meeting but if we can’t pray for our President because of his politics, does that mean our heart is not right with God? 

These are just questions that came to me, somewhat randomly, but I am sure you can come up with your own questions as you look at your life. Please look at your heart today and tomorrow, as you come to church. Use Psalm 139:23-24 as your guide: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

I trust you will be in church this Sunday. Bring a friend. You will not feel beaten down, even though the message will be hard. Instead, I believe that you will discover that like my grandmother, no matter your circumstances, you can get rid of the ugly stuff in your life that blocks access to God. I think will be full of hope, as God’s words will come alive in your heart and you will see that it is possible to get rid of old habits and break from the chains of the past. Come to the place of purity that only Christ can offer.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade