Have you ever had to visit a hospital? I hope not too often as a patient, but maybe you went to visit some friends or family? I recently had to visit my mother-in-law in hospital, and as we found our way through the maze of long corridors, we made it to the entrance doors of the ward. Greeting us in large letters on the floor in front of the door were these words:
* STOP * you are entering a clinical area
CLEAN YOUR HANDS
There to help us on the wall was a dispenser containing some potent solution no doubt able to kill off every bug known to man. Every time we entered or left we had to repeat this process of hand washing, to prevent the spread of infection. We can take some spiritual lessons from this, that teach us about how we relate to God.
In the Old Testament, God’s people used to meet Him in the tabernacle, and later, in the temple. Before the priest could enter to worship, he had to make sure he was “clean”. Exodus 30 v 17-21 gives us the background. The reason was for them to appreciate that God was holy, and that they must purify themselves before coming into His presence.
In Psalm 24, King David understood this when he said “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” We could say that the heart symbolises our inward desire (that we want to please God), and that our hands symbolise our outward action (that we do please God).
In the New Testament, the principle is much the same. The Christian who desires to meet with God must have a lifestyle that is consistent with God’s character. James puts it like this in 4 v 8 “cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” If you meet with Christians in your local church, and remember the Lord Jesus in the breaking of bread, you might be familiar with 1 Corinthians 11 v 28 “let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
Jesus taught His disciples that physical hand washing was not important. He knew the difference between what was outward and what was inward, and He had a discussion with the Pharisees about this in Matthew 15. The Jewish custom of hand washing had become a tradition that had lost its spiritual meaning: they looked clean, but inwardly they were far from God.
Maybe we need a reminder about this ourselves. If you are a Christian, is your life consistent with God’s character? You may need to make some adjustments! If you are not yet a Christian, remember that God looks for an internal change, not an externally or superficially correct behaviour. 1 Samuel 16 v 7 says “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
So next time you visit the hospital, don’t forget to kill off the superbugs, and remember what the signs teach about your spiritual life! See you soon.
(Young Christians Camp Leader)