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Quiet Company and a Clean Page

August 13, 2011

Just to say that you may have noticed that this article is longer than usual and it goes into more depth, but bear with me until the end as I think I’ve saved the best till last. You can make your own mind up about that. To be honest, I’d love to know what your thoughts are on all of this, so feel free to leave a comment. Anyway, here goes…

Recently I came across the Quiet Company and their song On Modern Men, which reads like a modern poem:

So lift your hands up from your sides, rinse them both off with your pride, and let the world see what we’re not.  Because we have carved out our desires, and placed them in the hands of liars that will forget you when they want.

They want you to take a bow.  Everybody here’s allowed one.  So make it good, son.

And let there be no sacred lands.  With one final song and dance, let our clean hands know the earth.  We’ll build a culture, brave and strong, we won’t rely on anyone, and all our souls will know their worth.

Pave the way, we are modern men, and we have fought to exist.  We have crawled from the water to the dry land, and our hands are the dirtiest.

But I’m alive and the sun is shining in!  Oh, I have fought to exist.  I have crawled from the water to the dry land, and my hands are the dirtiest.

I’m alive and the sun is shining in! Oh, my belly has been filled.  I have seen everything a body can see, and my hands are the dirtiest.

It’s hard to know where to begin with thoughts as deep and as earthy as those On Modern Men. But let’s start digging and see where we end up. Let our clean hands know the earth.

The lyricist acknowledges that I have seen everything a body can see, and my hands are the dirtiest. For “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’?” (Proverbs 20:9) So that’s where we start: in acknowledging our uncleanness before God. After all, we wouldn’t want to kid ourselves into thinking we’ll build a culture, brave and strong, we won’t rely on anyone, and all our souls will know their worth. Surely we’re fools to think we can rely on ourselves, or to think that that our souls can know their worth separate from revelation from the God who created us (read Declaration of Dependence for more on this). In short, we wouldn’t want to be one of “those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth” (Proverbs 30:12).

I keep coming back to these words: Let our clean hands know the earth.

They remind me of what the Psalmist wrote:

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.”

This can be read in parallel with the verse in Ezekiel where God speaks through the prophet: “I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.” (Ezekiel 36:25)

Often, when the Bible talks of cleanliness, it is in contrast to uncleanness – whether that be through disease or through sin (which, incidentally, is a kind of disease). For example in Leviticus, the regulations for someone with an infectious skin disease conclude as follows: “Then the priest is to sacrifice the sin offering and make atonement for the one to be cleansed from his uncleanness. After that, the priest shall slaughter the burnt offering and offer it on the altar, together with the grain offering, and make atonement for him, and he will be clean.” (Leviticus 14:19)

Why give an offering as a sacrifice for sin? Because “the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)

Later on in the Bible, and as part of the New Covenant for all who those who accept Jesus, Paul writes: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son [Jesus] in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” (Romans 8:3)

The point was that before Jesus, the law was the only hope of redemption for the Jewish people, and this law required various sacrifices to be made over and over again, because once was not enough for the sins of the people. The law was weakened by sinful nature. Animal sacrifice offered by man in atonement for their sin or uncleanness was not enough. “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.” (Hebrews 10:1-2)

But the sacrifice of Jesus, offered by God Himself is, unlike these temporary and short-term sacrifices, immediate* and once and for all, for “the death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” (Romans 6:10) I love how quickly this verse goes from death to life. We can say with confidence, I’m alive and the sun is shining in!

So, amazingly, God sent His Son to make us, the unclean ones, clean. Why are we unclean? Because of our unwillingness and our inability to match up to God’s standards of perfection and holiness. How can we be made clean? By the perfect and holy sacrifice of His Son. I still can’t get my head around the gloriousness of this truth – that after the sacrifice has been made and an unclean person has been cleansed of all their sin, “the priest shall pronounce them clean.” (Leviticus 13:6)

The writer of the letter of Hebrews describes Jesus as our High Priest, appointed by God: “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17) And “such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” (Hebrews 7:26)

How wonderful it is to know that Jesus, as the true and holy High Priest, through His own sacrifice has pronounced me clean! In the light of this glorious truth, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22-23)

*Finding forgiveness from God is not a long process by which we have to do good things to somehow make up for rejecting Him. On the contrary, it is not something we can achieve ourselves, we can’t make it good on our own. Instead, we can find immediate forgiveness by repenting and acknowledging that Jesus is our only Saviour. In Matthew, Jesus is recorded to have healed a man of a disease. It went like this: “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.” (Matthew 8:3) Notice that: immediately he was cleansed. In the same way, we can immediately be cleansed from our sin if we acknowledge it before God and look to Jesus for salvation.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Leah permalink
    May 8, 2012 16:53

    I like how you parallel sin with sickness and uncleanliness and it’s true, we can’t cleanse ourselves by good works… it is God’s grace that we’ve been saved by. :D

    • May 8, 2012 17:35

      Thanks Leah. I’d encourage you to look at Psalm 103 which talks of God forgiving all our sins and healing all our diseases. You might also find this sermon helpful:

      And you’re absoutely right about God’s grace – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)


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