What Does Proverbs 20:9 Mean?

Who can say, "I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin"?

Proverbs 20:9(NASB)

Verse of the Day

"Who can say, 'I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?'" is a question asked in Proverbs, but the tenor and temperature of this question is such that the answer must be, NO ONE! Nobody can say "I have cleansed my heart and am pure from sin." This may be the boast of the self-righteous moralist or deeply religious-minded Pharisee. Many foolishly consider they are 'good enough' when they compare their 'upright' life with the ungodly practices of their degenerate neighbour.

However, the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins, and 1 John 1:8 clearly states, "if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us."  There are those who boast of their integrity and overstate their own worthiness, because of the good works they carry out in the flesh. They try to justify their false claims by comparing themselves with others whom they consider less-wholesome and far-more unworthy than they!

But no one can boast that they have made their heart clean. No one can declare that they are pure from their sin. No one can claim to have a heart that is not stained with sin, for all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. No one can claim purity of heart for none are perfect and pure. God alone is holy, and He alone is good... and all humanity stands guilty before the righteous eyes of our thrice-holy God.

Indeed, it is not only the heart that is stained with sin but the mind, the conscience, the emotions, the will, and the inner being of all human-kind.  Anyone with the audacity to claim that they have cleansed their heart and made themselves pure from sin, is greatly deceived. Anyone who claims such a thing is deluding themselves, for an honest, self-assessment of one's own actions and attitudes would quickly collapse this unfounded assessment.

But this is a rhetorical question. God is not seeking an answer from man, for He can read the very thoughts of our hearts before they are formed in the mind. He is the all-knowing God Who can interpret the imaginations of our mind and read the secret motives behind our choices, before they germinate into thoughts, or develop into actions or a habit.

God is not expecting a reply from the lips of sinful man when asking... "Who can say, 'I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?'"... for every mouth is silenced before our holy and righteous God. Every boastful thought withers before His purity.  But neither is this a cruel accusation from God. He knows we are born into a sinful race and are incapable of changing the blackness of our sinful nature or cleansing our heart from its inner darkness.

God in His grace has made a way to cleanse man's heart and forgive man's sin. Cleansing the heart and purity from our sin only comes through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, Who paid the penalty for our sin. God in His grace provided a way for our hearts to be washed clean - through the cleansing power of Christ's precious blood. He alone can purify us from sin - by covering us in Christ's righteousness, which only comes through faith in Him.

But He has given us volition. God has endowed us with a free-will to choose between good and evil. We have the autonomy to humbly admit we are sinners in need of salvation or refuse to accept that we are dead in our sins and at enmity with God. We have the freedom to acknowledge the Lord as Redeemer and humbly accept His free gift of salvation by grace.

This question in Proverbs 20:9 is designed to help man recognise he is a sinner in need of cleansing. It is to make each one of us realise our heart is not clean before God, and that no one is pure from their sin or innocent before Him. It is a schoolmaster to point us to Christ for only the Lord can cleanse the heart of the sinner. No amount of self-effort or self-cleaning can wash away the guilty sin that enchains each one of us.

God alone can declare the guilty sinner righteous - but God will only proclaim a man righteous when they trust in Christ as the propitiation for their sins and saviour of their soul. But too often, the proud-heart of rebellious man, will not admit his sin, or acknowledge his need of salvation preferring to trust in his own self-righteous acts to cleanse his conscience and wash away his sin! 

My Prayer

Loving Father, how I thank You that through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the Cross, You have cleansed my heart, forgiven my sin, and have made me pure within. I thank You that because of Him, I am accepted in the Beloved and clothed with His righteousness. It is in His name I pray, AMEN.

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