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,

  who does not lift up his soul to what is false

   and does not swear deceitfully.

Psalm 24: 3, 4

David was referring to the temple in Jerusalem and to true and worthy worship there when he speaks about ascending the hill of the Lord. Although the physical climb required of a worshiper was not all that challenging, the spiritual and moral one was quite steep. God is holy in every sense. There is no compromise or area of lapse in the Lord’s perfect existence, and we are not so perfect in ours. It is people’s disobedience and misbehavior that erodes away and diminishes the righteousness that God originally intended for each of us to center our lives around. We are each born into life with this process of decay and the distance from our Lord that it causes already well established within us. As we draw our first breath in this world, we are already struggling to find the spiritually pure air that the climb to that sacred place requires.

David knew more than he would wish to know about the challenge that keeping his hands clean and his heart pure would bring about. He had done neither of these things in his life; yet, he still desired to be in the presence of the Holy One, the Lord God Almighty. The Lord granted David the grace and the forgiveness that he required in order to enter into that holy presence, and David recognized his own sinfulness and engaged in the true repentance of a person who desires to change and who seeks to live out his remaining days as a person who demonstrates the result of God’s redemptive work in him. David was a lot like most of us in that he was a flawed and a sinful person that had been made holy and acceptable to be in the presence of the Lord by virtue of God’s grace and love.

We are each faced with a hill to climb every day. That ascent takes us toward the place of holiness wherein God dwells in His fullest expression. The work of climbing can seem to be overwhelming at times, but we are not left alone in that endeavor. Christ goes with us, and He participates in every step of the journey. Although He is there, we are allowed to choose to let him guide our steps and support our climb. Frankly, there are days when it seems better to go another way or it feels right to take those steps as a solo climber. There are also other guides that we will encounter along the way, and their route sounds good and pleasing when it is placed before us. Still, there is only one way to that holy objective, and there is one true and trustworthy guide for us to listen to and to follow along His singular path. Christ goes before us and He travels with us as He provides the possibility of possessing the clean hands and the pure heart that are required of those who enter in the Lord’s holy presence. 

For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,

   and declares to man what is his thought,

who makes the morning darkness,

   and treads on the heights of the earth—

   the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name.

Amos 4: 13

When we are face to face with God, there will be two possibilities. We will either be looking upon the eyes of one that we know and who knows us with the deep intimacy of a close and loving father, or we will see the folly of our rejection of that same Holy One. On that inevitable day when all that has been the life that each person has lived is counted and given a reckoning by God, it will be too late to decide to repent and turn to Him. On that day and in that moment when eternity becomes existential reality, God’s presence and His holy justice will be too clear to turn away from or to continue to ignore. Beholding the face of the Creator, the one who formed the world that we have walked and the designer of each of us will be an event of joy beyond all human imagining or it will be terrible past anything conceivable.

Amos has been making an appeal to Israel and to its people to recognize the foolishness of their ways in that they have been living far outside of God’s expressed will. Their worship is false in both form and in intent. Their lives are dedicated to serving their own desires rather than to seeking to know God well and to give of themselves in worship of Him. The passage that comes just before this verse describes a number of actions that the Lord has taken to attempt to get the attention of the people of Israel, but they have not turned to Him in any of these instances. God promises that this state of sinful living will not be tolerated by Him for very long. There will be consequences, and in the end, there will be a day when all people will be required to fully behold the Lord.

Where Amos describes various forms of calamity and natural disasters that God has allowed to come upon Israel, in today’s world God tends to pour out His grace, love, and mercy upon us. Yet, we should not take God’s grace or His patience as a sign of either weakness or of permission to say and to do anything that pleases us. For, in the end, God still holds His standards of justice, peacemaking, love of neighbors, and devotion to Him as absolute. Through Christ we can be forgiven of any and all of our sins, but that grace is not a license to live as we might please. Instead, God desires to work in and through each of us for the redemption of a world that is heading along the same path of death and destruction as did ancient Israel. We will each behold God as the conduct of our life is judged; so, how much better would it be to behold His Christ every day of what is left of this earthly term and to be pronounced faithful and worthy at that final hour?