How do you know if your hands are clean? I have had some pretty disgusting substances on my hands. I have helped deliver baby calves. I have spent hours doctoring cattle. I have unstopped sewer lines. I have butchered animals for food. All of these things left my hands with a foul smell. Many times, I have washed my hands as thoroughly as I know how only to find that my hands still have an unpleasant odor. The eyes say they are clean, but the nose disagrees. So, I wash again.
Much more difficult than cleaning dirty hands, is cleaning defilement from your soul. Many people live in guilt and regret, knowing they can never remove the stain of their sinful behavior. Even Christians struggle with the idea that the punishment for their sins can be removed from their future. But God says differently. Although, we cannot cleanse our own souls, God can. In Ezekiel 36:25, he says, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness.” The issue is, do you believe God? If God says you are clean, do you believe him?
You might find it helpful to understand how God explains his motives surrounding cleansing his people. Interestingly, God says his motive is not because Israel is worthy of his grace. In verse 22, he says, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name.” Not our worthiness, but his greatness provides the motivation for cleansing. Again, in verse 32, he says, “’I am not doing this for your sake,’ declares the Lord God, ‘let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways’!” Shame is the appropriate response to our sin. But overwhelming awe and gratitude for God’s magnificent grace is the correct response to forgiveness.