Lister’s Lesson


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Bible Reading: Psalm 24:3-6

Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.   Psalm 24:3-4

UNTIL JOSEPH LISTER came along, if you had an operation—any kind of operation—you had about a 50 percent chance of dying—even if the operation was a great success.

Lister, a British surgeon, studied what happened to patients after their operations. At that time (around 1860), doctors would operate in dirty rooms. The operating table, the rags they used to wipe up blood, and the sheets their patients slept on were probably dirty. Sometimes doctors even used the same dirty instruments to operate on several patients.

Lister changed all that. He insisted that his operating rooms be clean and the instruments be cleaned after every use. He also began to use a chemical called carbolic acid to clean instruments, wounds, and dressings.

Lister had discovered the importance of purity. You see, when doctors performed surgery in dirty conditions, germs would get into the patient’s body and cause infections. Sometimes those infections killed the patient. But Lister learned that if he could keep the operating room and the instruments clean, he could reduce the number of people who died after surgery. In fact, his efforts were so successful that, if you had an operation in his hospital, you had about an 85 percent chance of surviving.

What Lister discovered in operating rooms is also true in other ways. If impurities (like germs) get into your body, they can make you sick; they may even kill you. In kind of the same way, impurities in your heart and soul can also cause problems. That’s why God wants you to be pure. He knows that purity protects you from bad things like guilt and shame. He knows that purity can prevent a lot of sadness in your life.

Purity not only protects you from bad things, it also provides good things for you. The psalmist said that people who are pure “will receive the Lord’s blessing and have right standing with God their savior. They alone may enter God’s presence and worship the God of Israel” (Psalm 24:5-6). Purity produces peace with God and allows him to bless you in ways that he can’t bless you if your life isn’t pure.

Just as clean operating rooms and instruments made Joseph Lister’s patients a lot healthier, a clean heart and life will make you a lot healthier—and happier, too!

REFLECT: Why is it important to keep your heart and life clean? Is your heart pure? If not, how can you change that? If so, how do you think God helps you to keep it pure?

ACT: Each time you wash your hands this week, remember the importance of clean hands—and clean hearts.

PRAY: “God, I know that purity can protect me and provide many good things for me. Help me to experience your loving protection and provision by keeping myself pure.”


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