The Vienna Maternity Hospital was the largest maternity hospital in the world in the middle of the nineteenth century. It was considered a safer place to deliver a child than a home. Yet the mortality rates for mothers giving birth were alarming. Studies done from 1839 to 1847 revealed that women attended by medical students were dying at nearly triple the rate of those attended by midwives. The cause? Unwashed hands. Doctors would routinely conduct post-mortems and then proceed directly to the maternity wards to deliver babies. Finally, a Hungarian doctor named Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis introduced the doctors to hand washing with a chlorine solution between procedures. Only then did the mortality rates of mothers of newborns drop dramatically.
Today we understand to a far greater degree the role of bacteria in producing and spreading disease. Medical personnel and restaurant workers alike are required to wash their hands regularly. And how often do we hear mothers urge their children, “Wash your hands before you come to the table!”
Just as external cleanliness promotes physical health, having “clean hands” before God promotes spiritual health. Scrubbing up spiritually involves repentance — confessing our sins, coming clean — before God so that we can experience spiritual wellbeing. The psalmist pleaded, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
If you long for greater intimacy with God, ask him to examine your heart to see if there are any areas in which you need to come clean before him. Confession, in its most elemental form, simply means agreeing with God that you’ve departed from his ways and fallen short of his standards. Admit to him — and to yourself — that you are in need of a spiritual bath. Be prepared, like a little child, to squirm a little when he reminds you to wash behind your ears. But, oh, the joy of coming clean!
Taken from NIV Women’s Devotional Bible