A Brief Bit of Beatitude and Blessing (Part 1)

Every once and a while, I find it beneficial to reread the Sermon on the Mount or portions thereof. I’ve read the Beatitudes quite often as a result of it, but often when I read them, it becomes so easy to miss what each one is saying. So I wanted to share some basic insights into the Beatitudes with you, a few at a time. Here are the first three (Matthew 5:3-5):

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

As many times as I have read this verse, rarely does it occur to me that the first part of the verse, as translated in the King James Version, rightly applies to every man, woman, and child. We are all poor in spirit, for even our righteousnesses are but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). But obviously the Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t belong to all men and women; there are plenty who have no desire that Christ should rule over them (Luke 19:27).

I took a look at the word which is translated “poor” in the King James Version. The word is πτωχός (ptoÌ„chos) and it carries with it the idea of not only being poor but of being conscious of that condition and could be translated as “beggarly.” (Unexpectedly, I only have two versions which give emphasis to the “knowing” part of the verse rather than just being poor. They are the Contemporary English Version and God’s Word.)

Blessed are those who are beggars in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. If we hope to come to God believing that we are spiritually rich, that our good deeds and charitable acts will be counted meritoriously, how sorely mistaken are we.

But when we realize our spiritual condition — that we are so wretched and sinful that even our “best” deeds are counted as filthiness in the eyes of God — then we are where God wants us to be, beggarly in spirit, that we might receive His goodness.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Happy are they that are sad. How’s that for a paradox?

It’s important to point out what exactly it is being mourned for here. There are, after all, plenty who mourn who are not comforted.

We can see this exemplified when Jesus compares the Pharisee with the Publican (Luke 18:10-14). The Pharisee, rather than mourning his own sin, thanked God that he wasn’t sinning in such ways as others were. The Publican, however, so wracked with grief over his sin, smote his own breast and could only cry out for mercy to the Lord. Which was one justified? You know the story.

Happy are those who are sorrowful over their sins, but why? Jesus tells us that they will be comforted. I like that word “comforted.” It is related to a title given to the Holy Spirit, that of Comforter (John 14:16). That comforting, though, isn’t just the kind of comforting which you might here in a eulogy. No, the word is παρακαλέω (parakaleoÌ„), and it means “to call near” or “to invite.”

When we are sorrowful over our sins, that is when the Lord calls us near. It should come as no surprise that such sorrow works repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). When the Lord draws nigh unto us, we cannot help but turn from our sins. His holiness is contagious.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

For generations raised on the notion of “survival of the fittest,” something like “the meek shall inherit the earth” must sound crazy. Yet Jesus said it, and we cannot ignore it.

The word “meek” carries with it the meanings of “mild” and “humble,” yet society constantly tells us that those who get the top prizes, the top positions, the places of authority, and so on are those who are anything but meek.

Let’s get a better idea of what the word means. Noah Webster defined “meek” thus:

  1. Mild of temper; soft; gentle; not easily provoked or irritated; yielding; given to forbearance under injuries.
  2. Appropriately humble, in an evangelical sense; submissive to the divine will; not proud, self-sufficient or refractory; not peevish and apt to complain of divine dispensations.

Well, it’s easy to see how the word carries with it the dual ideas of “mild” and “humble.” It’s also important to quickly note that to “inherit the earth” is very much tied to the result of the first beatitude, that of having part in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom which is very much in view here, as I understand the theology, is the Millennial Reign of Christ, wherein He sets up a thousand-year rule over all the earth from David’s throne in Jerusalem.

What kind of person does Christ have in mind for taking part in such a glorious kingdom? It isn’t the strong, nor the proud. It isn’t those who may boast of great achievements or those who prove their ability in contests. No. Christ wants those who, if someone takes their coat, will offer their cloak as well. Christ wants those who will, if compelled to walk a mile, will go twain. Christ wants those who pray to the Lord in secret, not before the eyes of men… who give to the Lord in secret, not boasting of their gift… who are faithful in their marriages, not putting away their wife… who are quick to reconcile with others, not bearing grudges.

Would you believe that Christ’s teachings are filled with the characteristics of those who will inherit the earth? Ironic, no?

Or maybe not. If it is His Kingdom which is under consideration, He has every right to decide how it is to be made up. And while there may be many who glorify those traits which have no place in His Kingdom — and these people may be those of respect and power in this current age — we must never forget that the meek will inherit the world. Christ did not deal in “maybies.”

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