As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am attempting to study the first book of the New Testament of the Bible using the Inductive Study Method. I hope to glean as much as I can from going through this each week, verse by verse, finding lessons and promises in these passages for as long as there is coffee in my cup.
In being completely transparent, I was suffering through bronchitis for the past two weeks. So I did not post last week. I was going to post something within a couple of days of my normal Thursday post. However, this study was an in depth dive into word studies. After reading the Scripture passage, I first went to the basic resource of Strong’s Concordance. Then, a couple of commentaries by Dake and Matthew Henry. Then took my experience and various learning over the years that I cannot specifically remember where I obtained the knowledge, but it’s there somewhere in my noggin.
In this passage, we have the famous “Beatitudes”. This list of “Blessed”‘s are so famous, most people that have read some of the Bible or been in church for at least a couple of years can recite at least one or two of them. I don’t know. Then again, maybe I am projecting my own life experiences on to other people and making general assumptions that I should not be making. It could be that.
The Beatitudes are the teachings of Jesus in the “Sermon on the Mount”. The Beatitudes fulfill God’s promises made to Abraham and his descendants and describe the rewards that will be ours as loyal followers of Christ. In finding other scripture to learn more about this passage before diving into definitions of various words or phrases, I came across Isaiah 61:1-3, which says, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” This is from the New King James Version. Compare this with the Complete Jewish Bible just for clarity and focus. “The Spirit of Adonai ELOHIM is upon me, because ADONAI has anointed me to announce good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim freedom to the captives, to let out into light those bound in the dark; to proclaim the year of the favor of ADONAI and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, yes, provide for those in Tziyon who mourn, giving them garlands instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a cloak of praise instead of a heavy spirit, so that they will be called oaks of righteousness planted by ADONAI, in which he takes pride.”
Do you see how much fuller this portion of scripture becomes when comparing two different versions of the same passage? For me, it helps to make perfectly clear areas that seemed a bit fuzzy to me. And a lot of these same sentiments noted here about how the Messiah will announce the good news or good tidings and the like, are brought up in the beginning of the “Sermon on the Mount”, I believe, so that those that have read or listened to the words of the prophet Isaiah will be reminded and reinforce the truth of Jesus being the long awaited Messiah. I think this teaching is an important learning opportunity to strive for these things knowing that we are not perfect, so we will never attain these things while here on earth. But when we enter the holiness and perfection of the presence of God, we will be made perfect, and sin and evil will be eradicated. Also note, we cannot work our way into heaven, meaning, we cannot attempt to adopt all of these characteristics as a formula for obtaining our own entry pass. We realize that we cannot do this on our own but must rely on God to provide a way into relationship with and into the presence of God our Father. With that, He has provided His Son, perfect and sinless, to be the propitiation for us. This opens up to us humility, faith, prayer, and obedience as focuses on which to guide us through these passages.
Back to Matthew 5, Jesus and His disciples are being followed by a great multitude of people from various parts of the region that has seen His miraculous healings. He looks around at all of them and stops on a hill to talk to them about the things that He has been talking about and thinking about with His disciples. The first set of things that Matthew records is these various godly characteristics.
In my pursuit of finding an adequate definition of “blessed”, I came across a paragraph that aptly puts my thoughts into sentences that make sense.
We imitate God’s blessedness when we find delight and happiness in all that is pleasing to God, both those aspects of our own lives that are pleasing to God and the deeds of others. In fact, when we are thankful for and delight in the specific abilities, preferences, and other characteristics with which God has created us as individuals, then we also imitate his attribute of blessedness. Furthermore, we imitate God’s blessedness by rejoicing in the creation as it reflects various aspects of His excellent character. And we find our greatest blessedness, our greatest happiness, in delighting in the source of all good qualities, God Himself.“Systematic Theology” by Wayne Grudem, page 219
This word “blessed” here means “to be happy in a very full and rich sense.” According to Strong, the word translated “blessed” means supremely blest, fortunate, and well off. Here, the Lord indicates not only the characters that are “blessed”, but the nature of that which is the highest good. Jesus gave us 8 characteristics of blessed people. On each of them a present blessing is pronounced, and a future blessing is promised, according to Matthew Henry.
Concerning the characteristics, I looked at the Strong’s Concordance for each of the words. Some of these definitions or translations are lengthy. So I have condensed them down to what I have interpreted, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, them to be in the context of this particular passage. “Poor” being “humbled by circumstance” or “powerless to enrich”. And “spirit” here meaning the “rational soul” and “mental disposition”. So “poor in spirit” is more about being emptied of self in order to be filled with Jesus Christ. According to Henry, it is not, in pride or pretense, to make ourselves poor by throwing away what God has given us. It is to be humble and lowly in our own eyes. It is to come off from all confidence in our own righteousness and strength, that we may depend only upon the merit of Christ for our justification and the spirit and grace of Christ for our sanctification.
The “kingdom” denotes “royalty, royal power, dominion”. Now the phrase “kingdom of heaven” is a part of the “kingdom of God”, but the “kingdom of God” is not limited to the “kingdom of heaven.” Jesus was talking to the Pharisees in Luke 17:21 when he declared the fundamental principle of the kingdom. He said, “The kingdom of God is in the midst of you,” meaning where the king is, there is the kingdom. So right now, as far as the earth is concerned, where the king is and where His rule is acknowledged, in the heart of the individual believer and in the churches of God is the kingdom. In the book of Matthew, “kingdom of heaven” is stated 52 times. The “kingdom of God” is all encompassing as His sovereignty does not go away just because someone refutes it. However, the “kingdom of heaven” is used here as sort of an antithesis of earth, and it is stressing more of the originating point for the kingdom which is from heaven (the eternal dwelling place of God).
In the next “blessed”, it is speaking of those that mourn. This is to bewail or lament primarily over the dead, but also includes any other passionate lamenting. It’s a grief so all encompassing that it cannot be hidden. Henry says, “God’s mourners live a life of repentance, lament the corruption of their nature, and out of regard to God’s honor, mourn also for the sins of others. But these mourners will be “comforted”, which is more of calling to one’s side, like someone sitting next you and putting an arm around your shoulders and saying, “I’m here with you.”
The “blessed” in verse 5 speaks of the “meek”. “Meek” here means someone who is gentle, mild, and humble. It does not mean weak. There is a big difference between meek and weak. Being meek is more of keeping your self in check and having self control. When someone says something mean to you and you do not say anything mean back, you are being meek. When you remain obedient to God’s revealed will and are gentle to all men, you are being meek. Those that are meek, inherit the earth. The word translated “inherit” here strictly means “to receive by lot,” according to Strong.
In verse 6, the characteristic of hungering and thirsting for righteousness is a metaphorical and spiritual craving and thirsting for the character or quality of being right or just. When we seek being right or just, it is said here that we will be supplied with it in abundance and satisfied.
Verse 7 shows us about those that are merciful. Being merciful is not simply having pity. It is about actively showing compassion, helping others, listening when someone is upset, teaching when someone needs learning, and helping those that are in a state of sin to come back to right and just living according to the revealed will of God. We don’t know when we will need mercy shown to us. So in being merciful, maybe we will be shown kindness and mercy when we are down and out or when we are needing help in an area of our lives.
Moving on to the next verse, the “pure in heart” see God. Those that are without spot or blemish, free of the defilements of the flesh and of the world, will gaze with wide open eyes as at something amazing and remarkable, which is the one true God, our heavenly Father. Following God’s instruction and the forgiveness of sins by Jesus Christ, His Son, we will see God.
When looking at what it means to be a peacemaker, it is pretty straight forward. The peacemakers love peace and want to create peace and extend peace in all areas of their lives and others. And being called, it is a divine calling. Being called “Children of God”, it is stressed here as the quality and essence of one so resembling another that the distinctions between the two are indiscernible. Lord Jesus used this phrase in a very significant way in this verse giving prominence to the inward, ethical, legal aspects of parentage. When we are peacemakers, we are emulating our Father. The children of this world like to make trouble, but the children of God are peacemakers.
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Here, those being persecuted can be pictured as someone following after one and yelling at them meanly and rudely for being righteous – not self righteous – but as we saw before humbly being just and right by God’s revealed will. We already talked about the Kingdom of heaven.
When we are reviled (defamed, reproached, upbraided), and persecuted and talked about in a manner that is evil (with the meaning bad, worthless in the moral and ethical sense, wicked), and being lied about, having untruths uttered about us or them attempting to deceive others by falsehood about us, especially for the sake of Christ, we can be assured that we can rejoice and be exceedingly glad. “Sake” here means “on account of”, “by reason of”, or “because of” Christ. We can be cheerful and calmly happy. Being exceedingly glad conveys an idea of jubilant exultation and spiritual gladness. It’s a command of Jesus to His disciples here. The reward that will be received by those that embody these characteristics will be plenteous and in great amount. It is something that will be received hereafter in the future far away from chance, fraudulence, and violence. Henry says, “Heaven, at last, will be an abundant recompense for all the difficulties we meet within our way.” What a wonderful way to put this! When at last we finish our life here on earth, the faithful will be met with heaven, the eternal dwelling place of God. And we should not look at suffering as though it is something that is new or out of the ordinary. The prophets in what we call the Old Testament now suffered as well.
All in all, these characteristics show us more of which way to go. But as I noted before, attempting to gain entrance into heaven by acting these out is not what this teaching is about. It is about the heart. It is about your attitude and motivation in embodying these attributes. We cannot “earn” our way into heaven by our own actions outside of accepting God’s free gift of the atonement of our sins by Jesus. The obedience is motivated by our thankfulness and happiness to God and wanting to please Him as a child wants to please their parent.
This study was more than just one cup of coffee. The reason I began to study the book of Matthew was to get to the “Sermon on the Mount”. So I am going to spend quite a bit of time drawing out what I can from these three chapters (chapters 5-7). I hope you don’t mind. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, let me know.
Gotta go fill up my cup…