Understanding the Beatitudes
I have to admit that sometimes when reading through God's Word I tend to take things very literally and don't really see the bigger picture. In our Bible Study we have been going through the Sermon on the Mount and we started with the Beatitudes. I realized I had been reading this passage all wrong. Let me tell you what I have learned.
We will start with reading the passage.
Matthew 5 English Standard Version (ESV)
5 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I used to think that each beatitude stood alone. I always wondered which beatitude was me. Was I poor in spirit, meek or a peacemaker? Studying the beatitudes has shown me that they all work together and they are actually a picture of our Christian walk. Here is what I have learned.
The beatitudes build on each other.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven - Blessed are the poor in spirit is realizing our own sin and spiritual emptiness and poverty. When we realize our need for Jesus and trust in Him then ours is the kingdom of Heaven!
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. As we realize our need for Jesus and trust Him it causes us to mourn over our sin. Of course we are comforted from the Holy Spirit when we mourn over tragedy, sickness, sorrow, etc. but our mourning over our sin is comforted when we realize the depths of Jesus' love for us, that He would die for our sins so that we can be with Him for eternity. Oh How great that love is!
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
When we realize our need for Jesus and are repentant and mourn over our sin then we strive give control over our lives to Jesus. This is hard for me, but what I so desire. A person who is meek is someone who hands their cause over to God, a power under control, having a quiet but confident trust in the Lord and being willing and able to do whatever it is He commands. Jesus is the ultimate example of someone who was meek. He had all the power in the world, yet used it to help others and even lay down his life for everyone else. He had plenty of opportunities to try and get revenge or attack those who attacked him, but he did not do so. Rather, He was willing to submit His entire life to the Father (as evidenced by His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane).
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
When we come to know Jesus by realizing we are poor in spirit, mourning over our sin and then handing our self over to Jesus we realize we want more. There is a hunger that is created in us that needs filled. That is where we hunger and thirst for righteousness. I get so excited when I see the Spirit working in my life and the lives of others where they can never get enough. It is so amazing as God works and gives us the desire to know Him more deeply. As we fill our lives with His Word and His characteristics a beautiful thing begins to happen. We begin to spill over! He begins to use us in His story to reach others. This is where the next 3 beatitudes come in.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
We are poor in spirit, then we mourn, then we are meek and that creates a hunger and thirst for righteousness. As we grow in Jesus we see the mercy He has given us by dying on the cross for our sins but then being raised 3 days later-ALIVE and has gone to prepare a place for us so we can be with HIM! Phew! What mercy! As we see the mercy that He has bestowed on us, we want to show that same type of mercy to those around us. Has someone wronged me, I can grant mercy because of Jesus. Do we see a need that someone has, (even because of a wrong choice) I can be merciful because, My amazing and perfect Heavenly Father has mercifully sent His very own Son to die in MY place. There is no greater picture of mercy!
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Poor in Spirit, mourning over our sin, Having meekness by handing our will over to Jesus creates a hunger and thirst for righteousness which causes us to flow over with Jesus' mercy and then the next beatitude is Being Pure in Heart! How in the world can we be pure in heart? This seems impossible to me but Jesus says in Matthew 19:26 With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Because of Jesus' death and how He took our sins we can be pure in Heart! Thank you Jesus! In other words, God creates a purity for us and in us so that we can pursue purity. And by his grace we must seek that gift by praying like David did, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" Therefore, trust in the Lord with ALL your heart (Proverbs 3:5). Will this one thing. And you will see God. When Jesus says we will see God, it means we will be comforted by His grace. For example in Psalm 27 (verses 7–9) David says,
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
. . . Hide not thy face from me.
So when Jesus promises the reward of "seeing God" there are at least these three things implied: we will be admitted to his presence. We will be awestruck with a direct experience of his glory. And we will be helped and comforted by his grace.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.
I know this is repetitive but to see how God grows us as His child, if we will let Him, to me, is miraculous. So once again,
We are poor in Spirit, then mourning over our sin causes us to have meekness by handing our will over to Jesus which creates a hunger and thirst for righteousness and that causes us to flow over with Jesus' mercy and because of His mercy to us we can be pure in heart. As we grow in Christ then we can also become peacemakers. God's words tell us Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. We can only do this because of God making peace with us while we were yet sinners, rebelling against Him, he sent His son Jesus to make peace... Blessed are you peacemakers who pray for your enemies and greet your opponents with love and sacrifice like your heavenly Father for the reconciliation of people to God and to each other, for you will be called sons of God and inherit eternal life in the kingdom of your Father.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.
When we get a new heart and become a new person in Christ we will grow in Him and become like Him and His Spirit will abide in us. What happens then is the world has a choice. The world as our family, friends, neighbors and people we come in contact with every day. They will see our light shine and it will either draw them in to see what is different and they too will come to know Jesus OR they will see our light shine and it will make them angry and they will persecute us. Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12 says, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Here in America the persecution is not as violent as in other countries but as seen in recent days there is a persecution. For us, the persecution could be rejection, being made fun of, even physical, but whatever the reaction of our negative world, we can rejoice and be glad because great is our reward in Heaven.
Jesus wills for us to have our hearts primarily in heaven, our hopes primarily in heaven, our longings primarily in heaven, our joy primarily in heaven. There is no other way that you can rejoice and be glad at the loss of your earthly joys. How shall we rejoice and be glad when these things are taken from us if we have not loved heaven more?
Thank you God for the Sermon on the Mount that shows us how to walk the path you have set before us. Please create in us a clean heart and help us to set our hearts on Heaven to be with you, no matter what! Thank you for loving us. Help us to remember that following You is not a set of rules but a joy that is the outcome of your mercy shown to us and that the guidelines that You set before us are because You love us and desire our hearts to be like You.
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot, martyr