The Beatitudes hold both grace and gravity. The meaning of the word “beatitudes” is “supreme blessedness” – this is the title chosen to introduce the Sermon on the Mount. I was reading through the book of Matthew one day when I paused at this passage again. The importance of these words really struck me – these were qualities Jesus emphasised and the reward was eternal. I wanted to understand them and apply them. I wanted to hide these instructions in my heart so that I would keep these commandments, and grow in them. I wanted to know, understand and live in the Beatitudes, in the supreme blessing of Christ.
The Nature of the Beatitudes
Before looking at each beatitude individually, I want to see the whole picture. Jesus had begun His ministry of signs and wonders. His fame had spread all through Galilee and Syria. “Great multitudes followed Him – from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them …” [Matthew 4:25-5:2]
The prelude to the beatitudes is Jesus’ ministry to the multitudes – people from all the lands who gathered to see and hear him. I find a few things to ponder about the context of Jesus’ sermon on the mount:
1. Jesus’ heart for the multitudes.
In Matthew 9:36, we see how Jesus, when He saw the multitudes, “was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary, and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” Jesus has salvation for the multitudes. He is able to completely satisfy and wisely guide them. Jesus loves the multitudes from all nations and all lands and He deeply desires to restore them to His Father, to God. He extends an invitation – “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” [Matthew 11:28]. He says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” [John 10:11] Jesus is for the multitudes – He wants them to know the path of righteousness, the path that leads to eternal life, and He freely demonstrates this in His being; Jesus the way, the truth and the life.
2. The imagery of ascending God’s holy hill.
Psalm 24:3-4 says this, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully.” Jesus stands with the Father in perfect holiness. He calls us to be holy, just as He is holy [1 Peter 1:6], and He calls us heavenward in Him [Philippians 3:14].
3. Jesus waited.
He waited for His disciples to come to Him, then He opened His mouth and taught them. Jesus’ invitation is clear – come all the hungry, all the thirsty, all the weary, all who seek for truth for Jesus is the answer, and Jesus is the one who will satisfy. In John 6:37, He says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” We have a patient God! He pursues us, and calls us, but He waits for our response. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…” [James 4:8] He speaks to those who have ears to hear.
Being in the Beatitudes
Each one of these blessings can be explored in such depth! I encourage you to meditate on them yourselves and to apply them to your life and journey with God. I’ve paired each characteristic with their associated blessing below.
POOR IN SPIRIT |
Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
The Greek here refers to one with a humble spirit. Isaiah 66:2 says, “…But on this one I will look; on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word.” The Hebrew here for contrite means “crippled” or “stricken”. To be poor in Spirit means to be submitted to God – to come before Him in humility, knowing the effect of our sins, to come in repentance and acknowledge the riches of His grace which are freely given. In Psalm 51, David prays a prayer of repentance after the prophet Nathan convicts him of his sin with Bathsheba. He demonstrates this quality of being poor in spirit as he prays:
1. Knowing God’s grace and mercy –
(v.1) “Have mercy on me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies…”
2. Knowing the consequence of sin –
(v.2-3) “For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight –
That you may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.”
3. Repentance before God –
(v.7) “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
4. Desire for God to renew his spirit and transform his heart –
(v.10) “Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
5. Knowing what God desires –
(v.17) “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and contrite heart –
These O God, You will not despise.”
What is the reward of such humility, and bowing before God? It is the inheritance of the Kingdom of God. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God [1 Corinthians 6:9], but it will be given to those who are washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God [1 Corinthians 6:11]. It requires poverty of Spirit, humility before God and a willingness to receive His grace. To receive the kingdom of God is to receive His full glory, His eternal life in Salvation, and the revelation of His being.
Jon Thurlow sings a song based on Luke 5:35 – Lyrics: “There is coming a day when the Bridegroom is taken away; and in that day they will mourn; in that day they will fast” People mourn for many things, but the blessing of God here is for a specific group of mourners. These are the ones who mourn for their missing bridegroom and yearn for His return.
Jeremiah 9:17-26 issues a call to mourners in the day of judgement – “(v.17) Thus says the Lord of hosts; Consider and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for the skilful wailing women, that they may come… (v.19) For a voice of wailing is heard from Zion: how we are plundered! We are greatly ashamed, because we have forsaken the land, because we have been cast out of our dwellings, (v.20) yet hear the word of the Lord, O women, and let your ear receive the word of His mouth; teach your daughters wailing and everyone her neighbour a lamentation… (v.23-24) Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgement, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight… ”
This is what I glean from the passage above:
- This is the word of the Lord given as instruction to a people in the midst of judgement, their consequence for their sins.
- This is a call to repentance – God says, “Come, turn your face towards me, lift your voices to me, and call upon my Name.” It is a call to humility and a call to repent, to recognise the consequence of sin, and the effect of grace. Joel 1:13-20 carries the same message – a call to the priests to lament, “…Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.”
- All the people of the land are to be involved. Mothers should teach their daughters, and each one should teach their neighbour. To mourn before the Lord is something that the Lord desires all would learn, that it be passed down through the generations and remembered.
- Why? The purpose of this mourning, fasting and wailing, is to turn to the Lord and acknowledge Him – to understand and know Him, to know His lovingkindness, judgement, and righteousness in the earth, and to know that it is in these that He delights.”
So, what comfort is given? Isaiah 40 tells us this comfort is found in the Salvation of Christ – in His coming, and in His victory. For, when He comes, all things will be restored, all sin will be destroyed, and God’s full glory will cover the earth. “’(v.1) Comfort, yes, comfort Mr people!’ says Your God… (v.10-11) Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him, behold His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”
We will continue to explore the beatitudes in the weeks to come. As we do, I encourage you to read, meditate upon, memorise and ask for revelation about these words. This song helped me memorise the beatitudes and hide them in my heart: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152287613228688&l=5849101853662575302