Matthew 5: The Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes (2)
Pray Psalm 130.6.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.
Sing contemplatively Psalm 130.6.
(Hamburg: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross)
More than the watchmen wait for the day, eagerly seeking the morning light,
I wait for You and earnestly pray, hoping in You with all my might.
Read Matthew 5.1-4; meditate on verses 3, 4.
1. What does Jesus promise in these two verses?
2. What do we learn about the Lord’s blessings here?
Jesus ascended a mountain and arranged His disciples close to Him, while the crowd that followed scattered around to hear Him. The scene was deliberately staged to recall the meeting of Moses and the elders of Israel with God, on the top of Mt. Sinai, just prior to God giving the Law, in the form of stone tablets, to Israel (Ex. 24.9-12). Here Jesus would outline the ethics of life in the Kingdom, just as the Law of God outlined the ethics of life in Israel. Instead of stone tablets, however, He would give them His Word, and more importantly, Himself. Now that the Kingdom was “at hand”, its unique character and demands needed to be set before the people. As we shall see, life in the Kingdom does not negate life in the Law; rather, it clarifies and enlarges the Law within a framework not of works, but of grace.
The people had come to be blessed by Jesus. Perhaps most of them had an idea of the blessing they wanted to receive. The purpose of the beatitudes is, in one sense, to clarify the meaning of blessing, so that we make sure that what we’re seeking from the Lord is what He desires to give us.
The word blessing means “pertaining to being happy, with the implication of enjoying favorable circumstances – happy” (Louw and Nida). Left to our own devices, we will define happiness in many different ways. Jesus indicates that happiness – as He intends it – is available, first of all, to those who recognize the impoverished state of their souls, and who seek the Kingdom as the remedy (v. 3). Even more than in the Old Testament, where to be truly happy and blessed was to enjoy life in the Kingdom of Israel (Lev. 18.1-5) – a condition the people of Israel could never fully realize – now in the New Testament – and even more truly – to be happy is to know life in the Kingdom which Jesus proclaimed, and which He was bringing near.
Jesus was, I believe, deliberately vague in His use of “spirit” (NKJV) here. In the Greek, a definite article is included, so that the translation is more accurately the spirit or even the Spirit. I believe Jesus wanted His hearers to think of both – the Holy Spirit of God and their own souls (spirits). Only when we recognize the impoverished condition of our own spirit, and our lack of engagement with the Spirit of God, are we ready to receive the Kingdom which the Spirit of God brings. And receiving the Kingdom is the entry point to a life of blessedness from God.
Verse 4 continues this focus on entering the state of blessedness – life in the Kingdom. Life in the Kingdom entails being comforted orencouraged in life. The word in the Greek is παρακληθήσονται, paraklethesontai, and it shares the same root as the word, Comforter (Greek: παράκλητος, parakletos). The kind of mourning Jesus intends here is the kind that can only be soothed by the Comforter of God, Who dwells in all who are forgiven and born from above. Recognizing the poverty of our souls – how utterly destitute of good we are, how completely incapable of making ourselves right with God, how loathsome we are to ourselves and God – leads to a deep spiritual mourning, sorrowing for our wretchedness and weeping for our lost condition.
These two verses deliberately recall Isaiah 61.1-3, in which the coming of the Messiah is announced. Jesus offered the people blessing – life in the Kingdom, where the Comfort of the Spirit attends to all who enter there. But we must first recognize our need for such blessing. We must accept the idea of blessing as Jesus defines it, and recognize our impoverishment apart from such blessing with sorrow and mourning (cf. Lev. 23.26-32; Is. 22.12-14). Only then are we ready to be blessed by Jesus and elevated to a new and truly happy life.
1. What does Jesus mean by “blessing”?
2. What are the prerequisites for entering the Kingdom of God? Why?
3. Why is “comfort” the first blessing we receive upon entering the Kingdom of God?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” who on account of the Holy Spirit are poor by willing freely to be so. Hence, concerning this type of poor, the Savior also speaks through Isaiah: “The Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor.” Jerome (347-420), Commentary on Matthew 1.5.3
Show me my sins, Lord, and help me to weep for my impoverished soul, so that I…
Pray Psalm 130.1-5, 7, 8.
This psalm moves from desperation to hope, from confession to confidence in the Lord, from seeking the Lord to resting in His redemption. Let it guide your prayers this morning, that you may be renewed in your spirit as you mourn for your sins.
Sing Psalm 130.1-5, 7, 8.
Psalm 130.1-5, 7, 8 (Hamburg: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross)
Out of the depths I cry to You, Lord! Lord, hear my voice; have mercy on me!
Who can resist Your powerful Word if You should mark iniquity?
There is forgiveness, Lord, with You, that we may fear before Your face.
I wait for You; in Your Word most true I hope to find renewing grace.
Hope in the Lord, with Jesus is love! Plenteous redemption abounds in His face.
He will redeem us, who rules from above; He will forgive us by His grace.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).