Blessed Are Those Who…

If you and I were going to make a list of people who are “blessed” – what would we include?

Blessed are those who care and love others?
Blessed are those in power who use their influence for good?
Blessed are those who show up on Sunday and do what the preacher says
Blessed are those who vote a certain way?
Blessed are those who have it together?
Blessed are those who rise to the top and have win at all cost? 

If we were to look at who in our society is seemingly “doing it right,” we would look to the rich, powerful, influential. We often look at power, money, prestige, aligning with the “right people” to tell us if someone is living their lives well. Within the Christian community, there is a pervasive lie that if you are following God correctly you are blessed with abundant wealth, favor, popularity, and comfort. 

But let’s look at what Jesus says. 

This is His first sermon – the first words Jesus says after transitioning into his “ministry” life. He has left his family, his carpentering, all that has defined him for 30 years. He found John the Baptist and was baptized in the Jordan, after which a voice came down from heaven to say, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him” (John 9:35). Jesus endured 40 days in the wilderness with no one but the devil as his companion, being tested in every way we are and yet never giving into temptation. He found the twelve disciples who would walk with Him until the end. 

A crowd had started to follow Jesus, curious about who He was. He finds a mountainside, sits down, and, “begins to teach them” (Matthew 5:1).

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:3-12)

Blessed are those at the end of their ropes? Who mourn? Are meek? We are blessed when we are merciful? Pure in heart? When we are persecuted for doing what is right? Really? 

As we work through the Bible to key passages that explain who God is, we have to take a deep breath around Matthew 5. Jesus, following in the footsteps of His Father, laid out an upside-down view of the world. He called into question all we know about who is powerful, about who is important, about who we should give our time and attention to. 

We often overlook this passage or water it down until it is meaningless. But this is Jesus’ first sermon. It’s His magnum opus in a way. The rest of His life, all that He does here on earth, can be reflected back to these nine statements. This is what God’s kingdom is all about. This is what we are invited to if we believe in Him.

Any argument people make regarding what people should or should not do as a person of faith, how they should respond to an issue, etc. I hold up against this portion of scripture to determine if it is sound theology. This is who Jesus, and thereby God, is! This is His heart and what He is all about.

I would challenge you to sit down with these nine verses, read them in various translations, pray over them, look at commentaries, be silent and let God speak. Let God show you the depth and richness of these statements. It is one of the best ways of getting at His heart because these words are His thesis. 

Warren Wiersbe said of this passage: The main theme is true righteousness. The religious leaders had an artificial, external righteousness based on law. But the righteousness Jesus described is a true and vital righteousness that begins internally, in the heart. The Pharisees were concerned about the minute details of conduct, but they neglected the major matter of character. Conduct flows out of character.

David Guzik wrote: There is no escape from our responsibility to desire every one of these spiritual attributes. If you meet someone who claims to be a Christian but displays and desires none of these traits, you may rightly wonder about their salvation, because they do not have the character of kingdom citizens.

This week we are going to look at the first two. To be honest, I could probably write a book on this passage, but I will try to be brief. 

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

The Message translates this: You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.

The heart of all this is humility. It is an awareness of what I lack, that I cannot save myself. That being a good person, hustling, acting right, showing up, playing the part will never get me where I want to go. It is acknowledging that I am not in charge (and neither are you). Control is an illusion. It is looking to the heavens and unclenching our grasp on this thing called life.  

“The kingdom of heaven is given to the poor, those who know they can offer nothing and do not try.” D.A. Carson said. “They cry for mercy and they alone are heard.”

In our pull yourself up by your bootstraps, make it on your own, rags to riches by sheer hustle society, this verse can be hard to take. Yet, this is an invitation to leave those lies behind. It should be water on a weary heart for people lost on the hamster wheel of a transactional faith. 

Please note, this verse is not calling us into self-hatred, shame, “not enough” – no sir! This verse is an invitation to realize it – is – not – on – us. We are not in control. In our efforts, what we can muster up, is not what God wants. It’s knowing that before the King of the Universe I have nothing to offer. I come to the Lord from that place and let Him lavish every good and awesome gift He has. Gifts of identity, rest, wholeness, belonging, eternity, the privilege of being a beacon in this world for His love and glory.

“This beatitude is first because this is where we start with God.  A ladder, if it is to be of any use, must have its first step near the ground, or feeble climbers will never be able to mount it. It would have been a grievous discouragement to struggling faith if the first blessing had been given to the pure in heart; to that excellence the young beginner makes no claim, while to poverty of spirit he can reach without going beyond this line.”

Charles Spurgeon

I will be honest, I think we find ourselves poor in spirit multiple times in our lives. This isn’t a checklist. We don’t “master” one and move on. Instead, we move through these Beatitudes as we do this thing called faith, hopefully moving each time closer to understanding who God truly is. 

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you (MSG).” 

When we look at the poverty of our spirit, our fallen world, the brokenness and pain around us, if we are being honest with ourselves, it should lead to deep grief, to weeping and lament. Facing the consequences of our sin is not something we pass by casually, but rather a full perceptivity of our fallen world and how it has grieved the heart of God. 

…You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss. Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.  

(2 Cor 7:9b-10 MSG)

God is near the brokenhearted. This can be those who suffer injustice without recourse, those who have lost, or those in mourning. It can be the parent grieving a wayward child, a father who has buried one of his own, a family left in ruin because of the fallout from sin, feeling utterly alone in a world full of people. God is with those who feel like it has all been stripped away, who grieve their situation, who long to be reminded there is more than what we can see. 

Why does our pain matter to God? Isaiah 53 reminds us that we stand before a God who intimately knows pain and sorrow. We are in the presence of a God who has mourned, lamented, been betrayed, knows loss. God is near the brokenhearted because He is a God acquainted with grief.  

Take some time this week and read over the Beatitudes. Spend time with a journal or sketchbook, a canvas or worship music and let God reveal to you His heart. We put so many distractions between us and God. Somewhere I think we know this faith thing is supposed to make us uncomfortable and shake up our priorities. I pray you give God a chance to meet with you in the stillness and show you just how awesome He really is. 

Until next time!

Isaiah 53:3-5 as quoted in the Message version.

References:
– David Guzik’s Commentary on Matthew 5
– Warren Wiersbe – New Testament Commentary (affiliate link)
– Charles Spurgeon’s Sermon, August 5, 1905

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