Be Blessed in 2018 – Part One – Matthew 5:3-6

The Sermon on the Mount is the longest segment of teaching by Jesus in the New Testament. It spans three chapters in Matthew’s gospel, touching upon many salient points of what constitutes being a Christ follower. I’ve heard this sermon described as the “constitution of God’s kingdom.” It begins with eight clear pronouncements that provide a roadmap for a blessed and happy life. God has graced us with many simple templates in his word, patterns to follow that will guide us into blessing. Couples who meditate on the beatitudes and seek to apply their truths will be richly blessed.

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

Originally, the poor meant those who had little money or material resource, but in time it came to mean those who were destitute in the eyes of God. For example, in the Psalms, the poor man is one who is afflicted and unable to save himself. He knows that he doesn’t have the internal resources to find favor with God. Therefore he is humble and contrite in heart. Prime example: Psalm 51, where David repents of his sin of adultery. Another Biblical example is the parable of the tax collector and Pharisee. The tax collector was poor in spirit and thus blessed. The Pharisee was proud and arrogant and didn’t find favor with God.

To be poor in spirit is to acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy and utter dependence on God. John Calvin in his Commentaries On The Harmony Of The Gospels, Volume 1, says that “he only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God, is poor in spirit.” Some of the most bonding times in our marriage have occurred in the midst of our honestly expressing our weakness, and then together, casting ourselves upon the Lord.

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

The question of suffering is a deep and difficult one. Why God allows it, we cannot fully know. But the promise that we have is one of comfort. Along with being our response to suffering, mourning also contains a larger, Messianic reference.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Is.61:1-3, emphases mine) Jesus came to fulfill these wonderful promises and we catch a glimpse of their final fulfillment in the book of Revelation: “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

I believe the first beatitude needs the second. It’s not enough to acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy while having a cold heart. Those who mourn have accessed a tender place; they embrace the warming of the heart albeit from a source of pain. While suffering is inflicted upon us by circumstances or loss, there is also the sweetness of what I call the “pain of lack.” I know there is more in God for me and I have yet to attain it. Thus I mourn for the breakthrough, for the deeper access into all that God has for me.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Meekness is an essential attribute for all of life and in particular for the marriage relationship. Jesus describes himself thusly: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt.11:29 italics mine) In his pastoral appeal to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul alludes to this Christlike quality: “By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you…” (2 Cor. 10:1) Meekness, gentleness, humility – are all used interchangeably in various Bible translations. Andrew Murray, in his classic book “Humility: The Beauty of Holiness”, calls humility “the chief of the graces” and “the root of all virtue.” A culture of entitlement is demanding, while a culture of humility is serving.  Pride and arrogance never win in the marriage arena; gentleness and humility always do.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

In the physical realm, my degree of hunger and thirst is enhanced by a void, or by the absence of food and drink. Our bodies alert us to the need for nourishment. We thus respond in the direction of our desire, and proceed to eat, drink, and be filled. In the spiritual realm, this response is not quite so automatic and motivating, as there is a “threshold” to cross, namely, my being intentional in pursuit. Unlike the physical, there are obstacles to overcome for me to arrive at a place of being spiritually hungry.  It’s not much of a battle to sit at the table and eat, but deciding you’re going to pray and read the Bible on a consistent basis is likely to meet resistance. The spiritual disciplines are precisely that; putting restraints upon all that would resist our moving forward in God.

The starkness of poverty, tenderness of mourning, and the humility of meekness, will help propel us into seeing the value of being hungry and thirsty for God. These are the qualities that I want for my life. These are the virtues that I long to see expressed in my marriage. Let it begin with me.