Blessed Are They (part 2)
Updated: Jul 14, 2020
The time was right. The scene was set. Everyone was in place.
God was ready to, again, reveal His plan for creation, for His kingdom. A millennia and a half earlier He had done the same thing, but now the players were different. Then it was Moses and the children of Israel, now it was Jesus, His disciples and the multitude.
The contrast in response is staggering, but enlightening, perhaps even telling. It gives us great insight as to how people would respond to the direct communication from God, as far as His expectations.
One was the physical, perfunctory obedience to God’s law, the other a life lived under God’s blessing and grace. One would involve working to gain access into God’s presence, the other actually having access to live and abide in His presence. One would draw its direction from cold, hard tables of lifeless law, the other from the warm, beating heart of the redeemed.
When Moses came down from the mountain bringing the tablets of the law written with the hand of God, the immediate response from the people was “all that the Lord has said, that will we do” (Exodus 24:3). Then they immediately turned around and broke them.
On this day, on a different mountain, God will again lay out a plan for living life, and in this case, kingdom life. However, it will be quite different than before. The "thou shall not" will turn into "blessed are they". But the impact on their lives will be no less challenging. The demand for righteousness will be the same, if not greater, but the motivation will be totally different. On that day, in the wilderness, the Ten Commandments introduced the fullness of God's law, but on this day He introduces His mandate with the Beatitudes.
The beatitudes were to the Sermon on the Mount what the Ten Commandments were to the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Each was the foundation for what was to follow. Before we jump into the individual statements, I would like to define a couple of terms.
First of all, Beatitude. This is simple and obvious because the word simply means "blessedness" or "happiness". Each of the spiritual characteristics presented in the sermon begin with ”blessed”.
Now with that said, the word blessed is a little more difficult to define. On the surface maybe not, but to get to the full meaning, we may need to spend a moment here. Blessed does, in fact, mean happy. So many times we hear the words given "happy are they", and that's not that far off.
Although “happy” is a part of being blessed, the conflict comes in the definition, source and duration of happiness. Happiness can be a very transient thing if it is founded on and defined by the circumstances of the world around us. Then, at best, it becomes a very fickle companion. It can come and go as quickly as the environment changes.
In our modern culture we have been conditioned to believe that happiness is the byproduct of good things happening in our lives. So if positive things are going on, then we are happy. However, if difficulties come our way, we are not happy. Jesus could not have been referring to such an emotional roller coaster with regard to His kingdom.
Blessedness is more than just being happy. Jesus was talking about blessedness that was connected to His eternal kingdom. Why then would He use something as transitory as happiness to represent the strength of life that comes with serving Him.
We often think of a blessing as something we receive at a moment, however, Jesus was speaking of blessedness that impacts your entire life. It actually speaks of living a blessed life instead of receiving a blessing. It speaks of a quality of life that can be continually enjoyed by those who are of His kingdom and live by the principles He is about to lay before them. Blessedness speaks of a fulfilled or satisfied life rather than just a happy life.
That's the reason the crowd would have a difficult time understanding such teaching. After all, how can you reconcile happiness with being poor in spirit? How could you reconcile happiness with mourning? How can you reconcile happiness with hunger and thirst or meekness or persecution?
To really buy in to such teaching, you would need to believe that God is your source and that He never fails you. So whatever comes your way, you trust in an eternal, unchanging, faithful God. Our happiness rests in Him, not in what is happening around us.
So when Jesus says, in this sermon, “blessed are they”, He is not pronouncing a superficial, temporary euphoria, but a place in which we live our lives continually. A place of persistent blessing, depth of joy, and, yes, happiness.
In my next post, I want to deal with the first of the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Until then, meditate on this thought from that upcoming post.
Before grace can be fully seen and understood to be truly gracious, it must be considered within the context of our own unworthiness, our own sinfulness, our own lack of anything to offer God.