The Beatitudes (Blessedness) – The character of the Citizens of the Kingdom — Matthew 5: 1-12
The world’s values
Last week we looked at the first four beatitudes which primarily spoke of our relationship with the Lord, though meekness before God is manifested in meekness before others. The remaining four beatitudes speak primarily about our relationship with others though purity of heart begins with God. As it relates to the purpose of our study of the Life of Jesus, i.e., to be conformed to the image of Jesus by "beholding" Him through His Word (2 Corinthians 3:18), these inner character qualities are foundational to becoming like our Lord. We will look at three of these today and the last of these next week.
"Blessed are the merciful" — God’s mercy is a central Biblical theme and is seen most clearly and dramatically in the passion of our Lord on the cross when He said, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing". God forgives sinners, those who are guilty and deserve His punishment. (Note: God doesn’t forgive sin, He forgives sinners. A just God must punish all sin but in His mercy He gave His Son Who voluntarily gave up His life to satisfy the justice of God for all those who put their trust in His atoning sacrifice.) Later in the sermon Jesus says that for us to be like Him we too must forgive even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) and be merciful to all. Unforgiveness breaks fellowship with God (Matthew 6:14,15) and a hard-hearted unforgiving attitude should even cause us to question our salvation as seen in the parable of the unmerciful slave in Matthew 18:21-35. The spirit of the world is justice and revenge — "a pound of flesh" and mercy is foreign to their nature (except when they want it for themselves). "For they will be shown mercy" – We do not earn God’s mercy by being merciful we obtain His mercy through salvation by grace. Mercy is not getting what we deserve and grace is getting more than we deserve. As we realize our great need for God’s mercy (see the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector — Luke 18:10-14) God shows His mercy to us. Having realized our need for mercy and having received God’s mercy causes us in turn to be merciful to others, who like us, need mercy (not justice) for their sins. Our merciful attitude in turn moves others to be merciful toward us and thus "we will be shown mercy" again and again as we will surely need it again and again.
"Blessed are the pure in heart" — a pure heart is what brings about pure actions and not vice versa. The idea is a single-minded devotion to God, an undivided heart versus being double-minded and duplicitous. The pure in heart keep their heart clean only by a continual confession of sin (1 John 1:5-10) as God’s Word goes deeper and deeper to expose even sinful attitudes, motives and thoughts. (Hebrews 4:12-13). And as we continue to confess our sins and receive God’s purifying work in our souls we have a clearer grasp of the glory and beauty of God .. "for they will see God". God reveals Himself to people according to their inner character. "To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd." (Psalm 18:26) The more Pharaoh hardened his heart against the Lord the more the Lord hardened Himself against Pharaoh and finally broke him to pieces even as He did Jacob the deceiver by giving him some of his own trickery and shrewdness through Laban. As we become genuine with the Lord through our on-going confession of sin and quit trying to play the game with Him we will become more genuine with others and quit our pretending and posturing with them.
"Blessed are the peacemakers" — "shalom"(peace) means completeness and wholeness in every area of our life beginning with peace with God ("having been justified by faith" – Romans 5:1) and then with our neighbors and ultimately peace among nations. As Jesus said this cannot be brought about by the sword (communism, Islam) but by putting on the shoes of the gospel of peace bringing the good news to all the world (Matthew 28:18-20) that "our God reigns" and that in Him and under Him we can have peace with one another. Ephesians 2:14 "For he himself (Jesus Christ) is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility." Colossians 1:20 "and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." "For they will be called sons of God" – 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God." Even as Jesus the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, made peace with God for us through His blood we as "sons of God" men and women, are to be ministers of reconciliation imploring others to be reconciled with God. (Romans 10:12-15)