This is another article for RU. I am glad that this topic was one of the challenges, since I have been trying to write about this for about a year now, unsuccessfully. The Beatitudes are so packed with beautiful and important insights, that I can never manage to get any attempt at writing about them to be concise. I hope that this try will be at least moderately successful.
The passage Matthew 5:1-12 is one of many ‘paths’ or ‘sequences’ in the Bible. This one is focused on the walk of sanctification from salvation to godliness and righteousness. There are nine steps, or beatitudes. Each of these is a conditional promise: if we do this, then God will bless you in this way. These steps can be divided into either two or three sections. The first four are vertical (man-God) and internal, whereas the next five are horizontal (man-man) and external (to a degree). That is the two divisions. In three sections it goes four steps, three steps, and two steps. The first section deals with the process of repentance, the second with the process of transformation, and the third with the results of holiness. I will focus on each of these three sections one at a time.
Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Poor in spirit does not mean that you act like you are not wealthy. It means that you see your ill-worth before God. It means that you see God’s infinite nature, and that you bow before His presence. It means that you see yourself as helpless and unable to do anything that is worth anything to God. It means that you are crushed in your pride, and you hate your Self and your Flesh that is an offense to God. It means that you see yourself correctly in the light of God.
Isaiah 57:15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name [is] Holy; I dwell in the high and holy [place,] with him also [that is] of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
Philippians 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
James 4:9-10 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and [your] joy to heaviness.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
These are all passages that speak of God’s love for those who are humble in heart. It is God’s great pleasure to show mercy and love to those who are humble, but His Holiness and Justice breaks the backs of the proud. Salvation requires humility: it requires that you be poor in spirit. This is why this first beatitude promises the kingdom of heaven to those who are humble in spirit: this first step of repentance is the first step of salvation.
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
You will mourn when you are truly poor in spirit: for you will see yourself in an exceedingly sinful state at the mercy of a perfectly Holy God. You will see how much you have hurt and grieved the God almighty who loved you so much that He gave all for you. You will see how you have spurned His love and care for you, how you have rebelled, and how you have committed great and evil crimes against His throne. This will break your heart, if you are truly poor in spirit, and if you are truly honest with yourself. You will feel great remorse and grief, greater than over any loss. But then God promises that you will be comforted, for God hears the cries of a contrite and repentant sinner. God loves you, and His mercy is infinite.
Isaiah 66:2 For all those [things] hath mine hand made, and all those [things] have been, saith the LORD: but to this [man] will I look, [even] to [him that is] poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
Ephesians 2:3-6 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus:
Brokenness and contriteness in your heart of hearts is extremely important for every part of a Christian’s walk. Seek it urgently; seek it eagerly.
Matthew 5:5 Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Meekness: a very strange attribute to today’s power hungry and self-exalting passions. But it an attitude that is crucial to a follower of Christ, for repentance is not complete without it. Repentance is a turning from sin and a turning to God, as has been said before by many, very wise men. Being poor in spirit is a seeing of where you are away from God, and is a prerequisite for true repentance. Mourning, or contrition, is the turning from sin. Meekness is the first part of turning to God, and the next step, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, is the second part of turning to God.
Meekness is a yielding to God’s superiority over us, a bowing to His will and choosing His way over our own. Meekness is simply an acknowledgment of His over-lordship of us. We have already said in the last two steps: “I am weak, I have sinned, I am sorry.” Meekness is saying “You right, you are good, I am under you.” Meekness is humility, just like being poor in spirit and mourning are humility. They are all different stages of the same attitude. Each looks at a different aspect of self, contrasted with a different aspect of God.
Psalms 25:8-10 Good and upright [is] the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
9 The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
10 All the paths of the LORD [are] mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.
Meekness is everywhere commended and commanded by God for all men. It is the opposite of arrogance, which is detested by the Lord. Seek meekness with earnest zeal and vigor!
Matthew 5:6 Blessed [are] they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
What do you want? Do you desire pleasure, riches, fame, health, security on earth? God does not promise these to those who seek after them. They might come to some who follow in His will, for His will might be that they have them. Righteousness is one of the very few things that God promises to fulfill the desire of for everyone that desires it truly. There is so much that can be gleaned from this short verse, but I will try to limit myself to one, for the sake of space and time.
Hungering and thirsting are not one-time events. They are consistent presences, reminding you to maintain full nutrition at all times. This is because you are continually needing to get more nutrition. Righteousness and sanctification are not things that you get once and you don’t need to worry about ever again. They are continually requiring maintenance and nutrition. That is why daily devotions are so important. But this verse demands something that is much much more than simply a daily chore: it is a command to instill in yourself a passion and a deep desire for God’s Holy Spirit, for sanctification, and for righteousness. This passion and desire must be as insistent and consistent as your need for food, yea, greater.
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Romans 6:13 Neither yield ye your members [as] instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness unto God.
It is not acceptable for us to be setting our desires on anything less than God. Anything else but God’s righteousness and holiness is a waste. Devote yourself utterly to God and His ways, and pray passionately that God will increase in you a fervent desire for righteousness.
With joy and peace in Christ,