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The is the first in a series of posts on the beatitudes. Here are the others:
Every other year I do the whole “read the Bible in a year” thing, and last year was one of those, so 2015 is a year in which I’ll hopefully study a smaller amount of text in a deeper fashion. When I read through the Bible in a year, I don’t bother with much extra-biblical materials like commentaries or study notes—there’s not enough time in the day. But, when I get to study on a less rigid reading plan, I can spend more time in smaller amounts of Scripture, and maybe even read a simple commentary alongside the Scripture.
When 2015 came, I decided that I was going to read through the gospels at least once, but maybe even multiple times. I haven’t ever really camped in one section of Scripture for a long time, and I’d love to spend a lot of 2015 getting to know the gospels a bit better.
I started with Matthew last week, and right away, just in the first few days, I came across the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
The Sermon on the Mount is one of my favorite sections of Scripture, which is likely the case for many Christians. I have spent some time studying it and preaching on it in the past.
But those beatitudes.
I always breeze through the beatitudes without much thought.
It’s kinda natural, isn’t it? To just breeze through the beatitudes, I mean.
I find myself doing it with regularity whenever I read through the gospels and I think I know why—the rhythmic, repetitive language. Because of the way the beatitudes are constructed, so formulaic: “Blessed are the [rough situation] for they shall [get something good].”
And I almost always think something like this: “I’m sure these verses are encouraging to poor, hungry people who are persecuted for their faith. Maybe one day I’ll be in such a rough spot that I’ll look to the beatitudes for comfort.”
Anyone else ever think this?
I’m just so convinced that I have everything together that I, much to my detriment, have often overlooked the beatitudes as a theological safety net worth noting for future failures.
Wow have I been missing out.
My tentative plan over the next few Fridays is to go through each of the beatitudes and do my best to shed some light on the goodness of a gracious God that meets us in our pain and promises us peace.
First of all, let’s deal with the word “beatitudes.” This is such a Christianese word. I don’t like Christianese words. Most simply, the “beatitudes,” are kingdom blessings. Jesus begins his Sermon on the Mount, often seen as the laws of the kingdom of God, by telling his listeners about the blessings of the kingdom of God.
Amidst our brokenness, we are blessed.
The first four beatitudes (Matt 5:3-6) focus on man’s relationship with God, and the second four beatitudes (Matt 5:7-10) focus on man’s relationship with man, and then a brief summary follows.
Another brief note on the structure of the beatitudes: notice the first and last ones (v. 3 and 10):
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
All of the beatitudes in between are framed by the promises of an inheritance of eternal residency with the king of the universe.
When you sing “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord,” do you ever wonder what you really mean by “blessed?”
I confess, for much of my young life, I have struggled with rightly understanding what “blessed” means in a number of contexts both in- and outside of Scripture.
The blessedness of God is as permanent as the love of God in Christ.
When you read “blessed” in the beatitudes, do not think “happy.” In the listing of the beatitudes, “blessed” is an objective statement of God’s approval of the people who are called “blessed” (see Carson and Stott on the Sermon on the Mount).
Kent Hughes writes concerning the beatitude-blessing of God, “So when God blesses us, he approves us.”
Christians, you have the blessing of God! How might your life, your outlook on life, change if you were aware of your approval in the eyes of God?
If blessedness were nothing more than mere happiness, the blessedness of God could be stolen away by a bad day at the office or a conflict in the home.
But, because blessedness is the approval of our almighty God, the blessedness of God is as permanent as the love of God in Christ.
The beatitudes are truly beautiful. My hope is, over the next few weeks, we’ll see the beauty of the beatitudes. More importantly, my hope is that we’ll see the beauty of our God through the beauty of the beatitudes.
Whether your soul is bankrupt, your stomach is empty, or your strength is gone, your Father has approved you. You stand approved in the eyes of God.
Amidst our brokenness, we are blessed.