In the part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) we call the Beatitudes, our Lord described the characteristics of a righteous man and laid the foundation of a happy life.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The word “poor” indicates one who is destitute, poverty-stricken, without any resources. The poor in spirit is the one from whom the ground of self-sufficiency has been taken. The poor in spirit is the heart on its knees. A man’s only way of access to God is to confess his own unrighteousness, his own inability to meet the standards and requirements of God, and by faith proclaim the blood of Christ, which covers his sin. His life as a child of God will also be marked by that same complete dependence upon God, moment by moment.
There is much in the experience of the child of God day after day to bring tears to the eyes. Yet our Lord has promised, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” The Biblical concept of mourning is recognizing a need, and then presenting that need to the God of all comfort. When believers—in desperation, oppression, loneliness, bereavement, discouragement, anxiety, earnestness, desire, or devotion—present their burdens to God, they can count on God to not only hear their pleas, but also to provide His comfort.
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” The world does not see as God sees, nor does it think as God thinks. When we think of Moses, we associate him with a fearless boldness. He was not only unafraid to be in the presence of Pharaoh, but he also gave orders to one who ruled the nation (Exodus 5). The world would never have called Moses a meek man, but God called him the meekest man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3).
Exodus 3 reveals what characterized Moses as a meek man: he had no confidence in himself, no confidence in the flesh. Paul also said of himself that he had “no confidence in the flesh” even though he could “do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 3:3; 4:13). The sign of a meek man is that he recognizes and submits himself to divinely constituted authority.
Why is it that some Christians continue as spiritual babies, and others go on to spiritual maturity? We sometimes think it may be the difference in the individual personality, or in one’s experience with Jesus Christ in salvation. But when we turn to the Beatitude in Matthew 5:6 we find the secret of spiritual gianthood. Our Lord said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” He stated that the secret of spiritual growth is a spiritual appetite. Those with a voracious appetite for the things of God, and who satisfy that appetite by feeding on the Word and by communing with the Lord, will grow to spiritual maturity.
Channels of Mercy
The merciful person is the one who is full of the fountain of mercy—who is full of God. When our Lord said, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy,” He was saying that a man who has turned in faith to Jesus Christ and has received of His loving grace, will be conformed to the mercy of Jesus Christ so that God’s mercy can continually flow through his daily life. The merciful man is the man who is full of love, and who loves with the love of God. To show mercy because we have received mercy permits God to open up the windows of heaven and pour out blessing upon us.
Washed and Clean
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” This beatitude has two important things to say. The first is that man, measured in the light of the holiness of God, is unholy. Jesus came and offered Himself on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. By His death He paid the price for the sins of the world, and God offers forgiveness for sins to anyone who will accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior. When God looks at the one who trusts Christ for salvation, God sees that one in the same light as He sees His own beloved Son.
But there is a second truth: holiness is a prerequisite for fellowship. “If I regard iniquity in my heart,” Psalm 66:18 says, “the Lord will not hear me.” I cannot enjoy the light of His countenance and the joy of His companionship apart from clean hands and a pure heart. In 1 John 1:9 we are assured, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Signposts to Peace
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Not one word in Scripture ever gives us hope that man will bring peace to this earth. Swords will not be turned into plowshares until the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ, returns to earth. He has not transferred to us the responsibility to make peace among nations, but He has given us the duty of telling men that they can come to peace with God through the blood of the cross; and He has given us the sobering responsibility to maintain the Spirit’s unity of believers in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).
Sufferers for Christ
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” As a brilliant light is painful to the eyes, so the light of God’s holiness is painful to a sinner and he seeks to hide from it. The believer, placed in the world as a light, brings pain to the world. There can be no other response to him than that of rejection, persecution, bitterness, and hatred. So our Lord said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
God calls believers to separation to Himself; but in separating them to Himself, He separates them from the world, and they must expect the world’s hatred. Doubly blessed are those who show this fruit of righteousness.
—From Design for Living by J. Dwight Pentecost. Published by Kregel.