Blessed By God - Matthew 5:1-10
These “Blessed” statements are commonly called “the Beatitudes,” a word we don’t use today, but one that traces back to the Latin translation of the Scriptures. It referred to a state of supremely blessing or supremely happiness, a state of mind which transcends the emotions or circumstances. However, today we normally associate being “happy” with good circumstances. For us, happiness is an emotional state. What Jesus is talking about here is deeper than that, which is good news when you think about the fleeting nature of what we call “happiness.”
It comes and goes. Life is filled with unmet expectations, unfilled longings, disappointments We try to position ourselves to avoid those things. So “happy” wouldn’t communicate Jesus’ meaning to us in the present age. “Blessed” does better; however, when we see the word “blessed,” or when we use the word, there’s a good chance that we’re talking about our present circumstances being good. If you count your “blessings,” you likely begin with the things that make you – wait for it – happy. And if you have those things, evidently God approves of you; but if you don’t, God must not be near to you. Otherwise, they would be blessed, right? But not really.
People typically think that only things like good health, wealth, and pleasant circumstances indicate supreme blessing. But Jesus tells us here that supreme blessing is related to our spiritual need. By that, I mean the result of our sin. We are spiritual impoverished before a holy God, spiritually bankrupt because of our sin debt. More than we need outward blessings, we need to see our spiritual need as God sees it. So to possess the blessing Jesus describes, how should we view our spiritual need?
There’s an outline on page 6 of the worship guide. Two things we learn here in Matthew 5: Those who are supremely blessed recognize the seriousness of their spiritual need and those who are supremely blessed respond with humility to their spiritual need.
Let’s look at each of these.
First, Those who are supremely blessed recognize the seriousness of their spiritual need.
Jesus’ words in these verses so closely resemble Isaiah 61 that we know the guilt of Israel is in view. These aren’t just stand-alone proverbs. The guilt of Israel is how the “kingdom” was lost. Jesus is saying that the kingdom can be theirs again. They can enter the kingdom. They can be consoled in the loss of their nation. They can have the land back. God will even call them sons. Here is this man, Jesus, who has been doing miracles, teaching and preaching with power, John the Baptist vouches for him, he’s obviously from God. He’s been saying that the kingdom is near, he’s displaying the power of the kingdom, and he’s telling them how to come into God’s kingdom.
This list deals with recognizing and responding to their own sin and the sin around them. Verse 1, he speaks to those following him, and by the end of chapter 7, a large crowd will gather. He’s teaching them. Verse  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Look over at Isaiah 61, Verse  The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.”
Back in Matthew 3, Jesus was anointed for his task with the Holy Spirit coming upon him. Matthew 4 said that Jesus was “proclaiming the gospel (or good news) of the kingdom.” Yet in John 12, Jesus says,  the poor you always have with you.”
How is this good news to those who are poor? Well, here we see it’s the poor in spirit. This can include those who are materially poor, but being materially poor does not guarantee that a person will see their spiritual need before God. This refers to those who are contrite before God, repentant before him. Isaiah 57,  For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Why are they lowly and contrite? They see their sin debt. They know they are bankrupt. These are who Isaiah 61 calls, “the brokenhearted.” They were brokenhearted at that time because of the exile to Babylon. They were actual captives. But God’s anointed one would “proclaim liberty” to them. Why were they not free? Because of sin. Yet if they would see their spiritually poor condition,
they can inherit the kingdom of heaven. Verse 10 also refers to inheriting the kingdom of heaven. So verse 3 and verse 10 are like bookends telling us that this whole section is about the kingdom. The Bible often has these bookend-type passages, keying us into the meaning. Notice verse  Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Back to Isaiah 61, verse 2 says, “the anointed one will “proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;” They were mourning the loss of their nation because of sin.
They longed for the “year of the LORD’s favor,” a reference to the Year of Jubilee. In Leviticus, we learn that God stipulated in the law of Israel that every 50 years all debts were to be forgiven, lost land was returned and slaves were set free. Jesus says that those who mourn, not simply grieving a tragedy or difficulty, but grieving sin will be comforted. The only comfort could be the removal of the sin. Again Isaiah 61, verse , the anointed one will “grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.” At that time, when they mourned, they demonstrated it with their appearance. God is going to remove the evidence of mourning over sin. How? By pouring out his grace.
One of the most well-known Bible accounts is that of the rich young ruler. A man tells Jesus that he has kept the commandments of God. But Jesus tells him that to receive eternal life, something else is necessary.
Mark 10 says,  Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Why could the rich young man not take hold of the kingdom, take hold of Christ? He had something else in his hands. He had his “blessings” in his hands. He didn’t see the seriousness of his sin, otherwise he wouldn’t have stated that he had kept the commandments of God so well. He couldn’t recognize that, in reality, he was very poor. Maybe we should call him the “poor” young ruler.
Do you see the seriousness of your sin? Or are you focused on what you’ve done right? Perhaps your outward “blessings” somehow keep you from seeing what is true. I don’t speak here only to those who are not born again. Do you mourn your own sin? Do you hate it? Does it trouble you? And does the sin of the world around you make you not puffed up but contrite and lowly? For those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn sin, there is no puffing up. This is how citizens in the kingdom of God should think and live. To recognize the seriousness of our sin is to be supremely blessed, because without that recognition, we can’t draw near to God.
Also, Those who are supremely blessed respond with humility to their spiritual need.
Look at what is produced in the heart and life of those who recognize the seriousness of their sin. Verse  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Meek” here means humble, not physical weakness or timidity. It is an attitude of submission to God and his will, realizing that we are sinners. The clearest Old Testament reference here is to Psalm 37, which says the meek will inherit the land. It is a psalm written by King David, as he wrestles with how the wicked seem to get their way.
The theme of the psalm is trust in God, because righteousness will win out. And so verse 6 here says,  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied. Looking again to Isaiah 61, verse 3, God will do something for those who are mourning and brokenhearted over sin. He will grant to them “that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.”
God will make these unrighteous people righteous. He will show them grace.
The Old Testament describes the righteous person as a strong, green tree. Like an oak. As they looked around, as exiles in Babylon, where were the oaks? Have you ever seen a forest where all the trees were burned down or cut down? Some years back, there were terrible fires in FL along I-95, and it was desolate. Why were they desolate in Israel? They were unrighteous. But some took that seriously and they were hungering and thirsting to be righteous again – to have God’s favor again. It’s a blessing to see things that way. And here’s how people with that perspective behave. Verse  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
70-year old Ethel Lance was one of nine people killed in the tragic shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015. At the bond hearing of the shooter, Lance’s daughter, Nadine Collier, looked at the man who killed her mother and said, “I forgive you. You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”
Very few people will ever have to offer such mercy. But to give mercy, we must see that we’ve been shown mercy in Christ. That shooter didn’t intend only to hurt those he fired upon. He meant to hurt those who survived them. He meant to hurt tons of people. He meant to hurt the cause of peace and equality and love. And bitterness would make him successful. But mercy would not. Praise God for the mercy of this dear woman. Verse  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Only those who respond to their sin with humility can be made pure before God. Verse  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Only those who respond to their sin with humility can pursue peace with others. Verse  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Only those who respond to their sin with humility can endure persecution
because they love and value the righteousness of God, which has been given to them
as a free gift. Psalm 130 states,  If you, O LORD, should mark (sins),
O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness.
What is your response to your sin? Is it humility, is it a longing for the righteousness of God? Is it a pursuit of mercy, because you’ve been shown mercy? Is it a pursuit of purity, knowing that only Christ can make you pure? Is it a pursuit of peace, knowing that Christ made peace with God for you?
I agree with those scholars who see this passage as sort of a doorway to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, chapters 5-7. You must understand this to understand the rest of it. And for that matter, to understand anything Jesus says or does. This is the entry to following Jesus. This is what it means to lay down your life. Do you know Jesus in this way? Do you follow him in this way?