Blessedness: The Beatitudes, concluded.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In our first post, we listed the first four Beatitudes.  Here are the other four, dealing with actions of the hand, or person, actions which arise from the attitudes of the heart, as we noted last week:

[These] “are the heart attitudes and characteristics of those who are blessed.  Acutely aware of their spiritual need, mourning over their faults, failures and shortcomings, yet not selfishly focusing on themselves, hungry and thirsty for only that which the Lord can provide, yet knowing that one day, if not now, they will be comforted and satisfied beyond this world’s ability to understand or provide.”

That is how the previous study ended, summarizing the heart attitudes of those who are blessed.

The last four beatitudes deal with the response of the heart as seen in outward actions.  What is in the heart cannot be hidden.  Those who are wicked and sinful do wicked and sinful things and those who are righteous do righteous things.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Someone has said that grace gives us what we do not deserve; mercy does not give us what we do deserve.

Our Lord expanded on this though a few sentences later when He said,“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I tell you not to resist an evil person.  But whoever slaps you on your right cheek [an intolerable insult in that society], turn the other to him also.  If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.  And whoever compels you to go one mile [Romans soldiers would commandeer the services of civilians to carry their heavy equipment], go with him two.  Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.  You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward is that?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if your greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others?  Do not even the tax collectors do so?  Matthew 5:38-47.

The reference to tax collectors must have stung, for they were below the bottom in the society of that time.  “What do you do more than others?” must have stung as well, as it pointed out the worthlessness of actions aimed only at those we like.

Our Lord is the prime example of “doing more than others”.  Writing to those who were suffering unjustly, Peter wrote, For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow in His steps:  “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; Who when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body…, 1 Peter 2:21 – 24a.  Talk about suffering that wasn’t your own fault!  – the death of Christ is the prime example of that.  Yet He did that willingly, loving His enemies, doing good to those who hate Him, doing “more” than anyone else could ever do, because we certainly do not deserve it, and don’t get what we do deserve.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Does this mean “purity” in an absolute sense?  No, it doesn’t, because we’re not there yet and won’t be until eternity. What it refers to is a heart that has been cleansed according to His mercy [there’s that word, again] through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5.  It has been washed and renewed according to God, so that it desires the things God desires for it.  There is still, however, a battle “because we’re not there yet” as it comes to complete salvation.  Our bodies still have physical desires which in themselves may be perfectly all right, but too often we want to satisfy them in ways which are not all right.  It won’t be until the adoption, the redemption of our body, Romans 8:23, that the battle will finally be over.  Read Romans 8:1-27 for Paul’s teaching on this.

When the battle is over, believers – the “pure in heart” – will see God and fellowship with Him and worship and serve Him as He deserves.  They will finally and forever truly be “pure in heart.”

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. 

This was a favorite verse of the anti-war activists during the Vietnam conflict.  However, as with other verses taken out of context – e.g., “judge not” – and used as “slogans,” the meaning was completely missed.  The verse was used as if it said, “Blessed are the peacelovers….”  That’s NOT what it says.  It’s not enough just to “love” peace; there are many people and things who and which disturb and destroy peace.  Sometimes you have to “make” peace, and the only way to do that is to battle and defeat the enemies of peace.

This is a much needed message in this day of tolerance of everything, it seems, but the truths of God’s Word.  Moral declension and religious error must be battled, even if it seems impossible that they could ever be defeated.  It’s not over, yet.  Sometimes, it seems like it will never be over.  However, our Lord anticipated this reaction (cf.John 15:18-25), and has one more “blessing” for His people.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Do we expect that those whose sins and error we oppose will be happy about it?  Of course not; any more than the leaders of His time were happy about the Lord Jesus.  But we have to be careful that their hatred is “for righteousness’ sake” and not just because of how we act.  An example of this is the “church” which pickets the funerals of soldiers, trying to get across their message.  The sins this church opposes, and others, were prevalent among Roman society at the time of Jesus and Paul, yet there is not a single verse of the New Testament telling us simply to oppose such sins.  We’re to preach the Gospel and the Gospel will take care of the sins – if preached in the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit – which is so much more than just about experience and excitement and emotion. 

Those whose heart attitudes are described in the first four Beatitudes act to one degree or another according to the last four Beatitudes:  changed lives, aiming at purity and holy living, treating others as they themselves would like to be treated and not necessarily as they “deserve,”  as much as possible living in peace with others, and yet expecting that our efforts and lives will not always get a warm reception.  We live in enemy territory, an enemy who isn’t willing peacefully to “co-exist”.

Nevertheless, the promise to believers is the kingdom of heaven.

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