MEDITATIONS IN THE BEATITUDES – 2
Mt 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit
A problem that many people have is that these ‘Beatitudes’ are so familiar that we miss some of the crucial points about them. Each one of them starts with this word, ‘Blessed’. Now many people think that this simply means, ‘Happy’ and although that is true there is a much deeper meaning in it.
We need to go back into the Old Testament to see the meaning of the noun ‘a blessing’ and the verb ‘to bless’. The reference to blessing comes first to Abram: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.” (Gen 12:2,3) What we see there is God decreeing good for Abram and, through Abram, eventually the rest of the world. As a result of God’s decree, Abram will father a great nation, his name will be respected and God will do good for those who purpose good for Abram and bad (curse) for those who purpose bad for him. We see therefore, from the outset, that God’s blessing is His decree of good for a person.
Probably the first and most significant narrative about blessing comes with Isaac and his two sons, Esau and Jacob (Gen 27). When Isaac pronounces a blessing over Jacob it cannot be revoked or repeated for Esau. A blessing through a person is seen there as a prophetic decree (from heaven) of goodness over that person.
Thus we see from these examples that when someone is ‘blessed’ it doesn’t just mean that they are happy, it is that they are happy because God has decreed good for them and the happiness is as a result of that decree. (Of course when God decrees something it always happens.) We see the practical outworking of this in the Law in Deuteronomy. In Deut 28 we find God’s promises of blessing on Israel if they will be obedient to Him and in verses 3 to 13 we find a whole range of ways that God will decree goodness for them, all very practical matters. Put simply we might say that if Israel did what God said, then He would make sure everything worked out well for them in their lives, but it wasn’t something automatic, it was a specific act of bringing goodness from God.
So, when we come to these ‘beatitudes we need to see that it isn’t just a case of people being happy if they live in these ways, but their happiness comes in specific forms in the second part of the verse and that is something specifically brought by God. It is not a general ‘happiness’ that anybody experiences, they are specific ways of receiving happiness and they will only be received by the person who has the attitude expressed by the first part of the verse. We will reiterate this again and again, but it is vital to see it at the outset. When we have a certain sort of characteristic, as laid down in the first part of each verse, then God will purposely bring happiness by that person experiencing the second part of the verse – and it is something that He and He alone brings.
These things come out of relationship with the Lord. We will see that each of the things in the first half of the verses is an expression or outworking of our relationship with the Lord, and when we enter into that characteristic, the Lord then brings by decree, the goodness and happiness that goes with it, in the thing shown in the second part of the verse. In one sense these things are as sure as scientific laws – they will work like the verses say – but each and every one of them is in fact an outworking of our relationship with the Lord. Be prepared to be excited!