Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Beatitudes Are Woven Together Like a Tapestry

Each Beatitude is powerful standing alone, but together they are a wonder: Matt 5:3-12

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In his introduction, Spurgeon points out that the character traits pointed to in the Beatitudes are placed in an order from the least to the greatest.  Then each attribute is accompanied by a specific blessing.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. The blessing in this case, as with all the others, is totally appropriate. The poor will be blessed with a very special inheritance, the Kingdom of Heaven.

But as the character traits ascend, there is not any greater blessing, but merely an appropriate one. In fact, the 8th blessing is the same as the first.

Then Spurgeon makes the point that each Beatitude opens the door to the next, and that each looks to the previous. For now, lets just look at the first one.

We will discuss Spurgeon's analysis of what "poor in spirit" means in detail later, but for now the basic description would be someone who realized their sinfulness. We are poor in spirit prior to coming to know Jesus, and then we see the gift of forgiveness He is offering. We repent and then mourn that we have been such an offense to the Lord. Then this process continues throughout my life as a Christ follower.

If I am poor in spirit and recognize it, then I will certainly repent. When I repent I should be deeply sorry and upset that I have sinned against God, and likely some individual, as well. Therefore I will mourn. And because God is gracious, He will comfort me in my time of dealing with my past sin.  The interconnection continues throughout the Beatitudes, and my new understanding gives me a sense of awe and wonder beyond any previous understanding of this sermon.

"The stones are laid one upon another in fair colors and polished after the similitude of a palace," Spurgeon explains poetically. He continues, "and yet each one is perfect within itself, and contains within itself a priceless and complete blessing."

Each of the blessings is in the present tense, which should give occasion for praise and thanksgiving. We are not told that our awareness of our sin, decision to repent, and sincere mourning will result in blessings sometime later or in Heaven. In each case the verse begins with "Blessed are." The use of "will" that follows doesn't change the timing of the blessing. Only in verse 11 are we promised future rewards in heaven because we have born up under persecution visited upon us because of Jesus.

So when I recognize on a continuing basis that I am still a wretched sinner, grieving my Holy Father in heaven, that fact alone results in my inheriting the kingdom of heaven. We know how much God hates sin and appreciates repentance.  The first words of the New Testament uttered by both John the Baptist and Jesus were "Repent."  He rewards our acquiescence with an incomprehensible reward.

Thus, each blessing that is promised is a perfect fit to the underlying character trait. If I am poor, I inherit. If I mourn, I am comforted. If I become humble I gain the whole earth. If I hunger after righteousness, I will be filled.  If I am merciful to others I obtain mercy from God and others.

But at the same time they are paradoxical, as is so much of what Jesus presents both here in this sermon, and throughout his ministry. Joy out of persecution? Blessedness out of poverty? Humility leading to power? Blessings from mourning and forgiving others.

In verses 10 - 12 we even see Jesus confirming twice that the hatred that men will show for the saints (true disciples) who possesses these traits will result in happiness. And the world will not understand.

Have you seen these interconnections between the Beatitudes before? Have you seen the power of the language which is equally offering a completely new ethic, but which at the same time is appropriate and paradoxical? As we delve more deeply into these verses, the power will become even more evident, and may unwrap for you some of the other mysteries of the Christian faith dealing with trust, abiding, and what it really means to carry your own cross.

This is the third posting in a series on the Beatitudes based on the sermons of Charles Spurgeon. The plan is to eventually compile this series into a book. If you would like to take advantage of this free look behind the scenes of the creation of a book, be sure to subscribe to the blog.  You may also want to go back and read the past two posts linked below.

The Beatitudes as You've Never Heard Them

Beatitudes Don't Tell Us How to Be Saved - They Describe the Saved