Those who mourn are blessed: Reading scripture backwards.

A few weeks ago our pastor taught on the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12, and he highlighted something I hadn’t really considered: The verses from 3 to 12 are not simply separate sayings, like little nuggets of wisdom. Instead, they form a whole and each verse builds on the one before. They reveal a pattern for the life of a Christ-follower.

A few weeks ago our pastor taught on the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12, and he highlighted something I hadn’t really considered: The verses from 3 to 12 are not simply separate sayings, like little nuggets of wisdom. They’re not like some parts you might find in Proverbs, superficially a list of individual, wise sayings. Instead, they form a whole and each verse builds on the one before. Have a quick read through with that in mind and we’ll pick up after,

Jesus began to teach them,

“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.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12

The first thing that struck me was that these people were “blessed.” Blessed?! Blessed… Maybe they were blessed because each ‘bad thing’ was followed up by a comforting thing, like “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” but that’s a little morbid, isn’t? If we put up with mourning we’ll be blessed by being comforted? Joy…  But I couldn’t get around the language, “Blessed are those who morn…” Blessed are those. You are, I am, blessed when I mourn.

blessed
adjective
1. consecrated; sacred; holy; sanctified: the Blessed Sacrament.
2. worthy of adoration, reverence, or worship: the Blessed Trinity.
3. divinely or supremely favored; fortunate: to be blessed with a strong, healthy body; blessed with an ability to find friends.
4. blissfully happy or contented.
Dictionary.com entry for “blessed”

Read as a whole, I started to wonder, who lives all these things?, and of course whenever you ask something like that, especially about virtues, the answer is usually Jesus! So, I began to see the life of Christ in those words.

Christ was poor in spirit, downtrodden, mispoken to, looked down upon. Christ mourned – for Lazarus, for Jerusalem, and certainly for the many he healed of sickness and sin, for his family because He knew where He was headed, for humanity as He hung on the cross because He knew who would ignore His Offer. Christ was meek – He didn’t respond in power when tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Christ hungered and thirsted for righteousness – He stayed behind at the temple as a child because ‘He had to be about His Father’s business.’ Christ was merciful – He had mercy on those he healed of sickness and sin. Christ was pure in heart – He lived a perfect life, to die a perfect sacrifice. Christ was a peacemaker – He didn’t incite violence from His followers, He went to the death peacefully. He was persecuted for righteousness’ sake – He went to the cross because He taught true righteousness.

Christ is our example. He wasn’t teaching His followers something He wasn’t already going through.

What really struck me though was, as I was trying to understand if each verse was really a step in a series, I wanted to confirm that by seeing if it could be read backwards. That’s when I started to see it like this,

  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they are poor in spirit. It was true. Those who understand their true, sinful condition before a Holy, sinless God, recognize they are poor in spirit and they mourn because of it.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they mourn. A true mourner, understanding his real, sin condition, is always meek – who, being honest of his condition, would not ask, “Who can save me now?”
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they are meek. The meek will admit they can’t do it on their own, they are not prideful, and they will search for what will cure them.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they hunger and thirst after righteousness. Those who find righteousness understand the mercy given to them in the sacrifice  of Jesus Christ on the cross, for their sins – and they show mercy out of grateful hearts and true understanding of the gift they have received.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they are merciful. The Book of James says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” You will only find the pure in heart when you find the one who is also merciful for they have the Spirit of Christ living in them, Christ, the One who is Mercy.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are pure in heart. Those who are pure in heart will also make peace with their neighbour because they are merciful, they know that strife would only harm their brother or sister.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for they are peacemakers. The peacemakers will be persecuted for their righteousness exactly because their persecutors are not peacemakers, because they are not pure in heart, because they are not merciful, because they are not hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they are not meek, because they are not mourning, because they do not recognize their poverty of spirit.

This is *jawdrop* and *mindblown* territory for me after actually parsing this scripture again and fleshing it out in writing.

What we have here, in the Beatitudes, are the steps of living the life of a Christ-follower. Don’t know where to begin in your walk with Jesus? Start here. Start with mourning because you are truly poor in spirit, as are we all, and go from there, asking God and considering how to recognize each point and how to apply it in your daily life.

And what is our reward when we have ‘climbed’ this mountain of the Beatitudes and become ever so ‘holy’ and ‘saintly’?

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This, then, is where the text turns itself around and looks to your future because you have dealt with the past and present in the previous verses.

Rejoice and be glad!, you who are persecuted for Christ’s sake, for great is your reward in heaven! Those who have come to the point of persecution via the narrow way, Christ’s way, rejoice and be glad! You share in Christ’s death, you will share in Christ’s everlasting life!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Yes!!! … Ya! … Well, I mean… Er…

Yes, this is as hard as understanding ‘blessed are those who mourn’. I don’t pretend to think that ending on an vacuous  note of heart-pumping enthusiasm does justice to the actual day-in and -day-out life of a struggling Christ-follower.

Christ was headed to the cross. We are headed to suffering for His sake. We are not Christ, we are not God, we’re just people, and we don’t have what it takes like He did…

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Collosians 1:24-29

Christ is in you, Christian, your hope of glory! You can because He is able and He is with you.

The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
Exodus 15:2

Selah.

Misericordia, Soli Deo Gloria

Ever feel like God is silent?

Ever feel like God is silent? Jesus said the fateful words on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?“, Psalms 22:1, a prophetic picture of Jesus’ crucifixion, but the very next verse says this, “My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer…” Even the Son of God experienced the Silence of God. Take heart, then, because ‘we have a High Priest, Jesus Christ, who has been tempted in every way, just as we are and yet did not sin‘ (Hebrews 4:15b), and now, because of this and through the Cross, ‘Jesus lives forever and has a permanent priesthood – so He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them’ (Hebrews 7:24-25). Selah.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Misericordia, Soli Deo Gloria

Jewish Passover and Good Friday

Jewish Passover falls on Good Friday this year. Passover remembers the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt during which God told the people to kill a “lamb without blemish” and paint their doorposts with the blood. God said “when I see the blood, I will pass over you and no plague will befall you to destroy you“. If they did this they were saved from the plague of the death of the firstborn. Every year the Jewish people would sacrifice again for the sins of the people. More than a thousand years later, God’s Son came down to earth as the man Jesus Christ, “a lamb without blemish or spot“, and He died a final death, a final sacrifice for our sins, and rose again in “victory over sin and death.” This Good Friday remembers the day Jesus, God’s firstborn, was not spared and was sacrificed for your sins so that when Jesus’ blood covers your sins God can say again “when I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Selah. Today, “if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts,” for “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.#TheShepherdIsTheLamb #SoliDeoGloria

Was it “very good”?

In the beginning, God created on six different days. On the sixth day, it is written: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noted that “very good” isn’t “perfect.” Why didn’t He just say it was perfect? If it wasn’t perfect, it sounds like it needed some work. Seems like it needed some changing. A little more time. Sounds like a job for…evolution. As it turns out, though, He did say it was perfect, you just have to connect the dots. Don’t worry, there are only two dots and we’ve just discussed one of them.

The Gospels are probably more read than any other part of the bible and, surprise, surprise, it is here that Jesus, Himself, reveals the answer. In Luke 18:19, Jesus replies to a man, “(18) And a ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ (19) And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.'” (emphasis added) Considered in modern times, our first question is, “God is merely ‘good’?” Think about it a moment. Can we really consider ourselves “good” next to God? Compared to the next human being, maybe, but to the God of the universe who is Perfection personified? If Jesus says no one is “good” except God, then that must mean something beyond what we consider merely good. And that is our answer to the Genesis dilemma.

If only God can be called good, as Jesus said, and God called His creation “good”, then a good creation must be perfect. A “very good” creation? We can only speculate what that means in the light of Jesus’ words.

Selah.

Selah. Pause, and calmly think on that.

You may be wandering what’s up with my site name and what’s up with the tagline. Well, here’s some details while I test out this WordPress QuickPress feature…

Selah is a word used in the bible in the book of Psalms. It’s often used as an interjection between significant portions of songs. It’s used many times.

The “Pause, and calmly think on that.” comes from bracketed text following every occurence of “Selah” in the Amplified translation of the bible. Here’s an example:

O you sons of men, how long will you turn my honor and glory into shame? How long will you love vanity and futility and seek after lies? Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
Psalms 4:2

The word and the Amplified idea of its meaning have always closely aligned with the way that I think. I really like the flow and texture of the word and phrase and so there you have it.

Selah.