Title: The Sermon on the Mount part 1
Scriptures to Read: Read Matthew 5:3-12
From the prophets we know that the Messianic Kingdom was to be an age of righteousness. One of the purposes of the seventy sevens announced to Daniel (9:24b), is to bring in an age of righteousness. This age of righteousness is the Messianic Kingdom. The same point is made by Isaiah 1:26-27; 11:4–5; 32:17; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-16. And in Isaiah 60:21 we also see that the people themselves will be righteous. So we see that the Messianic Kingdom is an age of righteousness and the people themselves will be righteous.
The Characteristics of Those Who Attain True Righteousness
Now we come to the beatitudes in which Jesus describes the characteristics of the true righteousness that is required by the Law of Moses and that is required for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. The Jews who are listening to him understand that righteousness is essential in the Kingdom. It will be the ticket for entry into the Kingdom. But they define righteousness by the Oral Traditions of the Pharisees. As we look at the beatitudes we will see that each one has two parts. The first part describes a characteristic of those who have true righteousness. And the second part gives the blessing or the reward for those described in the first part. Furthermore, we will see that just as the first part describes a characteristic of those who have true righteousness, so the second part describes a related aspect of entry into the Kingdom that will be enjoyed by those who are righteous.
The Beatitudes: In Relationship to God
The first four beatitudes deal with a right relationship with God.
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (v3) – To be poor in spirit is to have a right and proper evaluation of oneself before God. It is the opposite of pride. Those who are poor in spirit have a right evaluation of themselves before God, recognizing that they have no righteousness of their own and the righteousness that they have is because of faith in God. And the result will be entry into the Kingdom of Heaven; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Although they are poor in spirit now they shall possess the Kingdom of Heaven.
2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (v4) – To mourn means to develop a sensitivity to sin that leads to the confession of sins to God. Jeremiah describes in chapter 31 the regathering of Israel. In verse 9 he says “with weeping they will come”. They will be mourning their sin, particularly their national sin of rejecting their Messiah. Then Jeremiah 31:13 describes how their mourning will be turned into joy and they will be comforted: So the second characteristic of true righteousness is mourning that will be turned into joy and comfort in the Messianic Kingdom.
3. Blessed are the gentle [meek], for they shall inherit the earth (v5) – Meekness means to have a quiet confidence in God, and submission to God’s authority. It is not weakness; it is merely confidence that God can bring us through any situation. We can see in Isaiah 32:17b that “the service of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” Here Jesus says that those who have this quality and live a life of submission to God’s authority will someday exercise authority over the earth when they inherit the earth in the Messianic Kingdom.
4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (v6) – Another characteristic of those who attain true righteousness is an internal desire for righteousness. They hunger and thirst for righteousness. Again the prophets wrote of the Israelites being satisfied in the Messianic Kingdom. For example, Jeremiah 31:14 says: “My people will be satisfied with My goodness.” And Jeremiah 31:25 says: “For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.”
The Beatitudes: In Relationship to Man
Then we have the characteristics of those who attain true righteousness in relationship to man.
1. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (v7) – To be merciful means to show compassion and to respond to the need of others – to meet the needs of others as we are able. Ezekiel writes in 39:25: “Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name.” Those who have a righteousness characterized by mercy will be found in the Kingdom where they will receive mercy.
2. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (v8) – To be pure in heart is to have a heart that is undivided, has no darkness, and has nothing to hide. It means to be honest and to operate and do good things out of a proper motivation, a love of God. The pure in heart will also be in the Kingdom of Heaven where they will see the Messiah who is God.
3. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God (v9)– In Isaiah 32:17a we read, “the work of righteousness will be peace”. And James writes in 3:18: “the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace”. In this context he is talking about peace and unity between believers, not a political peace or a peace between nations. Such peacemaking is a characteristic of true righteousness and those who possess this quality shall be called sons of God, and they too will be found in the Kingdom of Heaven.
4. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (v10) – Those who live consistently with the absolute standard required by the true righteousness of the Law will raise a sense of guilt among those observing them who are not believers. This in turn could bring on (and often does bring on) persecution. Those who live according to true righteousness can expect to be persecuted, but they are assured of entry into the Messianic Kingdom, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
In light of His coming on the scene and claiming to be the Messiah Jesus makes one more point (v11-12). “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me”. Now those who will accept His Messiahship will be rejected by the larger Jewish community. Before he came they would be persecuted only because of their consistent living in accordance with the Mosaic Law. Now those who believe in the Messiahship of Jesus are also going to attract persecution. But those who are willing to suffer the persecution will reach a level of spiritual happiness that others cannot attain. And, Jesus adds in verse 12: “their reward in heaven is great.”
These are the characteristics of those who attain the true righteousness required by the Law, both in relationship to God and in relationship to man. They will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.