Welcome to part four of this first course of Red Bricks. In this session we first encounter what we might refer to as Kingdom Thinking, that is Yeshua teaching us how to view life and what kind of mindset we should have when dealing with day to day issues.
Read Matthew 5:1-6
This section of Matthew’s gospel (5:1-7:29) is a record of what is known as ‘The Sermon on the Mount‘, or ‘The Beatitudes‘.
The title of Sermon on the Mount is given purely because Yeshua was on a mountainside when he spoke these things. I’m not entirely sure that it was a sermon in the sense that we understand it. But it was the way in which Yeshua frequently taught His disciples – by gathering them around Him and speaking to them about day to day things. The word beatitudes means benediction. Both of these terms are products of people trying to intellectualize Yeshua’s teaching. Try to look beyond these man-made titles and focus upon what Yeshua is actually saying.
Having announced, throughout Galilee, that the Kingdom was at hand, Yeshua sat down on a mountainside and gathered his disciples around Him, as He taught them the basic building blocks of the Kingdom. These principles which He taught are often taken in a literal sense but, we should remember, that at that time and still today, the Kingdom remains part of the unseen spiritual realm, and, therefore, what Yeshua taught should also be seen in a spiritual manner. Try not to look at these blessings are physical blessing which we experience in our fleshy lives – material things. Instead, look at them as entirely spiritual blessings – in a realm which we cannot see with of physical eyes.
Whilst the start of chapter 5 shows us that Yeshua sat down to teach just His disciples, it is clear that by the end of the teaching, a large crowd had gathered to listen to these precious words (see Matthew 7:28). And what He taught should be seen less as some kind of ethereal wisdom, but more along the lines of rules and guidelines for spiritual living. As we read and contemplate them, we should, therefore, view both the needs and rewards as spiritual matters.
WORD KNOWLEDGE: BLESSED
In the Greek, the word used for blessed is makarios or makar. The former is usually used in poetic texts and this gives us a clue to the way Yeshua used similar couplets as are found often in the Psalms. The psalmists would have written in such a way to aid memorizing lengthy texts or songs. Yeshua may well have been giving His approval to such methods by doing speaking in similar fashion. He was speaking it as a benediction – a blessing over His disciples. Because of the written structure of the passage, He may have even sung these blessings. This was (and still is) a common practice among Hebrew people.
The word itself means to be fortunate or well-off, and it is transliterated from a word of the same meaning from the Psalms, eser. Often it is translated as happiness. However, it means something much more than our modern day understanding of the notion of happiness. Today, in a money-driven society, happiness is often linked to having plenty, and lifestyles that are without need. To understand what Yeshua was saying, we need to look to the lives of Job, or David, or Daniel, or Joseph, each of whom could be described as blessed, despite their circumstances as being anything but happy by our own measure of happiness.
1. The Poor in Spirit:
The Amplified Bible renders Matthew 5:3 like this:
“Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous – with life joy and satisfaction in God’s favour and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
To re-word that, you might say that you should consider yourself highly favoured by God when you humble yourself before Him. When you find this place spiritually, the Kingdom is already yours.
Humility comes from recognizing that we need God; that without Him we cannot function as He designed us to. If we make ourselves humble and avoid becoming proud, then the Kingdom will belong to us.
Note that the promise or reward is written in the past tense – it (the Kingdom) already belongs to those who are spiritually humble or poor.
WORD KNOWLEDGE: POOR
In Greek, the word for poor, ptochos, which is from the root word ptosso, which means to crouch. This word does not, in this context, describe economic poverty. When spoken in Hebrew, the word is ‘ani‘, meaning depressed – a state or mind or a spiritual condition, not an economic one. The idea of crouching in Hebrew is also strongly linked to the acts of prayer and worship. To be poor in spirit is to be humble before God.
Note also that, at this stage, that Yeshua was teaching His closest disciples. He spoke to them in the third person (theirs not yours). Later, He goes on to speak in the first person to them and (presumably) the gathering crowd. By using the third person to begin with, He was showing all of His disciples what they must aspire to. What followed was already true of His disciples.
We must understand always that the Kingdom of Heaven (or God) works in exactly the opposite way the world does. It is inside-out, upside down, and back to front. It can be summed up in the simple, recurring principle that those who would be first, will be last.
2. Those Who Mourn:
WORD KNOWLEDGE: MOURN
Here Yeshua makes a direct reference to Isaiah 61:2, which is the same scroll that He read from in the synagogue at Nazareth, when He announced that He had come to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour (see Luke 4:16-21). To mourn, in both Hebrew or Greek, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are saddened by someone’s death, as we assume today. In this verse, Yeshua was referring to those who have come to realize their spiritual poverty as they return to God, and are weeping because they are convicted of their sins before God. This type of sadness is part of repentance.
The promise that Yeshua gives to those who are saddened by the burdens of their sins, is that they will be comforted in return. God comforts those with a contrite heart. This is perhaps best highlighted in the story of David being confronted by the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel chapter 12, and especially in the text of Psalm 51, which David wrote afterwards. The Psalm itself is an excellent account of someone who is made aware of their true spiritual condition and repents before God.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.” [Psalm 51:17]
3. The Meek:
The word for meek in both Hebrew and Greek have the same meaning – humble. But, in this case the reference is towards being both humble and patient. Traditionally, in Hebrew culture, those who would inherit would be the first born. But here, Yeshua is saying that the ones who will inherit (take possession as their own) will be those who put others ahead of themselves. Yeshua is also making a direct reference to Psalm 37:11, which should be read as an example of humble, patient waiting for God to act. Read Psalm 37.
4. Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness:
The ‘filling’ that Yeshua refers to, instead of being a fleshy or earthly provision or satisfaction, is in fact entirely spiritual. Yeshua said that He is the Bread of Life (John 6:30-40) and that, anyone who drinks the water He gives them, will never thirst again (John 4:13-14). Bread and water are the basic provisions we need for our physical bodies to survive, but in spiritual terms, His bread and water are totally satisfying.
Throughout the Old Testament we see references to springs of water in deserts (read Isaiah 41 and 58). If you genuinely seek out God to meet your spiritual needs, He will always satisfy you. In fact, the promise is that if you focus solely upon the spiritual, He will satisfy all of your needs, including the physical, as we shall see in the next few instalments.