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Matthew

Beatitudes - II

Matthew 5:6-8

Lesson audio

It is the fact: if you want to start your own religion, it is wise to demand of your converts things which are hard to do. Don’t eat this; fast on Tuesday. Do pray seven times a day. All this has the seeming advantage that you can work your own salvation – and therefore you need not ask for mercy.

Christ placed no outer burdens on us – only those that flow from the tasks of the heart. Indeed, these beatitudes might well be call “right craving.” Last week we spoke of what you are; this week, what’s in your heart.

Hunger and Thirst

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

(Mat 5:6 NASB)

From the heart

May we make one obvious point? One does not hunger and thirst if we already have the object of that desire. I don’t thirst after water; I have plenty. Only the things we don’t have can be desired this way. Righteousness, therefore, is not ours. But our Lord does not prescribe obtaining righteousness by our own hard work (though that hard work will be a result of obtaining it.)

This is no trivial desire. Look at the verse again; substitute “want” for “hunger and thirst.” The meaning becomes trivial; righteousness is then on a par with wanting a new car. This is passion itself.

The opposite sin

It may not seem obvious at first, but this passion drives out its opposing sin: covetousness. How greatly superior it is for us to refrain from coveting that which belongs to our neighbor so that we may passionately desire the things of God! This is the antidote to our usual hunger and thirst – avarice. It is the matter of the heart: you will desire something, and desire it passionately. Which is the better desire: the new BMW or God’s own righteousness?

They shall be satisfied

Always remember: God’s gifts are greater than all the passion and desire of His saints. It is always so; His bounty exceeds all that we can desire. So if He says you will be satisfied, satisfied you will be.

How could it be otherwise? Do you crave food? What, then, of the One who is the very Bread of Life? Are you thirsty? Who is the source of living water?

Sometimes this will turn you to action – the One who is righteousness itself cleansed the Temple, you will recall.

Mercy

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

(Mat 5:7 NASB)

We must begin by acknowledging that the word translated here as “mercy” has two meetings in Jewish thought:

  • It may mean mercy in the sense of forgiveness, which is the usual interpretation here.
  • It may also mean giving charitably, as one who has “mercy on the poor” is loved by God.

Often enough in the church we find that these are very closely related, for a leading cause of poverty is dumb decisions. This is also a cause of enmity between Christians. It is not sufficient to pardon; one must put pardon into practice.

From the heart

I hope it is apparent to you that God is merciful. When we are merciful, we are imitating God – which is commanded to the Christian.[1] Indeed, what a bargain! We give the forgiveness of mankind – corrupt and imperfect as it is – and our Lord returns to us the mercy of God: greater than all our sins, pure in love, and more than sufficient for us.

It is this imitation of divine mercy that makes our mercy real, for we can call on Him to sustain us in this. When we do this mercy, it is not only real, but regal – from the King of Kings, through us and on to the children of God.

The opposing sin

The opposing sin is indeed a deadly one: vengeance. Vengeance may be taken in violence. But the vengeance of sneering at your fallen opponent is every bit as deadly a sin. Justice and mercy need to be mingled into a common stream; indeed, there is no mercy unless justice exists first.

Shakespeare, in his Merchant of Venice, expressed it this way:

“The quality of mercy is not strained;

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed;

It blesseth him who gives, and him who takes:

’Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown

It is an attribute of God himself;

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s,

When mercy seasons justice. -

Though justice be thy plea, consider this,

That, in the course of justice, none of us

Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy;

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render

The deeds of mercy. -

Why, all the souls that are, were forfeit once:

And he who might the ’vantage best have took

Found out the remedy. How would you be,

If He who is the top of judgment should

But judge you as you are? O! think on that;

And mercy then will breathe within your lips,

Like man, new made

How shalt thou hope for mercy, rend’ring none?”

Pure in Heart

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

(Mat 5:8 NASB)

Astronomical concerns

One of the marvels of modern technology is the Hubble telescope. It orbits the earth, lifting it above the atmosphere. Totally automated, it has greatly expanded our knowledge of the universe. But when it first arrived, the scientists were shocked to discover that the lenses were not ground correctly. A Space Shuttle mission (and a few million dollars) were required to fix it.

The truth of the matter: no matter how much it costs, you cannot see perfectly with an imperfect instrument. And the proper instrument for seeing God is the pure heart.

So, what lessons may we learn on this?

  • If the windows are dirty, then clean them – to let the light in. Your heart is the window of the soul; keep it clean and the Light of Life will pass through it.
  • It doesn’t matter how clean the path is, if the instrument is defective. Hubble sees problems, not stars. Your own eye, if it is strong, welcomes the light. If it is weak, you squint and get your sunglasses.

So then, keep your heart pure, and it will see.

From the heart

Paul puts it this way:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might

(Eph 1:18-19 NASB)

The pure heart is the perfection of our love for God – and allows us to see hope, riches and surpassing greatness from God.

Opposing Sin

Is there a sin which opposes the pure heart? Indeed there is: hypocrisy. We need say no more than that.

At the Resurrection

Is this really important? Indeed, it is. We walk by faith, and see dimly. At His return we shall see face to face. It is one of the oldest promises in the Scripture:

"Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!

(Job 19:26-27 NASB)

Final Thoughts

You may not think these things too important, as they are seldom visible. But I must remind you: the Creator longs for the day that all the world may see Him reflected in His creatures.

·         The heart that hungers and thirsts for righteousness – so that the world may know the One who is righteousness.

·         The heart that is merciful – so that mercy may be seen with judgment.

·         The heart that is pure – so that all will know, this is the real thing.


[1] Matthew 5:44-45

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