Friday, September 29, 2017

A Theology of Blessing

“May those who bless you be blessed” (Numbers 24:9). This is speaking of blessing or praising God and others. It is part of the theology of Blessing.  It is more than “happy” which is an emotion dependent on circumstances.  It is the spiritual blessing of God and the ultimate blessing of salvation for those who trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Scripture is full of proverbs about attitude toward others that are also called “Beatitudes.” These are the ethical admonitions of Jesus that contrast with the legalistic Jewish traditions. Those were more about how to be happy in this life and the life to come when the messiah comes. But Jesus’ herald a new approach of the kingdom of heaven when all will be made right. As John the Baptist said, the Kingdom of God is now in Christ Jesus. This kingdom is about the internal not the external as Old Testament teachings. The new are promises and principles pertaining to the coming kingdom. These come only by God’s intervention. They are about the “Bread” that Jesus provides in Himself. He is not forcing it on anyone not ready. Jesus’ promises are for those who patiently and humbly wait for it, or the meek, the poor in spirit, the merciful and peacemakers.  This means not just living in peace, but bringing harmony between people as well.

As I open up the Beatitudes for a closer look I offer one more description one commentator described of those who believed-congratulations! That means it is a prize given to them who listen and trusts and even delights in the law of the Lord as Psalm 1 tells of such a man. Luke repeats similar sayings repeating that it is “Good News” for those who believe.

Jesus taught, “blessed is the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3 NKJV).  This is about the inner spirit of humility and piety, for those who know that they need the Lord. It is the opposite of the arrogant and wealthy or worldly of mind and heart. They are “long in Spirit” or “high in spirit.” To Jesus this poorness is a beautiful thing for they have only their spirit’s to lift to the Lord in prayer.

“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted”  (v.4). Scripture is replete with this admonition. “Comfort, comfort my people” (Isaiah 40:1) God says of His chosen people Israel.  Moving into the New Testament, perhaps my favorite such verse is in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” This is a verse with which I open many funerals or memorials services. It goes on to speak of the sufferings and the comforts of Christ overflowing us from the cross. It is also the key verse in a grief support group I once led, GriefShare.

“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (v.5).
This verse may parallel Psalm 37:11, which says, “But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” The meek are powerless. They welcome God’s sovereignty and are dependent on Him. Isaiah 37:13 says that the meek, “shall inherit land.” They yearn for God’s righteousness and justice more than worldly bounty.  This is God’s legacy and gift to the righteous. This is not weakness but strength in faith.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (v.6).
This is talking of God’s righteousness, not our own.  Psalm 21:2 tells us that God gives us our hearts desire when it is in His salvation. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart, commit your way to the Lord and He will do this. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:3-4). These desires are to be for God’s desires, which are to be holy like Him. God and His word should be the ultimate objects of our longing.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (v.7).
God has a merciful covenant with us and He wants us to have one for other people, to help them. God’s merciful spirit is one of an outstretched hand of giving and not a tight fist. This is perhaps what Jesus accused the scribes and Pharisees most for not having. Remember the parable of the unforgiving servant who was forgiven great debt by his master, but would not forgive a pittance from another. I think an unforgiving heart is one of the most frequent sins that cause strife and stress in this world. Forgive and have mercy as God has forgiven you in Christ’s death on the cross. In reconciling us to Him He has also given us a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). I can guarantee you from my own experience that the Lord will release you and lift you up in peace as you forgive in your heart even when the other person does not.

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (v.8).
This is a spiritual seeing through the Word and the Spirit. This is inspired by Psalm 24:3-4, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” This is about the condition of our heart, the center of our faith and life. It is about the speech that comes from our mouths, but also about our moral purity. This includes everything from anger to lust. It is about the inside of our cup being clean not just the outside. This is about communion with God. Perhaps in taking the Lord’s Supper you experience a sense of oneness with God. But He wants us to examine our hearts first. If there is anything of anyone with whom you have a problem, don’t take communion, but go and be reconciled.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (v.9).
Congratulations to the peacemakers. These are the ones who bring an end to strife between individuals. Peacemaking is a cardinal virtue in rabbinic literature. They pray for their enemies. They do not avoid conflict. Much has been written on this subject including Ken Sande’s, The Peacemaker. This biblical guide emphasizes what the author calls the Four G’s of: Glorifying God; Getting log out of our own eyes; Gently restoring; and Going and being reconciled. This is about God helping you. I referenced communion above, a time when we confess our sins. This is critical to peacemaking, as we all have sins to confess in moving forward. Overlooking small offenses and adjusting our own attitude in the light of God’s word goes a long way to being a peacemaker.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (v.10).
This is not just talking about martyrs in history, for there are many. This is talking about for Jesus’ or righteousness sake. So was Jesus, so keep on anyway for it is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

So we have finished a brief survey of the Beatitudes given in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has many hard teachings in this sermon. I think they require lots of humility. God wants us to be salt and light in the world. Think is the opposite of darkness. It is preserving the truth and doing so in a way that seasons or draws people to Christ, not away. Salt and light are healing first spiritually then physically.

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