Paul Earnhart said of the beatitudes that “they mark off the radical difference between the kingdom of heaven and the world of other men.” This truth should already be evident to us as we’ve seen that the Kingdom belongs to those who are “poor in spirit” and those who “mourn”. Every notion of success and status are turned upside-down in this Kingdom. In this lesson we will see that the citizens of the Kingdom are the gentle, the merciful and the hungry.
“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
The words “gentle” (NASB), “meek” (ESV, NIV, NKJV) and “humble” (NLT) may leave us with the impression of a week or timid individual. They certainly don’t inspire any awe in us. Yet our Lord, who had such power that He could rebuke the wind and it obeyed Him (Matt. 8.26-27), was also described as “gentle” or “meek” (Matt. 21.5). Jesus was not powerless, but there were times when He refused to use that power out of love for His Father (John 14.31) and love for us (Eph. 5.2). The gentle person may have great power, but he chooses to rein it in.
This beatitude doesn’t have much to do with our disposition toward God. After all, when in the presence of God no man can begin to view himself as strong or powerful (cf. Isaiah 6.5; Revelation 1.17). This characteristic speaks more to our view of and disposition toward others. What does it mean? Perhaps D.A. Carson put it best: “meekness is a controlled desire to see the other’s interests advance ahead of one’s own.” Little wonder then that the apostle Paul exhorted his readers to be meek and gentle toward each other, combining it with terms like “humility”, “kindness” and “patience” (Eph. 4.2; Col. 3.12-13; 2Timothy 2.24-25).
But what does it mean to say that the gentle “shall inherit the earth”? Again, the words of D.A. Carson are of help: “First, only the genuine meek man will be content; his ego is not so inflated that he thinks he must always have more. Besides, in Christ he already sees himself ‘possessing everything’ (2 Cor. 6:10; cf. 1 Cor. 3:21–23). With this eternal perspective in view he can afford to be meek. Moreover, one day he will come into the fullness of his inheritance, when he will find the beatitude fulfilled most literally.” Blessed indeed are the gentle.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)
We say things like “I’m starving” if we haven’t eaten in more than a couple of hours. That’s not the hunger Jesus is describing in this passage. It was just a short time before Jesus spoke these words that He went 40 days without food (Matthew 4.2). Jesus knew what it was like to hunger and thirst, and His people must experience it as well.
A man who is truly hungry and thirsty wants nothing but food or water. He cares about nothing else. He doesn’t care about politics or sports. He doesn’t obsess over his wardrobe or his cars. He needs food and water, those are the only things he wants. And he can’t be satisfied until he has them.
Jesus says that His people are those who recognize their need for righteousness. Again, D.A. Carson has some profitable thoughts here: “those who have studied Matthew’s use of the term increasingly recognize that ‘righteousness’ here (and also in verses 10 and 20) means a pattern of life in conformity to God’s will… The person who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, then, hungers and thirsts for conformity to God’s will.”
These will be satisfied because their God wants to give them good things, He wants them to be righteous (Matt. 7.7-11). Blessed indeed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
Jesus’ ministry on earth was typified by mercy. His mercy was appealed to when He gave two blind men their sight (Matt. 9.27; see also 20.30-31), when He healed a Canaanite woman’s daughter (15.22) and when He cast a demon out of a man’s son (17.15). It is God’s mercy which give us salvation in Jesus (1Peter 1.3), and Jesus continues to extend mercy to us in His role as High Priest (Hebrews 2.17).
Citizens of the Kingdom will mimic the behavior of their King; they will be merciful. This was a major theme in Jesus’ teaching as He emphasized that we should do good for others out of mercy (Luke 10.25-37) and forgive others even if they are repeat offenders (Matthew 18.21-22). And most importantly our Lord shows us that we extend mercy to others because our Father has already extended mercy to us! (Matthew 18.23-35). We are tempted to forgive others only if we think they merit it. Jesus says to be merciful even to the unworthy, because God was merciful to us when we were unworthy.
“Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18.33). The merciful have exhibited the qualities of their King, thus they have confidence that their King will have mercy on them. Blessed indeed are the merciful.
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