Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
The saga over the throne of Israel finds no greater drama than the story of Saul and David. It is a history filled with victories, defeat, jealousies, friendship, violence, and surprisingly- mercy. We find David introduced to King Saul as a musician. David plays his harp to mercifully relieve the distressing spirit within King Saul. Over time, the relationship becomes strained with David’s amazing victory over Goliath and his reputation as warrior eclipsing Saul’s. It becomes apparent that God and the people of Israel are with David in his ascendancy to the throne. King Saul attempts to kill David many times, but his acts of violence are always returned in mercy. David says, “I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.”
We find the apex of David’s mercy to Saul’s house in his treatment of Mephibosheth. He was the son of Jonathan and lame since the age of five and the last heir of King Saul. He was dropped by his nurse as she fled upon hearing the news of Jonathan and King Saul deaths (II Sam. 4:4).
King David asks, “Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness” (II Sam. 9:1). Monarchs would normally dispose of heirs and scions of previous courts to prevent any regal claim or possibility of uprising. King David remembered his covenant with Jonathan and showed mercy to Mephibosheth (I Sam. 18:3, 20:14-17).
King David expressed the “kindness of God” to the house of Saul and gave Mephibosheth a permanent place at his table. The Hebrew word for kindness is hesed, which is sometimes translated as lovingkindness or mercy. Hesed was demonstrated by King David. It represents God’s eternal goodness and covenantal faithfulness (Ex. 34:6,7). God’s people are required to live this mercy out in our daily lives, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy (hesed), and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah. 6:8).
God has proclaimed his perfect hesed or mercy in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul state, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4,5). God showed his mercy not to people who were merely lame but spiritually dead and invites us to the table of King Jesus. God has called us to extraordinary lives of mercy to friend and foe alike. James writes, “For judgement is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgement” (James 2: 13). Albert Barnes was correct when he profoundly wrote, “Nowhere do we imitate God more than in showing mercy.”
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
We have all been in those awkward moments when the room is quiet, and our stomachs start to growl and ache for food. We lose focus and our mood becomes grumpy. How many couples have driven around hungry and unable to decide on a restaurant only to become the ill-fated, “Hangry?” Our appetites are inexorable and relentless.
We read of Christ fasting in the wilderness for 40 days and nights. The Scriptures say, “afterward he was hungry” (Matt. 4:2). Can you imagine the spiritual discipline required to deny your most basic of appetites for that long? Yet, Christ was not ruled by his natural instincts. He was able to withstand even through great temptation from the Devil himself.
The natural instincts of hunger, thirst, sleep, and breathing are necessities of life. We must have them to survive or else. Christ spoke of a deeper need, an unfathomable spiritual hunger and thirst for righteousness that only He can gratify. Jesus uses the word filled (χορτασθησοντα), which means to feed and fatten with grass. Jesus alludes to a farming scene reminiscent of the Shepherd. The Psalmist proclaimed, “I shall not want” with the Lord leading and shepherding.
Our physical appetites can get the best of us and consume us if we are not spiritually centered in Christ. How can we forget the cautionary story of Esau? He came home hungry and weary from the field. He traded his birthright for a pot of stew from his shrewd brother Jacob. Esau lost his very identity, as the firstborn which came with great blessing through custom and law. As firstborn, He was to receive a double portion of the inheritance and recognized as the leader of the family. But it was “despised” because his appetite for food overcame him. Not only did he miss out on so many earthly blessings, He also, loses his place as the heir and ancestor to Israel and the Messiah. It was all for a pot of stew.
There is an appetite for so much more than this world has to offer. God has set eternity within our heart (Eccl. 3:11). It is only in Him that we can find true fulfillment, but we must be hungry and thirsty for righteousness.
The disciples urged Jesus to eat in Samaria to which He replied, “I have food to eat of which you do not know” (Jn. 4:32). The disciples soon learned that He was the “bread of life” and the “living water” (Jn. 6: 48, 4: 10). The greatest yearning of the heart is the spiritual needs for truth, purpose, worship, forgiveness, and love which are found in relationship to the Savior. The Psalmist of old wrote, “As a deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1).
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
God ordained earth to be placed under the stewardship of humanity. This is the original blessing and covenant of creation. The book of Genesis says, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God, He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:27,28). Mankind has fulfilled this primeval vocation of dominion but only in a truncated manner. Humanity became subdued by the earth itself because of mankind’s rebellion to God in the fall. The ground is cursed, and pronouncement was made, “For dust you are, and unto dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:17-19).
The restoration of the inheritance of earth was initiated in Abram. God entered a covenant which included a promise of making the descendants of Abram- a great nation, great name, and great blessing among all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:1-3). Israelites, the seed of Abram, subdued the earth by capturing Canaan but only as a “shadow of the good things to come” (Heb. 10:1). The people of Israel entered the promise land after centuries of slavery and nomadic life and conquered through many battles and bloodshed.
The people of Israel expected the Messiah to reinstate their standing as a nation long lost. Christ came not to merely subdue Israel from the Romans but to fulfill humanity’s most ancient vocation over the entire creation! This inheritance would not come through violence, as with Joshua, but through the meekness or gentleness of Jesus. The word “meek” is almost synonymous with weakness in our language but the original Greek word (πραΰς) carries the meaning of strength under control. Jesus quotes (Psalms 37:11) which expresses the Messianic hope emergent in His ministry and eventual kingdom.
The Scriptures speak of Moses as “meek” or humble, “more than all the men who were on the face of the earth” (Number 12: 3). Moreover, we find in Christ, the greatest strength under control or meekness, which will vanquish all the powers of evil and death. Jesus remarked, “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). It is through the dominion of Christ that the original blessing of creation is fulfilled. The Hebrew writer states that God has “put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we do not yet see all things put under Him” (Heb. 1:6-9).
We must follow Christ in his humility and gentleness knowing, all things are under His control. It is through the means of the Gospel that the greatest victory can and will be won. Our meekness will ultimately be revealed and rewarded in the fullest sense when Christ returns. He will eschatologically create the “new heavens and new earth” which will be His and His people. Not only will Christ subdue the creation, as originally intended, but will transform us into the “image of God” which was defaced by the fall (Rom. 8:29, II Cor. 3:18, Phil. 3:21). Truly, the meek are blessed.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
We can hardly imagine the horrific scene of Jesus on the cross. Beaten and scourged within an inch of His life and suspended by nails before the holy city of Jerusalem. He struggled for every breath in the race against asphyxia and blood loss. His nerves radiated with pangs and paroxysms. His soul shadowed in the darkness of evil and injustice. The Apostle John recollects, “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother” (Jn. 19:25). Mary witnessed the excruciating death of her own son. Her own soul pierced through by the sword of sorrow and grief (Lk. 2: 35.)
The word “mourn” (πενθέω) connotes severe grief as with the loss of a loved one or family member. It is the kind of sorrow that cannot be shrouded or hidden but overwhelms like the unrelenting waves of the sea. It is the anguish of the heart and soul which brings uncontrollable tears. Tragedy and suffering will find all of us in due time as with our Savior. Jesus mourned for His friend Lazarus (Jn. 11:35). Jesus wept for Jerusalem because of the catastrophic estrangement from Yahweh (Matt. 23:37-39).
The capacity for grief reveals the courage to see the suffering within ourselves and others. It is so much easier to look away than to emotionally invest. The good Samaritan “saw” the wounded man and “had compassion on him” (Lk. 10:33), whereas the other more prestigious men saw but “passed by the other side.” They lacked the ability to really see the person and feel another’s pain. Jesus blesses those able to empathize with others and act accordingly.
The blessing of grief is also indicative of one’s ability to love. Our grief is a mirror to the heart. It is with those we love the most, that we feel the greatest bereavement. Jesus wept so much for Lazarus that the people remarked, “See how he loved him!” We can hardly contend that the greatest of virtues, eternal love- is not worth inevitable finite losses. Anyone, who has ever loved knows its immense value. As the poet Tennyson says, “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Also, the “Franciscan Blessing” urges, “May God bless you with tears, to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy.” It is when we have the spiritual capacity to mourn that we can love in the deepest sense and find the greatest comfort. The promise of God’s intimacy is even through our darkest moments of despair. “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Ps. 34:18).
Mary endured the crushing heartbreak that no mother should endure. She found, however, interminable comfort. Mary was gathered with the disciples 50 days later, on the day of Pentecost, as directed by her risen Son in Jerusalem. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts. 2:14).
Mary’s mourning gave light to the greatest joy ever known. (Rev. 21: 4) “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”