Daily Archives: March 1, 2012
Beatitudes, part 4: Blessed are Those Who Hunger & Thirst
The virtues celebrated in the Beatitudes are foreign to the culture of the United States, which is typically one of excess and materialism. It is strange to think that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of heaven, the mourning will be comforted, and the meek shall inherit the earth.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled (Mt 5:6).
Look to the Old Testament prophet Amos for a precursor:
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.
“In that day the lovely virgins and the young men shall faint for thirst. Those who swear by the Guilt of Samaria, and say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’ and, ‘As the Way of Beersheba lives,’ they shall fall, and never rise again.” (Amos 8:11-14)
God is promising to send a time when his word is going to be scarce. People will want to hear a word from him, but nothing will be found. And people who live by false gods (or false versions of God) will be destroyed never to rise again.
People try to find fulfillment in the false gods they make for themselves all the time. Whether that god be money or fame or power, or searching for all of the answers to the Big Questions in nature itself (atheism), these gods ultimately never satisfy the thirst.
Looking at Psalm 63, we can see what happens to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness from the One True God:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (Ps 63:1-8)
Those who seek after God in earnest always find him, and always find fulfillment in him. C.S. Lewis once wisely stated that God cannot grant joy apart from himself, as there is no such thing.
Beatitudes, part 3: Blessed are the Meek
The Beatitudes celebrate as virtues that which we would not necessarily consider virtues. The poor in spirit inherit heaven. The mourning will be comforted.
The meek shall inherit the earth (Mt 5:5).
What is “meek?” It is the Greek word πραυσ, which gives us a sense of humility, teachability, and gentleness. According to the NET Bible:
Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend them against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time. (Isa 41:17, Lu 18:1-8)
The NET Bible tells us what πραυσ is not:
Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will. (Ga 5:23)
Some may consider this uncritical obedience to a tyrant, but that isn’t it at all. It’s better to think of this as surrender to a perfectly good higher power — and the one who so surrenders already accepts that God is perfectly good.
The existence of God is self-evident from nature (see Rom 1), but the goodness of God is not. God’s eternal power and divine nature are clearly perceived in that which is made; however, it takes a special revelation (the Bible) to reveal the perfect goodness of God. This means that the meek person that has surrendered his will to God’s own has already done the investigation necessary to conclude that God is worth surrendering to.
This Beatitude also calls to mind many verses of inheritance (Ps 37:9, 11, 22, 29, 34; Is 60:21), but none are as obviously tied to this verse as Psalm 25. Let’s take a snip:
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. (Ps 25:8-13)
Notice the theme of surrendering, in humility, to one who is perfectly good and will unerringly guide the sinner on the correct path. This is the sort of person who will inherit the earth, the one who recognizes his separation from God and then depends on God for his righteousness rather than his own empty works.