Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
I love the ‘be-attitudes’ – the attitudes we should be – and often think of them as the beautiful attitudes, those that God desires to form in His people. Most sermons I’ve heard relate to them governing our attitude to the world, to other believers, to those around around us, and I have no doubt this is relevant and correct. But they speak, I believe, first and foremost of our relationship to and with God. The outworking, the ‘spilling over’ as it were, into the world and our relationships, depends on how they are first ‘inworked’ in us through our relationship with God.
In many ways, all the other beatitudes are focused around that contained in verse 6 because they relate directly to us and our attitude toward God and His righteousness. Consider verse 3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This is our attitude to our ‘heart condition.’ Only one who recognises their inadequacy, their worthlessness without Christ, their inability to achieve righteousness for themselves, is truly poor in spirit. It’s not about condemnation, and doesn’t deny God’s love for us. It’s about acknowledging that we are nothing without Him, that we need Him, that we don’t have what it takes. This is what ‘poor’ refers to – acknowledgment of sin and humble repentance – and these are the people who will be made heirs of the Kingdom.
Verse 4 goes on: Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. This is spiritual mourning – to grieve for the condition of the heart, to mourn for things unsaid, undone, unrepented. Those who truly mourn the times they have ‘fallen short of the glory of God,’ who are led into comfort, into salvation, into forgiveness. We cannot receive mercy if we don’t ask for it. We won’t ask for it if we don’t first acknowledge we need it. ‘A broken and a contrite heart’ is what is describe here, and the comfort is not of this world but of the divine nature of God.
Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Verse 5 speaks of surrendered lives, surrendered minds, surrendered wills. As ambassadors of the King of Heaven, He needs us to be obedient, to be fully yielded, to speak and do according to His will, His plans, His purposes. A meaning of ‘meek’ is actually ‘to be trained to the halter’ or the harness. It means setting aside our desires in favour of His will. It means setting aside our lives to willingly take on His yoke. It’s acknowledging that He is God, Master of All, sovereign and holy, the potter and the king.
Interestingly enough, if we look closely, we can see that the beatitudes follow a pattern, a ‘stepping up’ from one ‘level’ of relationship to the next. First, a recognition of the true condition of man. Second, a genuine repentance of that condition. Third, a total surrender to the divine, sovereign will. Only then does righteousness enter the picture.
Verse 6 mentions two key words: hunger and thirst. These are fundamental human needs. They require fulfillment, and they determine whether we live or die. They are at the very core of our being. Now consider that they aren’t casual words. They are ’emotive’ words, they demand action, they imply a full engagement in their pursuit. It’s not sufficient to ‘wish’ for righteousness, or to think about it, or even to decide it might something worth going after…tomorrow, next week, sometime. Hunger and thirst are for here and now. They’re all-consuming. They capture the imagination, the focus, the effort, the energy. It’s a life-or-death thing. Until we’ve truly ‘lived’ the first three, this kind of appetite for righteousness isn’t possible. It’s an outworking of the others, as if the first three attitude adjustments both lead naturally towards this, and also fuel it within us. I can’t help wondering, therefore, if we don’t have this kind of hunger and thirst after righteousness, where do we really stand in relation to the first three?
Verse 7 introduces more growth: Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. It’s a funny thing, righteousness. We will never stop wanting it. We may be sated for a time, but we grow and make space for more, and so we hunger for more. Mercy is the natural outworking of this. As we are filled, more and more, with God’s righteousness, so we will become more merciful. As we become more merciful, we will be able to receive more from God. The giving out has now become operational, and the giving out now makes space for receiving in. It’s interesting, too, when looking at the writings of the prophet Joel, where God talks of prayer and fasting – the correct prayer and fasting, the kind that pleases Him. He tells us that the kind of righteousness He demands includes being merciful. How great is our God?
Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. In verse 8, there is a new dimension – pureness of heart. Our attitude adjustment, our focus on God and His righteousness, the growth of mercy within us…these lead to a pure heart. No, it doesn’t mean we’re perfect. That’s impossible. But it does mean we’ve learned, through surrender to the Holy Spirit, to test our motives, to recognise things we need to deal with or lay down, to trust in the blood of the Lamb and to live by grace. We’re learning to live for His glory and the extension of His kingdom. He is first, we are last, and we begin to see and hear God as He reveals Himself to and through us more and more.
Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. This verse is often misrepresented. It doesn’t mean ‘rolling over’ or compromising on the things of God simply to keep the peace. But it does mean not putting our own needs first. It does mean setting aside our own desires to fulfill God’s purposes. It does mean living Christ in our lives, so that the peace which passes all understanding may be given to the world through us. God chooses to reveal Himself to the world through His ambassadors. The unique ‘flag’ of a true believer is peace. God’s peace is one which stands out in any situation. It’s supernatural, and it’s the mark of a true heir of Christ. It takes a long time, and lot of grace in developing the ‘beautiful attitudes’ to become a ‘peacemaker’ worthy of our calling.
Finally, Jesus adds a sobering thought: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. He reminds us that we are citizens, not of this world, but of heaven. He reminds us that we may well endure persecution, but He reminds us that it is for His sake that it happens – He is the King of Righteousness. As His followers, we can expect to endure something of what He endured, though by grace we will be spared the full measure of His suffering. The full extent of that bitter cup was reserved for the Son of God alone, for only He could bear the agony – physical, mental and emotional – of it.
It is as if all of the ‘beautiful attitudes’ are preparing us for this, for the time when we will be able to count Christ as the only joy, the only treasure, the only prize. This explains many of the martyrs, and how they managed to endure. Only one who has walked through each of these, learned them from the Great Teacher and from drawing closer and and closer to God, knowing His peace, seeing His face, hearing His voice, come to a place where they can understand the blessing in persecution. Yet, He says, theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. A high prize, for it is here that we are closer to God than we will ever be.
Thank You, Jesus, for teaching us Your ways. Lead us and teach us, change us and mold us, release in us the attitudes You desire, and bring us closer, day by day, as we see You more clearly and surrender willingly and joyfully for the transformation You desire for each of us.