We could ask ourselves the question, “Who best represents the values (character and behaviour) that are important for our nations in these coming elections in Australia on 2nd July and in the USA in November?” Depending on our backgrounds, we might come up with different answers. Many people would see some guidance in the teaching by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, speaks of the “Beatitudes”, (from a Latin word meaning “blessed” or “happy”.) Or as someone has said, the Beatitudes are the “Beautiful Attitudes” that should characterise all peoples especially the people belonging to God. They show us what humans should be like in their relationship to Him and to one another.
2 points to note.
- These qualities are meant to be the characteristics of all peoples. They express both our responsibility to live in a certain way, and our privileges and blessings as we do so as God’s creatures.
- They are relevant for all our relationships, our vertical relationship with God, and our horizontal relationships with our fellow humans. We could say that the first 4 refer to our relationship with God, and the second four, to our relationships with our fellow humans. (We focus in this article on the first four characteristics.)
CHARACTERISTICS COMING FROM OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Mat 5:1-2, “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. (2) And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the …. “
1). “Poor” in spirit. Verse 3. “Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit, For Theirs Is The Kingdom Of Heaven. ” It isn’t saying that it is blessed to be poor. It may be true that God has a special concern for the poor (for those who are the victims of the injustice from other people). It may be that many people in their poverty have cried out to God for His help and provision and been wonderfully blessed by Him. (Their poverty was the background in which they discovered the amazing grace of God to them). But that is not the main thrust of this passage. The real blessedness of this passage has to do with those who are poor in spirit. Not just “poor”, but “poor in spirit.”
What does that mean? It means that they are not full of themselves, and that they have room for God in their lives. It’s so easy to become arrogant and proud, to have a proud spirit. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:5,6, “Clothe yourselves all of you with humility towards one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you.” Someone having a proud spirit may want to live independently of God’s grace wisdom and strength. However God pours out His grace, His mercy and His blessings on those who humble themselves before Him and are open to receive His wisdom.
When David sinned against God in his adultery with Bathsheba, he eventually repented and in humility cried out to God, “Create in me a pure heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” He realised that his heart was not pure for he had been involved in deliberate sin and deceit, even planned murder. Neither was his heart steadfast for he had been a faithful servant of God but had later yielded to temptation and had brought disrepute on himself and the nation. He could later write from his own experience, Ps 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart O God, You will not despise.” God did restore him and used him in His purposes but it took David to acknowledge his sin and to cry out to God for help for that change to come in David. As it says in Proverbs 29:23, “A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honour.”
Those people who are full of themselves, arrogant and full of pride, feel they have no need for God. Unfortunately while they remain with that strong arrogant independent spirit God cannot use them. Why? Because they place themselves beyond His help and forfeit the wisdom He could have given them to live lives of purpose for themselves and for the benefit of the people they represent.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The resources of the kingdom, the gifts of God’s grace, are open to those who are open and humble enough to receive them. (James reminds us that sometimes we don’t get answers to our prayers because we ask from selfish motives. Selfishness is the opposite of kingdom living in which we focus on the needs of others, not our own. )
The candidates for whom we would wish to vote would be people who are characterised as being “poor in spirit” in the terms we have described above.
2). A Sensitive heart. Verse 4. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. We could take this as meaning to be able to mourn with others in their sadnesses. Paul expresses that in Rom 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” That’s what Jesus did in His ministry on earth. He mourned with the woman whose only son was being carried out for burial, and then brought him back to life. He mourned with Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died, and He wept.
But it’s much, much more than that. This is another stage in spiritual maturity and wholeness. Blessed are those who are sensitive towards God, and who mourn for their sins, and the sins of others. Blessed are those who are grieved when people ignore God, and don’t obey Him.
This was the sort of mourning we see in Jesus as He came to Jerusalem, and looked upon the city that had hardened its heart against Him and against God’s purposes. As He looked upon the city He mourned over it and wept. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who were sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you would not! Behold your house is forsaken.” (That is, “Your sin has brought this upon you. You didn’t mourn because of your sins. You didn’t turn to Me for the help I could have given.”)
It’s sad that we often try to excuse the sins of some people thinking we should be tolerant. Jesus however grieves about the damage their continuing sin is bringing on them and on others. Mourning for our sins and for the sins of others allows God to intervene in our lives to bring His healing and blessing. Mourning for the sin of the nation may be a vital step in bringing healing to the nation.
Again we would wish to vote for candidates who were not only sympathetic towards fellow humans but who also were realistic. We would want them to see things not only from a human point of view but from God’s declared perspectives given to us in His eternal word. They need to feel about the world as He feels about it, wanting to be agents of the changes that only He can bring.
3). Meekness. Verse 5. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Meekness is not weakness. Jesus said of Himself in Mat 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” And in Mat 21:5 “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'” It wasn’t very much later that this “meek” Jesus drove money changers out of the temple. If we want to be meek, we must become like Jesus. Meekness is power under control, like the breaking-in of a wild horse. It has lost none of its strength. Rather its strength is now harnessed and controllable for good purposes.
Meekness means being open to God to be taught by Him how to live as we should. The noun of this word is found in James 1:21, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” The truly meek person, the truly humble person is willing to be changed by the power of God through obedience to His word.
Meekness means looking to God for wisdom. True wisdom is to be found in Him and in Him alone. So-called human “wisdom” lacks perspective for it is missing the deepest dimension of truth and reality, a God-consciousness. James writes about the paucity of human wisdom apart from God in James 3:13-18, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
One does not have to look far to see examples of such wisdom in the nations of the world. It is “earthly” [epigeios = of the earth which is (gē)] in the sense it is limited in its understanding for it ignores the spiritual dimension of life. It is “unspiritual” [ psuchikos = from (psuchḗ = soul)] indicating that it is “soulish” wisdom or wisdom also lacking any spiritual dimension. But the final word is alarming. It is “demonic” [from (daimoniōdēs) meaning “demon-like”.] Though this word occurs only here in the New Testament, there is a similar expression in 1Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” One of the signs of the end times will be the proliferation of false teachings which owe their origin not to God but to deceiving spirits. Deception is widespread in our world, not only in individuals but also very obviously in the leaders of nations who are making decisions which are not conducive for the welfare of those nations..
By contrast, true wisdom, the wisdom of God, has wonderful qualities. If such wisdom were sought, discovered and applied by the leaders of the nations of the world, the world would have much more peace and stability. The qualities are described in James 3:17, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 and a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace”.
It is quite amazing how just that one verse fits in with Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitudes with the mentions of peace, gentleness, mercy and righteousness. That is even further emphasised when one sees that mention is made in this verse in James of those who “make peace” (in the Greek original poieō = make and eirēnē = peace) while Jesus mentioned “peace-makers” in Mat 5:9 where the word is (eirēnopoios) which combines those 2 words. The words, “making peace” occur also in Ephesians 2:15 “by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” and in Colossians 1:20 “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
Meekness means honouring Christ in our own hearts and being willing to humbly share Him with others, 1 Peter 3:15 “but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”.
Which candidates most closely conform to this quality of meekness? Could they, with God’s help? Would they be willing to ask Him for such help?
4). Hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Verse 6. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”. The noun “righteousness” and the adjective “righteous” each occur over 90 times in the New Testament. There are many ways of describing the word “righteousness” but a very simple one is this, “What God wants”. (A modern version of this verse puts it, “God blesses those who want to obey Him, more than to eat or drink.”)
We can understand what righteousness means because God has shown us in His word in the gospel. Romans 1:17 “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” What God wants is for people to come to Him by faith in the gospel message about Him and then to live out the implications of that faith as they live (by faith) for Him. In theological terms they will have an “imputed righteousness” meaning that they are made right with God through faith in Jesus and His righteousness is imputed to them. But they also have an “imparted righteousness” imparted to them by the Holy Spirit to live holy lives according to the will of God. As Paul put it in Romans 8:4, Christ came and fulfilled the law “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” It is the Spirit of God who enables us to do the will of God (what God wants), for only He can motivate and empower us to do so. But it needs our total commitment to Him to be enabled to so.
Righteousness includes the sort of personal lives we should live, as well as the qualities needed in the corporate life of a nation. It includes justice but is more than justice. It is the passionate desire to see God’s will done in every life and in every situation.
We need to “keep on” with that hunger and thirst for what God wants in our lives and in the lives of others. As we become what God wants us to be, and to do what He wants us to do, we are inwardly satisfied and fulfilled in a way that nothing else satisfies. However it becomes addictive. We want more and more to obey Him, and more of His grace to be poured out on our lives.
Which candidate has that hunger and thirst for righteousness for themselves? For their own nations?
A Quick Summary Regarding The Sort Of People We Should Be Voting For
They need to be “poor in spirit”. Not full of themselves but open to God’s influence in their lives and in their deliberations on what is needed for their nations.
They need to be “those who mourn.” Having God’s attitude to a sinful world and wanting to do something to bring about change for the good of the people with His help. .
They need to be “meek” (understood correctly). Humble before God but strong in seeking His best for their people.
They need to be those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” They need to be in a good relationship with God or be willing to enter into a close relationship with Him. They then need to live out the implications of that relationship as they look to Him to give them the wisdom they need, to act for the welfare of the people they represent.
Feeling a little despondent as you look at such a list? Can’t think of many candidates who have all or even some of these qualities? Perhaps we may a bit more encouraged as we look at Part 2 on the remainder of the Beatitudes. Or ……?
We need to pray that God’s Kingdom may come and that His will might be done in and through and following the elections! And especially influencing us as we make our decisions regarding for whom to vote!
Blog No.184. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Tuesday 17th May 2016