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The Beatitudes and Psalm 49

I love how Psalm 49 begins. “Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world. Both low and high, rich and poor, together.” (verses, 1,2). God wants all people to hear the message and we could imagine those words being used to introduce the Sermon on the Mount. Instead, however, we have a very simple introduction: “his disciples came unto him, And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying. Blessed are . . .” (Matthew 2:2,3)

While the appeal of the Beatitudes is to all, Jesus appears in the first instance to be addressing His disciples who were the ones recorded as being there with Him. Yet He didn’t really fully focus in on them until verse 11 when he said, “Blessed are you”, addressing them in the second person. We could take it then that the first eight statements have a wider application, including all those not there at the time of the giving of the Sermon on the Mount but who would in the centuries to come hear Jesus’s message, respond to it, and become aware of the fact that none of the qualities He spoke of (poor in spirit, meek, pure in heart, etc.) could ever be attained by personal effort. The Beatitudes, pointing to the gospel, reach out then to a wide audience, encompassing all, “low and high, rich and poor”. But while their call is to all the “inhabitants of the world”, the fact is that only some respond, finding the gate that leads to life. (Matthew 7:14)

No matter who we are, when we do respond to the appeal of the Scriptures, we are confronted by the first requirements, repentance and faith, and the whole of the Sermon on the Mount speaks of this journey of faith.

According to Thomas Watson, in his book The Beatitudes, published in 1660, the Sermon is “a piece of spiritual needlework, wrought about with diverse colours; here is both usefulness and sweetness. In this portion of Holy Scripture you have a breviary of religion, the Bible epitomized.”

Regarding the third beatitude (“Blessed are the meek”), Watson wrote, “all the injuries and unkind usages we meet with from the world, do not fall out by chance, but are disposed of by the all-wise God for our good.” He cites the examples of the meekness of David and Job, and of course Jesus who received the “cup” that His Father gave him (John 18:11). He continues, “Usually, when the Lord intends us some signal mercy, he fits us for it by some eminent trial.” There is a “morning” that has yet to come (Psalm 49:14). But while that reward for meekness (inheriting the earth) will come, and there will be various manifestations of it which we have no awareness of now, our part is in each instance to concern ourselves with the first half of each beatitude, not to pursue the blessings for themselves. By our very nature we want to scan the horizon for rewards, particularly when life is tough, but while it’s fine to anticipate God’s blessings, what they are and how and when they come are completely His prerogative. We are to serve Him regardless.

It starts in that first beatitude, poverty of spirit, our first connection with the Lord from whom all the other graces flow. And the awareness of our sin (mourning), and then the resulting meekness, prepare us for the kingdom of heaven, the comfort of God, and our inheritance, whatever that may look like. Watson again: “Humility is the sweet spice that grows from poverty of spirit.”

Finally, we must remember that there will be a reward when we reign with God eternally and when sin, death, and hell are fully conquered.

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