I have desired to begin this series on the Beatitudes since before Christmas, but schedule and then illness held me back. I am very grateful to finally be able to begin this. The extra time has only allowed me to think and meditate more on this, on the passages in question, and to anticipate the effect of preaching on Jesus’ words both on myself and on anyone who listens.
This sermon is definitely one of the shorter ones I have done, but it is the beginning of the second series I’ve ever done here, and the longest one I have attempted. It has been a blessing to read and prepare for it, prompting me not to just spend time talking about my thoughts, but to want to study the text more and speak on it.
As I went deeper into the text, one of the points that struck me was that these are not simply “good ways to be,” which is how many people think about the word. “Beatitude,” after all, is not “be-attitude,” but rather it comes from the Latin word beati which can be understood as “happiness” or “blessedness.” In his famous commentary, Matthew Henry notes the same thing Charles Spurgeon did in contrasting the end of the Old Testament, which pronounces a curse, with the opening of Jesus’ first sermon with a blessing:
The Old Testament ended with a curse (Mal. 4:6), the gospel begins with a blessing; for hereunto are we called, that we should inherit the blessing. Each of the blessings Christ here pronounces has a double intention: 1. To show who they are that are to be accounted truly happy, and what their characters are. 2. What that is wherein true happiness consists, in the promises made to persons of certain characters, the performance of which will make them happy. Now,
1. This is designed to rectify the ruinous mistakes of a blind and carnal world. Blessedness is the thing which men pretend to pursue; Who will make us to see good? Ps. 4:6. But most mistake the end, and form a wrong notion of happiness; and then no wonder that they miss the way; they choose their own delusions, and court a shadow. The general opinion is, Blessed are they that are rich, and great, and honourable in the world; they spend their days in mirth, and their years in pleasure; they eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and carry all before them with a high hand, and have every sheaf bowing to their sheaf; happy the people that is in such a case; and their designs, aims, and purposes are accordingly; they bless the covetous (Ps. 10:3); they will be rich. Now our Lord Jesus comes to correct this fundamental error, to advance a new hypothesis, and to give us quite another notion of blessedness and blessed people, which, however paradoxical it may appear to those who are prejudiced, yet is in itself, and appears to be to all who are savingly enlightened, a rule and doctrine of eternal truth and certainty, by which we must shortly be judged. If this, therefore, be the beginning of Christ’s doctrine, the beginning of a Christian’s practice must be to take his measures of happiness from those maxims, and to direct his pursuits accordingly.
Another point I would like to draw out of this, and which I hope will be very evident by the end of this series, is the God-centeredness of these blessings. Not that Jesus is talking about what God is doing directly, because Jesus is most certainly talking about men here, but that he is talking about what the life of one who truly has God as Lord and center of worship looks like. There is an aspect of holiness that is married to this, and in seeking after these blessings, it is holiness that the believer will find as they grow in reflecting on these.
I want to close by recommending the book The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. You may have heard that Dr. Sproul passed away recently and, due to that, I decided to take time out and read this book I have heard mentioned so many times. As it has done for many others, it has had a profound impact upon me. If possible, I highly recommend that you do the same. You will find the grace of God is perhaps most profoundly understood, and most sweetly tasted, in light of his tremendous and awesome holiness.
I will try to keep these coming more regularly, God willing, and I am hopeful that my work on this has an influence leading to worship on anyone who is able to listen.
Opening prayer from Spurgeon’s Prayers Personalized, free to download at Monergism
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- Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” – December 10, Morning - December 10, 2022