Praying with a dear friend the other day over Scripture. We prayed over Scripture and the verse was from Matthew. Blessed are the Poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God.
We talked about how we used to think the Beatitudes were like new rules. The human need for order and structure is a healthy thing. Out world can be chaotic, both the outer world and inner world of our thoughts and desires. Genesis 1 seems to imply that ordering was a primary work of the Creator. However, like all good things, ordering and structure for safety can become an obsession. "Rules for the Road" so we can navigate the journey of life are helpful instructions and insights. "Hard and Fast Laws on the Way" are not. The "Law obsession" impulse was something Jesus was not a friend of. Law, He knew, can as easily crush us as build us.
The Beatitudes make lousy laws. Meek, Poor, Persecuted--how does one legally embrace such a role? Looking for the proverbial "passing grade" we decide how to meet the minimum criteria to be counted as one of the saved. And because we don't always pay close enough attention to what we read in the Bible, we don't notice just how many beatitudes it contains. I found 13 in the Psalms alone.
"Blessed" or "Happy" are the typical translation of esher.
Psalm and verse
1:1 "Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked"
2:13 "Happy are they all who take refuge in Him"
32:1,2 "Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes not guilt"
33:12 "Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord
34:8 "Taste and see the Lord is good...happy are they that trust in Him"
40:4 "Happy are they who trust in the Lord (they do not resort to evil spirits or turn to false gods)
65:4 "Happy are they whom you choose and draw to your courts to dwell there"
84:3-4 "Happy are they who dwell in your house they will always be praising you. Happy are the people whose strength is in you"
89:15 "Happy are the people who know the festal shout! they walk, Oh Lord, in your presence."
94:12 "Happy are they whom you instruct, Oh Lord"
112:1 "Happy are they who fear the Lord and have great delight in his commandments"
119:1 "Happy are they who fear the Lord"
It gives us a better feel for what a beatitude really is. If you trust God you are happy/blessed because God is faithful. Not a law as much as a declaration of fact. Those who trust God are in His care. When Jesus says the beatitudes in Matthew, it is likely a collection of things He said in various places. Matthew's sermon on the mount is more like a model of His teaching than an actual transcript from a particular day. In fact, many of the Beatitudes are found in the Jewish Bible.
So what of poor in spirit? I think it means, a great deal of deep and amazing things. From a bloggers short version of writing, I think it means that those who know their poverty, those who face the truth of their limits and needs, those who turn to God are blessed. The poor are blessed because they need God and know it. The poor in spirit are blessed because they need God and know it. Those who know they need God and trust themselves to Him are blessed, because He is faithful. Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, is being very Jewish in His teaching here. It is not a new law or rule--it is just a declaration of how things are. People in right relationship are in a good place. They are blessed and happy. Even in the midst of unhappy circumstances.