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Friday, August 26, 2016

Beatitudes: Sunday School Notes

The Greek word, makarios, means blessed, happy, well off. (It translates The Hebrew word 'esher which means blessed or happy.) I offer the idea that the "Eight Beatitudes" in Matthew 5:1-12 are best understood in the context of the dozens and dozens of beatitudes throughout Scripture.

Before we look at the wide ranging Beatitudes, let us briefly ponder the question, "Who is happy?" "Who is blessed?" Fame, fortune, family, friends, work, play---these make us happy, until they don't. It is a fool's pursuit to seek complete and lasting happiness in the things of this world.  The Source of all blessings and our deepest happiness has revealed Himself as the Holy Three. Fortunately, the Lord God desires our happiness and seeks to bless us.

Jesus, a Jew, was familiar with beatitudes from His Bible. The Jewish Bible has the word 'esher/happy-blessed forty five times. The root word ashar means to go in the right way, happy, lead, guide, blessed. The added dimension "in the right way" shed light on being blessed. It is not simply getting what I want, it is getting the right things! As is always the case, aligning our wills with God is the first and most important step to happiness and blessing.

So what does Jesus' Bible say about blessed happiness? Monday morning we prayed Psalms 1 and 2.  (here is Alter's translation)

Psalm 1:1 "Happy the man who has not walked in the wicked's counsel, nor in the way of offenders has stood, nor in the session of scoffers has sat. But the Lord's teaching is his desire and His teaching he murmurs day and night."
Psalm 2:12 "Happy are all who shelter in Him."

Each Psalm provides a similar beatitude, reflective of Biblical teaching. True happiness comes from rejecting all that is not of God and embracing God. It also is a blessing to simply trust in YHWH. Faith and faithfulness are at the heart of blessing and happiness; both God's and our own.

Deuteronomy 33:29 is the first appearance of this Hebrew word; to paraphrase, "Happy/blessed are you Israel because God has rescued you and made you triumphant!"
Job 5:17 declares "Happy is the one whom God reproves/rebukes/corrects"..."do not despise His warning/correction/instruction/chastisement." If the former sounds more appealing, it may be because we forget that God saves/rescues us through correction, too.

Psalm 32:1-2 tell us (twice) that the one whom God forgives, whose sin is covered over and who is freed of guilt is blessed. (Quoted by Paul in Romans 4:7-8). Psalm 34:8 and Psalm 40:4 also highlight trusting God (not idols) while 41:1 exhorts us "blessed are those who consider the poor" (a duty verse). Elsewhere those who worship and those who dwell in God's house are called happy/blessed (65:4, 84:4, 89:15). Trust and obedience are blessings to make us happy (112, 119, 128).

Why so much time with other beatitudes instead of the ones Jesus spoke? My hope is it gives you a feel for what revelation tells us makes us happy. An abundant life makes us happy, but YHWH makes clear that He is the source of abundance and our alignment with Him (in trust, in love, in faithfulness) is key to those blessings flowing. Certainly there are places where other less "noble" sentiments are expressed (Ps 137 happy are those who see revenge on their enemies), but perhaps it is best understood in terms of God's justice.

Before looking at the Eight Beatitudes, I want to list the other beatitudes in Matthew:
Mt 11:6 "blessed is the one who takes no offense at me"
Mt 13:16 "blessed are your eyes for they see and your ears for they hear" (what other generations longed for)
Mt 16:17 Peter is called blessed because God revealed the identity of Jesus to him.
Mt 24:46 In a parable on watching and being prepared, Jesus says that when the Master returns unexpectedly, blessed is the servant who is doing what he should be doing.

[Also, see The Book of Revelation for the Seven Beatitudes 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7 and 22:14]

So now I will paraphrase the Beatitudes in my own words, more as a summary.
Blessed, Happy and Fulfilled....
Those who trust in God for everything are enrolled as citizens in His Kingdom. [Is 61:1-2]
So, even when heartbroken by tragedy, you have hope for YHWH our Father redeems everything.
Remember Moses (Numbers 12:3, meek and humble, faithful trusting servant), someday we will own the Promised Land! (Psalm 37:11, the wicked will disappear "and the poor shall inherit the land")
Trust that God is righteous and merciful, if you want it, be patient, it is coming.
The Father YHWH is merciful, imitate Him for you will be forgiven as you forgive (Mt 6:14-15)
If your thoughts, desires and will are "in" God, He will reveal Himself to you.
Shalom is a fruit of the Kingdom and the way our Father has ordered His family.

We walk by faith,not be sight. The current circumstances are temporary. Trust God, but know the world, flesh and devil rage against Him Until "that Day," strange as it sounds, it is awesome that Jesus-haters are mean to you. Especially when you do nothing wrong but love Jesus. It feels terrible but when the Kingdom comes, that will be your glorious crown.... (Like Paul said, 'the sufferings of the present are nothing compared to the glory to be revealed!') Better days are coming: so keep trusting love for and loving loyalty to God. And you will be blessed and happy and fulfilled.

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