Blessed are the Meek (Mat. 5:5)
For a couple of weeks we have been considering the attitude that we are to have in worship (John 4::23-24). To analyze and adjust our attitudes we have been examining the beatitudes of the Bible. This week we will consider Matthew 5:5: “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. “
Two men come to mind when we think of meekness - Moses and Christ. Moses was described in the book of Numbers as meek above all men on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3). I believe that you will agree that this is quite a description. Eventually, One would arise like unto Moses (Deut. 18:15). We know from the New Testament that the One like unto Moses was Jesus (Acts 3:19-26). Of course, one of the ways that Jesus would be like Moses would be in His meekness. As you recall, Jesus described Himself as “meek and lowly in heart.” We read, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus invited men to come to Him for rest. He invited them to take His yoke upon them and to learn of Him. To take someone’s yoke upon you was a Jewish idiom that meant to take someone as your teacher. Jesus was inviting men to take Him as their teacher and to learn from Him . Unlike the yoke of the scribes and Pharisees which was hard to wear and heavy to bear, Jesus’ yoke was easy and His burden was light (Matthew 23:4). Jesus puts no unnecessary burden upon His students. He gives no busywork or meaningless assignments. What He asks is not grievous or burdensome, but reasonable (1 John 5:2-3; Rom. 12:1). Perhaps, you are thinking that this is all good, but what does it have to do with the attitude that we are to have in worship. It has everything to do with it. Every Sunday, we come to Jesus to learn from Him and to worship Him. Meekness is essential to both of these endeavors. Meekness is required in both teachers and students (2 Tim. 2:24-26; 1 Pet. 3:15). As a teacher, Jesus is meek and lowly. As students, we must be the same. James wrote, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). An attitude of meekness is essential to receiving the word of Christ. Without meekness, we will leave worship no better than we came.
As we get ready to worship this week, let’s make sure that we have an attitude of meekness. Let’s make sure that we are ready to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn.
Blessed Are Those That Mourn (Mat. 5:4)
Over the next few weeks, we are going to consider the attitude that we are to have in worship. As you know, one of the requirements of true worship is that it be in spirit or with the right attitude (John 4::23-24). Each week, we will analyze and adjust our attitudes by examining one of the beatitudes of the Bible. This week we will look at Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”
Nine different Greek words are used in the New Testament to speak of the sorrow that can afflict a man’s soul. The word that is used here by the Lord is the strongest of them all. It refers to a deep, intense, and heartfelt grief. The word was usually reserved for the grief that a person felt at the death of a loved one. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, used this word to describe Jacob’s grief when he was handed Joseph’s bloody coat and he believed that his son had been torn to pieces by a wild beast. We read, “Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, “For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.” Thus his father wept for him” (Genesis 37:34-35). I believe that you will agree that this was a strong and severe grief.
Now that we understand the depth of the word, we need to understand the specific application that Jesus was making. It seems clear that Jesus was speaking of spiritual grief and not physical grief. He was using the strongest word available to speak of mourning over sin. Just as God is with us in our physical grief (2 Cor. 1:3-4; John 11:35), He is with us when we mourn over spiritual things. He is near those who have hearts broken over sin. David declared, “The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalms 34:18). David knew that a heart broken over sin was the sacrifice that God most wanted. Again, we read, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalms 51:17). Those who truly mourn over sin are comforted by God. They are blessed and comforted in the knowledge that their sins have been removed and are remembered no more (2 Sam. 12:13; Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 9:26).
As we get ready to worship this week, let us mourn over sin as we would mourn over the death of a loved one. Let’s remember what our sin cost God (John 3:16). If we will come with broken hearts, we will leave with healed hearts. God will comfort us in the knowledge that our sins have been removed through the blood of His Son (Eph. 1:7).
Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit (Mat. 5:3)
As you know, one of the requirements of true worship is that it is in spirit or with the right attitude (John 4:23-24). For the next few weeks, we will analyze and adjust our attitudes by examining the beatitudes of the Bible.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with this beatitude. It seems logical for us to begin our study the same way. Although Jesus wasn’t specifically talking about worship, He was talking about the attitude that should be true of those in the kingdom in both service and worship.
The Greek term that is translated as poor in this passage was used to describe the beggar Lazarus who sought the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table (Lk. 16:19-21). Poor is from a verb that means to “shrink” or “cower.” It described the action of beggars at the time. A beggar would crouch in the presence of a potential benefactor, hold out one hand to receive a gift, and cover his face with the other hand. For sure, the beggar avoided making eye contact. It seems clear in this beatitude that Jesus was talking about spiritual poverty, and not physical poverty. There is nothing inherently better in being physically poor or inherently worse about being rich. Jesus was talking about being poor in spirit and not poor in silver. He was describing the man who knew his spiritual bankruptcy before God. No doubt, the Bible student is reminded of the Parable of the Pharisee and Publican. We read, “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14). The publican displayed the poverty of spirit upon which Jesus pronounced blessing. The Pharisee displayed the opposite attitude. If our worship is to be acceptable, then we must imitate the humble publican and not the haughty Pharisee.
As we get ready to worship this week, let’s check our attitude. Let’s make sure that we are poor in spirit. Then, and only then, will our worship be acceptable.
Do Not Swear (Jam. 5:12)
As James draws his little letter to a close, he gives a succinct sermon on swearing. He wrote, “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment” (Jam. 5:12). As we examine this passage, we will see the prohibition, the prescription, and the precaution.
The Prohibition: James instructed his brethren not to swear by heaven or by earth or by any other oath. The words “above all” put a priority on the prohibition (Eph. 6:16; Col. 3:14; 1 Pet. 4:8). The Greek tense suggests that this was an ongoing problem for James’ brethren. They were instructed to stop doing it. Likely, the prohibition in this passage reminds the Bible of similar statements in Scripture. One of the Ten Commandments warned against swearing by the name of God. We read, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). The Hebrew word translated as “in vain” refers to a light or flippant use of God’s name. God’s name was to be used carefully and with great reverence. In the Sermon on the Mount , Jesus declared, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-37). It seems clear that Jesus and James were addressing the same problem. Individuals were swearing by a host of things - heaven, earth, the temple, the altar, Jerusalem, etc. They were careful not to invoke the name of God. They believed that only oaths that used the name of God were binding. Both James and Jesus were condemning this deceitful practice.
The Prescription: James’ prescription for the deceitful oaths was for the brethren to let their “Yes” be “Yes,” and their “No,” “No.”. Notice the little word “but.” It is a word of contrast. James’ brethren were supposed to be different. They were to be men and women of their word. They were not to lie one to another. To the Christians at Colosse, Paul wrote, “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col. 3:9-10). They were to provide for things honest in the sight of all men (Rom. 12:17).
The Precaution: James ended his words about swearing with a precaution. He warned the brethren about falling into judgment. God would not hold guiltless those who misused His name (Exod. 20:7). He would judge all liars (Rev. 21:8). These brethren might fool some with their deceitful oaths, but they would not fool God. Everything is naked and open to His eyes (Heb. 4:13). He would bring everything into judgment, even the secret things (Rom. 2:5-6, 16). Jesus declared, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Mat. 12:36-37).
Having discussed the tongue in detail in the third chapter, James addressed it one final time before the book closes. Hopefully, his brethren were listening.
Three Examples of Patience (Jam. 5:7-11)
Most of us need patience (Heb. 10:36; cf. 6:12; Lk. 21:19). James’ brethren needed it also. He addressed it in the opening verses of the book and brought it up again in the closing verses (Jam. 1:2-4). He began the book talking about patience with things and ended the book talking about patience with people. We read, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (Jam. 5:7-11). Clearly, James believed that his brethren needed patience to finish the race or to make it to the Lord’s coming. To encourage them, James gave three examples. One example was taken from everyday life (farming) and the other two examples were taken from Old Testament history (the prophets and Job).
The first example of patience that James gave was that of the farmer or the sower. The farmer sows his seed and waits patiently for the precious fruit. He waits for the early rain to help the seed to come up and for the latter rain to help the fruit to develop. The farmer trusts God to give him what he needs for a harvest. In like manner, James wanted his brethren to wait patiently for the coming of the Lord. Just as the Lord promised to give seed time and harvest, He had promised to come again (Gen. 8:22; John 14:1-3). James’ brethren just needed to trust God and to wait patiently. Their hearts needed to be established or rooted and grounded until the coming of the Lord.
The second example of patience that James gave was that of the prophets or seers who spoke in the name of the Lord. The prophets paid dearly for delivering God’s word. Their suffering is well documented in Scripture. The prophets took their persecution patiently knowing that the Lord would keep His promises. In like manner, James wanted his brethren to take the persecution that they were facing patiently. James may have been referencing the Sermon on the Mount. In the sermon, Jesus declared, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
The final example of patience that James gave was that of Job. Job was well known for his patience. Although Job didn’t know why he was suffering, he took it patiently (Job 1:20-22; cf. 13:15; 19:25-26). He eventually saw the end of the Lord and enjoyed God’s compassion and mercy. In like manner, James wanted his brethren to patiently wait till the end. They too would enjoy the goodness of the Lord if they didn’t give up . Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:7-9).
James’ brethren needed patience to hold on until the coming of the Lord. The three examples that James gave showed them that it could be done (Rom. 15:4).