“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Mathew 5:6

1. “Blessed.” This is now the fourth blessing, coming quickly in line with the total eight. Each blessing is a holy evangel from the purest lips. Each sentence is a like a glorious refrain from a trumpet. Indeed, John said Christ’s voice sounded like a trumpet. Even the Temple security guards trembled at His speech, declaring to the priests: “No one ever spoke like this man!” Every blessing strips men down to their true broken state before banqueting them in a manner unrivaled and unsurpassed by the richest kings or wealthiest merchants known to men.

2. “Are those who hunger.” There it is. A gaping weakness of our humanity, almost our shame, exposed. We hunger, the elderly and infants alike. It is a type of suffering, a mournful cry of a splitting chasm. It is the persistent gnawing of increasing emptiness.

Hunger is like another person, wild in nature that lives inside us. At birth we screamed until we were fed. Give us sustenance, or we die. Then we learned manners. But the wild nature remained, rearing its head when we forgot to placate it on its own schedule. Hunger alone has the mobilizing strength to overthrow entire systems of government, and hunger can halt and confound the most disciplined of armies.

3. “And thirst.” As the deers pants for water. You can almost hear the deer’s heavy breathing as it steps near the long-sought water brook. Its parched mouth craves that first sip. And Lazarus was begged by a man in hell for one drop of water to be placed on his tormented tongue.

4. “For righteousness.” It is found in the Psalms, “Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains.” It is one of God’s greatest gifts, for God himself is righteous. God loves righteousness. His throne is founded on righteousness and justice. In the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed.

Paul, the man who formerly blasphemed God and persecuted Jesus, was overthrown by Jesus’ radiance and glory. This Paul, after repenting and believing Jesus, writes to the Roman church: “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

God demonstrated his righteousness by hanging Jesus (who had done nothing wrong) up in the air between heaven and earth, scourged by Roman technique, slapped and spit upon, mocked and reviled, struck by rods, crowned with cursed thorns, nailed to a tree and thrust by a spear in his side, certifying his death.

God’s own righteousness displayed! The penalty of sin is the full cup of God’s wrath, and Jesus drank all of it on our behalf. On Christ’s lips, just an hour or two away from the first spit on his face and ensuing terrors, were these words: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” What vehement desire Jesus has for us! God loves righteousness and hates wickedness. And Scribes and Pharisees, humanists and moral men think their works are good enough to make it into God’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of the righteous Father, the righteous Father who was pleased to crush His Son? Man’s righteousness is worse than an overflowing sewer system compared to God’s righteousness.

Isaiah prophesies:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”

5. “For they shall be filled.” David sings, overcome with gladness: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin!” And in another place: “The Lord’s judgments are righteous, more desirable than heaping piles of fine gold, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.”

May all my desire for righteousness be much increased and made open to God. I believe that He is, and He rewards those who diligently seek Him. There is room for all of us beyond Eden’s gate, where swings the flaming sword. But only those who first pluck the fruit of the tree of life by faith, eating Christ’s body and drinking His blood, can enter in – never to be cast out again.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

I have purposed to write on the Sermon on the Mount for a season, and the further I go into this great ocean from Jesus’ deep, the more daunted is my flesh. Most my blogs are first drafts, but this seems a poor way for the riches of Christ’s sermon. My limitations are great, yet the invitation to explore overcomes my timidity, whereby, by His glorious grace, I fall headlong. May love compel.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” says Jesus. Who are the meek? They are the strong ones who restrain their strength until the proper time. The young mother with her difficult children is meek, if she restrains herself from retaliating against them in anger. The middle-aged man who is mistreated by his job foreman is meek, if he does not curse the foreman in his heart or work against him. Instead, the mother corrects her children in love, and the mistreated middle-aged man entrusts himself to God, counting the foreman as worthy of all honor.

The world would say such meekness is weakness. They say strength and respect comes through retaliation. They say it is good to take justice in ones own hands.
Christ says: blessed are the meek.

Scripture says, “Now the man Moses was very meek above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Was he meek when he threw the tablets in anger? Perhaps. Was he meek when he killed the Egyptian? No. Was he meek when he struck the rock, instead of speaking to it, as he was commanded? No. Then how was he so meek? I believe it was in part because of his 40 years in the desert, combined with 40 more years in the desert. He could have been one of the greatest princes of Egypt, perhaps even Pharaoh one day, but he forsook it. He knew the reproaches of Christ were better than the riches of Egypt. That is meekness.

And this is of interest, for what was Egypt? It was opposite meekness. It had riches and wealth, and it condoned slavery and infanticide, building an empire on the backs of the Israelites. If Egypt was struck, it retaliated. And Egypt had the land. It was very prosperous. Naturally, Egypt could laugh at the saying “blessed are the meek.” Until God revealed his mighty arm.

The following quote by David is saturated with the blessedness of meekness:
“Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. And He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light and your justice as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret – it only causes harm. For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”

For David, meekness was all about waiting and trusting God. One day He will turn it all around. So why will the meek inherit the earth? First, the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. He can give it to whoever He pleases. Those who wait patiently for him will get the earth.

Peter writes, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

James writes: “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.”

And Jesus says: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus is the perfection of meekness. He waited patiently. He was struck and did not strike back. He could have easily called 12 legions of angels to fight against his enemies. He did not request the legions. Instead, he was meek, and being perfectly meek, he inherited the entire earth.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

I think now of Syria, which is in the throes of suffering. I have seen the remains of Syria’s little children dismembered by modern weaponry; I have seen women kidnapped by soldiers; I have seen surgeons remove deeply imbedded bullets and shrapnel from civilians. I have heard lamentations at the funeral services. All of this I have seen from the comfort of my own bedroom with Syrian news updates via the internet.

And a Rabbi has the audacity to say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”?

But this is not the first time mourning is referenced by Matthew. Close to the beginning of his gospel, in the second chapter, we read, “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.'”

Bethlehem. Infanticide. Some of them must have been Jesus’ relatives, close cousins, distant cousins, all around his own age. Now dead. And their mothers refused to be comforted. A father goes to console his wife, bereaved of her nursing infant, but she throws off his arms. She stops her ears. She avoids her friends. She won’t eat. She refuses comfort.

And a Rabbi has the nerve to say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”?

Solomon says, “Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”

The Rabbi is wiser than Solomon. He pronounces his second blessing: “Blessed are those who mourn!” How would the Rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, know? Has Jesus ever mourned?

It is said the first drops that fell to the earth were not raindrops, but tears.

I know not who wrote it, but F. W. Boreham provides this quote in his discourse on the beatitudes:

There is a joy that cometh after sorrow,
Of hope surrendered, not of hope fulfilled;
A joy that looketh not upon tomorrow,
But calmly on a tempest that is stilled.

A joy which lives not now in wild excesses,
Nor in the happy life of love secure;
But in the unerring strength the heart possesses,
Of conflicts won while learning to endure.

A joy there is, in sacrifice secluded;
A life subdued, from will and passion free;
‘Tis not the joy which over Eden brooded;
But that which triumphed in Gethsemane.

Isaiah writes:

Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God.

Somehow, the glories to come will be so great, the former pain and sorrow will be considered nothing. Somehow, we who are struck down are not destroyed. Somehow, when Christ offered his body as a living sacrifice, offering prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears, the Father heard his cry, raised him from the dead, and seated him on the highest throne. Therefore the Rabbi, better than anyone else, can honestly say: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

Grace is poured upon Jesus’ lips. Most men think of Moses on the mountain and think of curses and damnations, stonings and death. But what about Jesus? The first words from Jesus’ lips up on the mountain are blessings, not curses. Who doesn’t want a blessing from the greatest? What if President Obama could bless you publicly before the assembly of the UN? What if the Olympic committee chose you as the supreme model athlete and desired to bless you before the entire assembly of olympic medalists? Jesus Christ is better than presidents or prestigious committees. He is God in the flesh, and he pronounces blessings upon men. The first blessing goes to the poor in spirit:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit” Jesus says, “for they get the kingdom of heaven.”

I have read this verse for years, but recently I have been confessing to God in prayer, “I do not know what it means to be poor in spirit. Please tell me what it means to be poor in spirit. I don’t want to read it in a commentary, I want to get the definition from you.” And this is what the Lord showed me: he showed me myself, in the dirty waters of baptism, a broken man in need of God’s help. First, I was stunned that God used me as part of his definition. Second I was thrilled that God actually told me what it means to be poor in spirit. Whenever I think of being poor in spirit now, I remember that picture God showed me of myself in the waters of baptism.

To be poor in spirit is to acknowledge that you have a need, and you can’t satisfy your need by yourself. You are at the sole mercy of another. I have a need. I need life. All around me in this world is death and darkness, depression and rejection, sin and shame. Fools go to their taverns, my Irish kin with them, singing “let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” I have seen that they do not live wisely. They do not have wisdom, for their end is death.

G.K. Chesterton once said something about the Irish. I can’t remember it verbatim, but he said something like: “The Irish are a peculiar folk whom God made mad, for all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.” But one day, mark my words, you’ll see the Irish people put down their fists and end their quarrels. They’ll acknowledge their need for the Savior from the tribe of Judah, and they’ll get the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of heaven. That’s the blessing. Top prize. No one can buy it. It’s not for sale. It’s inherited, not partitioned and sold. It cannot be bartered for gold. It is the land of the freeborn. It’s the land where the prostitute finds her perfect husband. It’s the land where lepers get brand new skin. It’s the land where the starving and penniless children find the finest food, the richest clothes, and the gentlest, bravest, most glorious Father in heaven or on earth.

The kingdom of heaven. It’s the land where thieves cannot break in. It’s the land where all is safe and all is terrifyingly wild with holy adventure. It’s the land where there are no more tears or pain or sorrow. It’s the land of righteousness and peace and joy. It’s a land teeming with life: vigilant buffalo on the plains as far as the eye can see, playful fish without number in the pristine waters, radiant birds so thick in flight the sun can barely get through its light.

This is the land of the Great King. This is the country where the son of David rules without limitation or end. Of the increase of his government there shall be no end. This is the country promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is their land, and this could be your land by inheritance (by virtue of the blessing of Jesus the King), if you indeed are poor in spirit.

Psalm 134
A Song of Ascents

See, you are commanded to bless the LORD all you who serve the LORD during the night. G-d is light, yet it is night. But the night is quickly passing away. May all your lamps be full of oil, may all your wicks be trimmed. May you be found watching and waiting in that hour. Therefore, in the LORD’s house, bless Him. Do you not know your body is the temple of G-d? Your eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. Bless the Lord in His temple.

At night, lift up your hands in the sanctuary. Wave offerings towards the Presence. Lift up your hands, like Moses with Aaron and Hur. Lift up your hands, like the people did with Ezra before G-d. Lift up your hands, like Jesus at his ascension. Lift up your hands and bless the LORD.

The Ancient of Days, Creator of the heavens and earth and all that is in them; Yes, Creator of galaxies and every tree, the Author of Life bless you from Zion.

 

I’m going into 2013 trusting in the kindness of God. He will lead me to repentance. Like Seth says: “I love repenting. I repent three times a day or more, just so I can receive times of refreshing from the Lord’s presence.” This I know: I am a great sinner, and Jesus Christ is a great Savior. His goodness and mercy chase me down.

Snails and Quasars,
Decisions and Dictations.
Make your move star.
Eye have followed you thus far.

From Susa and Persepolis,
Fixates ancien propolis.
From Parthia and Babel,
Fine threads unravel.

To Rome’s own Salem,
Where in one’s locks
Are woven t’welve diamonds
Whilst herdsmen take stock.

The fruit of her labor we seek,
Riddled and raveled,
Ungilded, undazzled.

High Druids scrolls sift,
On Ephrathah they land.
Old dreams loosed drift,
But they do not understand.

Make your move star.
It moves no more.
We fall in tears.
It moves no more.

Unconsumed, near up-caught,
You were not what we thought.
You are what we are not.
Yet you are.

Psalm 133
A Song of Ascents
Of David

Have you ever seen it? Look through this glass.
Peer closely.
—.
According to our Father above, this is good.
He must have made it himself.
Things this good can only come from above.
But more than good. It is pleasant.
He made trees pleasing to the eyes.
But this is pleasant all around,
Like milk and honey under the tongue,
Like freshly shorn sheep crossing the verdant valley,
Like antlered beasts stooping low to take a drink,
But better.

They are brothers.
Ishmael and Isaac.
Esau and Jacob.
Reuben and Joseph.
Abraham and Abimelech.
Jesus and James.
David and Eliab.
Ham, Shem, and Japheth.

Jesus stands out, yet stands in.
Great is the mystery of godliness:
God manifested in the flesh.

They are brothers.
And they are living together in true peace.
They share tents. They share songs.
They share food. They share stories.
They share joy. They share affection.

Sadducees ask if they share wives.
Jesus replies:
“You are mistaken,
Not knowing the Scriptures
Nor the power of God.
For in the resurrection they neither marry
Nor are given in marriage,
But are like angels of God in heaven.
But concerning the resurrection of the dead,
Have you not read what was spoken to you by God,
Saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac
And the God of Jacob’?
God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

It is like extremely costly oil upon the head,
Running down the thick beard,
The beard of the High Priest,
Running down on the edge of his clothes,
Even to his feet.

Selah

It is like Hermandad.
It is like Germanus.
The dew of brotherhood,
The dew of the peak,
The mist that rises,
The list that speaks.

The drops that congregate,
The bowls that catch.
The brim that segregates,
And the untimely patch.

The torn veil, the thunder clap,
The dew of Hermon descending down
Upon the mountains of God’s city,
Where He will dwell in great renown.

For there the LORD commanded,
Like a good General always does;
He command the blessing,
Promised with the dove:

lyf y leeven pour efre mager.

Adam once lived before Eve existed. It wasn’t good. How did Adam get through his loneliness? It is our glory to search this out. My friend, the hymnologist Mr. Cone, he is on the search with me; our paths sometimes cross every few years and, like the Magi, we compare notes. Currently I search in Kentucky, he searches in Tennessee. Since there are billions of beautiful and intelligent women walking on the earth right now, one would think we have it easy, right? Maybe. But for some people, the search is so difficult that they have given up. They opt out. The diamond is too deep, too hidden, too difficult to reach. Allen Hood once said, “Beloved! There is something worse than loneliness. It is called friendship with demons.” Thank you, Allen Hood.

Adam could not work to get Eve. He couldn’t write letters to get her. He couldn’t pick flowers or write songs or climb mountains or build mansions or purchase cruise ships. He couldn’t do anything. So he took the pain and forsook the aspirin. Adam couldn’t work to get Eve. All he could do was go through surgery. A deep sleep, a white sheet, a sharp scalpel, an open side, a yanked rib, and a sewing up.

There was another man in the Bible whose story is similar to Adam’s. For some reason, he wouldn’t pick any of the ladies in his hometown of Bethlehem, even though there were many eligible ladies there. But he wouldn’t marry any of them. He couldn’t. And he was getting older. Then one day a Moabitess began to glean in his field.

“And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”

Actions Ruth is praised for:

– Being kind towards her mother-in-law
– Leaving her biological mother and father
– Leaving her childhood home
– Willingly going to a land full of strangers
– Taking refuge under the LORD’s wings

I pause to make a comment regarding Mr. Cone and I. Having compared notes, it seems to us that something fairly evident emerges. It is this: our present-day American culture teaches women to do the wooing, and the men do the chasing. It’s all over advertisements. It’s drenched in our society: the women put on their glamour and sit in their windows, high up in their tall tower, and wait. They wait for some knight to climb the tower and run off with them, happily ever after. But this American way is unbiblical. It is against God’s design. God made man to do the wooing and women to do the running after. How is a woman to run after a man if she’s painted up and stuck in a tower? How is Ruth to meet Boaz if she always stays at home with Naomi? And what does it mean, “under whose wings you have come for refuge”? What are these wings of the LORD, how does one find them, and how does one take refuge under them? I cannot tell you here and now. Read Psalm 91 and ask the Holy Spirit.

But this I can tell you: when God does surgery on you, get happy, because you’re going to get a great gift. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. I love the comfort God gives. It strangely warms the heart, like the most fragrant henna bloom, the softest, cleanest robe, and the most beautiful song.

Gilbert Chesterton once said something to the effect of: “The most wonderful poems are lists. A mother’s grocery list, Robinson Crusoe’s salvage list, a cobbler’s order list, etc.”

Do you agree with G. K. Chesterton?

1. Mahogany from Africa
2. Welshian wool
3. Clay tablets from Arabia
4. West Mediterranean pearls
5. Stradivarius’ sketchbooks
6. Dr. Robert Livingstone’s letters
7. The Orion
8. A South American hummingbird
9. A North American squirrel’s nest
10. Hot Russian loaves
11. Old Sicilian beverages
12. Tableware from the Orient

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