By Rev. Lance Filio
We come now to the third part of our preaching about the Beatitudes. Last week, we learned how this section from the Sermon on the Mount is divided into three parts.
The first part deals with three internalized virtues granted by God. God gives it to those whom he chooses, and they become members of God’s kingdom. They are poor in Spirit, mourners, and the meek (verses 3-5). These characterizes those who are converted to faith and repentance. They are not qualities we produce in order to enter God’s kingdom. Instead, they are given to those who belongs to Jesus Christ.
The second part points to the source of transformation given to the members of God’s kingdom. God himself provides and generates the righteousness required for his people. Here lies at the center of the whole chiastic poem. God and his righteousness makes those who receive mercy to be become merciful (verses 6-7). We will discuss this in detail in our second sermon point later.
The third part (verses 8-10) relates kingdom virtues to God and men. These internal virtues from verses 3-5 that God wrought in us as pointed out by verses 6-7 are externalized towards God and others. It means that purity of heart is expressed as undivided attention to God, peacemaking is expressed as being God’s children, and possessing God’s kingdom is expressed as receiving persecution from others.
So we will continue our preaching on the second section of the Beatitudes and end with the third section. They are broken down into two sermon points: 2) The hungry and thirsty for righteousness, and the merciful; 3) The pure in heart, the peacemaker, and the persecuted. And in order to focus deeply to our third sermon point, we will still break it down into two parts. Part A will focus on the pure in heart while Part B next week, will finish with the peacemaker, and the persecuted.
Before we begin, let us pray…
The hungry and thirsty for righteousness, and the merciful
Verses 6-7: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Verse 6 tells us how God grants righteousness to those who hunger and thirst for it. God requires righteousness and He grants it those whom he please. The source of our righteousness is God himself. Now, verse 7 reinforces this same point -God is source and enables us to demonstrate these kingdom virtues. Unfortunately, this fifth beatitude “the merciful shall receive mercy” goes against our set understanding and treats the matter in reverse. We become the source of these kingdom virtues and obligates God to bless us in return. Those who are merciful to others will receive mercy from God. Is this the right reading of this text?
An isolated reading of this text may lead us into this conclusion. However, we need to compare Scripture with Scripture and maintain its consistency as a whole. So in order to understand the text, we will compare it to the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:12)and bring out its meaning and implication using the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-35).
The fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer contains the same format of the fifth Beatitude. Jesus prays “forgive us ourdebts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”. Same with being merciful, does it mean that when we forgive others, God will forgive us as well? The Parable of the Unmerciful servant clarifies the relationship between God’s forgiveness of our sin with our forgiveness of other people’s sins against us.
This parable narrates to us a servant who incurred large debt from the king. When it was time for him to pay, he asked for mercy instead of justice and the king was gracious enough to forgive him. And right after he receives pardon, he saw his co-worker who owns him a small debt. But instead of paying forward the same kind of forgiveness he receives from the king, he demanded immediate payment. And when his co-worker was unable to do so, he put him to jail. So when the king heard of this, he got mad and did the same to the unforgiving servant. At the end of the parable, Jesus comments, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart (verse 35).”
God expects those who receive forgiveness from him to demonstrate the reality of being forgiven by doing the same to others. Those who receive grace from God will be gracious to others. Those who receive mercy from God will be merciful to others. That is the biblical relationship and order, and not the other way around as it was often misunderstood by others.
What does it mean to be merciful to others? Dr. Carson in his exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, explains that “Mercy is a loving response prompted by the misery and helplessness of the one on whom the love is to be showered. [If] grace answers to the undeserving; mercy answers to the miserable”. Being merciful means providing aid to someone who is not only undeserving but also helping them alleviate their suffering. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a good illustration of this. Compared to the leaders in Jesus’ day, only the Samaritan took the time and effort to nurse the victim back into health. He did not seek justice for the victim although that is important but he immediate brought him relief.
Christian, God grants us mercy so we can show mercy to others. He is the source of all kingdom virtues. Let us demonstrate compassion to others. A lot of people need our prayer and help. They are those who belongs to the growing number of people getting affected by the virus as well as those medical professionals helping them get well. Instead of selfishly worrying about ourselves, let us focus our attention in seeking to alleviate the suffering of those who are in need. But let us remind ourselves that we are able to do these things because God was compassionate to us first.
That closes our second sermon point now we move to our last and third point.
The pure in heart, the peacemaker, and the persecuted
Verses 8-10: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
We come now to the last three virtues in our Beatitude. They are the pure in heart, the peacemaker, and the persecuted.
Now, Christian treasures God as his ultimate possession here on earth. He sees God with a clear mind and an undivided heart. James warns us against double-mindedness in James 1:8 and that is the opposite of what Jesus describes here as the pure in heart. We are called to trust God completely and unequivocally
After faith and repentance, we see God as the source of everything who is perfectly wise and good. And unto him, we place our full allegiance. We who used to be part of the kingdom of this world, because of God’s love and mercy, become citizens of the kingdom of heaven. We hunger and thirst for his righteousness. We see everything under his dominion and power. We seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness. God is our ultimate focus. There is nothing and no one else can be compared to him. God has our undivided attention and we qualify everything in our lives against Him who is our Lord and King.
It is quite fitting again to remind ourselves about the importance of worshiping God every Lord’s Day.The truth about “not neglecting to meet together” every Lord’s Day challenges every Christian in their own generation. Stated positively, the preacher of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 10:24-25 to keep this habit of meeting regularly to encourage one another in love and good works. These words serve both a warning and encouragement for all of us.
Metro Manila is now under “community quarantine” and case of confirmed patients with COVID-19 is 111 and as of this writing, it still continues to grow. Naturally, we think these events worry every Filipino citizen. This includes all of us Christians especially when we consider it in relation to our Lord’s Day gatherings.
Prioritizing God’s kingdom and his righteousness definitely means worshiping God during Lord’s Day is placed above everything else we do every day. Borrowing from a line I read from www.patheos.com, “Church Should Be Your Excuse for Missing Everything Else”. It should occupy the highest priority in our lives. None of us must take it lightly whenever hear someone habitually skipping the Lord’s Day or more so when there is postponement of it.
I am personally encouraged by the fact that the members of our congregation were genuinely affected and saddened by the suspension of our weekly public assembly.I heard a feedback from one of our members that he was very sad to know we will not be able to gather every Lord’s Day considering this is the only time set for bonding and fellowship with the members of our church. It is the schedule for our communion with the saints. However, he was encouraged by the fact that we will continue encouraging one another with our “supervised-family worship at home”. He is excited to lead his own family in worship during this most difficult period in our country as well as in our church.
So Christian, as pilgrims of Christ on earth, we look to God and see him for who he is -our Lord and King. He rules over us and give our allegiance to him.
ZCRC (Imus), our Triune God is the source of all things wise and good. He grants us mercy so we can give mercy to others. He alone occupies the highest position in his kingdom and calls us to put our full allegiance to him. Let us bow down and worship our God and King. Amen.