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Friday, November 2, 2012

Men's Study @ Harvest - "The Beatitudes: Sermon On the Mount" (Part 2)

I have really been enjoying my opportunity to go to the men's study at Harvest. It was my goal to challenge myself in order to invest in my personal study of the gospels since I am not teaching a weekly Bible study or consistently teaching in other ministries for the moment.

This post will encompass "The Beatitudes" in the Sermon On the Mount. Jesus begins his inaugural kingdom address with "blessedness" for all who live in conformity to his new kingdom life. I hope you enjoy all of the OT references because they are fascinating and intriguing! I am looking forward to adding future posts on Matthew's gospel as I have been reading more information on how the OT is used specifically in Matthew.

Matthew 5 - OT In the Sermon On the Mount
1. 5:1, the first verse has great OT significance. Jesus "went up on a mountain" is a repetitive theme throughout Matthew's gospel (known as "Jesus on the mountain motif"), to show how Jesus is God's new prophet and lawgiver to all nations, just like Moses who was the prophet and lawgiver of  the nation of Israel (cf. Matt. 4:8, 5:1, 8:1, 14:23, 15:29, 17:1, 17:9, 21:21, 28:26). It is very possible Matthew is implying direct allusions to the giving of the law through Moses on Mount Sinai. His audience would of absolutely visualized the biblical connection since they were the "the multitude" who was "taught" instruction as Israel was in Exodus. All of these OT references establish the purpose of the sermon. The purpose is to transcend the Mosaic covenant and establish a new law Jesus came to fulfill.

A. The first allusion is when Israel gathered around Mount Sinai while Moses went up on the mountain in Exodus 19:2-6, "They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain [like the multitudes], while Moses went up to God [like Jesus went up to the mountain]. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel [like Jesus did]: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom [those who do the beatitudes] of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” And more explicitly in Exodus 24:12, "The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction."

B. Second, the remembrance of the Mount Sinai account in Deuteronomy 5:4-5, "The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain [like Jesus did], out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD [like Jesus taught]..."

C. Third, the repeated theme by the prophet Isaiah who said from a mountain God will teach the multitudes his word in Isaiah 2:2-3, "It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples [like the multitudes] shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths [the purpose of the sermon].” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD [like Jesus taught] from Jerusalem."

The Beatitudes
A. 5:3, the beginning of the "blessed" statements known as the beatitudes (cf. 5:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11). The "blessed" usage was common in Jewish literature as a way of expressing happiness. "Blessed" allusions can be established as a reminder of righteous living in the kingdom of God as noted throughout the writings of the psalms, "Blessed is the man" (cf. Ps. 1:1, 32:1-2, 33:12, 34:8, 40:4, 41:1, 65:4, 84:12, 94:12, 112:1, 127:5, 128:1, 146:5).

B. 5:4, he "poor in spirit" is most likely a condition the materially impoverished faced. They were worthlessly and hopelessly in need, trusting God for everything in spiritual and social matters. The first two beatitudes promise those who are poor in spirit will "be comforted." This is most likely a fulfillment by the Spirit-anointed servant in parts of Isaiah 61:1-2, "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the comfort all who mourn..." (Actually, there is a messianic structure or formula in Matthew's gospel that flows exactly with the LXX Greek usage to showcase the inaugural coming kingdom of Christ. See the chart from Michael P. Knowles in "Hearting the Old Testament In the New Testament," p.67)

Sermon On the Mount
The Year of the Lord’s Favor
Matthew 5:1-12
Isaiah 61:1-10
v.3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven...”
v.1 “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…”
v.4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted…”
v.2 “…to comfort all who mourn…”
v.5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…”
v.7 “…they shall inherit the earth…”
v.6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled…”
v.3 “…they shall be called generations of righteousness…”
v.7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy…”
v.8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God…”
v.1 “…to heal the broken in heart…”
v.12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…”
v.10 “…let my soul be glad in the Lord…”

As Luke 4:16-30 reveals how Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 to declare the passage's fulfillment in the Messiah's coming, Matthew 5:1-12 explains how Jesus' teachings are grounded in messianic prophetic expectations and realities towards a renewal of life.

On another note, it was a common characteristic and wisdom saying of the Jewish world to be lowly and poor in spirit in order to not esteem yourself higher than others, especially God as in Proverbs 16:19, "It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud." Jesus desires the same that God desires; to be with those who do not exalt themselves in Isaiah 57:15, "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite." Yet, the term means a "pious poorness" where an individual is hopeless but God cares for them as in Psalm 34:6, "This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles." Psalm 40:17, "As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!"

C. 5:5, the "meek" are those who are humble and gentle to others. It is very possible Jesus is saying that you need to be like the law-fulfilling Moses as he later suggests you have to obtain a higher righteousness of the Pharisees. The OT states Moses exhibited meekness more than anyone else on the earth in Numbers 12:3, "Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth." However, a more plausible case is the direct allusion to Psalm 37:11, "But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace." They will not inherit physical land but a spiritual destination. Those who are meek receive the blessings of Isaiah 29:19, "The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord."

D. 5:6, those "who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake" can be compared to those who will be satisfied
when they seek the Lord in Isaiah 55:1-3, " “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David." Those who are afflicted by the ungodly hunger and thirst for righteousness in Isaiah 32:6, "For the fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the LORD, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink." Yet it is probably safer to associate this with the coming of the great servant who will provide for his people with substance in Isaiah 49:8, 10, "Thus says the LORD: In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you...They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst..." This idea echoes Psalm 107:9, "For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things." The NT goes on to explain that we do not spiritually live off physical food, but spiritual food [truth] which is the "word of righteousness" (cf. Heb. 5:13).

E. 5:7, those "who are merciful [show mercy] shall receive mercy" are linked to many OT passages. The first one is on the basis of God's revelatory nature in the wilderness described in Deuteronomy 4:31, "For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them" (cf. Ex. 36:4; 2 Chron. 30:9; Neh. 9:17, 31; Ps. 18:25, 86:15, 103:8, 111:4, 112:4, 116:5, 145:8; Jer. 3:12; Joel 2:13; Joh. 4:2). Secondly, OT allusions are linked to justice in 2 Samuel 22:26, "With the merciful you show yourself merciful." Also in Isaiah 30:18, "Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him." Lastly, it is linked to avoiding judgment on the bases of demonstrating such biblical character of mercy in Zechariah 7:9-10, "Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart." It is clear that Jesus is commanding his followers to show mercy in his day as it was commanded from the very beginning.

F. 5:8, those "pure in heart shall see God" repeats similar theological connections to OT living. Those who are pure in heart can properly approach [come before] God as indicated in Psalms 24:3-5, "Who shall ascend to the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation." Another psalm alludes to the spiritual measure where God is favorable and good to those with pure hearts in Psalm 73:1, "Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart." To be pure in heart is to internally be holy and righteous in your motives instead of only showing purity externally through the self righteousness of religion and tradition.

G. 5:9, those "peacemakers shall be called sons of God" also repeats similar theological connections to OT living. Psalms 34:14, "Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." Since the word "sons" means "children," the beatitude initially has vibrations to the sons [children] of Israel [God]. This is wonderfully explained in Hosea 1:10, "Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” Therefore, the initiative is for those who seek peace with all men particularly your enemies as in Proverbs 16:7, "When a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." This character is completely opposite to the worldly culture that is filled with vengeance.

H. 5:10-12, those "persecuted for righteousness sake" are reminiscent of the persecuted prophets in the OT, specifically Isaiah and Jeremiah. Isaiah explains how Israel will disobey his word and persecute the "Chosen Servant" [i.e. Jesus] in Isaiah 42:20-21, "He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear. The LORD was pleased, for his righteousness' sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious." And in Jeremiah 17:18, "Let those be put to shame who persecute me..."

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