Lord Jesus started His ministry with the Sermon on the Mount and like God gave Moses the Ten Commandments to guide the people about holy living, the Messiah God defined the contours of a blessed state. In like manner the book of Psalms also begins with the first verse defining the way to be blessed. In today’s life the words blessed, blessing or bless are commonly used for everything. But when we study the Beatitudes, we are left wondering, have we entered this blessed state in faith or we have to work for this?
What does being blessed mean? – In Psalm 1:1 the Hebrew word translated as blessed is ‘ashrey’ which is derived from its root word ‘ashar’ meaning to be blessed, go straight on or guide. In modern terms it is presumed to be fortunate or lucky but being blessed is not about fate but about having a right relationship with God who then leads us on to the right and straight path. The Scripture defines a blessed person in different ways – one is blessed who knows God (Psalm 33:12 or 144:15); one who longs to be in God’s presence (65:5); or one who knows what God wants and makes choices as per that knowledge(112:1 & 119:1); or one who cares about justice for others (106:3) and someone who has compassion for the poor (41:2).
Blessed is not only in achieving perfection in the above but “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1-2). It is because of grace and mercy of the Savior Lord who shed His blood for us to place us in this exalted state. In the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, Greek word makarios is used and translated as blessed and when God extends His benefits through His Son, a believer gets in to an enviable position from receiving God’s favor or provisions which extend or enlarge His grace benefits. It happens with receiving His blessings of faith and not blessing in faith (examples in Romans 14:22-23 & Revelation 14:12 – 13).
We have seen the meaning of the word in Hebrew and Greek, but as per Oxford Dictionary, in addition to other meanings, it also means ‘made holy, consecrated, endowed with Divine favor and protection and bringing pleasure or relief in comparison to what has been previously experienced. Everything we receive is an unmerited blessing from God and dictionary meaning of being made holy corresponds to the Scripture teaching about redemption only through Lord Jesus’ shed blood. His righteousness is traded with our sins and it is not about earthly blessings like wealth, successful marriage or business. All of these are part of what makes us blessed and are as a result of a good relationship with God but are not ends in themselves.
Is blessedness unattainable in our lives? – It is not an unattainable ideal but an ethical blueprint provided in the Scripture leads us to this through faith in the Savior Lord. The Beatitudes are a gateway to His kingdom and a blessed state that is received not in a school of ethics and hard work but into a kingdom of mercy, grace and redemption. Blessedness includes conventional blessing of the entire Scripture, the Old as well as the New Testament for as mentioned in Psalm 1:1, importance of God’s law for life to be blessed exists in both texts.
Words of the book, Deuteronomy are addressed to the redeemed from slavery in Egypt and chapters 26 to 28 exhort us to choose out of the two paths laid out before us – a path of blessings or the path of curses. The Word guides us to obey and follow the ‘narrow path’. As we step on to the defined path, the status changes for us, “Blessed or ashrey are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, the shield of your help and the sword of your majesty” (Deuteronomy 33:29).
This Old Testament state of blessedness is brought forward by Lord Jesus into the New but condition of living as per God’s law remains. Before delivering this Sermon Lord Jesus had been baptized, had faced Satan in the wilderness and made him withdraw, had fulfilled Scripture prophesies in various ways and had announced the inauguration of the kingdom of heaven. Before teaching He had Himself already treaded on the path and through the Sermon on the Mount Savior of His people from sins introduces His people to God’s law for His kingdom whereas redemption is given already (Matthew 1:21). Yet we must thirst for righteousness, be meek, be pure in heart etc. for the beatitudes do not teach what we must do to be blessed but rather define the blessings for the redeemed. Thus first is what we receive from the Lord, a blessed state and then define the characteristics of the Savior for us to aspire for to become like Him.
This path was already established by Moses, the Ten Commandments came only after redemption of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. What God calls us to be is defined in the life and works of the Lord to show us what His Son is like and in Him the only right is of faith. We cannot deserve this state of blessedness in Him by our works or anything else.
Blessings through trials – Usually my desire for God is influenced by my need for in trials we desire His presence more. In rain we need a shelter more than other times and during my prostate cancer diagnoses and treatment I felt a great hunger for God. As such we should not waste our trials and should rather aspire to get closer to God, for these are the channels for His grace. Apostle Paul was told by the Lord, “My strength is made perfect in (your) weakness” for his to say ‘when I am weak then I am strong’ for then God fills me with His power to strengthen me (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount lead to a blessed state of closeness to God and the word Beatitudes would mean ‘great rejoicing’. God spoke to Moses ‘face to face as one speaks to a friend’ yet Moses prayed to God “please show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18). All of us desire to see the Lord and commune with Him face to face and receiving that is called Beatific vision which all believers shall see in heaven. As such this Sermon describes what the Lord is going to do for the believers, forgiveness of sins and right to become children of God (John 1:12). This new birth in Him leads us to be in Divine presence forever, to see His face in glory and not His back as Moses was shown and to receive that eternal bliss.
Rewards of being blessed – The Sermon on the Mount first lays down the state like blessed are the poor in spirit etc and then the reward. On the other hand in the Old Testament it depends on us ‘who does not walk in the ways of the wicked and there is the reward and condition for that. What was aspired for or prophesied about is then confirmed in Romans 4:7 quoting Psalm 32:1 ‘blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven; whose sins are forgiven’ for faith in the Savior provides this.
Blessed state is when God shows His favor without looking at our state but looking at the redemption through His Son to make us fully satisfied in Him by helping us to let go of the earthly and grab hold of the eternal and heavenly. God’s greatest blessing is God Himself and Lord Jesus gave that to us, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). His glorious light is then transferred to us through the presence of the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of His own prayer for us, ‘That they all may be one, as You Father are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in us’ (John 17:21). The Beatific Vision is transferred to within us, impacting our souls through daily sanctification to be transformed into that oneness of His image. Being blessed is to have God.
Non believers are also blessed but differently but while informing us of this Lord Jesus exhorts us to “be sons of your Father in heaven who makes His sun shine on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). In the letter to the Laodicean Church the Savior Lord declares to them ‘you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, therefore change or I will spit you out’ (Revelation 3:15-16). The urging is to get into a blessed state of a close relationship with God for separation from Him has eternal consequences.
Effects of being blessed on our lives – Blessedness is a state of being while having the Beatific Vision available to us through His Word and His Spirit. Apostle Peter knows this to say, ‘you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light’ (1 Peter 2:9). This is the blessed state we are all in as believers.
Further, ‘your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 6:19) and after cleansing me of my sins, God comes in to help me change, to learn everything from Him and to receive ‘power, love and self control’ from the indwelling Holy Spirit. In Garden of Eden God was with the first two and then came the ‘veil of separation but Lord Jesus promises, ‘where two or three are gathered together in My name I am there in their midst’ (Matthew 18:20). The tense used here is present tense and it is not about some future happening and He promises I am and not I will be. To make it better than this also He blessed us with our individual fellowship with Him through the indwelling Holy Spirit creating an individual’s personal relationship with God.
There is no promise of wealth or riches or absence of trials or any special entitlement. The Holy Spirit prepares us to face trials and tribulations and persecutions in the world. How blessed are we as shown in the Word of God –
· Spiritual blessings that are far superior to the earthly – ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly place’ (Ephesians 1:3). Beatific vision is assured and we get His righteousness, resources, privilege, position and power and this is generally received through undesirable earthly circumstances.
· As God’s children we walk in the very authority and power of the Lord – Before sending us out Lord Jesus declared, “All authority in heaven an d on earth given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20). To train for their role 70 disciples were sent with authority and they on return exclaimed, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name’. In addition to their names being written in His Book Lord Jesus further declared, ‘blessed are the eyes that see what you see’ (Luke 10:17 & 23). We get to know Him and He becomes our Shepherd, the greatest blessing for us.
· Predestined and chosen to be holy – He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4-6). In love He predestined us for adoption as sons and despite our evil deeds of this life He did not change our destiny in Him.
· We are assured of an eternal inheritance in Him – ‘In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will’ (Ephesians 1:11-12). As part of His Divine family we inherit a part of what He has from the Father, the heavenly blessings.
In this state of assured blessedness I must ask myself some questions– What am I seeking more than anything else. Am I following Lord Jesus for who He is or for what He can do for me – body healing, financial prosperity or such earthly possessions? Are my comforts making me lukewarm towards God and the work of His kingdom?
Sermon on the Mount is the open gateway that leads us into and helps us display that blessed state in our lives that is given to us through faith in the Son of God. The indwelling Holy Spirit is fulfillment of that promise of the Lord for then the Beatific Vision of God’s glory gets enshrined in our mortal body. In this state we receive authority to ask anything that glorifies the Father on the earth and eternal life in His blessed presence in heaven after death. We have this in ‘earthen vessels’, our mortal bodies, but essentially we must recognize and live accordingly!