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The Purpose of the Beatitudes

Staff Member
Matthew 5:1-12

When it was time for Moses to receive God's standards for His covenant people Israel, he went up on a mountain and came down with the laws of God (Exodus 19:3 ff.). When it was time for Jesus to explain the heart of the message He had been preaching—the gospel of the kingdom of God (Matthew 4:23)—He went up on a mountain and preached what we call the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Many of the laws Moses gave the people had been grossly misapplied by generations of Jews. The Sermon on the Mount put the spirit back into the letter of the law.

The first section of the Sermon contains what are known as the Beatitudes. "Beatitude" is not a biblical word—it comes from the Latin for "blessedness." But it is a suitable word for Matthew 5:1-12; those verses describe nine states of blessedness (deep-seated well-being) experienced by those who practice the ethics of the kingdom. The nine beatitudes (one short of Moses' 10 summary commandments) are not qualifications for salvation. Instead, they come close to the apostle Paul's fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)—characterizations of the person whose life is closely aligned with God's. That person will experience blessedness—God's blessing—as a result of living in harmony with the values and ethics of God's kingdom.

Jesus summarized those values under nine headings: poor in spirit (in need of God), mourning (recognizes a need for forgiveness), meekness (humility), hunger for righteousness (recognition of one's own unrighteousness), mercy (extending mercy to others), purity (choosing to avoid sin), peacemaking (seeking harmony and unity), and a willingness to be persecuted for God's sake (includes the last two beatitudes).

Like the law, no one can keep the beatitudes perfectly. But they are the goal for all who would seek to live under God's rule.

source: Jeremiah Study Bible :: The Purpose of the Beatitudes
Good post.

The form of beattitudes was well known in Jesus' day. But his approach was shockingly different to others. For contrast's sake here's the wisdom of Ben Sirach...

I can think of nine whom I would call blessed,
and a tenth my tongue proclaims:
a man who can rejoice in his children;
a man who lives to see the downfall of his foes.
Happy the man who lives with a sensible wife,
and the one who does not plow with ox and ass together.
Happy is the one who does not sin with the tongue,
and the one who has not served an inferior.
Happy is the one who finds a friend,
and the one who speaks to attentive listeners.
How great is the one who finds wisdom!
But none is superior to the one who fears the Lord.
Fear of the Lord surpasses everything;
to whom can we compare the one who has it?

...which is much more in line with the way that we typically conceive of a good life. Children to be proud of, a good boss at work, stable friends and a measure of influence to accompany your wisdom. Who would disagree with that today?

But Jesus introduces the fundamentals of his kingdom with "blessed are the poor in spirit". I'm sure the crowd at the time could hardly believe their ears.

I've been reading and chewing over these verses for maybe 25 years. I know they are profound beyond measure and I have got nowhere close to appreciating the full depth of them.
Staff Member
I've been reading and chewing over these verses for maybe 25 years. I know they are profound beyond measure and I have got nowhere close to appreciating the full depth of them.

methinks we been chewing the same cud!
It is an interesting similarity between what Moses did and what Jesus did. Sort of changes the focus as we look at it. Does to me, anyway.

thank you for sharing @Chad

Bless you (both) ....><>

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