A Study of Matthew 5:1-6
“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:1-6)
No where in the Bible can one find any more comforting words than those contained in the first few verses of the fifth chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew. Multitudes have read these words, spoken, and written from them, and found even some earthly satisfaction in them. But for the Remnant according to God’s grace, there is a special message contained therein which none but His chosen can receive or understand.
The text begins with Jesus viewing the multitude, and from the mountain instructing the congregation to sit down, then directing His discourse to His own disciples. He opened His mouth and taught them – not all the world, but His disciples – saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“ What strange language this must be to those haughty minded individuals of this world who believe that the only way to attain any satisfaction in this life is to get, to have, and to hold material things. But our Saviour leaves these things aside, and designs His words rather for those who are poor; poor in spirit. They have no richness; they are poverty stricken; they have no wealth; they are spiritually bankrupt, no claims, no vouchers, nothing with which they might plead, no IOU’s in their pocket; they stand before their Creator and Maker destitute of any merits whatever. They truly are poor. Not poor in pocketbook, not poor in earthly goods, but poor in spirit.
Surely those who have been born of the Spirit of God know somewhat of this language. How poor they feel to be when they look within; when they examine themselves, and find that they are wanting. Rather than having those merits that others expect will carry them to Heaven, they discover nothing but blackness, darkness, sin, evil, lust, and all manner of unclean things, which rather than setting them in good stead for Heaven, would drive them away from the gates of God’s holy throne. They are poor; very poor in spirit. Their spirits are made low, their spirits are lean, and they go about crying, “Unclean, Unclean.” They have nothing that they can bring in their hands to God. They stand empty, destitute. But the promise is that theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
How amazing! A kingdom for the poor. The Saviour said on one occasion, “The poor ye have with you always.” He was there talking about those who were naturally poor. We discover also that the Kingdom of Heaven is made up of poor folks as well. But their’s is spiritual poverty. They have abandoned all, forsaken all, even that which they seem to have had, and have taken up their cross to follow Jesus their Master. All of the wealth of their good works, all of the wealth of their Adam standing, has now been cast aside to the bats and to the moles, that they might stand in the righteousness of Him alone who is able to save. This is their wealth, and this is their riches, and this is that which their spirit aches for. They consider the words of Paul when he instructed the disciples that, “Though He (Christ) was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor; that we through His poverty might be made rich.” So you see, we must be poor before we can be rich. And in order for us to be rich, Jesus became poor; stripped Himself of all that we may possess all.
“Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.“ Not only is the little remnant poor in spirit, but their poverty makes them to mourn. They grieve, they cry, they find themselves in distress. They go mourning all the day long. And while others about them seem happy in their world, delighted with the trinkets, and material things this earthly habitat affords them, the mourners see nothing that shines or glitters for them. Everything they put their hand to is destitution. And inwardly, rather than improving, they find themselves more and more mourners and groaners, and they wail within themselves, “I have sinned; I have sinned.” They look at their standing before God and exclaim, “There is no hope!” They mourn and bewail their past lives. They confess that they would give a million worlds if they could to undo their wretched condition, because they know that they have eternally sinned against the great God who brought them into existence; and so mourning is their lot, mourning is their way, and mourning is a continual and abiding pattern of life for them.
Oftentimes the elect find their families and friends looking at them with whispered questions. They know those about them consider them strange. Their friends and companions cannot see why they have no happiness such as the rest of the world does. While their companions go rejoicing in this world, the chosen go mourning. While others have their heads lifted high with merriment and delight, their heads are drooping, their eyes filled with tears, their hearts aching, nearly ready to burst, for they know that they stand before their God as nothing better than the worst sort of transgressors.
What is their hope? What shall these mourners do? One thing they have learned is there’s nothing they can do. But there is, again, another promise which comes with sweetness and delight into the soul of those who think they can never cease mourning, and that is, “They shall be comforted.“ In the very midst of gloom, in the darkest recesses of their mourning, the light shines; maybe only a glimmer, maybe only for an instant, but there is a sense of comfort, a sense of calm, and a sense of peace. And when the waves have tossed them to and fro in this life, the billows of shame have risen against them, they have come to their wits end, they discover that there is yet comfort. They can be comforted. Thus the instructions went out to the old Prophet centuries before, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people.” Oftentimes these mourners find some little comfort in a gospel word, or find some comfort in the prospects of God’s mercy, or find some comfort in the hope of the righteousness of Christ imparted to those so unworthy as they are. And so its not a question of they “might be comforted,” but they shall be. There is no need to entertain hope of comfort for those who never mourn; those who have never seen their sins and grieved and mourned over them will never find the true comfort that lasts beyond the grave. But the elect family who find that the great bulk of their life is but one long series of moans find with a certainty the blessedness of the promise, “They shall be comforted.“ Maybe not now, but some sweet day.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.“ Some mistake the term “meek” to mean cowardice or to mean submission to any and all oppression. But we believe, rather, that as Moses was the meekest man upon the face of the earth, so God’s little children are also made to be meek for they cannot put themselves forward. They cannot rush to the front and promote themselves as dignitaries, or people of great note and worth, but rather, they hover in the background. They find that their place is in the lowly seat. They seek not to rise, for they consider others, yea, all better than themselves. They would be described in natural language as having an inferiority complex. But it’s not that at all. Those who are meek have been taught by the blessed Spirit something about themselves. They know they have no strength. They know they have no will to holiness. They know they have no power. They know that without Him, that is Christ, they can do nothing. They know that He is their All in All. And how, someone may ask, do they know these things? They know them because the Spirit of God teaches them at the proper time. They don’t learn this in the classroom, or by being instructed by others. Rather, they know it by virtue of their Spiritual birth. They are meek today, and they will be meek tomorrow. And yet even for these little ones, these cowering ones, is also found a blessed promise, “They shall inherit the earth.“ What a sweet, yet complex, promise this is. “They shall inherit the earth.” One thing we may be certain of, though we cannot fathom the full meaning of it, inheriting the earth certainly is not the same as conquering. We shall overcome through the blood of the Lamb, true enough, and we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us, but we conquer not this world. We overcome by Him, and we gain ground in His strength, but He has won the battle, He has fought the good fight. Our Saviour has gone forth to meet the enemy, and destroy him who had power over our lives, even death itself; and has conquered all enemies that we might gain the inheritance. Any who have eyes to see know that an inheritance is not something that one can either borrow, buy, steal, or contrive; but an inheritance is the expressed determination of another in your behalf. And so our Heavenly Father, from all eternity, had purposed to bless His little meek ones with the earth. Perhaps the new heaven and the new earth is under consideration here. We dare not say. One thing we can say is that even though the meek today are considered as few, and unworthy of notice as any can be, they are the very salt of the earth, and they are God’s chosen ones here, and they do rule and reign with Christ as kings and priests. Not later, but now. They are His, and He is theirs, and together as the Head and the body, they comprise His church on this earth, and none can dare raise arms against them, for no weapon that is formed against them shall prosper, and “They shall inherit the earth.“
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.“ In one sense this is a composite of the other statements that have gone before, and yet it is separate and different. What is there about hungering and thirsting that would bring benefits? To naturally hunger, to be naturally thirsty is a physical condition desired by no one, and yet the little family of God hungers and thirsts even to be hungry and thirsty. They long to find themselves hungry and they desire to find themselves thirsty so that they might again find the sweet assurances of the righteousness which shall fill them in the aftermath. They hunger not for the breads of this world, or thirst not for the drinks of the cups of kings. But rather, they hunger and they thirst after the blood and the body of their dear Redeemer. How they long to eat of Him, and drink of His cup. How they long to sit at His feet and hear His sweet words. How precious it is to them to be emptied of self, to have no taste for anything except His goodness, and then hear the sweet Psalmist say, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.” They want to feed upon Him; to find that their feeding is satisfying and filling, and that though they have wanted before in natural things, when the Lord is their Shepherd, “they shall not want.” To be filled with Him is to be filled with all righteousness, for He is the sum and substance of all holiness, purity, glory, honor, and righteousness. He is our right doing, He is our works, He is our all and in all, and we do, if born of His Spirit, hunger after Him with a great hunger, thirst after Him with a continual and abiding thirst, and our sweet promise is, “We shall be filled.“ Oh, to be filled! Oh, to be satisfied; to find that all of our needs are met in Him; to be before Him in all things as His little sheep guided and directed, set in the way, to be led beside the still waters, to be bedded down in the green pastures, to look to Him when the enemy approaches, to worry not about tomorrow, to fret not over material things, to seek not after the things of this world, to know that having food and raiment we shall herewith be content. Yes, the Elect of God hunger and they thirst, and the world would say that they are idle, and they are foolish, because they hunger and thirst after things that cannot be seen, but “The just shall live by faith.” They walk not by sight; they look not for the things which can be held with the hand, and seen with the eye, and felt with the natural body; but rather, they hunger inwardly and thirst spiritually, and so their sweet promise is, “They shall be filled.“ Could we ask for more? Could there be more? Yes, and the half has not yet been told. But God shall bless in due time to show us more as it pleases Him.
James Poole – 1988