Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Beatitudes of the Psalms-Part I

The Sermon on the Mount is considered by many not only the finest sermon Christ ever preached, but the greatest sermon ever preached (Of course, it goes without saying that if it was Christ's finest sermon, then it would be the greatest sermon ever.)  This great sermon starts out with the pronouncement of spiritual blessings commonly known as the Beatitudes.  In these Beatitudes we see both those who are blessed (what they have done to receive the blessing) and the blessing itself.  If you examine this passage carefully what you will see is these blessings are spiritual blessings, and these blessings are the result, the fruit if you will, of a right relationship with God.  These blessings belong to those who know God, love God, and serve God. 

To the Jewish people at that time, being blessed by God was not a new concept, and neither should be the concept that those who are blessed are those who have a right relationship with God, men and women of faith.  This fact had been stated for them right before their entrance into the promised land, as we see in Deuteronomy 11:26-28, "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse:  the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you to day, by following other gods which you have not known."  Now, these blessings were to them as a nation, but we also see blessings for those individuals who worshiped the true God and did not follow after other gods. 

There are two primary words for bless in the OT, barak and esher.  The predominant word used is barak, and it means to grant favor, to be kind or gracious or generous, or to be good to.  This word is used 330 times in the OT and we see it best expressed in Numbers 6:22-27, Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and to his sons saying, 'Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel.  You shall say to them:  the Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.' "So they will invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I will bless them."  We see many examples in the OT of God blessing His people, both corporately, and individually.

The other word used for blessed is esher.  This word is used 44 times in the OT and means a state of happiness or blissful prosperity.  It is the result of being blessed, it is the state of being blessed by God, of being the recipient of His gracious favor and lovingkindness.  It is literally the result of being in a right relationship with God.  Also, when this word is in the masculine plural it becomes not just a statement of the condition of blissful prosperity, but an exclamation (!!!) of blissful prosperity.  Of the 44 times this word is used in the OT, it is used as an exclamatory pronouncement 26 times in the Psalms.  We see it translated by the phrase "How blessed." (NASB)  So when we see this phrase in the Psalms it is an exclamation, not a question; and it is a pronouncement of how blessed a person is as a result of their relationship with God.  In essence, these verses become an exclamation of the blessedness that is theirs, their Beatitudes, because of receiving the blessing of God.  The blessedness is not just a single blessing, but a great blessing, a multitudinous blessing, a bountiful blessing; it is a blessing that contains many blessings.

Lets look at them:

Psalm 1:1-2 How blessed is the man who does not walk in counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path or sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  Here we see the person blessed because of what he is not doing...not living by the wisdom of the wicked (world), not taking the same path (course of life) as the sinners, nor participating with those who mock God.  The reason he is not participating in any of these is because he delights in the Lord so much that he considers His law and applies it to his life.  This results in this man being greatly blessed by God.

Psalm 2:12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled.  How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!  Again, a bountiful blessing, and this bountiful blessing is for all who take refuge in Him from the wrath to come.  The blessing is the escaping from this wrath, the wrath of the Son that is coming; and to escape the Son's wrath you must take refuge in the Son, Himself, by doing homage to the Son in taking refuge in Him.  Those who have placed their faith in the Son, who have bowed the knee and done homage to Him as King of kings, and Lord of lords receive the great blessing of being protected and spared from His wrath.

Psalm 32:1-2 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!  How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!  Here we see the blessing  that comes as a result of the forgiveness of sin.  There is a state of spiritual bliss that is a result of our sins being forgiven, of our sins being imputed (placed on) to Christ.  When our sins have been taken away, and we experience fellowship with God, the fruit of that fellowship is bliss.  When our spirit has been cleansed and our heart has not been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, then our soul enjoys spiritual prosperity.

Psalm 34:8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.  When we take refuge in Him for our salvation, we taste the goodness of Lord, we taste of the blessing of His presence, and we experience the bountiful richness of His love and mercy toward us.  If we being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more our perfect heavenly Father is good to us.

Psalm 40:4-5 How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.  Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You.  If I would declare and speak of them, they would too numerous to count.  Have you ever thought about counting the wonders of God...every star that He as created and named, every man and woman that is fearfully and wonderfully made, each and every blooming flower, the power of the atom, the heat of the sun, the beauty of the sunset, the sound of the surf, the beauty of music,  or the shake of the earthquake?  His thoughts toward us, those who bear His name, those who are in right relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, are as numerous as all His wonders.  We are on His mind all the time.  How much more blessed could we be?

Psalm 41:1 How blessed is he who considers the helpless; the Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble (evil).  We see here God's blessing of deliverance to those who act like Him and look to the state of those who cannot help themselves, and who are in no position to return the favor. (Romans 5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.)  (James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight or our God is this;  to visit orphans and widows in their distress...)  We are most blessed when we are most like Him!

to be continued.

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