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The Beatitudes in the Old and New Testaments

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The Beatitudes in the Old and New Testaments

Copyright 2015 Zion S. Kwok

Published by Zion S. Kwok at Shakespir

Shakespir Edition License Notes

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Cover Photo: “Yellow Tulips and Sky” by Petr Kratochvil is in the Public Domain.

Quotations from the World English Bible (WEB) are in the Public Domain.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Understanding the Beatitudes

Chapter 3: Poor in Spirit

Chapter 4: Mourn

Chapter 5: Gentle and Meek

Chapter 6: Hunger and Thirst after Righteousness

Chapter 7: Merciful

Chapter 8: Pure in Heart

Chapter 9: Peacemakers

Chapter 10: Persecution (1)

Chapter 11: Persecution (2)

Chapter 12: Persecution (3)

Chapter 13: An Outline of Jesus’ Life

Chapter 14: Hope in the Midst of Suffering

Chapter 1: Introduction

Jesus Christ was a great teacher. He taught the poor and uneducated, while astonishing the wise and learned. He taught the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, as well as parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps His most famous teaching is the Sermon on the Mount. It begins like this:

[Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.]

These teachings are special, because they assign value and blessedness to characteristics we often consider weak. Instead of the strong and powerful being blessed, it is those who are in great need. This was a major theme in Jesus’ message: that we need God. Indeed, none of these statements would make sense in the real world if God were not in the picture.

Overview of the Beatitudes

Let us look at these eight blessings, or beatitudes, as a group. Two key ideas that are mentioned more than once are righteousness and the Kingdom of Heaven. These remind us of Jesus’ words:

Matthew 6:33 But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well.

When we consider the beatitudes in pairs, we see the following: to be poor in spirit and to mourn are to realize our needy condition; to be meek and to hunger and thirst after righteousness are to be dependent on God; to be merciful and pure in heart are to have a heart for men and for God; to be peacemakers and persecuted for righteousness’ sake are to work for men and for God. And the result in every case is to receive something from God.

We can also see that the first four beatitudes speak of a sense of need that leads us to seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, while the last four beatitudes speak of living out this righteousness because we belong to God’s Kingdom. But the main message of the beatitudes seems to be hope in the midst of suffering. You may have a difficult life now, but if you trust in God and live for righteousness, He will bring you into His Heavenly Kingdom to spend all of eternity with Him.

One Essential Quality

Besides teaching these qualities, Jesus also role modeled them. There is one quality that especially characterized Jesus’ life. Jesus said:

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Humility is the key to being poor in spirit. It is the vulnerable ones who mourn. The humble are gentle and meek. They may hunger and thirst. People who fear God will be pure in heart. The humble will be merciful to others, as they too depend on the mercy of others. They would rather see peace and not war. And the humble may be persecuted and insulted. So the humility we see modeled in Jesus’ life is required to live out the beatitudes. Consider these words:

Matthew 18:1 In that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” 2 Jesus called a little child to himself, and set him in the middle of them, 3 and said, “Most certainly I tell you, unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Without humility, you cannot even enter the Kingdom of Heaven! If you are outside the Kingdom of Heaven, you are lost and you will not experience even one of the blessings of the beatitudes. This is awful. But if you humble yourself like a little child, then you will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. God desires to show mercy to those who are in need, who are humble, and who fear Him. Oh, that you would experience the blessings of the humble!

Matthew 9:13 But you go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Psalm 103:13 Like a father has compassion on his children, so Yahweh has compassion on those who fear him.

Psalm 103:17 But Yahweh’s loving kindness is from everlasting to everlasting with those who fear him, his righteousness to children’s children;

Note that a “psalm” is a poem that is set to music and “Yahweh” is one of God’s names in the Hebrew language.

Overview of the Book

Having taken a brief look at the beatitudes, we will delve deeper into its truths in the subsequent chapters. God has graciously provided examples in the Bible that we can learn from. And when we look for practical examples in the Old Testament portion of the Bible, we find stories of real people that follow a chronological sequence through Biblical history.

In particular, Adam and Eve were poor in spirit when they were first created. They didn’t even have clothes on their back! But they were given dominion over the earth. Lamech named his son Noah, because he would comfort them. While Lamech mourned his hard labour of farming on cursed ground, God also mourned the sins that multiplied on the earth. Abraham and Isaac were gentle and meek, and God promised them the land of Canaan. Moses and the Israelites hungered and thirsted in the wilderness, and they were given God’s commandments, which embody righteousness. Rahab and Ruth showed mercy, and also obtained mercy. Samuel had a pure heart in a day when the priests were impure and visions were rare, and then God appeared to him. Solomon was a man of peace, and he was called God’s son. And prophets too numerous to mention here were persecuted for righteousness’ sake, but God promised them a great reward. We will read these and other stories from both the Old Testament and the New Testament from the World English Bible (WEB) translation of the Holy Bible.

After that, we will see how these beatitudes relate to Jesus’ own life and ministry. While Jesus modeled these qualities that He taught, these eight beatitudes also trace a sequence of significant events in His life. Finally, we will take another look at the glorious blessings that Jesus promised.

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Chapter 2: Understanding the Beatitudes

We find the beatitudes in the fifth chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew. On what occasion were they announced?

Matthew 5:1 Seeing the multitudes, he went up onto the mountain. When he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 He opened his mouth and taught them, saying, 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven…

There were many people who were sick, demon-possessed, oppressed, or guilty with sin who wanted to listen to Jesus. Jesus was approachable, so people came to Him. He sat down like a teacher, at the same time lowering himself to the height of a child.

Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven…

Jesus came to preach to the poor, just as the Scriptures prophesied:

[Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the broken hearted,
to proclaim release to the captives,
recovering of sight to the blind,
to deliver those who are crushed,
19 and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”]

Many people in the audience knew the Law of Moses, but wanted to know God’s way better. Jesus began His sermon with blessings, in contrast to the proclamation of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, where the message was accompanied by thunder and lightning. Now was the time for good news.

The Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount, as it has been called, continues from chapter 5 to chapter 7 in the Gospel According to Matthew. It was near the beginning of Jesus’ public preaching ministry, when He was growing in popularity. As the Kingdom of Heaven is a major theme in the sermon, Bible scholars have considered this sermon to be a declaration of the laws of Jesus as the king: this is what He expects in His kingdom.

The Sermon on the Mount includes clarifications of the law of Moses, saying that just as murder is unlawful, being angry without a cause will also be judged. And just as adultery is sinful, committing adultery in the heart is also condemned. Jesus also emphasizes living to please the Father who is in heaven. The Father is always watching, and He will reward you. The sermon also teaches us to be love our enemies, to be merciful, and to forgive one another. And after the sermon ends, a note is added about Jesus’ authority as He taught.

Matthew 7:28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he taught them with authority, and not like the scribes.

The Sermon on the Plain

On another occasion, Jesus spoke words similar to the beatitudes in what is known as the Sermon on the Plain.

Luke 6:17 He came down with them, and stood on a level place, with a crowd of his disciples, and a great number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; 18 as well as those who were troubled by unclean spirits, and they were being healed. 19 All the multitude sought to touch him, for power came out of him and healed them all. 20 He lifted up his eyes to his disciples, and said,

“[Blessed are you who are poor, God’s Kingdom is yours.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for their fathers did the same thing to the prophets.]

[24 “But woe to you who are rich! For you have received your consolation.
25 Woe to you, you who are full now, for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe, when men speak well of you, for their fathers did the same thing to the false prophets.]

Jesus tells us that we may not enjoy a good life now as His disciples, but we will be blessed in the future. It also warns us that if we are too comfortable today, we need to ask ourselves if we are like the false prophets, who tried to please men. Do you want to please God or men?

The Beatitudes Explained

Let us go ever a brief explanation of each of the beatitudes from the fifth chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew.

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

The poor in spirit are those who sense their need for God. The rich and the educated often think that they do not need God, but those who are poor in spirit know that they are dependent on God. The poor in spirit are blessed because God is ready to give them a place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

When we experience sorrow and mourn, we have the opportunity to experience God’s comfort because He cares for us. He loves us now, and one day He will wipe every tear from the eyes of His people. What causes mourning? Pain and disease and death are the results of sin being present in our fallen world, but they may also come to us as consequences of specific sins of ours or of other people around us. Those who mourn and come to God for forgiveness and healing will be comforted. Those who hope in the Lord will never be put to shame. In times of disaster, God strikes but He also heals. (1 Peter 5:7; Revelation 21:4; Psalm 25:3; Isaiah 49:23; Isaiah 19:19-22)

Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

At the time of Jesus, powerful Roman soldiers marched throughout the land. But one day, it will be the meek, the unarmed, the gentle people who will inherit the earth. God is the One who assigns each one of us a place to live. He wants us to be harmless people who do not fight with others to seize what is not ours. For He will give good things to those who seek Him. Kindness brings honour, but violence brings only money. (Acts 17:26; Psalm 34:10; Proverbs 11:16)

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Righteousness demands social justice. Jesus will bring justice to the nations. But righteousness is also a quality that we need inside ourselves. Do you aspire to be a good person? I want to be a man of integrity. If we hunger and thirst after righteousness, God can fill us with righteousness when His Spirit lives inside us, producing the fruit of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control. (Isaiah 42:1; Galatians 5:22-23)

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

God, graciously, is merciful to those who are merciful. God really loves mercy. He says: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice”. He wants to see you and me showing mercy to other people. Some people on the street may not deserve mercy from us, but neither do we deserve any mercy from God. Someone once said, “I never forgive.” John Wesley answered him, “Then I hope you never sin.” (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13)

There is a story of midwives who were commanded by Pharaoh king of Egypt to kill Hebrew babies as they were born. But the midwives showed mercy to the Israelites by sparing their children and God showed kindness to them by giving them families. Jesus also told a parable showing that those who do not show mercy make God especially angry. (Exodus 1:20-21; Matthew 18:21-35).

Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

It is important to have a pure heart, especially when it comes to the things we desire. People who are crafty always think that there is some trick when they are treated well. They think everyone else has the same evil motives as themselves. How can they put their trust in a God who is generous and good? When our heart is pure, cleansed by Jesus’ blood, we can see how kind our God is. It becomes easier to understand Him and to understand His words in the Bible. Then one day we will see Him face to face.

Otherwise, we could become like certain women who had desires that led them astray. They kept learning but never came to the knowledge of the truth. Having the wrong desires can make coming to church and reading the Bible tasteless, because we won’t notice God here – partly because we aren’t looking for Him, and partly because He chooses not to show Himself to us. Many people are blinded by money. Those who believed were able to see the great worth of Jesus Christ, but those who did not believe could not. For example, Mary was willing to pour out an expensive jar of perfume for Jesus, but Judas Iscariot betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver. (2 Timothy 3:6-7; Deuteronomy 16:19; Matthew 6:22-24; John 12:3-6; Matthew 26:6-16)

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

To be a peacemaker requires you to love your enemies and to be diplomatic. Be at peace with all men as much as possible; and don’t take revenge. God loves His enemies. Will you act like one of His children? (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:18-21)

Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

When making peace fails, we may be persecuted. We are reminded that we have a kingdom that can never fade or wither away. And no matter what happens, we always have the hope of a better resurrection. (1 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 11:35)

Many people today are not outspoken against believing in Jesus. They may think religion is foolish, but if you believe it that’s fine – just don’t talk about it. They may feel uncomfortable when you honour Jesus Christ as Lord, but this is something that we must do.

We can look forward to a great reward if we are persecuted because of Christ’s name. I was very happy when I had the opportunity to represent a Christian club at school. It was scary at first, but to think that if I was ever insulted, I would not need to take it personally because I’m being identified with the Lord of glory – that was really something! But people actually treated us respectfully, maybe because we looked too happy. But be careful not to be obnoxious, because people may not persecute you for Christ’s sake, but for your own failings. (1 Peter 4:14)

In the next chapter, we will begin to look at each beatitude in turn, together with stories that exemplify them.

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Chapter 3: Poor in Spirit

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

To be poor in spirit could mean two things: that we feel poor, in our spirit, remembering that we are dust; or our spirit is weak, in others words, humble. Someone who is poor in spirit does not think of himself or herself as someone very important.

Isaiah 66:1 Yahweh says,“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build to me? Where will I rest? 2 For my hand has made all these things, and so all these things came to be,” says Yahweh:“but to this man will I look, even to he who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word.

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:“I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit,to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

God is the King in the Kingdom of Heaven. He will live with us if we are poor and contrite (remorseful for sin) in our hearts, and if we take His words seriously enough to be afraid. Otherwise, God will not allow us to enter His kingdom.

The Story of Adam and Eve

Starting from the beginning of the Old Testament, in the first few pages of the Bible, we find the story of Adam and Eve, whom God created on the sixth day of creation.

Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God gave man dominion over the earth and all the animals, so mankind ruled as God’s representatives over His kingdom on earth.

Let’s continue the story:

Genesis 2:4 This is the history of the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that Yahweh God made the earth and the heavens. 5 No plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up; for Yahweh God had not caused it to rain on the earth. There was not a man to till the ground, 6 but a mist went up from the earth, and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Yahweh God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

8 Yahweh God planted a garden eastward, in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground Yahweh God made every tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10 A river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it was parted, and became the source of four rivers. 11 The name of the first is Pishon: it flows through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 and the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and onyx stone are also there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon. It is the same river that flows through the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Hiddekel. This is the one which flows in front of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.

15 Yahweh God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it. 16 Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.”

God provided man with everything good, sufficient for all his needs: a beautiful garden home, fruit trees for food, land that has gold and precious stones, and a job as a gardener. But God still had one more thing to give him.

Genesis 2:18 Yahweh God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him.” 19 Out of the ground Yahweh God formed every animal of the field, and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. Whatever the man called every living creature became its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock, and to the birds of the sky, and to every animal of the field; but for man there was not found a helper comparable to him.

21 Yahweh God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. As the man slept, he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Yahweh God made a woman from the rib which had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his wife, and they will be one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed.

Adam and Eve were poor in spirit when they were innocent, before the Fall. God told Adam to name the animals and he did. Then God made Eve, and Adam welcomed her gladly. They had no money. They didn’t even have clothes on their back! Yet, they were rulers over all of the animals and all the earth. You see, when God provides for us, we don’t need to accumulate piles of money. We simply rely on God. But this blessed condition was not to last.

The Fall of Man

Continuing the story:

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any animal of the field which Yahweh God had made. He said to the woman, “Has God really said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees of the garden, 3 but not the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, ‘You shall not eat of it. You shall not touch it, lest you die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You won’t surely die, 5 for God knows that in the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took some of its fruit, and ate; and she gave some to her husband with her, and he ate it, too.

7 Their eyes were opened, and they both knew that they were naked. They sewed fig leaves together, and made coverings for themselves. 8 They heard Yahweh God’s voice walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden. 9 Yahweh God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 The man said, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Adam and Eve were careful not to eat, or even touch the forbidden fruit. Eve knew she lacked wisdom, which is why she wanted it. But their downfall came when they disobeyed God. When we try to find wisdom, strength, and riches apart from God, look at what we get! We quickly discover that we need much more than we could ever imagine. First of all, clothes! Something similar happens when a teenager wants to move out from their parents’ home. They don’t realize how much their parents have provided for them, and it’s only when they strike out on their own that they find out how many things they need and how ungrateful they had been. Sadly, it is also too easy for us to be unsatisfied with the things God has given us.

Skipping ahead in the story:

Genesis 3:17 To Adam he said, “Because you have listened to your wife’s voice, and ate from the tree, about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ the ground is cursed for your sake. You will eat from it with much labor all the days of your life. 18 It will yield thorns and thistles to you; and you will eat the herb of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face will you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

In the curse, Adam had to work hard for his food. When we try to be independent from God, God will let us taste what that is like. We need to work hard, without any guarantee of success, and we remain insignificant, like dust. Remember, our greatest wealth is being cared for by God.

God Cares

How does God care for us? Let us listen to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 6:19 “Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and Mammon. 25 Therefore I tell you, don’t be anxious for your life: what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 See the birds of the sky, that they don’t sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you of much more value than they?

27 “Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment to his lifespan? 28 Why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don’t toil, neither do they spin, 29 yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, won’t he much more clothe you, you of little faith?

31 “Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘With what will we be clothed?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day’s own evil is sufficient.

The main point of this passage is that we don’t need to worry about money in order to survive. People who don’t know God seek food, clothes, and perhaps cars, houses, secure jobs, and pensions. They need these things. We may need them too. The difference is that God does not want us to keep thinking about these things. God would rather have us think about Him, His kingdom, His righteousness.

Imagine if you were sitting at home in the living room with your father. He tries to spend some quality time with you, but you keep mumbling: “I’m busy. I need to study these supermarket flyers. I need to find the latest styles of clothes on the Internet. I need to find a good job so that I can buy a car… and a house, or maybe just a small apartment – oh, it’s so expensive! Ahhh! I need to study business and earn lots of money. I need to save up… Sorry, Father, I don’t have time to talk to you.”

Our Father in heaven wants us to know Him and the things He cares about: His kingdom – which includes the people in the world that He wants you have a part in caring for – and His righteousness – that you do things the way He wants you to, especially when dealing with all these people. Meanwhile, He could give you everything you need.

Don’t make money your god. Our Father is much greater than any amount of money that we could ever earn. Just as Adam found work really hard, it is really hard to earn lots of money, and there is no guarantee of success. If we let God take care of our money, sometimes by giving it away, He has treasures in heaven prepared for us that are much better. Money lasts only a short time, but heavenly treasures last forever.

Jesus Experienced Poverty

Jesus once experienced poverty. He was homeless as He travelled and taught the word of God:

Luke 9:58 Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

But at the same time, the Kingdom of God belonged to Him. The passage continues:

59 He said to another, “Follow me!” But he said, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead, but you go and announce God’s Kingdom.”

And here is another story from Jesus’ life:

Matthew 17:24 When they had come to Capernaum, those who collected the didrachma coins came to Peter, and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the didrachma?” 25 He said, “Yes.” When he came into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth receive toll or tribute? From their children, or from strangers?” 26 Peter said to him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Therefore the children are exempt. 27 But, lest we cause them to stumble, go to the sea, cast a hook, and take up the first fish that comes up. When you have opened its mouth, you will find a stater coin. Take that, and give it to them for me and you.”

A tax collector was collecting a temple tax from Jesus and Peter. Instead of digging into their pockets and paying, Jesus told Peter go fishing and find a coin to pay the tax. Here’s an example where Jesus and Peter were poor, but they had everything they needed. God has promised to provide for us! Sometimes we Christians are called to be like the Apostle Paul:

2 Corinthians 6:10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

The Story of the Rich Young Ruler

And while the poor in spirit are blessed, those who are rich also need to take heed:

Matthew 19:16 Behold, one came to him and said, “Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” 17 He said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder.’ ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ ‘You shall not steal.’ ‘You shall not offer false testimony.’ 19 ‘Honor your father and mother.’ And, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” 20 The young man said to him, “All these things I have observed from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions.

23 Jesus said to his disciples, “Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into God’s Kingdom.” 25 When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Then Peter answered, “Behold, we have left everything, and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Most certainly I tell you that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on the throne of his glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 Everyone who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive one hundred times, and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many will be last who are first; and first who are last.

The rich young ruler tried to get eternal life, but his wealth was preventing him from seeing the greater value of following Jesus. Heaven. Heaven! HEAVEN!!! How easy it is to overlook the prospect of obtaining eternal life. Being rich and young and in power are very important things to people today, but none of these count when it comes to being accepted by God and entering His Kingdom. Jesus did not mention the commandment “You shall not covet.” Maybe the young man was greedy. It sounds like he loved his wealth and trusted in his riches.

God does not ask everyone to sell all their possessions so that we become homeless. But some people feel more secure when they own more possessions. I’m not saying that we should not save money, but our security should not come from money, and when we have more than we need, we should really think of whom we can share with. Consider these words:

1 Timothy 6:17 Charge those who are rich in this present world that they not be haughty, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on the living God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy; 18 that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life.

You may not be rich now, but one day you may get a good job, and who knows, maybe you will be rich. Don’t be arrogant and don’t put your hope in the wealth you gain. God generously gives us many things to enjoy. Likewise, be generous and willing to share with others. Don’t be a rich zombie – live a life of love that pleases God!

The Story of George Beverly Shea

Before we conclude this chapter, let us consider the story of George Beverly Shea, a beloved gospel singer who sang around the world in Billy Graham’s evangelistic crusades.

During the Great Depression in 1933, Bev Shea was offered a job of singing on the radio. It would offer him both fame and fortune, during an era when even food was scarce. One thing came to his mind. Bev asked, could he sing gospel songs on the radio? He was given permission, but only occasionally. While he wrestled with his decision, his mother gave him this poem by Rhea F. Miller:

[I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.]

[Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.]

[I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name.]

[He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead.]

Bev wrote the music to the hymn “I’d Rather Have Jesus” and declined the job offer. Instead, he spent most of his life singing gospel songs and leading many people to eternal life. He passed away on April 16, 2013 at the age of 104.

I hope that you too, will be poor in spirit today and find the riches of heaven both now and forever. Be content to live humbly, depending on God for everything you need. Don’t worry about not having money, good looks, brains, friends, or anything else. Seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness first, and He will provide whatever you need. If you have more than you need, think about whom you can share with. Remember that this life is temporary. God’s Kingdom endures forever.

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Chapter 4: Mourn

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

When people die, people mourn – but also on other occasions when there is bad news, such as the loss of the something valuable. We could also mourn for our sins. The Bible says:

James 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament, mourn, and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you.

We are also instructed to:

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.

But sometimes God tells us that it is time to stop mourning and rejoice again:

1 Samuel 16:1 Yahweh said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have provided a king for myself among his sons.”

We should also rejoice when our sins are forgiven. Consider the words from David’s psalm:

[Psalm 32:1 Blessed is he whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh doesn’t impute iniquity,
in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 When I kept silence, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy on me.
My strength was sapped in the heat of summer.]

Selah.

[5 I acknowledged my sin to you.
I didn’t hide my iniquity.
I said, I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.]

Selah.

[6 For this, let everyone who is godly pray to you in a time when you may be found.
Surely when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach to him.
7 You are my hiding place.
You will preserve me from trouble.
You will surround me with songs of deliverance.]

Selah.

[8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go.
I will counsel you with my eye on you.
9 Don’t be like the horse, or like the mule, which have no understanding,
who are controlled by bit and bridle, or else they will not come near to you.
10 Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but loving kindness shall surround him who trusts in Yahweh.
11 Be glad in Yahweh, and rejoice, you righteous!
Shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart!]

Mourn when you are struggling with sin, but when your sins have been forgiven, do not mourn any longer for them. You need to humbly accept that this is what you are, except by the grace of God. The Bible says:

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, “Rejoice!”

The Story of Lamech and Noah

Now let us turn to a story in the Old Testament that relates to this beatitude.

Genesis 5:28 Lamech lived one hundred eighty-two years, then became the father of a son. 29 He named him Noah, saying, “This one will comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, caused by the ground which Yahweh has cursed.”

Lamech named his son Noah because he would comfort them from their painful toil, which was the result of God’s cursing of the ground after Adam sinned. Meanwhile, God was also grieved about man’s wickedness.

Genesis 6:5 Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil. 6 Yahweh was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart. 7 Yahweh said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the surface of the ground—man, along with animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky—for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in Yahweh’s eyes…

Genesis 6:11 The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 God saw the earth, and saw that it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

Are you grieved about other people’s wickedness? How about your own wickedness? Mankind today is sinning, is sometimes violent, and will be punished. Yet God is patient. But one day He must judge the world. Just as most people lived normal lives until the great flood came, people will just be living their normal lives when Jesus comes back.

Matthew 24:38 For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ship, 39 and they didn’t know until the flood came, and took them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Have you ever felt God’s sorrow? Are you sad when you hear the news that someone died. Maybe they died from a drug overdose or in a train disaster. Are you sad when people are killing each other in Syria? Are you sad when teachers deny that the Bible is true? Are you sad when your classmates cheat on an exam? Are you sad when people are rude and mean to each other? There are people wasting their lives, looking for meaning in life, feeling sad, lonely, worried, hurt, angry, and bitter. Maybe one of these people is you? Are you sad when you think that someone you know is not saved and will go to hell if he or she dies? There is a quote by Bob Pierce that I like: “Let my heart be broken by things that break the heart of God.” Will you stand with Jesus, pray with Him, and love all these people that God loves?

2 Peter 2:5 and didn’t spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood on the world of the ungodly;

Noah was a preacher of righteousness, which must have been discouraging work since only his family was saved. Similarly we should preach the gospel that people should confess their sins, believe in Jesus, and receive forgiveness of sins.

The Great Flood

Then it happened!

Genesis 7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep were burst open, and the sky’s windows were opened. 12 It rained on the earth forty days and forty nights.

13 In the same day Noah, and Shem, Ham, and Japheth—the sons of Noah—and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered into the ship— 14 they, and every animal after its kind, all the livestock after their kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort. 15 Pairs from all flesh with the breath of life in them went to Noah into the ship. 16 Those who went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God commanded him; then Yahweh shut him in.

17 The flood was forty days on the earth. The waters increased, and lifted up the ship, and it was lifted up above the earth. 18 The waters rose, and increased greatly on the earth; and the ship floated on the surface of the waters. 19 The waters rose very high on the earth. All the high mountains that were under the whole sky were covered. 20 The waters rose fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. 21 All flesh died that moved on the earth, including birds, livestock, animals, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. 22 All on the dry land, in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died.

The ship that is known as Noah’s ark represents Jesus Christ, who died for us and rescued us from being destroyed with the rest of sinners. Just as there was only one ship, Jesus is the only way to be saved. The reason we can be comforted is because Jesus took away our sins and saved us.

God’s Comfort

What was God thinking?

Genesis 8:1 God remembered Noah, all the animals, and all the livestock that were with him in the ship; and God made a wind to pass over the earth. The waters subsided.

Despite the terrible devastation that Noah witnessed, God remembered Noah and had mercy on him and all the animals on the ship.

The story continues:

Genesis 8:13 In the six hundred first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth. Noah removed the covering of the ship, and looked. He saw that the surface of the ground was dried. 14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. 15 God spoke to Noah, saying, 16 “Go out of the ship, you, and your wife, and your sons, and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh, including birds, livestock, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply on the earth.”

18 Noah went out, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives with him. 19 Every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, whatever moves on the earth, after their families, went out of the ship.

20 Noah built an altar to Yahweh, and took of every clean animal, and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 Yahweh smelled the pleasant aroma. Yahweh said in his heart, “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake because the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. I will never again strike every living thing, as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.”

God was “comforted” by Noah’s sacrifice, which points to Jesus’ future sacrifice. Noah had just survived the greatest disaster in human history. Yes, it was not comfortable on board the ship, but this was no time to complain: it was time to worship. Noah’s sacrifice was clean and valuable. Remember that animals were rare. There were seven pairs of clean animals, so each animal sacrificed was 1 in 14 – for example, 7% of the world’s population of sheep. By his sacrifice, Noah acknowledged that he owed God his life and He should be thanked and given glory as God, the ruler of the world.

Then God comforted man from their painful toil which they endured because the ground was cursed. He also promised afterwards that He would not send another flood to destroy all living creatures. When God is comforted, He is quick to comfort man. Truly God’s mercy is new every morning.

Genesis 9:11 I will establish my covenant with you: All flesh will not be cut off any more by the waters of the flood. There will never again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it will be a sign of a covenant between me and the earth.

Lamentations 3:22 It is because of Yahweh’s loving kindnesses that we are not consumed, because his compassion doesn’t fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Today, God is grieved by evil and the whole creation is suffering too. But one day, Jesus will come again and God will make everything better. At that time, both we and God will be fully comforted. (Romans 8:19-22)

God’s Message to Baruch

Now let us read another story in the Old Testament to see what kind of comfort God gives.

Jeremiah 45:1 The message that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, 2 Yahweh, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: 3 You said, Woe is me now! for Yahweh has added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest. 4 You shall tell him, Yahweh says: Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up; and this in the whole land. 5 Do you seek great things for yourself? Don’t seek them; for, behold, I will bring evil on all flesh, says Yahweh; but your life will I give to you for a prey in all places where you go.

Jeremiah was a prophet in Jerusalem, in the southern kingdom of Judah, a few years before the Babylonian exile. Baruch was a scribe. He was probably one of the elite educated people who could read and write. Baruch helped Jeremiah write down the words of the Book of Jeremiah. The prophecies in the scroll of the book warned the people to repent, or else God would bring judgment from the Chaldean army. Baruch read it aloud in the temple courts. Then the scroll was given to an official to read to the king. But when King Jehoiakim heard the message, he burned the scroll and then ordered that Baruch and Jeremiah be arrested. But they escaped. (Jeremiah 36:1-26).

Literate, well-educated, and able to get a good job – Baruch became a fugitive. Now he has sorrow, pain, groaning, and no rest. But God tells him that he should not seek great things for himself, especially when God was about to destroy the whole country. Likewise, this world is going to face judgment. We should not seek great things for ourselves.

God does not promise to comfort us by giving us all the great things that we want for ourselves: lots of money, lots of fun, good looks, good marks, good friends, nice shoes, nice clothes, a nice phone, a nice car, a nice house, a pretty wife or handsome husband, cute kids, an easy and high-paying job, praise, fame, peace, prosperity, good health, and long life. We can get sick; we can fail; we can be forsaken by people.

God spoke these words to Baruch because He knew Baruch’s difficulty and He cared about him. God comforts us by showing us that He knows about our situation and He cares. God was able to promise Baruch life because He has everything under His control. Similarly, God has your life in His hands.

Yes, God may save you out of your situation – or He may not. To be comforted, you must also be willing to let God choose how your life will turn out. We really need to trust God with our lives. The words of a hymn come to mind:

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

God promised Baruch his life. God took away his fear. Similarly, God promises us eternal life so that we don’t need to fear.

Jesus Wept When Lazarus Died

Jesus also wept when Mary’s brother Lazarus died.

John 11:32 Therefore when Mary came to where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews weeping who came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 The Jews therefore said, “See how much affection he had for him!” 37 Some of them said, “Couldn’t this man, who opened the eyes of him who was blind, have also kept this man from dying?”

But He was also comforted together with Mary and her sister Martha:

38 Jesus therefore, again groaning in himself, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see God’s glory?” 41 So they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, “Father, I thank you that you listened to me. 42 I know that you always listen to me, but because of the multitude that stands around I said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 He who was dead came out, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Free him, and let him go.”

Jesus has power even over death, so that Lazarus was raised to life again!

Application

Here are some ways we can apply this beatitude:

1) Look at what grieves God – and pray for these things.

2) Grieve for sin – yours and other people’s. Grieve for sins you are struggling with now, but not for those that God has already forgiven.

3) Warn people that they need to choose righteousness, and that they need to repent and believe in Jesus before the judgment comes.

4) We may not have a comfortable life, or have many animals like Noah did, but we should acknowledge that God has spared our lives. In fact Jesus died for us, and we need to thank God for that. To worship God, we should give Him our best – our time, our possessions, and our love.

5) Rejoice in God’s love for you.

6) We can expect God to bring comfort because His mercies are new every morning.

7) We should not seek great things for ourselves. We should be comforted knowing that God really cares about our situation and He works all things together for good – that He has everything under control – even bad people. We may not understand, but God knows. (Romans 8:28)

8) We should look forward to Jesus’ second coming, when God will make all things right, when we will forget all our sorrows of the past, and we will be positively comforted. I mean, just think of it, your sin, your guilt – even that can be completely wiped out! What can’t God make right?

9) We know that Jesus weeps with us and that He can bring comfort even in the face of death.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

When we share in God’s sadness, we will also share in His happiness. It may not feel comfortable now, but it will be worth it.

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Chapter 5: Gentle and Meek

Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Some English translations use the word “meek” instead of “gentle. Meek means “gentle or mild”. It gives the idea of not getting into fights and arguments to get your way. To inherit the earth does not mean that you will have it all to yourself, but you will share the earth with others.

The meek can only get anything because we have a heavenly Father who will provide us with everything we need, because He loves and cares for us.

1 John 3:1 See how great a love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God! For this cause the world doesn’t know us, because it didn’t know him.

Jesus teaches:

Matthew 6:31 “Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘With what will we be clothed?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Our part is to actively seek the promotion of God’s Kingdom and the demonstration of His righteousness. This means praying and living for God’s glory and God’s pleasure.

The Story of Abraham

We will look at a few characters in the Bible. The first is Abraham. His name means “Father of Many Nations”. But during the first part of his life, he was called Abram, meaning “Exalted Father”.

Hebrews 11:8 By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out to the place which he was to receive for an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he went. 9 By faith, he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he looked for the city which has the foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Genesis 12:7 Yahweh appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your offspring.” He built an altar there to Yahweh, who had appeared to him. 8 He left from there to go to the mountain on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to Yahweh and called on Yahweh’s name.

Abraham demonstrated meekness, first of all, by his obedience. As well, God promised Abraham the land. Yet he lived in a tent, like someone camping, a temporary visitor. It was not yet God’s time for him to possess the land. Here we can see Abraham’s meekness in being submissive to God’s timetable.

Continuing Abraham’s story:

Genesis 13:1 Abram went up out of Egypt—he, his wife, all that he had, and Lot with him—into the South. 2 Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. 3 He went on his journeys from the South even to Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4 to the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first. There Abram called on Yahweh’s name.

5 Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks, herds, and tents. 6 The land was not able to bear them, that they might live together; for their substance was great, so that they could not live together. 7 There was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites lived in the land at that time. 8 Abram said to Lot, “Please, let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen; for we are relatives. 9 Isn’t the whole land before you? Please separate yourself from me. If you go to the left hand, then I will go to the right. Or if you go to the right hand, then I will go to the left.”

10 Lot lifted up his eyes, and saw all the plain of the Jordan, that it was well-watered everywhere, before Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, like the garden of Yahweh, like the land of Egypt, as you go to Zoar. 11 So Lot chose the Plain of the Jordan for himself. Lot traveled east, and they separated themselves the one from the other. 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, and Lot lived in the cities of the plain, and moved his tent as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinners against Yahweh.

14 Yahweh said to Abram, after Lot was separated from him, “Now, lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15 for all the land which you see, I will give to you, and to your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then your offspring may also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk through the land in its length and in its width; for I will give it to you.”

18 Abram moved his tent, and came and lived by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to Yahweh.

In this incident, we see Abraham’s meekness towards his nephew Lot. He tried to prevent quarreling with Lot and let Lot have the land of his choice. Abraham was rich and he was older, yet he allowed Lot to choose first. Meekness starts at home, with your mother or father, your brother or sister, your husband or wife, your grandparents, aunts or uncles, even your children, your nieces and nephews! When Abraham demonstrated such meekness, God promised him the whole land, which is like inheriting the earth.

Abraham Rescues Lot from an Army

Continuing Abraham’s story:

Genesis 14:14 When Abram heard that his relative was taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued as far as Dan. 15 He divided himself against them by night, he and his servants, and struck them, and pursued them to Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. 16 He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative, Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the other people.

Let no one confuse meekness with weakness. Abraham was courageous and rescued Lot from the combined army of four foreign kings! Being meek did not mean that he was weak or passive. Abraham acted when he needed to. Meekness is not an excuse to be lazy or irresponsible.

Abraham Believes God’s Promises

Did Abraham suffer a loss because he was meek? No! Even God Himself would be Abraham’s reward:

Genesis 15:1 After these things Yahweh’s word came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” 2 Abram said, “Lord Yahweh, what will you give me, since I go childless, and he who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Abram said, “Behold, to me you have given no children: and, behold, one born in my house is my heir.” 4 Behold, Yahweh’s word came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir, but he who will come out of your own body will be your heir.” 5 Yahweh brought him outside, and said, “Look now toward the sky, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” He said to Abram, “So will your offspring be.” 6 He believed in Yahweh, who credited it to him for righteousness.

Abraham recognized that everything he had came from God. He did not have a child because God did not give him one. Just as Abraham spoke with God, we need to pray if there is anything we lack, and not just think of our own ways to get it. And we need to trust God. Abraham believed God’s promise to give him many descendants, and today the nation of Israel is a testament to how God kept His promise.

Abraham Sacrifices Isaac

After God gave Abraham a son, his story gets even more dramatic:

Genesis 22:10 Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to kill his son. 11 Yahweh’s angel called to him out of the sky, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” He said, “Here I am.”12 He said, “Don’t lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

13 Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and saw that behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place Yahweh Will Provide. As it is said to this day, “On Yahweh’s mountain, it will be provided.”

15 Yahweh’s angel called to Abraham a second time out of the sky, 16 and said, “I have sworn by myself, says Yahweh, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 that I will bless you greatly, and I will multiply your offspring greatly like the stars of the heavens, and like the sand which is on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the gate of his enemies. 18 All the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring, because you have obeyed my voice.”

In his meekness, Abraham obeyed God’s command to sacrifice his son. It was more important to obey God and to please Him, than to save the one who brought him such delight, his own son. Abraham could obey because he fully trusted God. God had been good to him. And he believed God had power to bring his son back from the dead. Abraham passed the test. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

Abraham also acknowledged that God would provide. God gives or provides what is best. Today, God has given us Abraham’s offspring, Jesus Christ, to bless all nations.

To recap, Abraham believed that everything he had came from God, and in the future, God would give him what He promised – namely, the land and many descendants. Abraham did not argue or fight unnecessarily, but he even risked his life to fight in a battle when he needed to rescue his nephew Lot. Abraham is a good example of someone who was meek. We see later in history that his descendants truly inherited the promised land.

The Story of Isaac

Abraham’s son, Isaac, also proved to be meek. In the story when his father tried to sacrifice him, Isaac did not resist. He also lived in tents like his father as a stranger in the promised land. A series of incidents with the local Philistines really demonstrate his gentleness in the face of unfair treatment.

Genesis 26:19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found there a well of springing water. 20 The herdsmen of Gerar argued with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” He called the name of the well Esek, because they contended with him. 21 They dug another well, and they argued over that, also. He called its name Sitnah. 22 He left that place, and dug another well. They didn’t argue over that one. He called it Rehoboth. He said, “For now Yahweh has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land.”

When Isaac’s servants dug a well, the local people argued that the water was theirs. They were anything but meek. And when a second well was dug, they did the same thing. Instead of fighting for his rights, Isaac was willing to go somewhere else. He was truly a meek man who took pleasure in the absence of quarrels.

The Story of Absalom

We now turn to another Bible character who was not meek. His name is Absalom, which means “Father of Peace”. Absalom was the third son of King David.

2 Samuel 14:25 Now in all Israel there was no one to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty. From the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no defect in him. 26 When he cut the hair of his head (now it was at every year’s end that he cut it; because it was heavy on him, therefore he cut it); he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels, after the king’s weight. 27 Three sons were born to Absalom, and one daughter, whose name was Tamar. She was a woman with a beautiful face.

Absalom had good looks, and beautiful long hair! He also had four children.

Absalom Starts a Fire

2 Samuel 14:28 Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, and he didn’t see the king’s face. 29 Then Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but he would not come to him. Then he sent again a second time, but he would not come. 30 Therefore he said to his servants, “Behold, Joab’s field is near mine, and he has barley there. Go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire.

31 Then Joab arose, and came to Absalom to his house, and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?” 32 Absalom answered Joab, “Behold, I sent to you, saying, ‘Come here, that I may send you to the king, to say, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still. Now therefore let me see the king’s face, and if there is iniquity in me, let him kill me.”’”

33 So Joab came to the king, and told him; and when he had called for Absalom, he came to the king, and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king; and the king kissed Absalom.

To get Joab’s attention, Absalom set Joab’s field on fire! What kind of person does things like that? Absalom, in fact, murdered his brother Amnon after Amnon raped his sister, but he considered himself to be guiltless. Now he demanded that his father, King David, welcome him back with open arms.

Absalom Seizes the Kingdom

Continuing Absalom’s story:

2 Samuel 15:1 After this, Absalom prepared a chariot and horses for himself, and fifty men to run before him. 2 Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate. When any man had a suit which should come to the king for judgment, then Absalom called to him, and said, “What city are you from?” He said, “Your servant is of one of the tribes of Israel.” 3 Absalom said to him, “Behold, your matters are good and right; but there is no man deputized by the king to hear you.” 4 Absalom said moreover, “Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man who has any suit or cause might come to me, and I would do him justice!” 5 It was so, that when any man came near to do him obeisance, he stretched out his hand, and took hold of him, and kissed him. 6 Absalom did this sort of thing to all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.

Absalom provided himself with chariots and horses and had 50 men run in front of him. He badmouthed his father, the king, and pretended to be caring and humble.

7 At the end of forty years, Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed to Yahweh, in Hebron. 8 For your servant vowed a vow while I stayed at Geshur in Syria, saying, ‘If Yahweh shall indeed bring me again to Jerusalem, then I will serve Yahweh.’” 9 The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he arose, and went to Hebron. 10 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron!’”

11 Two hundred men went with Absalom out of Jerusalem, who were invited, and went in their simplicity; and they didn’t know anything. 12 Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he was offering the sacrifices. The conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.

Absalom secretly planned to be proclaimed king in Hebron – rebelling against authority. He wanted to be king NOW. He didn’t even wait for his father to die first.

Skipping ahead in the story:

2 Samuel 16:15 Absalom and all the people, the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him. 16 When Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, had come to Absalom, Hushai said to Absalom, “Long live the king! Long live the king!”

Absalom got what he wanted. King David had fled, so Absalom entered the capital city and ruled over the whole land as king. He was not meek, neither submissive to God nor to his father the king, but was arrogant and deceitful. He did not inherit his father’s throne, but seized it by force. But his success would not last, for it is God who decides who inherits the earth.

Absalom’s End

Absalom went to war against his father David and his cousin Joab, but Absalom’s army was defeated.

2 Samuel 18:14 Then Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this with you.” He took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the middle of the oak. 15 Ten young men who bore Joab’s armor surrounded and struck Absalom, and killed him. 16 Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing after Israel; for Joab held the people back. 17 They took Absalom and cast him into the great pit in the forest, and raised over him a very great heap of stones. Then all Israel fled, each to his own tent.

Joab killed Absalom and buried in him a pit. The Bible includes this concluding note:

2 Samuel 18:18 Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself the pillar which is in the king’s valley, for he said, “I have no son to keep my name in memory.” He called the pillar after his own name. It is called Absalom’s monument, to this day.

Absalom’s ultimate undoing was his pride, as shown by the monument he built for himself. He had no son – the Bible mentioned previously that he had three sons, so they probably died young.

First, Absalom took himself very seriously – maintaining his good looks, having a chariot and 50 men, and building a monument to himself. Second, He did whatever he wanted in order to achieve his goals. He had no respect for rules or authority – killing his brother Amnon, setting Joab’s field on fire, badmouthing his father, rebelling against his father. What would you do if someone ignores you? Burn their backyard? He showed no respect for his older cousin Joab, his brother Amnon, or his father David. Absalom was proud and he died young and he had no son to inherit any land.

Comparing Abraham and Absalom

Just as both Abraham and Absalom have “Father” in their names, we who trust in Jesus Christ have a caring Father in heaven. You have two choices:

1) Trust your heavenly Father to provide good things for you, even if the current situation is unfavourable to you or you need to wait patiently, or:

2) Take yourself seriously. Do whatever you want and despise the authority of the Father in heaven.

The choice is simple and the consequences are plain. But you need to have faith to trust in God. The key difference between a meek person and a self-important person is that the meek person knows God. Is there something you think you lack? Will you choose to fight for yourself, or trust God to provide what you need? Notice that Abraham trusted God, but needed to wait until he was 100 years old before his son Isaac was born. Yet he inherited the land in the end. On the other hand, Absalom trusted himself and became king when he was still young, but he died young and without any sons. Do you want to be like Abraham or Absalom?

Jesus Was Gentle

Jesus was also an example of gentleness.

Mark 10:13 They were bringing to him little children, that he should touch them, but the disciples rebuked those who were bringing them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was moved with indignation, and said to them, “Allow the little children to come to me! Don’t forbid them, for God’s Kingdom belongs to such as these. 15 Most certainly I tell you, whoever will not receive God’s Kingdom like a little child, he will in no way enter into it.” 16 He took them in his arms, and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Jesus was also gentle when He entered Jerusalem. At the peak of His popularity, when people heard about how He raised Lazarus from the dead, He did not march or ride into in the city like a proud conqueror, but rode on a young donkey.

Matthew 21:4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying,

[5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,
behold, your King comes to you,
humble, and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”]

6 The disciples went, and did just as Jesus commanded them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their clothes on them; and he sat on them. 8 A very great multitude spread their clothes on the road. Others cut branches from the trees, and spread them on the road. 9 The multitudes who went in front of him, and those who followed, kept shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Jesus would later inherit the nations, but this is a prophecy to be fulfilled in the future.

[Psalm 2:7 I will tell of the decree.
Yahweh said to me, “You are my son.
Today I have become your father.
8 Ask of me, and I will give the nations for your inheritance,
the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron.
You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”]

It probably sounds strange that a gentle king would break people with a rod of iron, but we can be sure that when He does act sternly, it will be for good reason. Just as Abraham fought with four kings to rescue Lot, Jesus will also fight to rescue His people. Then those who are gentle and meek will live together with Him in God’s Kingdom.

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Chapter 6: Hunger and Thirst after Righteousness

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

What is righteousness?

Deuteronomy 6:25 It shall be righteousness to us, if we observe to do all this commandment before Yahweh our God, as he has commanded us.

In this Old Testament passage, Moses is speaking to the Israelites:

Deuteronomy 8:1 You shall observe to do all the commandments which I command you today, that you may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers. 2 You shall remember all the way which Yahweh your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. 3 He humbled you, and allowed you to be hungry, and fed you with manna, which you didn’t know, neither did your fathers know; that he might teach you that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of Yahweh’s mouth. 4 Your clothing didn’t grow old on you, neither did your foot swell, these forty years. 5 You shall consider in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so Yahweh your God disciplines you.

God warns us to be careful to observe His commands. God humbled the Israelites by leading them in the wilderness 40 years. They had nothing there, so they needed to depend on God to survive. Then God tested them to see if they would obey His commandments or not. He caused them to hunger and fed them with manna. This links our two ideas of hungering and righteousness.

Has God ever led you to a place where you were unfamiliar with your surroundings and helpless? When I travel, when I go to a new school, I need to feel safe, I need friends. Or perhaps even now you have a sense of lack and are hungry for something. Maybe God is reminding you that you need Him. Do you need God? God didn’t just provide everything for the Israelites right away – He allowed them to hunger first, to see if they would have faith to ask God for help – and then He gave them manna to eat. Similarly, God knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8).

The Israelites needed to learn that man lives by obeying God’s word, not just by eating food. If we obey God, we live. If we disobey, we die.

Moses’ Speech to the Israelites Continued

Deuteronomy 8:6 You shall keep the commandments of Yahweh your God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him. 7 For Yahweh your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of springs, and underground water flowing into valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive trees and honey; 9 a land in which you shall eat bread without scarceness, you shall not lack anything in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you may dig copper. 10 You shall eat and be full, and you shall bless Yahweh your God for the good land which he has given you.

This passage tells us that God plans to provide very good things for His people.

11 Beware lest you forget Yahweh your God, in not keeping his commandments, and his ordinances, and his statutes, which I command you today; 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full, and have built fine houses, and lived in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 then your heart might be lifted up, and you forget Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; 15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with fiery serpents and scorpions, and thirsty ground where there was no water; who poured water for you out of the rock of flint; 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers didn’t know; that he might humble you, and that he might prove you, to do you good at your latter end: 17 and lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth.” 18 But you shall remember Yahweh your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth; that he may establish his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as it is today.

19 It shall be, if you shall forget Yahweh your God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you today that you shall surely perish. 20 As the nations that Yahweh makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you wouldn’t listen to Yahweh your God’s voice.

When God provides what we need and want, it is easy for us to think that we do not need God. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, we need to hunger and thirst after righteousness, knowing that we must obey God’s commands, or else we will die.

Paul’s Prayers for Righteousness

The Apostle Paul offered these two prayers for righteousness in the believers.

Philippians 1:9 This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense to the day of Christ; 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Colossians 1:9 For this cause, we also, since the day we heard this, don’t cease praying and making requests for you, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 that you may walk worthily of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

We pray that you will bear the fruits of righteousness by Jesus Christ. Rich people are a dime a dozen. Well-educated people are a dime a dozen. Popular people are a dime a dozen. God wants people who will bear fruits of righteousness, who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). Seek to be someone who pleases God. These people are rare and the world needs more of them.

Getting Righteousness

But how can we get righteousness?

Jeremiah 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may you also do good, who are accustomed to do evil.

We have a problem because we cannot change our habits easily.

This is what Jesus taught:

Luke 18:9 He spoke also this parable to certain people who were convinced of their own righteousness, and who despised all others. 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

How can we get righteousness? We need to beg for it – first for the gift of righteous legal standing from God, and then for the power to live it out.

Keep the Commandments

But perhaps you think you are already a pretty good person. Listen to this story:

Luke 18:18 A certain ruler asked him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 Jesus asked him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good, except one—God. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Don’t commit adultery,’ ‘Don’t murder,’ ‘Don’t steal,’ ‘Don’t give false testimony,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” 21 He said, “I have observed all these things from my youth up.”

22 When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow me.”

God is good. Only He is good. As for us, it is our duty to keep the commandments. Let’s go over each one.

Don’t commit adultery – this means not to have sex with someone who is not your rightfully wedded wife or husband. Adultery of the heart is to strengthen your desire to commit adultery. One way is to watch pornography. There is plenty of that on the Internet, and I’m sure sometimes suggestive pictures pop up in ads. Know that the desire to commit adultery is contrary to love – it ruins other people’s lives, and God hates it, so get rid of these thoughts.

Moreover, in the Old Testament, God considered worshipping idols to be spiritual adultery. When we love anything more than God – money, food, entertainment, even if it is your friends or family – it is spiritual adultery. So the first thing that Jesus pointed out is – where is your heart? Do you love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength? In the Parable of the Sower, it was the cares, riches and pleasures of life that choked the plant and made it unfruitful. For some of you it may be work, school, sports, TV, videos, games, sleep – many of these are fine, as long as they are in their proper place. But God does not want your life to revolve completely around any of these things. Your life needs to have God as its center while you enjoy other things as He directs you. (Jeremiah 3:9, 20; Luke 10:27; Matthew 13:22; Luke 8:14)

Maybe you are bored and need some excitement. Or maybe you are unhappy with your relationships with people. These are reasons why people commit physical adultery or spiritual adultery. God is serious, but He is not boring. He is hard at work in rescuing the perishing, transforming lives, and bringing new mercies every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Don’t murder – this means don’t kill someone. There are exceptions for the government to uphold the rule of law, but for us ordinary people, this means don’t kill your neighbour. Jesus said being angry with someone without a cause is comparable to murder. Or maybe you don’t want someone to die, but you want to get even, or you don’t ever want to forgive someone. It is still unacceptable because you want harm for someone and you do not have love inside you. (Matthew 5:21-22)

Don’t steal – don’t take things that don’t belong to you. You might think: these people are rich and they won’t miss it – but you never know how much trouble you can cause. Someone had their house broken into and their laptop was stolen. Sure, they have insurance to get a replacement, but what about everything on that laptop! What great trouble you have brought on them! Don’t steal from your friends and classmates. Don’t steal marks by cheating. Don’t steal time by being lazy on a job where you are paid by the hour. Don’t steal music and movies on the Internet that you know you need to pay for legally. Pay your taxes.

Don’t give false testimony – tell the truth, especially when it concerns other people’s character. Don’t make people look bad with misleading comments.

Honor your father and your mother – children, obey your parents. Listen to what they have to say to you. Don’t talk back or slam the door before they are finished speaking. Don’t tell all your friends how terrible your parents are. And when you grow up to become an adult, treat your parents with respect.

The ruler did what he thought was right, and this is commendable. I suppose he did not commit the serious sins in public, but what was inside his heart? Jesus said: “Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor.” In other words, love your neighbour as yourself. Christ only told him to do what He himself did. This would be the beginning of following Jesus. What was the young man’s response?

23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was very rich.

It was impossible for him, because the ruler’s starting point was wrong. He was still very much self-centered. Righteousness is doing right-ness. What is the right thing to do? The world will tell you that as long as you don’t harm anyone else, you are free to do whatever you want. The Bible says the right thing to do is to do our heavenly Father’s will. Following Jesus means not doing whatever you want. No one has ever met this requirement fully by himself or herself. We must beg God for true righteousness.

Doing the Will of God

Why in the world would anyone want to do whatever God wants? Besides the fact that God made us, “gives to all life and breath, and all things” [take a breath] (Acts 17:25), and has authority over us, and so we need to obey Him in order to do what is right – we know it is the right thing to do, but why would we delight in doing God’s will? Two things: faith and love.

First, we trust that God is truly good, and even in His plans that involve testing us, making us hungry, and making us face difficulties, He has some good purpose. And second, God loves us so much that He gave us His Son to die for us, and He lets us call Him Father.

Actually a third reason is that we know that left to ourselves, all we have are deeds and desires that don’t give us lasting happiness. Instead, when we go our own way, it leads to disappointment, shame and punishment. There is only One who is good, and that is God. Let’s follow His lead.

God’s promise is that if we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we would be filled. God will take care of things that we might worry about so that we can concentrate on doing His will.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well.

The Story of Jesus at Sychar

Jesus hungered and thirsted when He sat by Jacob’s well.

John 4:5 So he came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son, Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being tired from his journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

But His attention was soon turned towards the Samaritan woman who came to draw water. He told her about the living water that He could give her that would bring her eternal life. After the woman left, the men of the town also came to hear Jesus’ words of life. Skipping ahead in the story:

28 So the woman left her water pot, and went away into the city, and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything that I did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the city, and were coming to him.

31 In the meanwhile, the disciples urged him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.” 33 The disciples therefore said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. 35 Don’t you say, ‘There are yet four months until the harvest?’ Behold, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and look at the fields, that they are white for harvest already. 36 He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit to eternal life; that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this the saying is true, ‘One sows, and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you haven’t labored. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 From that city many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the word of the woman, who testified, “He told me everything that I did.”

Jesus said that doing the will of God was His food. He cared more about the people who would come to hear His message of salvation, than the physical food that the disciples had just brought to him. And He was filled with the joy of seeing so many people believing in Him for salvation.

Application

What can we do practically to hunger and thirst after righteousness?

1) Ask. Lay your needs and desires before God. Pick a time, maybe just before you sleep. Tell God your needs and desires. Depend on Him to help you. Don’t live like you don’t need God, because that means you are taking everything He has given for granted. The Lord Jesus taught his disciples to pray like this:

Luke 11:2 He said to them, “When you pray, say,‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

You see that the life described by this prayer is extremely simple: honour God, receive daily gifts of food, ask for forgiveness, and avoid sin. Is this what you want? Hunger and thirst after righteousness.

2) Read the Bible. See what God wants you to do. You could read one or two chapters a day, or you could read more or you could read less. Don’t stop reading it, even if you can only read four verses. If God reminds you of anything, maybe from just one verse, be sure to obey it when a related situation arises. Imagine if you learned to obey one thing every day for 365 days! Of course, usually these are old lessons that we may have forgotten about. By reading God’s Word, we learn to think the same way that God thinks.

3) Take every opportunity to do what God wants. It may mean telling people about the good news of eternal life in Jesus Christ.

God’s Response

What will God do in response?

1) God will not be angry.

Isaiah 57:16 For I will not contend forever, neither will I be always angry; for the spirit would faint before me, and the souls whom I have made.

2) God will show compassion.

[Psalm 103:13 Like a father has compassion on his children,
so Yahweh has compassion on those who fear him.
14 For he knows how we are made.
He remembers that we are dust.]

3) You will be filled with good things. These include righteousness, joy, and the Holy Spirit.

Luke 1:53 He has filled the hungry with good things. He has sent the rich away empty.

Romans 14:17 for God’s Kingdom is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

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Chapter 7: Merciful

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Mercy is compassionate treatment of the unfortunate and helpless, according to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. When we consider the Hebrew word for mercy used in the Old Testament, it carries a meaning of someone greater showing kindness to someone lesser.

First, let us read excerpts from the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Pay attention to the names, as some of them will show up later in the chapter.

Matthew 1:1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham became the father of Isaac. Isaac became the father of Jacob. Jacob became the father of Judah and his brothers…

5 Salmon became the father of Boaz by Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed by Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse. 6 Jesse became the father of King David. David became the father of Solomon by her who had been Uriah’s wife…

16 Jacob became the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, from whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

Here we find the names of two women, Rahab and Ruth, who demonstrated mercy. They were both ancestors of Jesus Christ.

The Story of Rahab

We find the story of Rahab in the Old Testament’s Book of Joshua.

Joshua 2:1 Joshua the son of Nun secretly sent two men out of Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, including Jericho.” They went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and slept there. 2 The king of Jericho was told, “Behold, men of the children of Israel came in here tonight to spy out the land.” 3 Jericho’s king sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered into your house; for they have come to spy out all the land.”

4 The woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I didn’t know where they came from. 5 About the time of the shutting of the gate, when it was dark, the men went out. Where the men went, I don’t know. Pursue them quickly. You may catch up with them.” 6 But she had brought them up to the roof, and hidden them under the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof. 7 The men pursued them along the way to the fords of the Jordan River. As soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate.

8 Before they had lain down, she came up to them on the roof. 9 She said to the men, “I know that Yahweh has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how Yahweh dried up the water of the Red Sea before you, when you came out of Egypt; and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites, who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and to Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 As soon as we had heard it, our hearts melted, and there wasn’t any more spirit in any man, because of you: for Yahweh your God, he is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath.

Rahab showed mercy to the spies. She betrayed her king, but God’s authority is supreme.

12 Now therefore, please swear to me by Yahweh, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a true sign; 13 and that you will save alive my father, my mother, my brothers, and my sisters, and all that they have, and will deliver our lives from death.” 14 The men said to her, “Our life for yours, if you don’t talk about this business of ours; and it shall be, when Yahweh gives us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.” 15 Then she let them down by a cord through the window; for her house was on the side of the wall, and she lived on the wall.

Joshua 6:20 So the people shouted and the priests blew the trumpets. When the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight in front of him, and they took the city. 21 They utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, both young and old, and ox, sheep, and donkey, with the edge of the sword…25 But Rahab the prostitute, her father’s household, and all that she had, Joshua saved alive. She lives in the middle of Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers, whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

Have you ever felt that you could die soon? Why was Rahab allowed to live when the Israelites destroyed the city of Jericho? She had saved the spies’ lives. After being merciful, she obtained mercy.

The Story of Ruth

The story of Ruth is told in the Book of Ruth.

Ruth 1:1 In the days when the judges judged, there was a famine in the land. A certain man of Bethlehem Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi. The names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem Judah. They came into the country of Moab, and lived there. 3 Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. 4 They took for themselves wives of the women of Moab. The name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other was Ruth. They lived there about ten years. 5 Mahlon and Chilion both died, and the woman was bereaved of her two children and of her husband.

6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law, that she might return from the country of Moab; for she had heard in the country of Moab how Yahweh had visited his people in giving them bread. 7 She went out of the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her. They went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May Yahweh deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead, and with me. 9 May Yahweh grant you that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices, and wept. 10 They said to her, “No, but we will return with you to your people.”

11 Naomi said, “Go back, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Go back, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say, ‘I have hope,’ if I should even have a husband tonight, and should also bear sons; 13 would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from having husbands? No, my daughters, for it grieves me seriously for your sakes, for Yahweh’s hand has gone out against me.” 14 They lifted up their voices, and wept again; then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth joined with her.

15 She said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people, and to her god. Follow your sister-in-law.” 16 Ruth said, “Don’t urge me to leave you, and to return from following you, for where you go, I will go; and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May Yahweh do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.”

Don’t you think Naomi’s life was tragic? Poor Naomi! She had a happy family, and then they all died in a foreign country. Ruth showed mercy to her mother-in-law by accompanying her back to the land of Judah, away from her native homeland of Moab. Otherwise, Naomi would have no one left in her family.

Meet Boaz

The story continues:

Ruth 2:1 Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech, and his name was Boaz. 2 Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me now go to the field, and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I find favor.” She said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 She went, and came and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.

4 Behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, “May Yahweh be with you.” They answered him, “May Yahweh bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was set over the reapers, “Whose young lady is this?” 6 The servant who was set over the reapers answered, “It is the Moabite lady who came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came, and has continued even from the morning until now, except that she rested a little in the house.”

8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Don’t go to glean in another field, and don’t go from here, but stay here close to my maidens. 9 Let your eyes be on the field that they reap, and go after them. Haven’t I commanded the young men not to touch you? When you are thirsty, go to the vessels, and drink from that which the young men have drawn.”

10 Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should take knowledge of me, since I am a foreigner?”

11 Boaz answered her, “I have been fully told about all that you have done to your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother, and the land of your birth, and have come to a people that you didn’t know before. 12 May Yahweh repay your work, and a full reward be given to you from Yahweh, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

13 Then she said, “Let me find favor in your sight, my lord, because you have comforted me, and because you have spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not as one of your servants.”

What did it cost Ruth to be merciful? Ruth had to leave her own family and country. Furthermore, she had to find work to support herself and her mother-in-law. Mercy often requires sacrifice and hard work.

As for Boaz, do you think he was a kind man? Boaz allowed Ruth to do what the law permitted – to pick up the grain left by the harvesters. Boaz welcomed her, offered her water to drink, and guaranteed her safety. Later the Bible tells us that he even told his workers to purposely leave sheaves of grain on the ground so that Ruth could pick them up. (Ruth 2:16)

Boaz was being merciful to this poor and needy foreigner. Do you remember who Boaz’s mother was? From Jesus’ genealogy, we read that Boaz’s mother was Rahab! She too was a foreigner and had received mercy.

Today, we too can come close to Jesus, who is kinder than Boaz, and receive mercy in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:15 For we don’t have a high priest who can’t be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but one who has been in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace for help in time of need.

Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses, because he too suffered. He was once despised and rejected.

[Isaiah 53:3 He was despised, and rejected by men;
a man of suffering, and acquainted with disease.
He was despised as one from whom men hide their face;
and we didn’t respect him.]

The story of Ruth and Boaz has a happy ending:

Ruth 4:13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife; and he went in to her, and Yahweh enabled her to conceive, and she bore a son. 14 The women said to Naomi, “Blessed be Yahweh, who has not left you today without a near kinsman. Let his name be famous in Israel.

Not only did Ruth and Boaz marry merciful people like themselves, they were blessed with a son, and were ultimately ancestors of King David and Jesus Christ!

The Story of King David and Uriah’s Wife

But now we turn our attention to an example where mercy was sorely lacking. Although King David was a great man of God, there is one notable story of his tragic moral failure:

2 Samuel 11:26 When Uriah’s wife heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. 27 When the mourning was past, David sent and took her home to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased Yahweh.

David slept with Uriah’s wife while Uriah was away at war. When she became pregnant, David gave orders to have Uriah killed in battle. What he did was terrible!

2 Samuel 12:1 Yahweh sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and raised. It grew up together with him, and with his children. It ate of his own food, drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was like a daughter to him. 4 A traveler came to the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to prepare for the wayfaring man who had come to him, but took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

5 David’s anger burned hot against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As Yahweh lives, the man who has done this deserves to die! 6 He must restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity!”

Do you find Nathan’s story shocking? The rich man had complete disregard for the feelings of the poor man. We can feel how sad the poor man must have been. The ewe lamb was worth so much to him, unlike something that can be measured in terms of money – it was like his daughter! The rich man was unwilling to make even a small sacrifice by taking a sheep from his own flocks.

Why did the rich man deserve to die? He deserved to die because he did something heartless and had no compassion. It can be easy for us to be insensitive to other people. Do you ever notice people who are in need? Maybe the new kid at church? Or the new immigrant down the block? Or someone very sad or very angry? Perhaps the rich man should have given some gifts to the poor man instead of stealing from him!

Let’s continue the story:

2 Samuel 12:7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man. This is what Yahweh, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that would have been too little, I would have added to you many more such things. 9 Why have you despised Yahweh’s word, to do that which is evil in his sight? You have struck Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10 Now therefore the sword will never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have taken Uriah the Hittite’s wife to be your wife.’

11 “This is what Yahweh says: ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he will lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did this secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.’” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against Yahweh.” Nathan said to David, “Yahweh also has put away your sin. You will not die. 14 However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to Yahweh’s enemies to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you will surely die.”

Although David confessed his sin and God forgave him, his punishment was that the sword would not depart from his house. His son Absalom later killed his brother Amnon, and even started a civil war to try to kill David! Also, David and Bathsheba’s first son died.

Does this story only apply to rich people? Even if we have no money, we can be cruel with our words. Have you ever had someone say something mean to you? Or maybe you make jokes about other people, which you think are funny.

Instead, we need to show mercy like Tim Jones. He was a North Shore Rescue team leader, who would volunteer his personal time to rescue lost and stranded hikers on the mountains north of Vancouver. Sadly, on the evening of Jan. 19, 2014, he died while walking on one of the mountain trails. He could have chosen not to rescue people, but his merciful heart made him do what he did.

Jesus Was Merciful

Jesus was certainly merciful to many people.

Luke 7:22 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John the things which you have seen and heard: that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.

He was also merciful to sinners and to people who were oppressed by the evil one. Once, he crossed the sea into non-Jewish territory to rescue a man from permanent demon-possession.

Mark 5:1 They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. 2 When he had come out of the boat, immediately a man with an unclean spirit met him out of the tombs. 3 He lived in the tombs. Nobody could bind him any more, not even with chains, 4 because he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him, and the fetters broken in pieces. Nobody had the strength to tame him. 5 Always, night and day, in the tombs and in the mountains, he was crying out, and cutting himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and bowed down to him, 7 and crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, don’t torment me.” 8 For he said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

9 He asked him, “What is your name?” He said to him, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 He begged him much that he would not send them away out of the country. 11 Now on the mountainside there was a great herd of pigs feeding. 12 All the demons begged him, saying, “Send us into the pigs, that we may enter into them.” 13 At once Jesus gave them permission. The unclean spirits came out and entered into the pigs. The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and they were drowned in the sea. 14 Those who fed them fled, and told it in the city and in the country.

The people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They came to Jesus, and saw him who had been possessed by demons sitting, clothed, and in his right mind, even him who had the legion; and they were afraid. 16 Those who saw it declared to them what happened to him who was possessed by demons, and about the pigs. 17 They began to beg him to depart from their region.

18 As he was entering into the boat, he who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 He didn’t allow him, but said to him, “Go to your house, to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he had mercy on you.” 20 He went his way, and began to proclaim in Decapolis how Jesus had done great things for him, and everyone marveled.

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Let us read one more story that Jesus told:

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I don’t tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven.

23 Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. 24 When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But because he couldn’t pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!’ 27 The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

28 “But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you!’ 30 He would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due.

31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord called him in, and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me. 33 Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?’ 34 His lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.”

The meaning is clear: God will be very angry with you if you do not forgive your brother.

Summary

Be merciful. God promises that you will be shown mercy. In fact, we have already been shown mercy when God forgave our sins, but He will show even more mercy, because He is kind and merciful. He is the merciful and gracious God (Exodus 34:6). But if we do not show mercy, God will ask: why should I show mercy to you? Be warned, and don’t put yourself under God’s wrath.

But we can always come to God, because Jesus is merciful, and we can find help from Him at any time. Our God is merciful, so we too should look around to see people in need, and show mercy to them.

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Chapter 8: Pure in Heart

Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Those who have a pure or clean heart will see God. Seeing God is a privilege that only a few people have. God hides Himself from those who are evil. Yes, everyone can see His creation, and His Word is available for everyone to read, but to be in a face-to-face relationship with God is reserved only for those who have clean hearts.

Having a Clean Heart

How can we have a clean heart?

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we confess our sins, God has promised to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.

Titus 1:15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16 They profess that they know God, but by their deeds they deny him, being abominable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work.

The pure are contrasted with people who are defiled by sin and unbelief. Being clean requires not only avoiding sin, but believing God, having faith. And being pure begins in the mind and the conscience, not just in our outward behaviour.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; 13 looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ; 14 who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good works.

The grace of God appeared to all men. It is available to everyone. But to obey it, we need to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. Ungodliness refers to disrespect towards God and living as if He is not here. Worldly lusts refer to caring about your pleasures and your wealth more than you care about God. We should also live soberly (not drunk or on drugs), righteously (doing the right thing), and godly (having a fear of God). One day we will see Jesus appear! He is both our God and our Saviour. We need to look forward to His coming. Jesus gave up his own life to redeem us from lawless deeds, and to purify or cleanse us. He wants us to be His special people who really like to do good works. Are you zealous or eager to do good works? Do you avoid breaking rules? Do you look forward to Jesus’ second coming? These are questions to ask yourself, to see if you are pure in heart. Only someone who is pure in heart would be glad when they see God. So not only is seeing God a privilege of those who are pure in heart, how much you want to see God is one indication of whether your heart is truly pure.

Psalm 50:23 Whoever offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifies me, and prepares his way so that I will show God’s salvation to him.

God will show His salvation to people who thank Him and who have right ways of conduct. This tells us that these people are pure in heart: those who glorify God with their lips and with their actions. They want to see God honoured, echoing the first line of the Lord’s Prayer in their hearts.

Matthew 6:9 Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.’

Meet Eli’s Sons

Now let’s begin our story of some impure people and one pure person.

1 Samuel 2:12 Now the sons of Eli were wicked men. They didn’t know Yahweh. 13 The custom of the priests with the people was that when anyone offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant came while the flesh was boiling, with a fork of three teeth in his hand; 14 and he stabbed it into the pan, or kettle, or cauldron, or pot. The priest took all that the fork brought up for himself. So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. 15 Yes, before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man who sacrificed, “Give meat to roast for the priest; for he will not accept boiled meat from you, but raw.”

16 If the man said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take as much as your soul desires”; then he would say, “No, but you shall give it to me now; and if not, I will take it by force.” 17 The sin of the young men was very great before Yahweh; for the men despised the offering of Yahweh.

These wicked sons of Eli were the priests! These religious leaders were corrupt and did not know the Lord. It is sobering to observe that even if parents know God well, there is no guarantee that their children will know God.

The priests totally ignored God’s instructions about which part of the sacrificial animal the priest could eat. According to the Law, they were allotted the right thigh and breast of the peace offering (Lev. 7:34). Instead, they took as much meat as they could. Then they gave orders to God’s worshippers for their own benefit, and gave themselves priority over God to enjoy the sacrifice. They were just there for the food. This was a very great sin, and made the Israelites hate offering sacrifices to Yahweh. They had turned many people away from God!

The tabernacle at Shiloh was the place to worship God, and today we may go to a church to worship God. We can compare these priests who serve at the tabernacle with those of us who go to church regularly. Since they spent so much time at the place of worship, they looked down on people who came only once in a long time to sacrifice. They acted as if God owed them something because they spent so much time at the place of worship. Do you feel like you are doing God a favour by coming to church? No, it is a privilege for you to be at a church to worship God. Not everyone has this privilege. Just ask the girl whose mother would not allow her to come to church meetings lest it affect her studies.

But do you know why we go to church? We should go to worship God. The Israelites brought sacrifices to offer to God. We don’t need to offer animals for sin, because Jesus is our sacrifice, but God still wants us to offer a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). One way to praise God is to sing hymns of praise, telling God how great we think He is. Another way is to be on our best behaviour, to show God our respect. It is only right if you have something to offer to God and not just show up to receive some benefit.

Then there are excuses people make for not going to church. Some people don’t like to go to church because the people they see there aren’t really there to worship God. There are also greedy people at church who are looking at how they can take advantage of other people. There are all kinds of people. But God still wants us to come to worship Him. Even if Eli’s sons are behaving badly, that is not a valid excuse to stop worshipping God.

A Child Called Samuel

But there was someone else who also served God at the tabernacle.

1 Samuel 2:18 But Samuel ministered before Yahweh, being a child, clothed with a linen ephod. 19 Moreover his mother made him a little robe, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20 Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, “May Yahweh give you offspring from this woman for the petition which was asked of Yahweh.” Then they went to their own home. 21 Yahweh visited Hannah, and she conceived, and bore three sons and two daughters. The child Samuel grew before Yahweh.

God remembered the service of young Samuel. (Numbers 4:3, 23, and 30 specifies that Levites 30 to 50 years old were to serve in the tabernacle, but there was no age limit prescribed for priests.)

Samuel’s mother, Hannah, had no children, so she prayed that God would give her a son, and then she would give him to God. Hannah loved Samuel, but she must have encouraged him to serve God. At home, she would have continually thought about him while she made a robe for him year after year. It is interesting that even when we do something for God out of obligation, He treats it as a loan – and He repays. Hannah was blessed with many children. Samuel was away from her, but grew before the Lord. Later, when Samuel was a judge in Israel, he frequently returned to his hometown of Ramah, where he was probably able to spend time with his mother.

We see how God honoured Hannah, even though she only came to the tabernacle once a year to worship. Her attitude of worship was real, and God blessed her with more children. As for Samuel, what could he do as a child? God accepts even the service of children. Teenagers are definitely not too young to serve God, as long as their hearts are right. Here we see people that may not be respected as great people of God. We may think of Hannah as someone without much Bible knowledge and Samuel as just a young boy, but God was pleased with them because they had the right attitude towards Him. It is not difficult to please God, as long as your heart is clean.

The Sin of Eli and His Sons

Continuing the story:

1 Samuel 2:22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons did to all Israel, and how that they slept with the women who served at the door of the Tent of Meeting.

Eli was old and his sons were wicked – they slept with women who came to worship! Both of them! Not only did they cause people to sin by making people not want to come to sacrifice, they also defiled the people who did come!

Sexual sin is the result of an even greater sin, which is forgetting God, and worshipping man. It is called secular humanism. It is putting man’s wishes before God’s wishes. And our society is full of it.

Exodus 20:14 You shall not commit adultery.

This is one of the Ten Commandments, but there is an even greater commandment:

Matthew 22:37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment.

Remember Jesus’ words to Peter:

Matthew 16:23 But he turned, and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.”

By simply putting our wishes before God’s wishes, we become like Satan! In the case of Eli’s sons, first, they ignored God with regard to the sacrifices and did whatever they pleased. Then they committed sexual sin. If we want to be pure in heart, the root of sin that we must first deal with is to worship God above man and above our own wishes.

How would Eli respond to his sons’ wickedness?

1 Samuel 2:23 He said to them, “Why do you do such things? for I hear of your evil dealings from all this people. 24 No, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear! You make Yahweh’s people disobey. 25 If one man sins against another, God will judge him; but if a man sins against Yahweh, who will intercede for him?” Notwithstanding, they didn’t listen to the voice of their father, because Yahweh intended to kill them.

First, Eli asked his sons: “Why?” Why do we sin? Do we have anyone or anything to blame? To confess your sins is to accept responsibility for your own sins. Then Eli said they were making God’s people sin too! That made their sin that much worse. Lastly, Eli warned his sons about God’s judgment. We need to fear God. Sometimes He has good reasons to kill certain people.

An Update on Samuel

But how did Samuel turn out?

1 Samuel 2:26 The child Samuel grew on, and increased in favor both with Yahweh, and also with men.

Samuel grew taller, and was well liked, even by God. A similar description was given of the Lord Jesus:

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Unlike Jesus, the description of Samuel’s growth did not mention wisdom, as he did not know God yet. Samuel finding favour with God is in such stark contrast to Eli’s two sons provoking God to anger, even though all three of them grew up under Eli’s care.

Honouring Man More than God

Continuing the story:

1 Samuel 2:27 A man of God came to Eli, and said to him, “Yahweh says, ‘Did I reveal myself to the house of your father, when they were in Egypt in bondage to Pharaoh’s house? 28 Didn’t I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? Didn’t I give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire? 29 Why do you kick at my sacrifice and at my offering, which I have commanded in my habitation, and honor your sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel my people?’

A man of God warns Eli, the old high priest, the head of the family of Aaron’s descendants. God had given Aaron’s family the privilege of being priests. The priest was to be God’s servant, offering sacrifices and incense for worship and to atone for sins. Wearing the ephod, a special vest, gave honour to the priests. They were also permitted to eat a portion of the sacrifices. But they kicked at God’s sacrifices, meaning they showed total disrespect for His holy things. Eli did not reserve the best portions of the sacrifices for God, but allowed his two sons to eat them. Eli honoured his sons when he should really have fired them as priests, or worse. They were made fat, but their heart was not pure. Sometimes growing fat and prosperous dulls our respect for God. Speaking of Israel, God wrote a song that said:

[Deuteronomy 32:15 But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked.
You have grown fat.
You have grown thick.
You have become sleek.
Then he abandoned God who made him,
and rejected the Rock of his salvation.]

Some of you have the opportunity to serve God, perhaps setting up tables and chairs, sometimes as pianists, sometimes as ushers, sometimes leading hymns or activities, or perhaps teaching in church. Do you show honour to God when you serve Him? Similarly, a leader at church has the responsibility to make sure you who serve have the right attitude.

1 Samuel 2:30 “Therefore Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, ‘I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before me forever.’ But now Yahweh says, ‘Far be it from me; for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me will be lightly esteemed.

To walk before God is to be in His presence, literally, to walk in front of God’s face. It probably means being in front of God’s face in the sense of being God’s priests. God said: “Far be it from me.” God had promised Aaron and his descendants a lasting priesthood, but now Eli’s branch of the family would not be guaranteed this blessing.

This is a very famous Bible verse, which says that God honours people who honour Him, but those who despise Him will be despised.

In the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Eric Liddell was the favourite to win the gold medal in the 100 m race, but the qualifying heat was on Sunday, and he chose to go to church instead, so he didn’t even qualify! But when he was about to race in the 400 m event, someone slipped him a piece of paper that said: “Those who honor me I will honor”. Although he was not favoured to win, Eric Liddell went on to break a world record for the 400 m event and won the gold medal! Everyone knew that he was the man who had honoured God by skipping the 100 m event.

God Pronounces Judgment on Eli’s Family

But the man of God had more to say to Eli:

1 Samuel 2:31 Behold, the days come, that I will cut off your arm, and the arm of your father’s house, that there will not be an old man in your house. 32 You will see the affliction of my habitation, in all the wealth which I will give Israel; and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. 33 The man of yours, whom I don’t cut off from my altar, will consume your eyes and grieve your heart; and all the increase of your house will die in the flower of their age.

34 “‘This will be the sign to you, that will come on your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they will both die. 35 I will raise me up a faithful priest, that will do according to that which is in my heart and in my mind. I will build him a sure house; and he will walk before my anointed forever. 36 It will happen, that everyone who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread, and will say, “Please put me into one of the priests’ offices, that I may eat a morsel of bread.”’”

Cutting off his arm refers to losing his strength. Eli’s descendants would survive but not be blessed. They would see the enemy in God’s tabernacle instead of God. They would lack old men even while other Israelites experience goodness. They would be cut off from serving at the altar and all their descendants would die young. What terrible curses! Moreover, Eli’s sons would die on the same day.

One day, the army of Israel was defeated by the army of the Philistines. So they decided to bring the ark of the covenant into the camp of the army of Israel. The ark was a wooden box covered with gold, which held the Ten Commandments and represented God’s presence. But when Eli’s two sons carried the ark from the tabernacle into the camp, the Philistine army attacked and killed them. Their children lived on, but the tabernacle at Shiloh was deserted.

Many years later, when David fled from King Saul who wanted to kill him, David went to Ahimelech the priest, who was a descendant of Eli. When Saul came looking for David and did not find him, Saul ordered Doeg the Edomite to kill all the priests in the town! Many died, but Abiathar son of Ahimelech escaped.

Then after Abiathar sided with David’s fourth son Adonijah to make him king instead of Solomon, Solomon removed him from being high priest. God chose another faithful priest, who would do according to what God wants, and he would walk before God’s anointed king forever. This faithful priest is likely a reference to Zadok, who became high priest in place of Abiathar.

God Appears to Samuel

But the story also offers a glimmer of hope:

1 Samuel 3:1 The child Samuel ministered to Yahweh before Eli. Yahweh’s word was precious in those days. There visions were not frequent. 2 At that time, when Eli was laid down in his place (now his eyes had begun to grow dim, so that he could not see), 3 and God’s lamp hadn’t yet gone out, and Samuel had laid down in Yahweh’s temple, where God’s ark was; 4 Yahweh called Samuel; and he said, “Here I am.” 5 He ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am; for you called me.” He said, “I didn’t call. Lie down again.”

Samuel was a boy. He ministered to God and served under Eli’s supervision. He was obedient to both God and man. Those were sad times when God rarely spoke or revealed Himself. Samuel was doing his regular routine and it was time to sleep, but not very late at night.

Samuel was lying down. Then God called Samuel – by name. This was after he had finished his duties, when it was quiet. Samuel ran, showing his obedience. He answered the call. If your parents called you at night, would you get up and walk to their bed?

Samuel did not know God personally, but he respected the rules that he did know. He was pure in heart and so he saw God. Was there anything special mentioned about him? No, he simply grew up and did as he was told. If you were like Samuel, some people might think you were boring, foolish, and too attached to your parents. Maybe so, but he was pure in heart. And you don’t need to know very much to be pure in heart – just obey what you do know.

To be pure in heart means to have a clean heart. It is also to have faith. If you love your sin like Eli’s two sons, you will not see God, even if you are in God’s church every day. And in fact, He may choose not to reveal Himself to you.

Continuing the story:

6 Yahweh called yet again, “Samuel!” Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am; for you called me.” He answered, “I didn’t call, my son. Lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel didn’t yet know Yahweh, neither was Yahweh’s word yet revealed to him. 8 Yahweh called Samuel again the third time. He arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am; for you called me.” Eli perceived that Yahweh had called the child. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down. It shall be, if he calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, Yahweh; for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 Yahweh came, and stood, and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak; for your servant hears.”

Samuel did not ignore Eli’s voice, unlike Eli’s two sons. Eli called Samuel, “my son”, suggesting that Eli treated Samuel like his own son. While Samuel did not know Yahweh yet, the aged Eli’s spiritual perception could still see a little, which is a possible reason why God warned him and not his sons. Eli told Samuel to tell God that he was listening, as a servant. Here we see that God doesn’t get tired of calling to Samuel. He called again and again. If we think God is trying to tell us something, and we are not sure, do not worry because God is able to make us understand.

God’s Message to Samuel

Let’s hear what God had to say to Samuel:

1 Samuel 3:11 Yahweh said to Samuel, “Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from the beginning even to the end. 13 For I have told him that I will judge his house forever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves, and he didn’t restrain them. 14 Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be removed with sacrifice or offering forever.”

God told Samuel what he was going to do. It would be spectacular and make people’s ears tingle, but for now it must be told quietly to Samuel. The things God says in secret are consistent with what He has said before. Eli knew about the iniquity and sins of his sons. They were responsible for their own sins and had made themselves cursed, but Eli also failed to restrain them. Their iniquity would not be removed with sacrifice or offering – the very things they despised would not save them now. Similarly, how dangerous it is to despise the very means of salvation, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

How did Samuel react?

15 Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of Yahweh’s house. Samuel feared to show Eli the vision. 16 Then Eli called Samuel, and said, “Samuel, my son!” He said, “Here I am.” 17 He said, “What is the thing that he has spoken to you? Please don’t hide it from me. God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the things that he spoke to you.” 18 Samuel told him every bit, and hid nothing from him. He said, “It is Yahweh. Let him do what seems good to him.”

Samuel didn’t get all excited and boast about seeing God. He was really scared. He was scared because he believed God. He took God seriously. God doesn’t want to talk to people who don’t take Him seriously. Do you take God’s words in the Bible seriously? He lay down – it does not say whether he slept well. In the morning, he performed one of his duties, which was to open the doors.

Eli called Samuel to hear what God said. Eli thirsted to hear God’s word, but his conduct was not acceptable to God. Samuel responded with honesty. He didn’t try to sugercoat what God said. God lets us speak plainly the things that he tells us. Sadly, Eli accepted the rightness of God’s word, but did not change his ways.

Samuel the Prophet

1 Samuel 3:19 Samuel grew, and Yahweh was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of Yahweh. 21 Yahweh appeared again in Shiloh; for Yahweh revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by Yahweh’s word. 4:1 The word of Samuel came to all Israel.

Samuel grew. God does not want us to be immature forever. But God will be with us even when we are young, and He lets us prove Him truer each day. God’s word will not fail.

Samuel knew that God was with him. Do you live with that confidence that God is with you, and is pleased with you? Dan was in the far north and Beersheba was in the far south of the land of Israel. So all the Israelites everywhere knew Samuel was a prophet – that God spoke to him.

God appeared again in Shiloh. It is an easy matter for God, but He must find the right person: someone with a clean heart, someone who trusts and obeys Him. God does not appear to everyone, only to the pure in heart, but He still wants everyone to hear His warnings. The role of the prophet is to speak on God’s behalf to all the people.

To recap, during the time of Eli, the visions of God were rare. People could not see God. But God called to Samuel and appeared to him. This was because Samuel was pure in heart in contrast to Eli and his sons, who fattened themselves on the offerings.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

Jesus too was pure in heart. He came to the temple to worship, and He could not tolerate those who worshipped money rather than God there.

John 2:13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 He found in the temple those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, and the changers of money sitting. 15 He made a whip of cords, and threw all out of the temple, both the sheep and the oxen; and he poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew their tables. 16 To those who sold the doves, he said, “Take these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will eat me up.”

The temple authorities had allowed people to sell animals for sacrificing inside the temple courts. They probably made a lot of money. But Jesus drove out these merchants. And He would do it again several years later.

Mark 11:15 They came to Jerusalem, and Jesus entered into the temple, and began to throw out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of those who sold the doves. 16 He would not allow anyone to carry a container through the temple. 17 He taught, saying to them, “Isn’t it written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers!”

Jesus also saw God because Jesus is God’s Son! That is another reason why He is so concerned about His Father’s house.

John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time. The one and only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.

Application

God is everywhere, but we also go to church to worship Him. We need to have a right attitude to worship – to put God’s wishes ahead of our own wishes. We need to have clean hearts by obeying Him and trusting Him. If our hearts are not clean, we need to confess our sins to God and He will make us clean. Like Samuel, we can learn to serve God and to be obedient and responsive. And God will accept us, as long as our hearts are clean.

2 Timothy 2:21 If anyone therefore purges himself from these, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, and suitable for the master’s use, prepared for every good work.

When we see God, He will tell us what is on His mind. Often, this is related to understanding the Bible and how it relates to real life. When we know God better, we will have confidence that God truly works all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Then we should tell others what we learn as we have opportunity.

Do you want to see God? Be pure in heart.

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Chapter 9: Peacemakers

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Let’s read from the Epistle to the Romans:

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men. 19 Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 Therefore

“[If your enemy is hungry, feed him.
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.”]

21 Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We are not to take revenge. God will execute justice.

Let’s read what Jesus taught:

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Jesus tells us to love our enemies. If we do not take revenge, but treat our enemies well, we will be children of our Father who is in heaven.

The Story of Joab and Abner

Let’s begin with a negative example. King David had a commander in his army called Joab. He was David’s nephew.

2 Samuel 2:22 Abner said again to Asahel, “Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I look Joab your brother in the face?” 23 However he refused to turn aside. Therefore Abner with the back end of the spear struck him in the body, so that the spear came out behind him; and he fell down there, and died in the same place. As many as came to the place where Asahel fell down and died stood still.

During a civil war in Israel, Joab’s brother, Asahel, pursued the commander of the opposing army, Abner. But Abner killed Asahel and he died.

Many battles later:

2 Samuel 3:21 Abner said to David, “I will arise and go, and will gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your soul desires.” David sent Abner away; and he went in peace.

So after years of war, Abner tries to make peace with King David. But Joab was not impressed.

2 Samuel 3:27 When Abner was returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the middle of the gate to speak with him quietly, and struck him there in the body, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother.

Joab killed Abner. He took revenge during a time of peace. This is precisely what we must not do.

David Decides to Build God a House

After Joab killed Abner, the civil war was over and David ruled over a unified Kingdom of Israel. One day, when David finally enjoyed some peace, he realized that he was so comfortable in his palace while the ark of the covenant, which represented God’s presence, was just in a tent. So David decided to build a house for the ark of God. But God had something else in mind.

2 Samuel 7:4 That same night, Yahweh’s word came to Nathan, saying, 5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Yahweh says, “Should you build me a house for me to dwell in? 6 For I have not lived in a house since the day that I brought the children of Israel up out of Egypt, even to this day, but have moved around in a tent and in a tabernacle. 7 In all places in which I have walked with all the children of Israel, did I say a word to any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to be shepherd of my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’”’ 8 Now therefore tell my servant David this, ‘Yahweh of Armies says, “I took you from the sheep pen, from following the sheep, to be prince over my people, over Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you. I will make you a great name, like the name of the great ones who are in the earth. 10 I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be moved no more. The children of wickedness will not afflict them any more, as at the first, 11 and as from the day that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel. I will cause you to rest from all your enemies.

Moreover Yahweh tells you that Yahweh will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled, and you sleep with your fathers, I will set up your offspring after you, who will proceed out of your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; 15 but my loving kindness will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will be made sure forever before you. Your throne will be established forever.”’”

God was pleased with David and blessed him exceedingly. God said David would not build Him a house, but David’s son would build the house. Moreover, God would have a father and son relationship with David’s son. God promised to take care of David’s son with kindness and to discipline him, and God would never leave him. David later had a son called Solomon. Solomon’s name means peace, and he perfectly fits the description of a peacemaker who was a called a son of God.

David Commissions Solomon to Build God a House

1 Chronicles 22:7 David said to Solomon his son, “As for me, it was in my heart to build a house to the name of Yahweh my God. 8 But Yahweh’s word came to me, saying, ‘You have shed blood abundantly, and have made great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. 9 Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of peace. I will give him rest from all his enemies all around; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days. 10 He shall build a house for my name; and he will be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’

God wanted a man of peace to build His temple, showing that He values peace. In contrast to David the warrior, Solomon would be a man of peace.

Solomon Becomes King

But when David was old, Solomon’s older half brother wanted to be king.

1 Kings 1:11 Then Nathan spoke to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, saying, “Haven’t you heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith reigns, and David our lord doesn’t know it? 12 Now therefore come, please let me give you counsel, that you may save your own life, and your son Solomon’s life…

38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on king David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon. 39 Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the Tent, and anointed Solomon. They blew the trumpet; and all the people said, “Long live king Solomon!” 40 All the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth shook with their sound.

Adonijah tried, but failed to succeed his father as king. How did Solomon treat his rival?

1 Kings 1:51 Solomon was told, “Behold, Adonijah fears king Solomon; for, behold, he is hanging onto the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let king Solomon swear to me first that he will not kill his servant with the sword.’” 52 Solomon said, “If he shows himself a worthy man, not a hair of his shall fall to the earth; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” 53 So king Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar. He came and bowed down to king Solomon; and Solomon said to him, “Go to your house.”

Solomon let Adonijah live – at least for the moment. Solomon was slow to anger.

[Proverbs 19:11 The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger.
It is his glory to overlook an offense.]

And by the way, Solomon wrote most of the sayings in the Book of Proverbs.

The Story of Solomon and Joab

Now we read about another life and death decision by Solomon.

1 Kings 2:28 This news came to Joab; for Joab had followed Adonijah, although he didn’t follow Absalom. Joab fled to Yahweh’s Tent, and held onto the horns of the altar. 29 King Solomon was told, “Joab has fled to Yahweh’s Tent, and behold, he is by the altar.” Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, fall on him.”

30 Benaiah came to Yahweh’s Tent, and said to him, “Thus says the king, ‘Come out!’” He said, “No; but I will die here.” Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.”

31 The king said to him, “Do as he has said, and fall on him, and bury him; that you may take away the blood, which Joab shed without cause, from me and from my father’s house. 32 Yahweh will return his blood on his own head, because he fell on two men more righteous and better than he, and killed them with the sword, and my father David didn’t know it: Abner the son of Ner, captain of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, captain of the army of Judah. 33 So their blood will return on the head of Joab, and on the head of his offspring forever. But for David, for his offspring, for his house, and for his throne, there will be peace forever from Yahweh.”

34 Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and fell on him, and killed him; and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness.

Remember Joab, the army commander who took revenge and murdered Abner? Solomon had Joab executed for that murder. Solomon administered justice, even though it was a bold step to execute the commander of the army who was also a war hero. In Solomon’s own words:

[Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous,
both of them alike are an abomination to Yahweh.]

Solomon’s Wisdom

But the most notable characteristic about Solomon was his wisdom. Where did that come from?

1 Kings 3:3 Solomon loved Yahweh, walking in the statutes of David his father; except that he sacrificed and burned incense in the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place. Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 In Gibeon, Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask for what I should give you.”

6 Solomon said, “You have shown to your servant David my father great loving kindness, because he walked before you in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with you. You have kept for him this great loving kindness, that you have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today. 7 Now, Yahweh my God, you have made your servant king instead of David my father. I am just a little child. I don’t know how to go out or come in. 8 Your servant is among your people which you have chosen, a great people, that can’t be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this great people of yours?”

10 This request pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have you asked for riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice; 12 behold, I have done according to your word. Behold, I have given you a wise and understanding heart; so that there has been no one like you before you, and after you none will arise like you. 13 I have also given you that which you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you for all your days. 14 If you will walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

Solomon loved Yahweh. And God gave him a wish because Solomon honoured Him with sacrifices and obedience. Moreover, Solomon was a servant, who did not ask to enjoy long life for himself, but lived for the well-being of his people. His heart was pure – he did not seek wealth. He was not vengeful – he did not seek the life of his enemies. Instead, he asked for understanding to administer justice. We can see that he was not lazy or irresponsible, but was determined to fulfill his responsibilities as the king. So God granted his request.

The Importance of Justice

Justice is important for bringing stability, but it requires some difficult decisions. If the king is too harsh, the people will be oppressed by the king. But if the king is too lenient, the rich and powerful people will oppress the weak and the poor.

[Proverbs 29:4 The king by justice makes the land stable,
but he who takes bribes tears it down.]

Jeremiah 21:12 House of David, Yahweh says, Execute justice in the morning, and deliver him who is robbed out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my wrath go out like fire, and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

Solomon Decides a Court Case

Let’s read about one of Solomon’s court cases that showed his God-given wisdom.

1 Kings 3:23 Then the king said, “One says, ‘This is my son who lives, and your son is the dead;’ and the other says, ‘No; but your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.’” 24 The king said, “Get me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. 25 The king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.”

26 Then the woman whose the living child was spoke to the king, for her heart yearned over her son, and she said, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and in no way kill him!” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours. Divide him.” 27 Then the king answered, “Give her the living child, and definitely do not kill him. She is his mother.”

28 All Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king; for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do justice.

People feared – and hopefully dared not to break the law.

Solomon and the King of Tyre

And here is an example of Solomon’s international relations.

1 Kings 5:1 Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon; for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the place of his father, and Hiram had always loved David. 2 Solomon sent to Hiram, saying, 3 “You know that David my father could not build a house for the name of Yahweh his God because of the wars which were around him on every side, until Yahweh put his enemies under the soles of his feet. 4 But now Yahweh my God has given me rest on every side. There is no enemy and no evil occurrence. 5 Behold, I intend to build a house for the name of Yahweh my God, as Yahweh spoke to David my father, saying, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place shall build the house for my name.’ 6 Now therefore command that cedar trees be cut for me out of Lebanon. My servants will be with your servants; and I will give you wages for your servants according to all that you say. For you know that there is nobody among us any who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.” 7 When Hiram heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced greatly, and said, “Blessed is Yahweh today, who has given to David a wise son to rule over this great people.”…

12 Yahweh gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him. There was peace between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty together.

Solomon spoke to the king of Tyre with diplomacy. Solomon honoured God with his words and did not despise his father’s friend. He also offered compliments and fair wages. Not only was Solomon administering justice for his own people, he also acted justly towards other nations and promoted peace. His words of humility and peace are a reflection of his wisdom.

[Proverbs 27:10 Don’t forsake your friend and your father’s friend.
Don’t go to your brother’s house in the day of your disaster:
better is a neighbor who is near than a distant brother.]

James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good conduct that his deeds are done in gentleness of wisdom.

James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

Solomon’s wisdom became so well-known that the Queen of Sheba travelled more than 1000 km to see his wisdom.

2 Chronicles 9:1 When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to test Solomon with hard questions at Jerusalem, with a very great caravan, including camels that bore spices, gold in abundance, and precious stones. When she had come to Solomon, she talked with him about all that was in her heart. 2 Solomon answered all her questions. There wasn’t anything hidden from Solomon which he didn’t tell her. 3 When the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, 4 the food of his table, the seating of his servants, the attendance of his ministers, their clothing, his cup bearers also, their clothing, and his ascent by which he went up to Yahweh’s house; there was no more spirit in her.

5 She said to the king, “It was a true report that I heard in my own land of your acts and of your wisdom. 6 However I didn’t believe their words until I came, and my eyes had seen it; and behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom wasn’t told me. You exceed the fame that I heard! 7 Happy are your men, and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you, and hear your wisdom. 8 Blessed be Yahweh your God, who delighted in you, to set you on his throne, to be king for Yahweh your God; because your God loved Israel, to establish them forever. Therefore he made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness.”

9 She gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold, spices in great abundance, and precious stones. There was never before such spice as the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon…

When the Queen of Sheba gave Solomon so many gifts of gold, spices, and precious stones, how did Solomon respond?

12 King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatever she asked, besides that which she had brought to the king. So she turned, and went to her own land, she and her servants.

After receiving her gifts, Solomon gave the Queen of Sheba whatever she asked for. He did not take advantage of his guest, but honoured her with his own gifts. Similarly, Jesus Christ taught us to make friends with our gifts, instead of taking advantage of other people.

Luke 16:9 I tell you, make for yourselves friends by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when you fail, they may receive you into the eternal tents.

Jesus Was a Peacemaker

Now let’s turn our attention to Jesus Christ, the ultimate peacemaker. We were once enemies of God and God was very angry with us because of our sins, but Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross, so that we could be at peace with God.

Colossians 1:19 For all the fullness was pleased to dwell in him; 20 and through him to reconcile all things to himself, by him, whether things on the earth, or things in the heavens, having made peace through the blood of his cross. 21 You, being in past times alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil deeds, 22 yet now he has reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without defect and blameless before him,

The peace that Jesus brought was also an act of supreme justice.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; 24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God sent to be an atoning sacrifice, through faith in his blood, for a demonstration of his righteousness through the passing over of prior sins, in God’s forbearance; 26 to demonstrate his righteousness at this present time; that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.

God forgave sins, but not without being unjust. Because Jesus’ blood was shed on the cross, God has fulfilled the demands justice by punishing sin. And since the penalty has been paid, justice also demands the release of all who are now covered by the blood of Jesus Christ through faith.

Jesus Preached Repentance

Even though God is willing to make peace, people often do not seek peace with God. Therefore Jesus preached to them that they should repent:

Mark 1:14 Now after John was taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and God’s Kingdom is at hand! Repent, and believe in the Good News.”

Jesus commanded us, his followers, to keep preaching this message of peace.

Luke 24:46 He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Matthew 28:18 Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

2 Corinthians 5:18 But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation.

[Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace,
who brings good news,
who proclaims salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”]

Jesus Encouraged Peace Between People

How did Jesus encourage peace between people?

Matthew 7:12 Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.

Jesus also taught the importance of forgiveness.

Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I don’t tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven.

Jesus Will Judge the Earth

But did Jesus administer justice on earth like Solomon?

Luke 12:13 One of the multitude said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15 He said to them, “Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man’s life doesn’t consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses.”

When Jesus was on earth, He did not act as a judge, but He encouraged people not to be greedy. But in the future, Jesus will judge all nations with justice and righteousness, bringing world peace.

Acts 17:30 “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked. But now he commands that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained; of which he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.”

Much is written in the Old Testament about Jesus Christ, the descendant of David the son of Jesse according to the flesh.

[Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come out of the stock of Jesse,
and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit.
2 Yahweh’s Spirit will rest on him:
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahweh.
3 His delight will be in the fear of Yahweh.
He will not judge by the sight of his eyes,
neither decide by the hearing of his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the humble of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
and with the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his waist.]

[6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
and the leopard will lie down with the young goat;
The calf, the young lion, and the fattened calf together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow and the bear will graze.
Their young ones will lie down together.
The lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child will play near a cobra’s hole,
and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
9 They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh,
as the waters cover the sea.]

10 It will happen in that day that the nations will seek the root of Jesse, who stands as a banner of the peoples; and his resting place will be glorious.

Jesus was born as a child destined to rule. Note what kinds of names He is given.

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born. To us a son is given; and the government will be on his shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, on David’s throne, and on his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from that time on, even forever. The zeal of Yahweh of Armies will perform this.

Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and He will govern His kingdom with justice forever and ever. Sadly, many Jewish people reject Him as their promised Messiah because they do not see peace today. Jesus Christ will bring world peace, but the promise is yet future.

And of course, Jesus was called God’s Son.

Matthew 3:16 Jesus, when he was baptized, went up directly from the water: and behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him. 17 Behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Application

Some lessons that we can apply from this chapter on being a peacemaker are as follows:

1) Do not take revenge.

2) Promote peace and justice.
3) Be slow to anger.
4) Punish the evildoer (if you have that responsibility).
5) Love God and keep His commands.
6) Offer sacrifices to God.
7) Be determined to be responsible in your God-given role.
8) Do not seek only long life for your personal benefit, but live for other people.
9) Do not seek only money, but have a pure heart.
10) Do not pray that people would die.
11) Ask for wisdom on how to treat people fairly, which brings stability.
12) Speak in a way that honours God and your fathers’ friends.
13) Give more than you take.
14) Tell people about Jesus Christ so that they can have peace with God and find eternal life.
15) Love your enemies and forgive those who hurt you.
16) Rest assured that Jesus Christ is the righteous judge.

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Chapter 10: Persecution (1)

Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:22 Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for their fathers did the same thing to the prophets.

What does it mean to be persecuted? Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary says to persecute means to pursue in a manner to injure, grieve, or afflict. So if people are looking for you and want to mistreat you, you are being persecuted. This beatitude refers to persecution for righteousness’ sake or for Jesus’ sake. People may hate you and exclude you. They may laugh at you, insult you, and wrongly accuse you of evil. In these cases, we should rejoice. There is no need to fear. Something big is waiting for us – a GREAT reward. And the prophets of long ago are our examples.

The Story of Cain and Abel

The first recorded incident of persecution was as follows:

Genesis 4:1 The man knew Eve his wife. She conceived, and gave birth to Cain, and said, “I have gotten a man with Yahweh’s help.” 2 Again she gave birth, to Cain’s brother Abel. Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 As time passed, Cain brought an offering to Yahweh from the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel also brought some of the firstborn of his flock and of its fat. Yahweh respected Abel and his offering, 5 but he didn’t respect Cain and his offering. Cain was very angry, and the expression on his face fell. 6 Yahweh said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why has the expression of your face fallen? 7 If you do well, won’t it be lifted up? If you don’t do well, sin crouches at the door. Its desire is for you, but you are to rule over it.” 8 Cain said to Abel, his brother, “Let’s go into the field.” While they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and killed him.

1 John 3:11 For this is the message which you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 unlike Cain, who was of the evil one, and killed his brother. Why did he kill him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s righteous. 13 Don’t be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.

Cain murdered Abel because Cain’s works were evil and his brother’s were righteous. This is the kind of persecution that Jesus spoke of.

Persecution by the Kings of Israel and Judah

Persecution has been around since the dawn of history, even between Adam and Eve’s sons. But recorded incidents of persecution in the Old Testament took place primarily during the period of the kings after Solomon. Solomon’s kingdom was divided into the Kingdom of Israel to the north and the Kingdom of Judah to the south. Many of the kings did evil in the eyes of God, while the prophets preached that people should obey God’s laws and not do such evil deeds. When the kings did not want to listen, they would use their power to mistreat the prophets. Here are some examples of persecution:

2 Chronicles 11:14 For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons cast them off, that they should not execute the priest’s office to Yahweh;

2 Chronicles 16:7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him, “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on Yahweh your God, therefore is the army of the king of Syria escaped out of your hand. 8 Weren’t the Ethiopians and the Lubim a huge army, with chariots and horsemen exceeding many? Yet, because you relied on Yahweh, he delivered them into your hand. 9 For Yahweh’s eyes run back and forth throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein you have done foolishly; for from henceforth you shall have wars.” 10 Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in the prison; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time.

1 Kings 18:3 Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared Yahweh greatly; 4 for when Jezebel cut off Yahweh’s prophets, Obadiah took one hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)

1 Kings 19:9 He came to a cave there, and camped there; and behold, Yahweh’s word came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for Yahweh, the God of Armies; for the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

The Story of King Ahab and Micaiah the Prophet

Let’s look more closely at one story where King Ahab explains why he mistreated a prophet.

1 Kings 22:1 They continued three years without war between Syria and Israel. 2 In the third year, Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel. 3 The king of Israel said to his servants, “You know that Ramoth Gilead is ours, and we do nothing, and don’t take it out of the hand of the king of Syria?” 4 He said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle to Ramoth Gilead?” Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” 5 Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Please inquire first for Yahweh’s word.”

King Ahab did not want anyone to get in the way of his plans and desire to conquer Ramoth Gilead. But since Jehoshaphat was a strong ally, Ahab agreed to consult a prophet.

1 Kings 22:6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Should I go against Ramoth Gilead to battle, or should I refrain?” They said, “Go up; for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king.” 7 But Jehoshaphat said, “Isn’t there here a prophet of Yahweh, that we may inquire of him?” 8 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of Yahweh, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.” Jehoshaphat said, “Don’t let the king say so.”

Ahab hated Micaiah because he only prophesied bad things about Ahab. This wasn’t Micaiah’s fault. After all, Ahab could choose to do right, and then God’s prophet would not upset him, for God would promise good things.

Micah 2:7 Shall it be said, O house of Jacob: “Is Yahweh’s Spirit angry? Are these his doings? Don’t my words do good to him who walks blamelessly?”

Speaking to the false prophets, God said:

Ezekiel 13:22 Because with lies you have grieved the heart of the righteous, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, and be saved alive:

Do you hate people who tell you that you are wrong? Don’t be like Ahab.

Micaiah the Prophet Speaks

Continuing the story:

1 Kings 22:9 Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, “Quickly get Micaiah the son of Imlah.” 10 Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting each on his throne, arrayed in their robes, in an open place at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them. 11 Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made himself horns of iron, and said, “Yahweh says, ‘With these you will push the Syrians, until they are consumed.’” 12 All the prophets prophesied so, saying, “Go up to Ramoth Gilead, and prosper; for Yahweh will deliver it into the hand of the king.” 13 The messenger who went to call Micaiah spoke to him, saying, “See now, the prophets declare good to the king with one mouth. Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak good.” 14 Micaiah said, “As Yahweh lives, what Yahweh says to me, that I will speak.”

Micaiah was pressured to say what everyone else was saying. Would he give in to pressure?

15 When he had come to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth Gilead to battle, or shall we forbear?” He answered him, “Go up and prosper; and Yahweh will deliver it into the hand of the king.” 16 The king said to him, “How many times do I have to adjure you that you speak to me nothing but the truth in Yahweh’s name?”

Maybe Micaiah spoke with an expression of sarcasm, as the king did not take his words seriously.

17 He said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. Yahweh said, ‘These have no master. Let them each return to his house in peace.’” 18 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” 19 Micaiah said, “Therefore hear Yahweh’s word. I saw Yahweh sitting on his throne, and all the army of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. 20 Yahweh said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ One said one thing; and another said another. 21 A spirit came out and stood before Yahweh, and said, ‘I will entice him.’ 22 Yahweh said to him, ‘How?’ He said, ‘I will go out and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ He said, ‘You will entice him, and will also prevail. Go out and do so.’ 23 Now therefore, behold, Yahweh has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and Yahweh has spoken evil concerning you.”

24 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near, and struck Micaiah on the cheek, and said, “Which way did Yahweh’s Spirit go from me to speak to you?” 25 Micaiah said, “Behold, you will see on that day, when you go into an inner room to hide yourself.”

Consequences for Micaiah and King Ahab

26 The king of Israel said, “Take Micaiah, and carry him back to Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king’s son. 27 Say, ‘Thus says the king, “Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace.”’” 28 Micaiah said, “If you return at all in peace, Yahweh has not spoken by me.” He said, “Listen, all you people!”

Micaiah was put in prison, but his words proved true. King Ahab really died in the battle.

1 Kings 22:34 A certain man drew his bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of the armor. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn your hand, and carry me out of the battle; for I am severely wounded.” 35 The battle increased that day. The king was propped up in his chariot facing the Syrians, and died at evening. The blood ran out of the wound into the bottom of the chariot. 36 A cry went throughout the army about the going down of the sun, saying, “Every man to his city, and every man to his country!”

More Persecution during the Period of the Kings

Even though the words of God’s prophets proved true, they were still persecuted in subsequent generations.

2 Chronicles 24:20 The Spirit of God came on Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God, ‘Why do you disobey Yahweh’s commandments, so that you can’t prosper? Because you have forsaken Yahweh, he has also forsaken you.’” 21 They conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of Yahweh’s house. 22 Thus Joash the king didn’t remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son. When he died, he said, “May Yahweh look at it, and repay it.”

Amos 7:10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the middle of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For Amos says, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of his land.’” 12 Amaziah also said to Amos, “You seer, go, flee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: 13 but don’t prophesy again any more at Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a royal house!”

We will continue with more examples in the next chapter.

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Chapter 11: Persecution (2)

Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The Book of Jeremiah probably has the most descriptions of persecution in the Old Testament. At the time of Jeremiah, people refused to believe that God would bring punishment on His holy city, Jerusalem. God is always on the side of Israel, right? Yes, God loves His people, but He will also punish them when they sin.

Jeremiah the prophet was accused of lying, verbally attacked, and cursed. He was secretly plotted against by his fellow townsmen and openly seized by people at the temple who wanted to kill him. He was struck and put in stocks, accused of deserting to the enemy Chaldeans and put in prison, put into a dungeon, and kept under guard for a long time. One king wanted to arrest Jeremiah but he escaped, but another prophet Uriah was captured and executed.

Jeremiah 11:19 But I [Jeremiah] was like a gentle lamb that is led to the slaughter; and I didn’t know that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.

Jeremiah 15:10 Woe is me, my mother, that you have borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have not lent, neither have men lent to me; yet everyone of them curses me.

Jeremiah 18:18 Then they said, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.

Jeremiah 20:1 Now Pashhur, the son of Immer the priest, who was chief officer in Yahweh’s house, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. 2 Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper gate of Benjamin, which was in Yahweh’s house.

The People Consider Jeremiah Worthy of Death

Jeremiah 26:1 In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, came this word from Yahweh, saying, 2 Yahweh says: Stand in the court of Yahweh’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in Yahweh’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them; don’t diminish a word. 3 It may be they will listen, and turn every man from his evil way; that I may repent me of the evil which I purpose to do to them because of the evil of their doings. 4 You shall tell them, Yahweh says: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, 5 to listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I send to you, even rising up early and sending them, but you have not listened; 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth. 7 The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in Yahweh’s house.

8 When Jeremiah had finished speaking all that Yahweh had commanded him to speak to all the people, the priests and the prophets and all the people seized him, saying, “You shall surely die.” 9 Why have you prophesied in Yahweh’s name, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant? All the people were gathered to Jeremiah in Yahweh’s house. 10 When the princes of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to Yahweh’s house; and they sat in the entry of the new gate of Yahweh’s house. 11 Then spoke the priests and the prophets to the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy of death; for he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your ears.

12 Then spoke Jeremiah to all the princes and to all the people, saying, Yahweh sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that you have heard. 13 Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey Yahweh your God’s voice; and Yahweh will repent him of the evil that he has pronounced against you. 14 But as for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as is good and right in your eyes. 15 Only know for certain that, if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves, and on this city, and on its inhabitants; for of a truth Yahweh has sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears. 16 Then the princes and all the people said to the priests and to the prophets: This man is not worthy of death; for he has spoken to us in the name of Yahweh our God.

Uriah the Prophet Is Killed

Jeremiah 26:20 There was also a man who prophesied in Yahweh’s name, Uriah the son of Shemaiah of Kiriath Jearim; and he prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah: 21 and when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men, and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death; but when Uriah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt: 22 and Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him, into Egypt; 23 and they fetched Uriah out of Egypt, and brought him to Jehoiakim the king, who killed him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.

Jeremiah and Baruch Escape from King Jehoiakim

Jeremiah 36:14 Therefore all the princes sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, to Baruch, saying, Take in your hand the scroll in which you have read in the ears of the people, and come. So Baruch the son of Neriah took the scroll in his hand, and came to them. 15 They said to him, Sit down now, and read it in our ears. So Baruch read it in their ears. 16 Now when they had heard all the words, they turned in fear one toward another, and said to Baruch, “We will surely tell the king of all these words.” 17 They asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, How did you write all these words at his mouth? 18 Then Baruch answered them, He pronounced all these words to me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book. 19 Then the princes said to Baruch, Go, hide, you and Jeremiah; and let no man know where you are.

20 They went in to the king into the court; but they had laid up the scroll in the room of Elishama the scribe; and they told all the words in the ears of the king. 21 So the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll; and he took it out of the room of Elishama the scribe. Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes who stood beside the king. 22 Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month: and there was a fire in the brazier burning before him. 23 When Jehudi had read three or four leaves, the king cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. 24 They were not afraid, nor tore their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants who heard all these words. 25 Moreover Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the scroll; but he would not hear them. 26 The king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son, and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet; but Yahweh hid them.

Jeremiah Is Arrested on False Charges

Jeremiah 37:11 When the army of the Chaldeans had broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh’s army, 12 then Jeremiah went out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to receive his portion there, in the middle of the people. 13 When he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the guard was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he laid hold on Jeremiah the prophet, saying, You are falling away to the Chaldeans. 14 Then Jeremiah said, It is false; I am not falling away to the Chaldeans. But he didn’t listen to him; so Irijah laid hold on Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes. 15 The princes were angry with Jeremiah, and struck him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe; for they had made that the prison. 16 When Jeremiah had come into the dungeon house, and into the cells, and Jeremiah had remained there many days;

The Story of Jeremiah and King Zedekiah

Now let’s read a longer story about a king called Zedekiah. It shows why sometimes it can be so hard for a king to obey the words of a prophet.

Jeremiah 38:1 Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchijah, heard the words that Jeremiah spoke to all the people, saying, 2 Yahweh says, He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence; but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live, and his life shall be to him for a prey, and he shall live. 3 Yahweh says, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it. 4 Then the princes said to the king, “Please let this man be put to death; because he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words to them: for this man doesn’t seek the welfare of this people, but the hurt.” 5 Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand; for the king is not he who can do anything against you. 6 Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchijah the king’s son, that was in the court of the guard: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. In the dungeon there was no water, but mire; and Jeremiah sank in the mire.

Jeremiah told the people to surrender to the invading Chaldeans and live. The Chaldeans were a people whose capital city was Babylon, which is in modern day Iraq. But the princes of the Kingdom of Judah were outraged that Jeremiah was weakening the soldiers’ will to fight. “Kill him!” they said. So they put Jeremiah in a pit where he would starve to death.

Ebedmelech the Ethiopian Intervenes

7 Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, a eunuch, who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon (the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin), 8 Ebedmelech went out of the king’s house, and spoke to the king, saying, 9 My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is likely to die in the place where he is, because of the famine; for there is no more bread in the city. 10 Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from here thirty men with you, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he dies. 11 So Ebedmelech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took there rags and worn-out garments, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah. 12 Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, Put now these rags and worn-out garments under your armpits under the cords. Jeremiah did so. 13 So they drew up Jeremiah with the cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.

Zedekiah didn’t want Jeremiah to die, but he wasn’t fully on his side either. It was a foreigner, Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, who declared that the princes were doing evil by mistreating Jeremiah.

King Zedekiah Meets Secretly with Jeremiah

14 Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah the prophet to him into the third entry that is in Yahweh’s house: and the king said to Jeremiah, I will ask you something. Hide nothing from me. 15 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, If I declare it to you, will you not surely put me to death? and if I give you counsel, you will not listen to me. 16 So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah, saying, As Yahweh lives, who made us this soul, I will not put you to death, neither will I give you into the hand of these men who seek your life. 17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, Yahweh, the God of Armies, the God of Israel, says: If you will go out to the king of Babylon’s princes, then your soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and you shall live, and your house. 18 But if you will not go out to the king of Babylon’s princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape out of their hand. 19 Zedekiah the king said to Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews who are fallen away to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me.

Zedekiah was the king, but he was weak. He was afraid of the princes and the Jews who had surrendered. So we see how even kings can be afraid, but Zedekiah feared men more than God.

20 But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver you. Obey, I beg you, Yahweh’s voice, in that which I speak to you: so it shall be well with you, and your soul shall live. 21 But if you refuse to go out, this is the word that Yahweh has shown me: 22 behold, all the women who are left in the king of Judah’s house shall be brought out to the king of Babylon’s princes, and those women shall say, Your familiar friends have set you on, and have prevailed over you. Your feet are sunk in the mire, they have turned away back. 23 They shall bring out all your wives and your children to the Chaldeans; and you shall not escape out of their hand, but shall be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon: and you shall cause this city to be burned with fire.

Jeremiah reassured King Zedekiah that God would let him live if he obeyed, but he did not believe God.

24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and you shall not die. 25 But if the princes hear that I have talked with you, and they come to you, and tell you, Declare to us now what you have said to the king; don’t hide it from us, and we will not put you to death; also what the king said to you: 26 then you shall tell them, I presented my supplication before the king, that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan’s house, to die there. 27 Then came all the princes to Jeremiah, and asked him; and he told them according to all these words that the king had commanded. So they left off speaking with him; for the matter was not perceived. 28 So Jeremiah stayed in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was taken.

Zedekiah chose to please the princes of Judah and disobey God’s word through Jeremiah. But was it really better to keep fighting the powerful Chaldean army rather than surrender?

Jerusalem Falls

39:1 When Jerusalem was taken, (in the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and besieged it; 2 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, a breach was made in the city), 3 all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, Nergal Sharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergal Sharezer, Rabmag, with all the rest of the princes of the king of Babylon. 4 When Zedekiah the king of Judah and all the men of war saw them, then they fled, and went out of the city by night, by the way of the king’s garden, through the gate between the two walls; and he went out toward the Arabah. 5 But the army of the Chaldeans pursued them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho: and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath; and he gave judgment on him. 6 Then the king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon killed all the nobles of Judah. 7 Moreover he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, and bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon. 8 The Chaldeans burned the king’s house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem. 9 Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive into Babylon the residue of the people who remained in the city, the deserters also who fell away to him, and the residue of the people who remained. 10 But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left of the poor of the people, who had nothing, in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.

Disaster struck Jerusalem, King Zedekiah, and the princes of Judah. Zedekiah had sinned by rebelling against the king of Babylon, to whom he had sworn an oath of allegiance in God’s name! (Ezekiel 17:12-21) Because he disobeyed God’s command through Jeremiah to surrender, he was responsible for the burning of the city. He also suffered the death of his sons, the loss of his eyes, and exile to Babylon. But what happened to Jeremiah?

11 Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon commanded Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard concerning Jeremiah, saying, 12 Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do to him even as he shall tell you. 13 So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushazban, Rabsaris, and Nergal Sharezer, Rabmag, and all the chief officers of the king of Babylon; 14 they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the guard, and committed him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home: so he lived among the people.

15 Now Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah, while he was shut up in the court of the guard, saying, 16 Go, and speak to Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says: Behold, I will bring my words on this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished before you in that day. 17 But I will deliver you in that day, says Yahweh; and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. 18 For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but your life shall be for a prey to you; because you have put your trust in me, says Yahweh.

Everything changed when the city of Jerusalem was captured. The princes of Judah who persecuted Jeremiah were killed, but Jeremiah was set free and Ebedmelech was promised life because he trusted in God. Similarly, everything changes when the Kingdom of Heaven comes in its fullness. Those who are persecuted because of righteousness’ sake will rejoice in their great reward.

Persecution after the Period of the Kings

But persecution did not only come from kings, as disobedience towards God was also found among the common people. After the kings of Judah were no more, the people remaining in the land of Judah accused Jeremiah of lying.

Jeremiah 43:1 When Jeremiah had finished speaking to all the people all the words of Yahweh their God, with which Yahweh their God had sent him to them, even all these words, 2 then spoke Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying to Jeremiah, You speak falsely: Yahweh our God has not sent you to say, You shall not go into Egypt to live there; 3 but Baruch the son of Neriah sets you on against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may put us to death, and carry us away captive to Babylon. 4 So Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, and all the people, didn’t obey Yahweh’s voice, to dwell in the land of Judah.

We will conclude the Old Testament stories about persecution in the next chapter.

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Chapter 12: Persecution (3)

Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Often persecution comes not from a government or king, but from the people around us. We find in the Book of Daniel a story of persecution that came from a man’s peers.

Daniel 6:1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred twenty local governors, who should be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one; that these local governors might give account to them, and that the king should suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel was distinguished above the presidents and the local governors, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.

Daniel’s day job was not a full-time prophet, but a government official. His position carried much responsibility, but it could also have been tedious at times. But he was faithful. The king liked Daniel and wanted to promote him. Everything seemed to be going well for him in King Darius’ new government. He was about to be promoted!

The Conspiracy against Daniel

4 Then the presidents and the local governors sought to find occasion against Daniel as touching the kingdom; but they could find no occasion or fault, because he was faithful. There wasn’t any error or fault found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We won’t find any occasion against this Daniel, unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”

6 Then these presidents and local governors assembled together to the king, and said this to him, “King Darius, live forever! 7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the deputies and the local governors, the counselors and the governors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a strong decree, that whoever asks a petition of any god or man for thirty days, except of you, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which doesn’t alter.” 9 Therefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.

It turns out the people whom Daniel worked with on a day-to-day basis wanted him gone. In fact, they wanted him dead. The Bible did not say that Daniel was hated because he did what was righteous, but his obedience to God was considered a vulnerable target for his coworkers to attack. Perhaps Daniel’s devotion to God made him an outsider to their group. They tricked the king into outlawing prayer to God for thirty days.

10 When Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house (now his windows were open in his room toward Jerusalem) and he kneeled on his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did before. 11 Then these men assembled together, and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God.

But Daniel still prayed. This included his regular worship and thanksgiving, but also his pleading to God to rescue him. We need to learn to pray like Daniel, with thanksgiving, petition, and supplication.

Philippians 4:6 In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

We should seek to please God even if it costs us something.

John 12:42 Nevertheless even of the rulers many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they didn’t confess it, so that they wouldn’t be put out of the synagogue, 43 for they loved men’s praise more than God’s praise.

Daniel in the Lion’s Den

12 Then they came near, and spoke before the king concerning the king’s decree: “Haven’t you signed a decree that every man who makes a petition to any god or man within thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered, “This thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which doesn’t alter.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “That Daniel, who is of the children of the captivity of Judah, doesn’t respect you, O king, nor the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” 14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was very displeased, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored until the going down of the sun to rescue him.

15 Then these men assembled together to the king, and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians, that no decree nor statute which the king establishes may be changed.” 16 Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Your God whom you serve continually, he will deliver you.” 17 A stone was brought, and laid on the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.

Daniel’s coworkers’ plan succeeded in getting him thrown into the lions’ den.

18 Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting. No musical instruments were brought before him; and his sleep fled from him. 19 Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 When he came near to the den to Daniel, he cried with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, is your God, whom you serve continually, able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God has sent his angel, and has shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not hurt me; because as before him innocence was found in me; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”

Even though it seemed like his coworkers had succeeded, God rescued Daniel’s life!

23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 The king commanded, and they brought those men who had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions mauled them, and broke all their bones in pieces, before they came to the bottom of the den.

There is no good ending for those who persecute the righteous. That is why Jesus told us to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).

Daniel Prospers

25 Then king Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages, who dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel; “for he is the living God, and steadfast forever. His kingdom is that which will not be destroyed. His dominion will be even to the end. 27 He delivers and rescues. He works signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28 So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

The king gave God the glory and Daniel prospered. In this case, Daniel prospered in an earthly kingdom, but God promises that those who are persecuted will prosper in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Revelation 3:21 He who overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne.

But would you believe that the great reward includes sitting on God’s throne with Him? This is what the Bible says, is it not? When Jesus said, “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”, He wasn’t kidding.

Application

How can we apply this today? Do you desire to be praised by men or by God? How do you react when you are criticized? Would you be a persecutor? Do you pursue small, selfish goals, or the great reward that lasts forever? Are you willing to speak the truth according to God’s word, or would you be silenced by people who may call you a hypocrite, a bigot, a believer in fairy tales, or someone old-fashioned?

We should not look for suffering. If we are persecuted, Jesus taught us to flee (Matthew 10:23). And there is no need to search for persecution, for the Bible tells us:

2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

Our only offensive weapons are prayer and the Word of God. Let us pray like Daniel and trust and obey God’s words.

Suffering with God’s People

Besides suffering for righteousness’ sake, God also wants us to stand together with His people who suffer persecution.

Matthew 10:39 He who seeks his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. 40 He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. 41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. He who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 Whoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, most certainly I tell you he will in no way lose his reward.”

Jesus tells us that people who identify with a prophet or a righteous man by helping him will also receive a reward.

Hebrews 10:32 But remember the former days, in which, after you were enlightened, you endured a great struggle with sufferings; 33 partly, being exposed to both reproaches and oppressions; and partly, becoming partakers with those who were treated so. 34 For you both had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an enduring one in the heavens. 35 Therefore don’t throw away your boldness, which has a great reward.

The Hebrew Christians may not have been able to offer much help, but they shared in the sufferings of people who were persecuted because they believed in Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 11:24 By faith, Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to share ill treatment with God’s people, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time; 26 accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

Even though Moses was adopted by the Egyptian royal family, he chose to share in the sufferings of God’s people when they were slaves in Egypt. For the reward is greater than all the gold in Egypt.

Philippians 1:7 It is even right for me to think this way on behalf of all of you, because I have you in my heart, because, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Good News, you all are partakers with me of grace.

Philippians 4:15 You yourselves also know, you Philippians, that in the beginning of the Good News, when I departed from Macedonia, no assembly shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent once and again to my need.

Paul was glad that the Christians in the city of Philippi shared in God’s grace with him, because Paul had been preaching the gospel in sometimes hostile places and they had supplied his needs.

Philippians 1:27 Only let your way of life be worthy of the Good News of Christ, that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your state, that you stand firm in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the Good News; 28 and in nothing frightened by the adversaries, which is for them a proof of destruction, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 Because it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer on his behalf, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear is in me.

These are precious words of encouragement to all Christians who may need to suffer. We have salvation and do not need to fear. But we should also stand together.

Jesus Experienced Persecution

Jesus also experienced persecution and hatred. He told His brothers in His family:

John 7:7 The world can’t hate you, but it hates me, because I testify about it, that its works are evil.

Jesus also told His disciples:

John 15:18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, since I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his lord.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do to you for my name’s sake, because they don’t know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have had sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates me, hates my Father also. 24 If I hadn’t done among them the works which no one else did, they wouldn’t have had sin. But now have they seen and also hated both me and my Father. 25 But this happened so that the word may be fulfilled which was written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’

Jesus testified that the world was evil, and this made people hate Him, especially people who pretended to be good. Jesus and His disciples belonged to God, not to the world, just as Daniel was not counted among the other government officials. The others may hate us because they do not know God. But really, they did not have a good reason to hate Jesus.

Jesus Suffered on the Cross and Then Received Glory

Jesus is our ultimate example of suffering when people finally nailed Him to a cross.

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps, 22 who did not sin, “neither was deceit found in his mouth.” 23 Who, when he was cursed, didn’t curse back. When he suffered, didn’t threaten, but committed himself to him who judges righteously; 24 who his own self bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed.

But Jesus was also given the Kingdom of Heaven as a result of His suffering:

Luke 24:26 Didn’t the Christ have to suffer these things and to enter into his glory?”

Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who has been made a little lower than the angels, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for everyone.

Philippians 2:5 Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God, became the Lord of all. May He be praised forevermore!

Revelation 5:12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who has been killed to receive the power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing!”

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Chapter 13: An Outline of Jesus’ Life

Jesus modeled the qualities of that He taught in the beatitudes, but the beatitudes also trace through Jesus’ life in a chronological sequence. There is even a similarity between these life events and the corresponding stories from the Old Testament.

Jesus Is Born

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

When Jesus was born, his family was poor, which made Jesus qualified to be poor in spirit. Although He was born in a place where animals were kept, Jesus was also worshipped as the King of the Jews.

Luke 2:6 While they were there, the day had come for her to give birth. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a feeding trough, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.” … 11 They came into the house and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Opening their treasures, they offered to him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Just as Adam and Eve modeled the first beatitude, so the earliest part of Jesus’ life also reflected this condition.

Jesus Escapes King Herod’s Massacre at Bethlehem

Continuing to the second beatitude:

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

When King Herod saw the wise men did not help him find the baby King of the Jews, he proceeded to kill all of the baby boys in Bethlehem! But Jesus was taken to safety in Egypt.

Matthew 2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men, was exceedingly angry, and sent out, and killed all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding countryside, from two years old and under, according to the exact time which he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying,

[18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
lamentation, weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she wouldn’t be comforted,
because they are no more.”]

Could Rachel be comforted? Let’s read more from the words of Jeremiah the prophet.

Jeremiah 31:15 Yahweh says: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. 16 Yahweh says: Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says Yahweh; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. 17 There is hope for your latter end, says Yahweh; and your children shall come again to their own border.

This passage, which was describing the exile of the people of Israel, was also used to describe the sorrow of the mothers whose children were brutally murdered. But God’s comfort is that the children would return. In Jesus’ life, this comfort was realized when Jesus returned from exile in Egypt back to the land of Israel, for the story of Jesus continues:

Matthew 2:19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 20 “Arise and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel, for those who sought the young child’s life are dead.” 21 He arose and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in the place of his father, Herod, he was afraid to go there. Being warned in a dream, he withdrew into the region of Galilee, 23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Just as the time of Noah witnessed the destruction of many lives but saw a restoration after the flood, the Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem caused the loss of many lives, but the child Jesus was later restored to the land of Israel to begin a new life there.

Jesus Obeys His Parents

Continuing to the third beatitude:

Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Jesus demonstrated His gentleness when He was a boy growing up under Mary and Joseph.

Luke 2:42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast, 43 and when they had fulfilled the days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. Joseph and his mother didn’t know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the company, they went a day’s journey, and they looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 When they didn’t find him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the middle of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When they saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I were anxiously looking for you.” 49 He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 They didn’t understand the saying which he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth. He was subject to them, and his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

Jesus first of all honoured His Father in heaven by staying at the temple. Then He honoured His earthly mother Mary and his stepfather Joseph when they returned to Nazareth. In this way, Jesus kept one of the Ten Commandments, which was associated with a promise of long life in the land.

Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honor your father and your mother, as Yahweh your God commanded you; that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you, in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.

Just as Abraham obeyed God fully, and Isaac submitted to his father Abraham who tried to sacrifice him, Jesus was obedient to His Father God as well as to His earthly parents.

Jesus Is Tempted in the Wilderness

The fourth beatitude is:

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

When Jesus went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John, here’s what they said:

Matthew 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John would have hindered him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?” 15 But Jesus, answering, said to him, “Allow it now, for this is the fitting way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. 16 Jesus, when he was baptized, went up directly from the water: and behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him. 17 Behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Jesus wanted to do everything that was righteous, so He went to be baptized by John. The Spirit of God visibly came upon Jesus. God acknowledged Jesus as His beloved Son and let us know that the things He did were pleasing to God. What did Jesus do immediately afterwards?

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 When he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry afterward. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

Jesus truly hungered and thirsted during those forty days of fasting. When He was tempted, Jesus considered God’s words more important than bread. So was Jesus filled afterwards?

Luke 4:13 When the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him until another time. 14 Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and news about him spread through all the surrounding area. 15 He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

Matthew 4:23 Jesus went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness among the people.

Yes, Jesus was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and He taught and healed many people.

Just as Moses and the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness, Jesus also spent 40 days in the wilderness.

Jesus’ Public Ministry to Israel

At this point in the beatitudes, there is a logical break. And here we find the time when the Sermon on the Mount was preached. The first four beatitudes concerned events in the past. The last four beatitudes concerned events in the future. This change hinged around a turning point in Jesus’ life and ministry. The Sermon on the Mount was preached at a time when Jesus was growing in popularity. But after one or two years, it was clear that the people stopped listening to His message and the religious leaders of Israel had rejected Jesus as their Messiah. It seemed like the last straw was when the Pharisees attributed Jesus’ miraculous powers to the work of demons.

Matthew 12:22 Then one possessed by a demon, blind and mute, was brought to him and he healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. 23 All the multitudes were amazed, and said, “Can this be the son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “This man does not cast out demons, except by Beelzebul, the prince of the demons.”

25 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then God’s Kingdom has come upon you. 29 Or how can one enter into the house of the strong man, and plunder his goods, unless he first bind the strong man? Then he will plunder his house.

30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who doesn’t gather with me, scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in that which is to come.

From then on, Jesus’ ministry would be turned towards teaching His disciples privately, visiting non-Jewish Gentiles in neighbouring lands, and embarking on His journey to the cross.

Jesus Heals the Daughter of a Canaanite Woman

Continuing to the fifth beatitude:

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Jesus showed mercy to a woman and her daughter who were not Jewish, who were outside the covenant between God and Abraham. They deserved nothing from God.

Matthew 15:21 Jesus went out from there, and withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Behold, a Canaanite woman came out from those borders, and cried, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, you son of David! My daughter is severely possessed by a demon!” 23 But he answered her not a word. His disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away; for she cries after us.” 24 But he answered, “I wasn’t sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and worshiped him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 But he answered, “It is not appropriate to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 But she said, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Be it done to you even as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

Jesus obtained mercy in the sense that God the Father, whom He served, treated Him favourably because He helped the transgressors who sinned, like us.

[Isaiah 53:12 Therefore will I give him a portion with the great,
and he will divide the plunder with the strong;
because he poured out his soul to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.]

Just as Rahab and her daughter-in-law Ruth were not Israelites, the Canaanite woman and her daughter were not Israelites.

Jesus Chooses Obedience Even to Death

Continuing to the sixth beatitude:

Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

One important aspect of being pure or clean is to have a wholehearted devotion to God.

Matthew 16:21 From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up. 22 Peter took him aside, and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This will never be done to you.” 23 But he turned, and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.”

Although it was out of love that Peter did not want Jesus to die, Jesus rebuked this thought as coming from Satan. Jesus set His mind on the things of God, over and above the things of men. In contrast Peter, and if you remember, Eli and his sons, were more focused on making themselves happy. A week after this incident, God met with Jesus.

Luke 9:28 About eight days after these sayings, he took with him Peter, John, and James, and went up onto the mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became white and dazzling. 30 Behold, two men were talking with him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory, and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they were fully awake, they saw his glory, and the two men who stood with him. 33 As they were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let’s make three tents: one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah,” not knowing what he said.

34 While he said these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered into the cloud. 35 A voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!” 36 When the voice came, Jesus was found alone. They were silent, and told no one in those days any of the things which they had seen.

Jesus prayed and Moses and Elijah spoke to Him. And then God also spoke out of the cloud.

Just as God spoke to Samuel to tell him about the disaster that would befall Eli’s house, Jesus was speaking to Moses and Elijah about His impending death just before God spoke.

Jesus Enters Jerusalem Triumphantly

Continuing to the seventh beatitude:

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Jesus came to bring peace as Israel’s king when He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Luke 19:28 Having said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he came near to Bethsphage and Bethany, at the mountain that is called Olivet, he sent two of his disciples, 30 saying, “Go your way into the village on the other side, in which, as you enter, you will find a colt tied, whereon no man ever yet sat. Untie it, and bring it. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say to him: ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 Those who were sent went away, and found things just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus.

They threw their cloaks on the colt, and set Jesus on them. 36 As he went, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now getting near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!” 39 Some of the Pharisees from the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 40 He answered them, “I tell you that if these were silent, the stones would cry out.”

41 When he came near, he saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you, even you, had known today the things which belong to your peace! But now, they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come on you, when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, surround you, hem you in on every side, 44 and will dash you and your children within you to the ground. They will not leave in you one stone on another, because you didn’t know the time of your visitation.”

Unfortunately, even though Jesus came as a peacemaker, Israel did not receive Him as their king, and so Jerusalem experienced violent destruction instead of peace in the year 70 A.D. But God said this king of the city of Jerusalem, which sits on the hill of Zion, is His Son.

[Psalm 2:6 “Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion.”
7 I will tell of the decree.
Yahweh said to me, “You are my son.
Today I have become your father.”]

Just as Solomon’s life was in danger from his brother Adonijah, who wanted to be king, Jesus was in danger from the religious leaders who wanted to maintain their own power and plotted to kill Jesus (John 11:47-53; Mark 12:1-12). Just as Solomon was riding a mule when he was anointed king in Jerusalem to the sounds of celebration, Jesus was riding a donkey as he entered Jerusalem triumphantly to the cheers of a jubilant crowd.

Jesus Dies on the Cross

And the final beatitude:

Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Just as the prophets were hated, arrested, and killed, Jesus was hated, arrested, and killed. Jesus’death on the cross is the ultimate price paid for righteousness’ sake. The chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees hated Him because He preached against their evil.

Matthew 27:35 When they had crucified him, they divided his clothing among them, casting lots, 36 and they sat and watched him there. 37 They set up over his head the accusation against him written, “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

38 Then there were two robbers crucified with him, one on his right hand and one on the left. 39 Those who passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads, 40 and saying, “You who destroy the temple, and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” 41 Likewise the chief priests also mocking, with the scribes, the Pharisees, and the elders, said, 42 “He saved others, but he can’t save himself. If he is the King of Israel, let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God deliver him now, if he wants him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 The robbers also who were crucified with him cast on him the same reproach.

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lima sabachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 Some of them who stood there, when they heard it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him a drink. 49 The rest said, “Let him be. Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”

50 Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit.

But dying for righteousness’ sake has a deeper meaning in Jesus’ case. He died so that we, sinners, might be forgiven, and so we can share His righteousness and live for righteousness.

1 Peter 2:23 Who, when he was cursed, didn’t curse back. When he suffered, didn’t threaten, but committed himself to him who judges righteously; 24 who his own self bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed.

But Jesus has also been raised to life and He will reign over the Kingdom of Heaven.

Revelation 1:4 John, to the seven assemblies that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from God, who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne; 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us, and washed us from our sins by his blood; 6 and he made us to be a Kingdom, priests to his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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Chapter 14: Hope in the Midst of Suffering

Imagine a place where people don’t need to prove that they are better than other people; a place where people no longer mourn but are comforted; where people don’t need to fight for their rights because everyone gladly receives their portion from God. They don’t long for righteousness because it is written in their hearts. They are kind and merciful to others, and experience mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. They are pure, give freely and joyfully, and see God’s face. There is peace and they live securely as God’s children. There are no persecutions, insults, and false accusations, but a great reward. Such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

The beatitudes are a promise from God that our sufferings on earth are not in vain. God sees, God knows, and God will make things better.

Romans 8:28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 Whom he predestined, those he also called. Whom he called, those he also justified. Whom he justified, those he also glorified.

God’s desire is that we would have the same qualities as His Son Jesus Christ, many of which are described in the beatitudes. So God calls, justifies, and glorifies His people.

Rejoicing in Sufferings

So great are the promises that we can rejoice even today, in the midst of our troubles.

Romans 5:1 Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; 2 through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: 5 and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man. Yet perhaps for a righteous person someone would even dare to die. 8 But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

This passage tells us that by believing in Jesus Christ, our sins can be forgiven. The word here is “justified”, which means being pronounced innocent or good or righteous in God’s law court. This verdict is so valuable that it is considered equivalent to receiving God’s approval or glory. And it is possible all because Jesus died for our sins to rescue us from eternal punishment in hell.

From verses 3 to 5, it also tells us that we can rejoice in our sufferings. Sufferings produce perseverance. Then learning to choose God repeatedly, in spite of suffering, trains our character. When our character is thus trained, our life’s focus becomes that of choosing God. When our eyes see Jesus only, we will be characterized by a steadfast hope – hope for a closer relationship with Him and for an eternity spent with Him. Hope does not disappoint, meaning it will not be unrealized. This is because we can be so certain of God’s love for us, having seen it demonstrated on the cross of Jesus Christ.

God’s Plans

But let us look more at this hope that we keep referring to. The Bible says:

1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written,

“[Things which an eye didn’t see, and an ear didn’t hear,
which didn’t enter into the heart of man,
these God has prepared for those who love him.”]

10 But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.

The biggest glimpse into the Kingdom of Heaven, which God is preparing, is found in the Book of Revelation.

Revelation 21:1 I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more. 2 I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. 3 I heard a loud voice out of heaven saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with people, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away.”

They shall see God. They shall be comforted. They shall obtain mercy.

5 He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” He said, “Write, for these words of God are faithful and true.” 6 He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son. 8 But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

They shall be filled. They shall inherit the earth. They shall be called children of God.

A Description of the New Jerusalem

Revelation 21:9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were loaded with the seven last plagues came, and he spoke with me, saying, “Come here. I will show you the wife, the Lamb’s bride.” 10 He carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, as if it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal; 12 having a great and high wall; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. 13 On the east were three gates; and on the north three gates; and on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. 15 He who spoke with me had for a measure, a golden reed, to measure the city, its gates, and its walls. 16 The city is square, and its length is as great as its width. He measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand twelve stadia. Its length, width, and height are equal. 17 Its wall is one hundred forty-four cubits, by the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. 18 The construction of its wall was jasper. The city was pure gold, like pure glass. 19 The foundations of the city’s wall were adorned with all kinds of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; 20 the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprasus; the eleventh, jacinth; and the twelfth, amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls. Each one of the gates was made of one pearl. The street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

22 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. 23 The city has no need for the sun, neither of the moon, to shine, for the very glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk in its light. The kings of the earth bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. 25 Its gates will in no way be shut by day (for there will be no night there), 26 and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it so that they may enter. 27 There will in no way enter into it anything profane, or one who causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

It will be so glorious in the Kingdom of Heaven. The streets are paved with gold. The foundations of the city’s walls are adorned with precious stones. The city gates are pearls. God and the Lamb give it light, the Lamb referring to Jesus Christ who died for us as a sacrificial lamb. Glory enters the city, but no evil can get inside.

Revelation 22:1 He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 There will be no curse any more. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no night, and they need no lamp light; for the Lord God will illuminate them. They will reign forever and ever.

6 He said to me, “These words are faithful and true. The Lord God of the spirits of the prophets sent his angel to show to his bondservants the things which must happen soon.”

7 “Behold, I come quickly. Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

May you be encouraged to serve God faithfully in this life, as we wait for the coming kingdom of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

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The Beatitudes in the Old and New Testaments

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven..." Thus begins the first of eight blessings, or beatitudes, that Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount. Take a walk through the beatitudes along a scenic route with stories from both the Old and New Testaments. Discover two sequences of Biblical events hidden in the beatitudes as well as its overall message of hope. This book examines each beatitude in depth, citing historical events such as the reign of Solomon, who was a peacemaker whom God called His son, as well as parables and teachings from the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life. Moral lessons are also drawn from each beatitude for the reader to apply in daily life. The wealth of stories found in this book also make it a good introduction to the Bible. Oh that there would be a resulting a sense of wonder at God's words found in the Bible! May the Lord bless His words.

  • ISBN: 9781311562579
  • Author: Zion Kwok
  • Published: 2015-11-12 09:40:10
  • Words: 46725
The Beatitudes in the Old and New Testaments The Beatitudes in the Old and New Testaments