We’re only two weeks away from the first of the fall holy days on God’s sacred calendar. Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets, also called Rosh Hashanah) is on September 19th this year. Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) follows ten days later. Traditionally, those ten days and the month leading up to Yom Teruah are a time of reflection and self-examination for Jewish and Messianic believers.
There’s been a lot to distract us lately. I wanted to bring my Bible study back to basics, and also use that as a tool to look at myself and how I’m doing as we move into this fall holy day season. Today’s post is the first of a series on the Beatitudes. As an interesting note, I looked up the word history for “beatitudes” in the Online Etymology Dictionary and found that it comes into English “from Middle French béatitude (15c.) and directly from Latin beatitudinem.” It means “a state of blessedness” not, as some clever speakers have said, a “be-attitude” (as in, an attitude you’re supposed to “be”).
No Glory In Ourselves
The beatitudes come at the beginning of the sermon on the Mount, which Jesus delivered to His disciples after withdrawing from the multitude and traveling up onto a mountain (Matt. 4:23-5:2).
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt. 5:3, all scriptures from WEB translation)
Jesus had a few Greek words He could have picked that would translate into English as “poor.” The one He used is ptochos (G4434). It means “reduced to beggary,” destitute, helpless, powerless, “lacking in anything” (Thayer’s dictionary). This does not refer to someone who is poor but still able to earn a subsistence. The ptochos have nothing (Zodhiates’s dictionary).
Adding “in spirit” means Jesus isn’t talking about physical poverty, though. Being “poor in spirit” involves acknowledging our own spiritual helplessness. We don’t have to be destitute physically, but we do need to realize that none of the physical stuff we have (or don’t have) can stop us from being spiritually destitute.
Yahweh says, “Don’t let the wise man glory in his wisdom. Don’t let the mighty man glory in his might. Don’t let the rich man glory in his riches. But let him who glories glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows me, that I am Yahweh who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for I delight in these things,” says Yahweh. (Jer. 9:23-24)
Blessed are those who don’t let intellect, might, wealthy, or worldly prestige get in the way of their commitment to God. It can be hard to have an accurate view of your spiritual helplessness if you’re wise, mighty, or noble, but we must all become “poor in spirit” if we are to live with God (1 Cor. 1:25-31).
The Right Attitude for Dwelling With God
God is looking for those who have a poor, or humble, spirit. He always has been, and this wasn’t a new Concept for Jesus’s Jewish audience.
For the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, says: “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.” (Is. 57:15)
God is so mighty, so powerful, so much higher than us. The more we understand Him and His greatness, the easier it is to be of a poor, humble, contrite spirit. Nothing we are is impressive compared to God, and we have nothing worth offering Him but ourselves.
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? For my hand has made all these things, and so all these things came to be,” says Yahweh: “but I will look to this man, even to he who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word.” (Is 66:1-2)
Having an understanding of our own relative unimportance and our spiritual helplessness are vital to a relationship with God. He doesn’t work with people who don’t want Him or who refuse to acknowledge they need Him. It is the “poor in spirit” who catch His eye, and they’re invited to dwell with Him forever.
Their’s Is The Kingdom
Not everyone is “given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:10-16). You need an invitation from God, and you need to respond to that invitation by turning to Him and becoming “as little children,” “for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to ones like these” (Matt. 18:3-4; 19:14).
Therefore, brothers, be more diligent to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never stumble. For thus you will be richly supplied with the entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:10-11)
God is seeking in us the humility and trusting nature of a child that knows all their needs will be met by loving parents. He wants us to grow and thrive and do great things, but the starting place for all that is a recognition of our spiritual helplessness. We need Him, and we need to know that we need Him in order to inherit the kingdom He has prepared for His people.
Featured image credit: Chris Mainland via Lightstock