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. Read more →
Meekness, gentleness, and mildness get a bad rap in today’s society. People tend to think of them as synonyms for being weak or boring. A door mat. But those three words I opened with are all possible translations of the Greek word praotes (G4236), which is listed as part of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.
The spirit of God is not weak or boring. It is full of power, and it is also “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.” Indeed, though we may not think of these traits as “powerful,” we cannot display them all unless we’re empowered by God. It takes a great deal of inner strength, commitment, and willingness to be transformed by God to live-out the fruit of His spirit, including gentleness.
The Meekness of Christ
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul opened one of his lines of thought with the words, “I Paul, myself, entreat you by the humility and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1, WEB). The traits of gentleness, humility, and meekness that the world spurns are key to understanding Jesus Christ’s character. Read more →
Last Sabbath, I was at a young adult weekend centered on the theme “Desire What The Lord Requires.” All the seminars focused on Michah 6:8, which reads:
He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (WEB)
One speaker mentioned something that really stuck in my mind. In this passage, God doesn’t tell His people to be just, merciful, and humble. He uses specific verbs instructing us to act, love, and walk in certain ways. This passage is focused on actions that come from developing God’s character. It goes beyond being like God to actively walking with Him. And though it doesn’t say so here, this should be something that we want to do rather than something we do just because it’s a requirement. God has always been concerned with the state of our hearts and the motives behind why we follow Him. We please Him when we do what He requires willingly and desire the same things He does.
Matthew Henry’s and Adam Clarke’s commentaries says that to do or act justly means “to give to all their due.” Giving everyone what they are “due” from us includes giving God all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, treating our neighbors as we would like to be treated, and also treating ourselves the way God intends.
Basically, acting justly is summed up in the two greatest commands (Matt. 22:36-40). That’s because the concept of justice is tied to God’s law, and the entire law hangs on the commands Jesus shared about how to love God and our neighbors. Read more →
What comes to mind when you think of humility before God? Do you think about abasing yourself? thinking of yourself less? or thinking less of yourself?
The problem with these approaches to humility is that they’re still focused on the self. To truly become humble, we have to shift our focus to God. Instead of wondering, “How can I think of myself less?” we should ask, “How can I think of God more?”
During the Feast of Tabernacles this year, a message given at our Feast site contained this gem of wisdom: “Elevating God is the best way to develop a spirit of humility and meekness.” Instead of focusing on abasing self, we focus on exalting God.
Joy In Exalting Him
The Psalms are a perfect place to begin studying God’s exaltation. David — the man after God’s own heart — penned many of the psalms. In his words of praise, we see an attitude of humility inspired by an awe of the Creator.
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. (Ps. 34:1-3)
Gladness probably isn’t the first word we’d associate with humility, and yet that’s what David does. Exalting God fills the humble with joy, and it also increases their humility.
But I am poor and sorrowful; let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bull, which has horns and hooves. The humble shall see this and be glad; and you who seek God, your hearts shall live. For the Lord hears the poor, and does not despise His prisoners. (Ps. 69:29-33)
This carries over in the the New Testament as well, which we can see in Jesus’ first recorded sermon. He says the “poor in spirit” have “the kingdom of heaven” and that the meek “shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:3, 5). Then near the end of the Beatitudes, He tells people to “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad” when they are “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matt. 12, 10). I suspect that’s impossible without an attitude of compete submission to God and a desire to find your joy in and glorify Him.
Pointing To God
John the Baptist is an excellent example of humility that exalts God. He consistently identified himself simply as a tool, a messenger whose sole purpose was to point others to Messiah. Every time someone asked about John, he pointed them to Jesus instead.
John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” (John 1:26-27)
Later, after Jesus’ ministry began, John had to deal with people who seemed worried that Jesus was undercutting John’s fame (John. 3:22-26). Once again, John handled this by stepping out of the way and finding joy in his Lord’s exaltation.
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. (Jn. 3:28-30)
Jesus Himself did much the same thing while here on the earth. He “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death” as an example to us (Phil 2:8). He consistently honored his Father, and did not glorfy Himself.
I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30)
Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. (John 8:54)
Jesus Christ — God in the flesh — was humble and meek (Matt. 11:29; 2 Cor. 10:1). We who are flawed, imperfect sinners have far more reason for humility. As those rescued from sin and brought from death into life, we have even more cause to exalt our Savior and God.
A Share In Glory
Humility is an essential quality in the family of God. Our Messiah modeled it, the people of faith all had it, and we must develop it to receive a reward.
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Pet. 5:5-7)
Our humility and meekness will be rewarded. There’s an element of ironic humor in the fact that the people who refuse to humble themselves will lose the glory they seek in this life, while those who submit to God and don’t care about themselves will be exalted.
But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Matt. 23:11-12)
This is the pattern Christ modeled for us — submit to God’s will, be humble, and He will exalt you (Phil 2:8-9). One of the most incredible things about Christ’s exaltation is His desire to share His glory with us. In His John 17 prayer, He talks about giving His disciples “the glory which You [Father] gave Me,” and prays that in the future His followers “may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory” (John 17:22, 24).
Glorifying Jesus and exalting our Father can only lead to our good. It’s the best path to humility, it gives a proper view of God, and it multiplies our joy.