The Beatitudes, Part One: Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

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

Titles of Jesus Christ: David’s Son

Over and over in the gospels, people cry out to Jesus, “Have mercy on us, you son of David!”

Why is the Messiah’s title as David’s son the one that blind men and a Canaanite woman latched on to as they asked for healing? (Matt. 9:27; 15:22; 20:30-31; Mark 10:46-48; Luke 18:35-39). Why did the people shout, “Hosanna to the son of David!” when Jesus entered Jerusalem, and why did that make the chief priests and the scribes so indignant? (Matt. 21:9, 15; Mark 11:10). What is the significance of this title?

It would be easy to gloss over Jesus’ title as David’s son, simply taking it as fulfillment of a few prophecies that said Messiah (the Hebrew equivalent to “Christ,” which means “anointed”) would come from King David’s descendants. But the Biblical writers treat this as a highly significant fact, and I think it’s worth looking into more closely.

Fulling A Covenant Promise

I’ve talked about the covenant aspect of Jesus being descended from David in several posts already, including “Inheriting Covenants.” The Lord made a covenant with David that He would establish his offspring’s kingdom forever, and that connected with the promise of Messiah (2 Sam. 7:12-15).

Yahweh has sworn to David in truth. He will not turn from it: “I will set the fruit of your body on your throne. If your children will keep my covenant, my testimony that I will teach them, their children also will sit on your throne forever more.” (Ps. 132:11-12, all verses from WEB translation)

David’s descendants eventually fell into disobedience and lost the physical kingdoms of Israel and Judah. But Jesus — a sinless, obedient son of David — inherited the covenant promise. According to Peter, David actually knew that would be the end result of God’s promises to him about his descendants. Read more

Lessons From Sukkot

My family and I just got back on Thursday evening from a wonderful Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) gathering in eastern Pennsylvania. While it was packed full of spiritual lessons, there wasn’t much time for the sort of personal Bible studies that typically end up becoming blog posts on Saturdays. So today I’m just going to share a few lessons I learned this past week:

  • I can organize people. If I’d known agreeing to plan a singles/young adult activity would have ended up involving 30+ people doing 5 different activities I would have probably wanted to hide under a desk. But it all went really well and I had lots of help from people who volunteered (or had someone volunteer them) to lead some of the activities.
  • The only ancient text with anywhere near as many copies still around as there are for the Bible is Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Stacked together, the existing copies for both those works would only be a few feet tall. In contrast, a stack of all the surviving Biblical manuscripts would be so tall it’s nearly outside earth’s atmosphere. Wow! (One of the speakers shared this fact in a Bible study about the reliability of the Bible.)
  • Spending a week with my boyfriend (who joined my family and our church group for the Feast) does not make living an 8-hour drive apart any easier. I suppose it’s a good thing that I miss him so much, though, since otherwise I’d have to re-think whether or not we should be dating. In related news, my new favorite love song is “Over And Over Again.” They played it at the dance our church group hosted and not only is my boyfriend a really good dancer but he also sings ❤
  • The “fear not” reminders just keep coming at me. On the second day of Sukkot someone gave a message about why those who are “fearful” are lumped in with murderers, sorcerers, etc. as people who won’t be in God’s kingdom (Rev. 21:8). The Greek word means “timid” or “cowardly” and carries the implication of faithlessness, as in a Christian who is too scared to act in faith doesn’t trust God enough. Thankfully, we serve a God who embodies the kind of love that casts out fear and who has the strength to help us overcome fears. That’s a reminder I need as I prep for giving my second seminar (I’m actually speaking in front of people again!) in a few months.
  • It’s always interesting to look back on sermons, Bible studies, and conversations at the Feast and find common themes. This year, I noticed an emphasis on shifting our focus as we move toward God’s kingdom. Instead of just focusing on, “How can I get into God’s kingdom?” we should be thinking about, “How can I be the kind of person God wants to bring into His family?” Those thoughts are related of course, but one’s focused on what we get out of our Christian walk and the other is focused on becoming like God in how we live our lives and interact with other people.

I’ve got a few other thoughts on things I learned and heard this Feast/Sukkot, but they’d be better served by each having a blog post all to themselves so we’ll wait on that. I hope you’ve all been having a wonderful week and have a fantastic weekend! I should be back to more of my usual posting routine by Monday, so I’ll “see” you then 🙂