BEAUTY IN THE BEATITUDES
What is the chief and highest end of man? According to the Westminster catechism, man's chief and highest end is to glorify (worship) God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.
When it comes to glorifying Him and fully enjoying Him, the entire exercise ought to be "absolutely genuine, emanating right from the innermost core of one's being." This would lead to the next question, "How could the process of glorifying Him originate from the depths of one's heart?" It is only possible when a person is truly fascinated by His unique traits. Remember, worshipping God for what He is, is the highest form of worship, standing head and shoulders above other forms of worship, which come with strings attached, such as worshipping Him for the blessings He showers upon us. It would serve us well to look at the synonym of the word 'glorify', which is 'magnify'. When you magnify Him, when you keenly observe His divine nature, the 'spiritual explorer' in you is bound to come across several unique attributes of the Almighty, which would evoke awe, and in turn lead to spontaneous, heart-felt worship and praise.
The one definite attribute in the Almighty which at once evokes awe in me is that He is a God of order. There is perfect order in whatever He does. One may well say that His signature of orderliness is seen vividly in all of His physical creation. To the keen observer, perfect order would be perceptible in the spiritual realm too. Firstly, let us focus upon our planet, as one entity. There is a distinct orderliness about it in all areas, especially in matters such as its distance from its 'heating system', the Sun. If it were a little bit closer, we would all be roasted to death, and if it were a little further away, we would all freeze. Do not get your thinking marred by imagining about possibility of life on Mars. Nothing quite like our good ole Earth, when it comes to sustaining life. Look at the 'reverse breathing order' of human and plant life, and we find one more reason to spontaneously praise Him. What we inhale, the plants exhale, and vice versa! Is this breathing pattern a result of some bizarre cosmic accident? No way!
Coming back to the spiritual realm, let us look at the classification of the Scriptures. At once we see divine order in operation. The Old Testament books have been classified into three categories: history, from Genesis to Esther; poetry, from Job to Song of Solomon; prophecy, from Isaiah to Malachi. The New Testament has been categorized, generally, into three sections based on time-related yardsticks: past, the four Gospels (redemption work completed); present, Acts to Jude (symbolising the age of grace, following the atoning work of Christ on the cross); future, The Revelation. Amazing, isn't it?
Likewise, in our Lord's Sermon on the Mount, we see a wonderful pattern in operation. Ever wondered, why the good Lord spoke about the beatitudes first (the word beatitude incidentally means supreme blessedness) and only then about several dos' and donts'? The entire Sermon on the Mount can be divided into two parts. The weightier beatitudes (Matt.5:1-12) followed by how we need to go about 'fleshing out the Christian faith' (Matt.5:13-7:28). As the beatitudes focus upon the inward transformation to start with, our Lord was obviously more interested in what we become first, rather than in what we do. Is it not a fact of life that doing or not doing anything depends on what we are in the first place? Underscoring this truth, one Bible scholar put it creatively when he said, "For this purpose, we are called human beings and not human doings!"
If I were to say that even in the beatitudes there is a beautiful order portraying 'gradual evolution of a Christian life' and that they are actually inter-connected, would you shout Hallelujah? Ever wondered why the good Lord placed the beatitude about persecution at the very end? When does a Christian get persecuted? Here are questions and answers arrayed backwards, which would lead to the first beatitude. A Christian gets persecuted only when he stands up for his Saviour or only when he works for Him. When would he do that? Only when he has a relationship with Him! And when does that relationship begin? Only when the poor in spirit seeks the Saviour! Simply amazing is this perfect order! Hallelujah!
Blessed are the poor in spirit
(Matt.5:3). Blessed indeed are the poor in spirit, who realise that they are sinners to the core, in dire need of a Saviour! That is exactly where the Christian life with a 'born again' experience begins, when a person convicted of his/her sins turns his life over into the waiting arms of the merciful Redeemer, who in turn receives him warmly, registering the erstwhile sinner's name in the Book of Life (Rev.20:12). Examine once again the words of our Lord in this context. Man being comprised of three parts (body, soul and spirit, 1Thess.5:23), our Lord doesn't call a person who is 'poor in body or soul' as blessed, for they do not constitute the real person, but reserves the exalted blessing only to those who are convicted where it really matters: deep down in spirit, which constitutes the innermost core of one's being!
Blessed are those who mourn
(Matt 5:4) 'Blessed' indeed are those who mourn in realisation of their spiritual poverty, for then the just God 'clears their record' on the basis of Christ's atoning work on the cross (Col.1:20-22 NLV) and in turn places His own comforting Holy Spirit (Jn.15:26AB) in them, sealing them as His own children (Eph.1:13; Rom.8:15)! Giving of a new life (salvation) is a one-to-one transaction between the Redeemer and a repentant sinner; that is why God the giver of spiritual life (Jn.1:12) is addressed by Christians as 'Father' and not 'Great-Grandfather', on the basis of His original creation of man.
Blessed are the meek
(Matt.5:5).When the Holy Spirit comes into the heart of the believer at the point of regeneration, He brings along His fruit (Gal.5:22, 23KJV), which amongst others includes meekness. While gifts of the Holy Spirit are different and that all the gifts may not be given to everyone (1Cor.12:27-30), the fruit of the Holy Spirit is universal in nature and is given to every Christian, without any exception. A forgiven sinner at this stage has meekness overflowing in his heart, as the magnitude of his enormous debt to his Redeemer registers on his mind. "Oh, the gracious, merciful God of mine has forgiven all of my sins" is the line that would be playing on his mind again and again, even as he starts taking baby steps in his new way of life, with a heart full of meekness borne of gratitude. Since the Holy Spirit is his Coach now in the matter of holy living, he submits himself meekly and fully to the guidance of the Divine Coach.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt.5:5). Before the redemption experience, a sinner would have shunned church-going, praying, Bible reading, attending cottage prayer meetings and a host of other Christian activities; now these are the very activities which would appeal to him, as nutritious milk would to a growing infant (1Pet.2:2-3). All these would contribute to his growth process, the divine transformation into Christ-likeness (2Cor.3:18;2Pet.1:5-7)!
Blessed are the merciful (Matt.5:7). A growing Christian drinking deeply from the fount of holy joy (Jn.4:13-14) would look with mercy at the unrepentant souls who are trekking towards a Christ-less eternity. He knows too well what kind of a sinner he himself had been before his regeneration. No Christian, experiencing the joys of his new life, would whine at the task of winning souls for his Lord, for talking about the saving grace of his Saviour would come as naturally to him as speaking about a doctor who has cured him of a life-threatening disease. Honestly, you do not need a push to talk about your 'road to Damascus' experience. Ask Paul.
Blessed are the pure in heart (Matt.5:8). With the passage of time, as the Holy Spirit, the Master Sculptor, keeps chiselling away at the rough edges in a Christian's character, the latter becomes more and more Christ-like, with the purity of his heart being reflected in the radiance of his countenance. This purity, which is imparted, would become intrinsic on the day of ethereal wedding (1Jn.3:2;Rev.19:7-8). With steady upward progress in sacrificial, holy living, a Christian, over time, gets recognised in the society for his godliness and trust-worthiness. This, more than anything else, qualifies him to be the perfect peacemaker!
Blessed are the peacemakers (Matt.5:9). There are two dimensions to the concept of 'peacemaking'. One is of a socio-spiritual type, where a mature Christian's counsel is sought by troubled individuals, families and even some welfare societies plagued by troubles arising from mutual distrust and discord. Would they confide their problems to a passer-by on the road? Nay! But only to a godly, reliable, wise, sympathetic and empathetic individual that an erstwhile sinner has now become. Remember, it all began when 'the poor in spirit' sought the Saviour! The second type of 'peace-making' is an unalloyed spiritual one, when a Christian donning the robes of an evangelist brings 'peace between holy God and unholy sinners' by sharing the Gospel with the latter. Would sinners listen to a man preaching the Gospel when he doesn't walk his talk? No way! But they will lend a hearing ear only to a person whose exemplary life does the preaching before his mouth does; one whose heart is pure! So, once again, it all goes back to that first step of faith the sinner turned saint had taken, when the poor in spirit sought the Saviour. Hallelujah!
Blessed are those who are persecuted (Matt.5:10-12). Someone is bound to get alarmed and terribly upset when a Christian grabs a sinner from the realm of darkness and brings him into light! That someone is Satan (1Pet.5:8). David the shepherd testified as to the lion's habit of turning upon the rescuers of sheep, when they pull the sheep out of its murderous jaws (1Sam.17:34-35). No wonder, when a Christian goes about winning souls for the Lord, grabbing 'sheep from the mouth of lion', persecution is bound to follow! It may even result in martyrdom, but take heart, no Christian shall die before his God-ordained work is completed in this world (Jn.8:20).
Accept martyrdom and the crown that comes with it (Rev.2:10), should the opportunity come your way. Meanwhile, be orderly in serving the orderly God!
Now, isn't there unmistakable beauty in the order of the beatitudes? There is! Finally, it is only in order that theology should always end with doxology! Hallelujah!