This chapter divides perfectly into three sections, but 1 is super short and 1 is extra long, so I decided I would post them all at once and let you choose how many verses to tackle each day. Since there are 3 sections included, this is the last time I will post this week. Chew on these until next Monday. Don’t forget to take your time and read each section in several different versions. The more time you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.
Ok, technically there are 9 beatitudes, but it seemed like the last one was just repeated for emphasis. Can you imagine these characteristics being listed in that book?! The Kingdom of Heaven sure is upside-down and backwards from what we’re used to!
- V1 – Everyone wants to be around Him, but only thse who are really committed climb the mountain to be close and make sure they hear Him. The “crowds” were people who were showing up out of curiosity or to see Him do something amazing. They were not committed to Him. The disciples were committed to following Him and His teachings. They had to give up their former way of life to be able to follow Him.
◊ Am I a disciple or part of the crowd?
- V2 – “He opened His mouth and taught them.” Matthew clarifies that He wasn’t just setting a good example or preaching with His actions, He was also being vocal.
◊ Do I sometimes hope that my actions alone will tell people about God’s love for them when words are needed as well?
- V3 – Blessed = state of well-being in relationship to God. (ESV notes) The poor in spirit are those who recognize they’re in need of God’s help (ESV, NLT), are “at the end of your rope” (MSG) – for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. In the Kingdom, it’s not about us, so it makes sense that those who recognize their need for God would “get” the kingdom of heaven. “With less of you there is more of God and His rule.” (MSG)
◊ Do I daily recognize my need for God? Father help me to be less motivated by selfishness, pride, and looking out for myself, and more motivated to bring glory to You in Your Kingdom because I trust You will look out for me.
- V4 – Happy are those who are sad – huh. Your relationship with God is in good standing when you mourn for your sins. “When you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you” (MSG) you can lean hard into God’s peace and comfort. Comfort from God is the sweetest experience, no matter what you’re mourning for. (I cast all my cares upon You… Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:7)
◊ Do I mourn for my sins? Do I cast my cares on God or try to manage them myself?
- V5 – Meek = gentle, humble. The meek will inherit the earth – that seems backwards! Generally, on earth, meek people don’t get much. Jesus is introducing His “upside-down gospel” where we see that in the Kingdom of Heaven everything is backwards from what we think it should be (first shall be last, etc). The less we try to control, the more we enjoy what we have been given.
◊ Would anyone describe me as meek or humble? Am I content with what I’ve been given? Do I try to control most situations or do I hand the reigns over to God?
- V6 – Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled- What a promise!
◊ Do I want what God wants for me? Am I driven to seek for God and fill myself with His Word?
- V7 – Merciful – “Those who care” (MSG) – Mercy is giving people what they don’t deserve – kindness and forgiveness. These spring out of my understanding and acceptance of God’s mercy for me.
◊ What does it say about what I believe when I don’t show mercy to someone? Who do I need to show mercy to? (Who needs me to care about them?)
- V8 – Pure in heart – is this possible?! My motives are always mixed. Only through true, deep relationship with God can we experience this, which is why the pure in heart will see God.
◊ Purify my heart Holy Father. Make my motives pure. Help me to see You working inside of me and out in the world around me.
- V9 – The peacemakers are called sons of God – a family term as we figure out how to operate peacefully together in God’s family.
◊ Am I a peacemaker? Do I start conflict? Do I run from conflict in an unhealthy way? Where and how could I bring peace where there is currently conflict?
- V10 – Those who are treated wrongly because of their faith (and actions) in Christ receive the same reward as the poor in spirit. They also recognize it’s not about them. Jesus is giving a heads-up that this will happen when you follow Him.
- V11 – Just to be clear, you’ll be persecuted when you follow Me. Let me get more specific.
◊ Am I not persecuted only because of where I live or am I missing something in the way I’m following and obeying Jesus?
- V12 – More backwards Kingdom. Miserable conditions on earth translate into great things in Heaven when you are doing/enduring for God’s glory.
- V3-12 – A lot of these are kind of like the Kingdom of Heaven – already here, but not yet here. With God’s helep we can experience and strive toward each of these, but our sinful nature gets in the way of us experiencing them fully.
- V3-12 – The qualifications for living/thriving in the Kingdom of God are completely different than how you would thrive on earth.
O Taste and See – Matthew 5:13-16
- V13 – Salt brings out the flavor and preserves things. What a bizarre analogy!
◊ How do/can I make situations “taste better” to those around me by acting within the laws of God’s Kingdom as oppossed to the sensibilities of everyone else?
◊ Could my prayers for others act as a preservative?
- V13 – “It’s no longer good for anything except to be…trampled…” Well, ok. No mincing words here. Jesus help me maintain my saltiness!
- V14 – Light – this analogy makes a lot more sense. A city on a hill really stands out.
◊ Does that describe me? Do I stand out because of my beliefs or do I blend in?
V15-16 – Hiding vs. sharing our light – My Life Application Study Bible says there are 6 ways we hide our light: 1) being quiet when we should speak, 2) going along with the crowd, 3) denying the light, 4) letting sin dim our light, 5) not explaining our light to others, and 6) ignoring the needs of others.
◊ Do any of those resonate especially for me? Do I need to repent and pray for boldness to shine my light? What are specific ways I could let my light shine today? This week?
◊ Do I hide the light that’s been given to me and keep it to myself or do I share it with everyone? (I think of this picture…)
- V16 – Purpose of people seeing my good works is so they’ll give glory to God, not me. Shining my light involves good works.
◊ How are my motives?
Setting the Bar – Matthew 5:17-48
- V17 – Law and Prophets = all of the Old Testament – He’s not throwing it all out, He’s making it all make sense. “I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama.” (MSG) People had manipulated/changed/misunderstood the laws for so long they were completely missing the point. Jesus is trying to bring people back to the original purpose of the Laws, which was to love God.
- V18 – “Until all is accomplished” – It all points to Him. God doesn’t do anything accidentally, but with intention.
- V19 – !!!! Yikes! By relaxing the laws, you negate/eliminate one’s need for the Gospel and the work that Christ has done. It’s impossible, by human will-power and strength alone, to keep all these laws.
◊ Do I encourage myself or my kids to be “good enough” by just following the rules as best as we can? When I do that, am I sending the message that we don’t need the cross because we can be “good enough” on our own? I can never be good enough. Only God is good. (Luke 18:19)
- V19 – “Does and teaches” – Jesus expects us to do both.
◊ Do I teach with just my actions or also my words? Do my words match my actions?
- V20 – This would’ve sounded like a ridiculously tall order. The Pharisees dedicated their lives to following the law (and making up new laws) in order to be righteous. Jesus wasn’t talking about righteous acts motivated by selfish reasons. He was talking about righteousness that comes from a changed heart – which then motivates righteous acts. The Pharisees were obeying God with their actions without letting Him change their hearts.
◊ Are my “righteous deeds” motivated by selfish reasons or do they come from a heart moved by God? When my motives are mixed (good and selfish) do I still offer myself to God, knowing that, this side of heaven, they will never be completely untangled? Do I use that as an opportunity for confession and request a pure heart? Is my heart being changed by God?
[This whole section reminds me of Luke 18-19 where the Rich Young Man comes to Jesus but then he leaves because Jesus asked him to give all his stuff away. Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven, which made the disciples ask “Well, then who can get into heaven?!” Jesus answered, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Then, in the very next chapter, we hear the story of Zacchaeus, a rich man whose heart was changed by God so he promised to give away half of his belongings to the poor. Jesus tells him “Today salvation has come to this house!” So see? “What is impossible with man is possible with God!”]
- V21-22 My Study Bible makes a great point and asks a great question. It says “The Pharisees read this law and, not having literally murdered anyone, felt that they had obeyed it. Yet they were angry enough with Jesus that they would soon plot his death, thought they would not do the dirty work themselves. We miss the intent of God’s Word when we read his rules for living without trying to understand why he made them.”
◊ When do I keep God’s rules but close my eyes to His intent?
- V22 – The bar moves from murder (we can almost all step over that one pretty easily) to anger and insults and calling each other stupid. Uh… that puts it out of reach of most of us. Reminder: We need the cross! He takes the emphasis off actions and puts it on our heart attitudes and the overflow of that – what comes out of our mouths.
- V24 – God prefers us to be reconciled with each other over our gifts. “Leave your gift” implies that you’re intending to come back soon. This isn’t a long process.
◊ Is there anyone I have sinned against in anger or insulted who I need to be reconciled with?
- V25 – Get reconciled quickly! You don’t have unlimited time to get it done and you don’t want to have to show up before the throne of God and explain yourself, telling Him why you just couldn’t forgive/ask forgiveness from that person. In light of the forgiveness offered to you and what Jesus had to go through to offer it, you’ll feel like an idiot.
◊ Have I dragged my feet in getting reconciled with anyone? Father, change my heart. Help me to have a deeper understanding of the forgiveness you’ve given me so I can offer it to others.
- V27-28 – Again, the bar is moved from actions to the heart. Reminder: We can’t get over the bar without the cross of Christ.
- V29-30 – Putting things in perspective. There is nothing on earth that is worth keeping if it keeps us away from eternity with God. Thankfully, because Jesus and the Holy Spirit can transform our hearts, we can keep our eyes and hands.
◊ Is there anything causing me to sin that I’m reluctant to let go or get rid of because it seems important?
◊ Do I have issues with hidden lust that I need to bring before the Father in repentance? Is there someone I can ask to be an accountability partner so I can begin bringing light into that dark place?
- V31-32 – Marriage is a reflection of the relationship between God and His people. We shouldn’t take that covenant lightly
◊ Father thank You for Your forgiveness and remaining faithful even when we do not.
◊ Does my attitude towards my marriage (or marriage in general) reflect this passage and the covenant God has made with His people? Are my actions today helping my marriage grow stronger, or am I tearing it apart?
- V33-34 – My ESV Study Bible says “An oath involved invoking God’s name…to guarantee the truth of one’s statements. Jesus’ disciples’…character should be of such integrity that their words can be believed without an oath.” Read this in the Message. “You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace.”
◊ Does this integrity of words describe me? When I’m chatting with friends? With my spouse? To my kids?
- V38-39 – Whew! This is tough to understand/interpret rightly. The ESV Study Bible lists several verses to make it clear that He’s not recommending that we stay in abusive relationships, but is insisting that we don’t escalate violence. The Message translates it “Use the occassion to practice the servant life. No more tit for tat stuff. Live generously.” The ultimate picture of these verses is Christ on His way to the cross.
◊ When people wrong me, do I want to get back at them? Do I demand justice?
◊ Do I live generously, surprising people who wrong me so they can better understand the surprising gift of grace that God offers?
- V38-42 – All of these things go directly against human tendancy. Only God can give us the strength to love others like He loves us.
◊ Do I trust that the Holy Spirit will help me show love to those I do not feel love for? Am I ready for my attitudes toward them to be changed?
- V40 – Unexpected extravagant generosity.
- V41 – Going the extra mile
◊ What could this look like at work? With someone who wants to spend more time with me than I want to give? How do boundaries come into play?
- V42 – “Give to the one who begs from you.” I’ve ignored this one a lot so I’m writing it down.
◊ How can I give to beggars in a way that glorifies God and points them to His grace?
- V43 – ESV says the Old Testament never says “Hate your enemy” – Jesus is correcting misconceptions.
◊ What does loving my enemies look like for me?
◊ Who do I need to be praying for because they are my enemy? Should I let them know I’m praying for them? Should I pray that they would change or that my attitude toward them would change, or both? Am I ready for God to change my attitude towards them?
- V45 – This doesn’t mean “you are only God’s sons if you pray for those who persecute you” but “you pray for those who persecute you because you are God’s sons.” Kind of like in my family being loud isn’t a requirement, but because my kids are the product of my husband and I, they’re loud.
- V45 – God and His children aren’t kind only to the people they like.
◊ Do I withhold my kindness “sunshine” and mercy “rain” from certain kinds of people (or an individual person)?
- V46-47 – Being a Christ follower sets you apart from moral atheists, Mormons, Buddhists, and etc.
◊ Can people see a difference between me and my really kind, moralistic, agnostic neighbor?
- V48 – There’s the bar set reeeeeeeeeeally high! Reminder: No one will ever get over this bar without the Gospel. Jesus already cleared this bar. Apart from Him I will never even get close.
◊ Am I trying to “work” my way to perfection? Does this verse freak and stress me out? Am I asking my Perfect Savior to change my heart and attitudes so that I can be more like Him? Could this verse be a promise of a wonderful adventure?
Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:
- Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
- What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
- Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
- What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
- What do these verses move me to pray for myself?