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(From Forerunner Commentary)
The fourth commandment links the Sabbath to creation.
God did not rest as a result of tiredness because He does not get weary (Isaiah 40:28). In this, man is unlike God. We need to rest this physical body on the Sabbath. This ties the rhythm of our bodies to the rhythm in which God made the world. God rested from the achievement of the physical creation, but that does not indicate His rest means inactivity because God nurtures what He creates. This is why Jesus said that His Father is working. The Sabbath is especially a time of spiritual activity that the Father spends preparing His children for His Kingdom.
The Bible says He blessed the Sabbath day. To bless is to favor. According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word means "to endue with power for success, prosperity, fecundity, longevity, etc." Does God point out the fact that the proper observance of the Sabbath will go a long way toward promoting success in those who keep it? Yes, because He also sanctified it, consecrated it, hallowed it. He made it HOLY TIME!
It takes a holy God to make holy time, and this holy God made no time holy other than His Sabbaths. God can make man holy, but man cannot make anything holy. All of this is seen within the context of the seventh day, a specific day following the first six days of creation. Using any day other than the seventh day, the Sabbath, for the normal weekly worship of God is man-directed, and is neither blessed nor holy.
That the Sabbath is holy means it is worthy of respect, deference, even devotion not given other periods of time. It is set apart for sacred use because it is derived from God's own acts of creation and commands. The overall idea of the word holy is "different." Its root word means "cut," indicating "cut out," "separate," or in more modern terms, "a cut above." When it applies to God or those persons or objects He declares holy, a thing that is holy is different from the common. It is thus separate from others, cut out from the ordinary, or a cut above, indicating transcendence.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)
During His earthly lifetime, Jesus demonstrated these qualities in His own person, and He expects us to do likewise. It is interesting and noteworthy that God places the Sermon on the Mount near the beginning of the very first book in the New Testament, immediately after Jesus begins to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Also of note is that it follows His call for repentance - for deep, heartfelt, sincere, and radical change in a person's thinking and way of life. This change is what causes conversion to God's way. Then the Beatitudes appear as the preamble to the best-known sermon ever preached, teaching intended for those who have repented and are being converted.
We must not be deceived into thinking Jesus intended the Beatitudes for eight separate groups of disciples, some of whom are meek, while others seek righteousness, and yet others endure persecution. Far from it! These are eight distinct qualities of the same group, all of whom are to be poor in spirit, merciful, mourning, making peace, etc. Nor should we pass them off as intended only for an elitist group singled out from among the disciples, thus forming a kind of spiritual aristocracy. They are Christ's specifications of what every disciple ought to be. All of these qualities should characterize each of His followers.
Just as surely as every Christian character should produce all nine segments of the fruit of the Spirit, so Christ's eight Beatitudes describe His ideal for every citizen of God's Kingdom. Unlike the gifts of the Spirit, which He distributes as He wills to different members of His body to equip them for different kinds of service, the Beatitudes are qualities each Christian needs. We cannot escape our responsibility to seek them all.
Each beatitude pronounces the person who possesses that quality as "blessed." We need to understand this word because, as some have rightly noted, the Greek word used by Matthew, makarios, can also be translated as "happy." Happy, however, is not the correct translation in this context. Happiness is subjective; the same things do not always make everybody happy. And we can certainly rule out mourning as a producer of happiness. Instead, Jesus makes objective judgments about the state of the citizens of God's Kingdom. He declares, not what they feel like, but what God thinks of them. People with these qualities gain His approval. Because God thinks well of them, they are "blessed." God's blessing is far broader and exceedingly more important than merely being "happy."
The second half of each beatitude reveals what the blessing is. Just as surely as all eight of the qualities should be part of each Christian, so each should share in the eight blessings. As the eight qualities provide broad overviews of our responsibilities, the eight blessings give us insight into the broad privileges that come to us because we are meeting our responsibilities and God is pleased.
Are the promised blessings intended for the future or now? The answer is both. God does not expect a Christian to have to wait until the future becomes the present to be blessed. Although we must endure heavy trials and pressures from time to time, is it not possible to be blessed with contentment and a sense of well-being - rather than a troubled spirit and debilitating anxiety - while patiently going through them?
Is not the Kingdom of God a present reality that we can, as Paul says in Colossians 1:13, be "translated into" in the here and now? Can we not obtain mercy and be comforted now? Can we not become children of God now, and in this life have our hunger satisfied and thirst quenched? The reality is that all eight blessings have both a present and future fulfillment. We enjoy the firstfruits now, yet the full harvest is yet to come. As R.G.V. Tasker, professor of New Testament exegesis at the University of London, writes, "The future tense . . . emphasizes their certainty and not merely their futurity. The mourners will indeed be comforted, etc." (The Gospel According to St. Matthew, p. 61). We receive some of the blessing now but much more later.
John Donne, author of the poem used in the song, "No Man Is an Island," says of the Sermon on the Mount: "All the articles of our religion, all the canons of our church, all the injunctions of our princes, all the homilies of our fathers, all the body of divinity, is in these three chapters, in this one Sermon on the Mount." No doubt he employs a measure of hyperbole here, but it indicates the esteem that those who search deeply into this message hold for it. The Beatitudes are this profound message's introduction, paving the way for us to receive the rest. They are like a verbal bomb blast that forcefully gathers our attention by establishing standards of responsibilities of great height and depth.
Attempts to classify them into groups have met with some success, but John Chrysostom (AD 347-407) described them simply, "as a sort of golden chain." Like the Ten Commandments, each stands alone, but at the same time it is firmly linked to all the others, making a complete set of qualities each child of God must have to be in His Kingdom. One commentator sees the first three beatitudes as having overlapping qualities and combines them in one link, the following four in a second link, and the eighth as a final link in a three-link chain. The simplest grouping is probably the best, however. The first four, dealing specifically with one's relationship with God, sets the stage for the final four, which have more to do with one's relations to man.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Two: Poor in Spirit
Mary's cousin Elizabeth is inspired to recognize that Mary's baby is not just an ordinary baby, and she calls both Mary and her unborn Son "blessed." Blessed literally means "to speak well of." It signifies celebrating with praises and invoking blessings upon a person. The New Testament uses it frequently, sometimes in relation to Christ, but often in relation to inanimate objects such as fish and loaves of bread. The Amplified Bible translates it as "favored of God." Again, nothing in the wording indicates that Mary is worthy of worship.
Mary is not the only woman to be given the title of "blessed" in the Bible. In the Song of Deborah, Jael—the woman who invited the fleeing Sisera into her tent, encouraged him to sleep, and then drove a tent peg through his skull—is accorded this same honor: "Most blessed among women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; blessed is she among women in tents" (Judges 5:24). Here, she is lauded as "blessed"—even "most blessed"—but there is no record of a shrine dedicated to her or of anybody worshipping her. She is simply recognized with a very honorable mention for the part she played in carrying out God's plan.
David C. Grabbe
Is Mary Worthy of Worship?
The word translated happy in the King James and New King James Bibles can easily be rendered "blessed," "favored," or "satisfied." There is a reward for following God's marvelous way of life! Not only will we be given eternal life and rulership in His Kingdom, but God will also bestow His blessing and favor upon us until we are completely satisfied!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Holy Days: Atonement
The Greek and Hebrew definitions of the words translated as "joy" and its synonyms are virtually the same as their English counterparts, except for one whose specific definition is not "joy" but "blessed." This word, the Greek makarios, reveals much about some of the major sources of biblical joy. It frequently appears as the first word in the well-known Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, as in Matthew 5:3:">Matthew 5:3: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Strong's defines this word as "supremely blessed; by extension fortunate, well off, blessed, happy." The King James version translates it as "happy" five times. In a marginal reference, E.W. Bullinger in the Companion Bible says the word means "happy," and J.B. Phillips translates it as such in his New Testament in Modern English.
Spiros Zodhiates' Complete Word Study Dictionary (p. 937) gives a more comprehensive definition:
Blessed, possessing the favor of God, that state of being marked by fullness from God. It indicates the state of the believer in Christ, . . . said of one who becomes a partaker of God's nature through faith in Christ. The believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit because of Christ and as a result should be fully satisfied no matter the circumstances. Makarios differs from the word "happy" in that the person is happy who has good luck (from the root hap meaning luck as a favorable circumstance). To be makarios, blessed, is equivalent to having God's kingdom within one's heart. Aristotle contrasts makarios to endees, the needy one. Makarios is the one who is in the world yet independent of the world. His satisfaction comes from God and not from favorable circumstances.
The Amplified Bible translates Matthew 5:3 as:
Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Verse 5 reads, "Blessed (happy, blithesome, joyous, spiritually prosperous) . . ." and verse 9, "Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous). . . ."
It appears that for us to experience biblical joy, the fruit of God's Spirit, we need godly inner qualities that we do not possess by nature. As with love—the love that springs from us by nature that is but a pale reflection of God's love—so also is it with joy. Until we come to the point where by faith we are supremely confident of God's presence in our life—of His providence toward us in the past, present, and future—we will not experience the enduring fullness of satisfaction God wants us to have.
A Christian's joy can be just as short-lived as anyone's in the world if we are seeking it for itself as the world does. Biblical joy is a fruit, a byproduct, an additional blessing, not the end in itself. It flows into and grows within the person whose life and energies are not focused merely on being "joyful." The lives of those in this world who are so zealously chasing after it prove this point. If they are still chasing it, they must not yet have it. God's Word also substantiates this.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy
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