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Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” - Matthew 5:4

The first half of the beatitudes may come as a shock to most readers. We usually define a blessing as a fortunate circumstance that is a result of divine favor. Under such a definition, blessings bring joy. And so, we would use words such as rich, happy, confident, and satisfied to depict the blessed. However, in Matthew 5:3-6, Jesus describes the blessed as poor, mournful, meek, and hungry. Such a description is the exact opposite of what we would expect. In this passage, the blessed are those who find themselves in a condition that results in divine favor.[1] In the first half of the beatitudes, Jesus proclaims the good news that God will act with compassion toward the broken-hearted repentant and reverse their circumstances. On the day that he fully establishes his kingdom, God will exchange their temporary dismal conditions for everlasting joy.

As discussed in the previous post, the paradoxical blessings in the beatitudes are for those who have borne the fruit of repentance and wait in eager anticipation for the coming kingdom. As byproducts of repentance, the attitudes described in Matt. 5:3-6 are present in any Christian and develop as a Christian matures. Repentance leads us to grieve over the brokenness in the world and in our lives. However, these beatitudes comfort us with the promise that God will act with justice, mercy, and compassion when he fully establishes the kingdom and fixes all that is wrong with the world, and with us.

The World’s Sin

The second beatitude continues this theme of consolation when it states, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4 ESV). Just as in the preceding beatitude, Jesus refers to Isaiah 61.[2] In its original context, Isaiah 61 contains the words of a messenger anointed with the Spirit who comforts Israelites grieving over their sin, the resulting exile, and the injustice that surrounded them.[3] Jesus fulfilled this role as he spoke words of comfort to repentant Israelites who were under Roman occupation and suffered from the injustices perpetrated by religious leaders.[4]

Like Jesus’ original audience, we are filled with sorrow as we experience injustice or witness it in the world around us. I recently lamented over the brokenness and wickedness of this world while listening to an interview of the North Korean refugee Yeonmi Park, in which she spoke of the horrors she witnessed and suffered during her childhood. Anyone would be moved with pity upon hearing Park describe her childhood of starvation, never knowing what it was like to eat until full. Tears might fill a listener’s eyes when they hear Park depict the horrid cycle which occurs in the streets of North Korea. Dead bodies are piled in the street and rats feast upon the corpses. Starving children eat the rats, only to die from the diseases the rats carried. Their bodies are thrown into the street and the cycle continues. At the end of the interview, one is left feeling helpless and hopeless, knowing that political and economic alliances will prevent any improvements from coming to that miserable country.

 While even the most ardent unbeliever might lament when they encounter such terrible evil, Christians have a deeper appreciation for how terrible such evil really is. We have caught a glimpse of the holiness of God in the Scriptures, and the presence of evil stands in stark contrast to his goodness. We wait in eager anticipation for his coming kingdom where all things will be made new and made right. Since we know the way things ought to be, we are especially grieved when sin disrupts God’s created order and harms people created in his image.

Our Own Sin

Yet, the sins that cause the deepest pain are our own. When our hearts have been hurt by sin’s harmful effects upon our relationship with God, the words of the beatitudes provide the soothing effects of eschatological hope. By referring to Isaiah 61, Jesus meant to stir up hope for the coming day when he will reign upon the earth as the Messiah.[5] In that day, our process of sanctification will be complete, and we will be made like him. In that day, he will establish justice throughout the whole earth and will fully deliver us from the sin and wickedness that afflict us. In that day he will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. While we suffer from the sorrows of this fallen world, it is not sorrow without hope. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.

Our Hope of Eternal Comfort

A proper response to this good news is prayer and worship. While normally considered a Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World” is about the second coming of Christ.[6] The third verse is especially relevant.

1. Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive its king;
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.

2. Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let all their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

3. No more let sin and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

4. He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders,  wonders of his love.

This is the second article in Ron Allen‘s series on the Beatitudes.



Footnotes

[1] For more on the meaning of “blessed,” see Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount.

[2] Craig Blomberg, “Matthew,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.

[3] G.W. Grogan, “Isaiah,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

[4] See notes on Luke 4:18-19 in Walter L. Liefield, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

[5] The eschatological promises given in Isaiah 61 are specifically for Israel. However, similar eschatological promises are made to all believers (Phil. 1:6, 1 John 3:2, Rev. 20:6, Rev. 21:3-4).

[6] [9] Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World!” in The Celebration Hymnal: Songs and Hymns for Worship, ed. Tom Fettke, (Nashville: Word Music and Church Resources, 1997), 270.

Ron Allen grew up in Southwest Wisconsin and graduated from Emmaus Bible College in 2021. He is currently pursuing a ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Posted by Ron Allen

Ron Allen grew up in Southwest Wisconsin and graduated from Emmaus Bible College in 2021. He is currently pursuing a ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary.

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