LET THE SEEKERS REJOICE
Psalm 14:2; Matthew 5:5-9 NET
We have been investigating the words of Jesus’ most famous sermon. We have found that one of the clues to its meaning is the setting in which the sermon was given. Christ was in a prominent place and surrounded by the twelve men who he had just designated as his missionaries. A large crowd surrounded them. They were listening to Jesus, but they were watching these twelve men because the twelve were serving as the visual aid. The twelve were examples of people who had surrendered their livelihoods when they committed to follow Christ. They were the poor, the mourners, the hungry. When Jesus pronounced his blessings, they were directed to these twelve men.
The larger crowd watched and pondered. They considered their options. The twelve men had already made their choice. But these people were being invited to make the same choice. The king stood before them. His ambassadors were all around him. They were proclaiming a coming kingdom. Each one looking on had an opportunity to swear allegiance to the king.
Before we go to today’s text from the sermon, I want to look at one verse in the Old Testament.
Psalm 14:2 NET
2 The LORD looks down from heaven at the human race, to see if there is anyone who is wise and seeks God.
God is looking down, inspecting the people on the planet he created. Alexander writes “The earnestness of the inspection is suggested by the verb in the first clause, which originally means to lean or bend over, and is peculiarly appropriate to the act of one gazing intently down upon a lower object” (68). You can see in your mind’s eye the LORD bending down from his throne and gazing intently into this tiny planet. He is looking for wise men and women. How will he know a wise man or woman?
Wise men and women seek God!
The characteristic of wisdom being portrayed here is a hunger and thirst for righteousness — a desire to know God — to have a relationship with him — to be changed by him! There is good news for people like that.
While we seek him, he is looking for us.
The bad news of Psalm 14 is that wise people are rare. The world seems full of fools who don’t even acknowledge that there is a God. But the good news is that there is, and he is looking for us. He wants people to join the kingdom of his Son. He is actively seeking us.
“I sought the Lord, and afterward, I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me;
It was not I that found, O Savior, true:
no, I was found of Thee.” *
What we have in today’s section of the sermon on the mount is a description of those rare wise people who are seeking the Lord and his promises for them.
Matthew 5:5-9 NET
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
The seekers seek redemption (7)
The Lord has chosen to bless the merciful because they will be shown mercy. Clark says “as they constantly need mercy so long as they are in this imperfect state, so shall they constantly receive it from the hand of God” (68). I think we sometimes read the sermon on the mount as if Jesus is saying that Christians are such good people that he has decided to bless them with eternal life. That makes a lot of us feel guilty because we know that we do not measure up to the beatitudes. If they are the qualifications for kingdom citizenship, it is going to be a very small kingdom. So, please do not forget, that only lawbreakers need mercy. In this life, we are learning to be merciful to others, because God has promised us mercy on the day of judgment. When we stand before Jesus, he is not going to look on his clipboard and say ‘I see that you have shown mercy to others, so you get a pass.’
No, it is the promise that comes first, then the character changes to match the promise.
Mounce says “Jesus’ sermon is not a new set of laws but a description of how people who have chosen to place themselves under the reign of God are to live out their lives. The ethical requirements of the sermon are intended not to drive people to despair so they will then cast themselves upon the mercy of God, but to guide and direct those who desire to please him” (37).
The seekers seek an inner change (6)
They are hungering and thirsting to change from unrighteous to righteous. Boddington says “If we want to know whether the blessedness of Christ’s religion is really ours, the first question to ask is, Can I truly say that I hunger and thirst after righteousness? We know how much a person is willing to give for something to eat or drink, when ready to die from hunger or thirst. Great pains people will take to provide for the wants of the body, that is very certain; therefore, if we really have that desire for holiness which might be compared to the strong cravings of hunger and thirst, we shall not care what we suffer, if, by any means, we may but be made holy. We shall be willing to bear any trials that God may be pleased to put upon us, and we shall patiently endure, though men may revile us, and persecute us, and say all manner of evil of us falsely. And if we are thus in earnest about religion, we shall be sure to find, by sweet experience, that God has indeed spoken the truth concerning those who are blessed. We shall rejoice and be exceeding glad even in this world; and in the world to come, we shall most certainly know, to our endless joy, that God can effectually reward the merciful, the meek, the pure in heart, the peace-makers, all, in fact, who are His true and faithful servants (30).
An inner change will not happen unless we desire it, and are willing to risk everything else for it.
The seekers seek a relationship with God (8-9)
Seekers want to see God and become his children. Their zeal for a relationship with God turns their lives around so that their hearts become purer. It also influences their relationship with others, because they want to reconcile with their enemies so they can lead them into a relationship with God.
The seekers seek an inheritance (5)
I know that religion teaches that our inheritance is heaven, but it is not. The kingdom is going to come down out of heaven to this earth. As Chamblin says, “Once the kingdom comes, his people will inherit the earth” (324).
Remember that in the book of Revelation John saw the capital city of that coming kingdom “descending out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:10).
Jesus promises those who conquer in this life that he will write on us the name of his God and the name of that city of God “the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God” (Revelation 3:12).
Religion teaches that we are waiting to go somewhere, but the New Testament teaches that we are waiting for our king to come here:
Matthew 24:3 The disciples asked Jesus what would be the sign of his coming.
Matthew 24:30 He told them that all the tribes of the earth will mourn when they see ” the Son of Man arriving on the clouds.”
Matthew 24:44 He says we “must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
In Matthew 25, Jesus explains the importance of his coming through three parables:
The Ten virgins, in which five of the virgins were not prepared for the bridegroom’s coming.
The talents, in which one lazy slave was condemned because he failed to prepare for his master’s coming.
The parable of the sheep and the goats describes what will happen to those who are only pretending to be Christians when our Lord returns.
Mark 13:35-36 Jesus warns us “Stay alert, then, because you do not know when the owner of the house will return — whether during evening, at midnight, when the rooster crows, or at dawn — or else he might find you asleep when he returns suddenly.”
1 Corinthians 4:5 “Wait until the Lord comes.”
1 Corinthians 11:26 “every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
2 Thessalonians 1:10 talks about “when he comes to be glorified among his saints and admired on that day among all who have believed.”
2 Peter 3:10 says “the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze, and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare.” He is coming to the earth to judge the earth.
1 John 2:28 says that we should “remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame when he comes back.” The promise is not that we will go to him when we die. The promise is that he is coming back to us.
We are not seeking a residence in another place, we are seeking an inheritance in this place. Jesus’ promise to us is that we will get that inheritance.
So, the major message for today is that it very much matters what we are seeking. Not everyone will be blessed with the satisfaction of their hunger and thirst. Not everyone will inherit the earth. Not everyone will be shown mercy. Not everyone will be called the children of God. Not everyone will see God and live to tell about it. There will be a judgment, and Jesus will be the judge.
Jesus’ message to those of us who are seeking his kingdom and righteousness today is that we will find it. We will see God and live. We will inherit the earth. That is why we can rejoice and be glad. Our reward is great in heaven, and it is coming down from heaven so that we can experience it here on earth.
But there were those in the crowd that day who heard these words from Jesus, looked at those twelve measly disciples, and said “no thanks. If I have to be poor today, to get into God’s coming kingdom, no thanks. If I have to go hungry and thirst now to be satisfied later, no thanks. If I have to show mercy instead of seeking revenge, no thanks. If I have to be pure in the heart instead of feeling the way I want to feel, no thanks. If I have to make peace with others instead of keeping my grudge against them, no thanks.”
Those people walked away from their one chance at eternal life. They chose the temporary things of this life instead of the permanent gifts Jesus had to offer. Jesus let them go. He honored their choice. If they wanted to choose permanent destruction instead of the permanent resurrection life he offered — it was their choice.
Now, you and I are in the crowd. We have the same choice to make.
* “I Sought the Lord” Author unknown, 1878 (rev. 1904).
Alexander, Joseph A. The Psalms: Translated and Explained. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Publishing House, 1864.
Boddington, George. A Practical Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew, in Simple and Familiar Language. 1861.
Chamblin, J K. Matthew: A Mentor Commentary. Fearn, Tain: Christian Focus Pub, 2010.
Clark, George W. Notes on the Gospel of Matthew; Explanatory and Practical. New York: Sheldon and Co, 1870.
Mounce, Robert H. Matthew. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991