The Sermon on the Mount has been occupying my thoughts and studies since 2006. Of course I have been studying other books of the Bible since that time, but the Sermon on the Mount continues to stand out at the center of my studies. This interest began when I first learned about the 16th century Anabaptists, who attempted to live their lives according to the exact commandments of Christ. They relied heavily on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, Chapters 5, 6, and 7). It was these scriptures and the Holy Spirit that helped shape their lives as brothers and sisters of Jesus. Jesus was their brother, as well as their king, Lord, savior, and prophet. They understood that the practical application of scripture required full obedience to the commandments of Christ. They did not seek to find ways to wiggle out of the difficult and inconvenient commandments in the Sermon on the Mount, rather, they held a simple desire in their hearts. They asked one another, “What would happen if we just tried to live our lives according to the Sermon on the Mount?” They challenged one another to be led by the Holy Spirit, and to follow Jesus by following everything that He said to do. It was a very simple plan, but one that had great power to transform lives. It transformed their lives and the lives of others who observed their faith in action.
Over the years, I have read many books and articles on the Sermon on the Mount. I have also listened to numerous men speak sermons on these chapters of Matthew’s Gospel. Sadly, I have been distressed by the wide variations in interpretation. Some teachers insist that the Sermon on the Mount does not have any relevance to Christians on the Earth today, because they believe it is for a future age. Other teachers pick and choose scriptures from the Sermon on the Mount to strengthen their particular theology, while either ignoring scriptures that don’t fit in, or purposefully arguing away scriptures that contradict their theological assumptions. My presupposition about the Bible is that scripture as a whole must be taken as a guide for our lives. We must not strengthen or weaken the meaning of God’s word by emphasizing scriptures we value and ignoring ones that don’t fit our belief system. My presupposition is that we can and must live by every word of God regardless of whether it is convenient or supportive of our preferences. God’s word is intended to cut, to divide, and to refine. Let us not attempt to dull the knife that God uses to cut away our pride and ignorance, or to quench the fire that He uses to make us more Christ-like.
My goal is to lead you into an encounter with the Sermon on the Mount. I do not wish to explain, interpret, or to convince you that my personal beliefs about the Sermon on the Mount are correct. I want to lead you into an encounter with Christ and the words that He spoke. I hope and pray that I can do this in such a way that the Holy Spirit and scripture will be your teacher, and God and His Word will lead you into all truth.
Previously, I introduced the King and His kingdom. Scripture showed us that Jesus is our King and He reigns and rules over the kingdom of heaven. People who have been born again from above through the Spirit of God are the subjects of His kingdom. In a very simple way, the Sermon on the Mount contains the spiritual principles and statutes that truly born again brothers and sisters are to follow as members of His kingdom. His kingdom is not Earthly in nature. It does not have geographical boundaries, and is invisible to everyone except those who live in it. The lost people of the world cannot see the kingdom of God and they cannot comprehend it. They hate the King and deny His power. They rebel against His commandments and prefer to live in the darkness of their own lawlessness.
The Sermon on the Mount records the event when Jesus sat down on a mountain and spoke a sermon to His followers. He spoke as King. He did not speak from a throne in a palace. He did not wear purple robes, hold a scepter, or have a gold crown upon His head. Rather, He spoke outside in the open air without any external sign of His kingship other than the power and authority of His words.
Today, we will focus on the first word that begins verses 5:3-11 in Matthew’s Gospel. The word is “Blessed.” Unless the power and importance of this word is understood, we will likely miss the powerful proclamations that Jesus is giving to us in these verses. What does it mean to be blessed? I recommend printing the remainder of this study so that you can markup the scriptures as you read.
Mattthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Matthew 5:10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
So, what does it mean to be blessed? You might have a definition or two in your mind at this point, but I am encouraging you to expand your thinking. Take your definitions and put them to the test. Take each of the following verses and try making your definition of “bless,” “blessed,” or “blessing” fit the various uses as they show up in scripture. There are nearly 500 occurrences of the word “bless” in its various forms in the KJB. I have selected a few to help you realize that the common definitions of this important word just do not fit all the examples. I suggest that you pray for help from the Holy Spirit before you read these scriptures. Ask Him to begin to reveal the truth about the word bless. Don’t worry if you can’t formulate a universal definition that fits all the examples. That is not the goal. Watch closely for who is doing the blessing and who or what is receiving the blessing. Mark the scriptures to show who is doing the blessing and who or what is being blessed. You could do this by drawing a line from the one who blesses to the one who receives the blessing. Put an arrow head on the line to show who receives the blessing. In some of the scriptures, the person doing the blessing is not stated. In these situations, just show who is being blessed and draw a line under the qualities of the blessing. I will not be giving you a Bible definition for the word blessed in this study. I am challenging you to work with these scriptures and the Holy Spirit to learn God’s truth directly.
Genesis 1:21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
Genesis 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
Genesis 5:2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
Genesis 22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
Genesis 47:7 And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.
Leviticus 9:23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people.
Numbers 6:24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
1 Samuel 9:13 As soon as ye be come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before he go up to the high place to eat: for the people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice; and
he blessed the people in the name of the LORD.
1 Chronicles 16:43 And all the people departed every man to his house: and David returned to bless his house.
Nehemiah 8:6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
Psalm 5:12 For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.
Psalm 29:11 The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.
Psalm 32:1 A Psalm of David, Maschil. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Psalm 37:22 For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.
Psalm 41:1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.
Psalm 72:17 His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.
Psalm 72:18 Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.
Psalm 72:19 And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.
Psalm 84:12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.
Psalm 104:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
Psalm 112:1 Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.
Psalm 115:18 But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD.
Psalm 119:1 ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
Psalm 119:2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.
Psalm 134:2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD.
Psalm 145:2 Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.
Proverbs 22:9 He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.
Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Matthew 11:6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
Matthew 13:16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
Matthew 14:19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
Matthew 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 21:9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Matthew 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
I am hoping that your definitions for the words “bless,” “blessing,” and “blessed” have been modified a little by studying these scriptures, or even seriously shaken. If so, this will help you appreciate the next passages.
We will be reading through the events related to the blessing of Jacob. When you read the following passage, pay close attention to the words related to blessing. Draw your arrows to point from the one who is planning to do the blessing or is doing the blessing to the one being blessed. Put a circle around the people who did not receive the blessing they wanted. Finally, underline the actual words of the various blessings that were given by Isaac.
Genesis 27:1-28 and 28:1-5 Isaac’s blessing of his sons.
27:1 And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I. 2 And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death: 3 Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; 4 And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die. 5 And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it. 6 And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying, 7 Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death. 8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee. 9 Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth: 10 And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death. 11 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man: 12 My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing. 13 And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them. 14 And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved. 15 And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son: 16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck: 17 And she gave the savoury meat and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob. 18 And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son? 19 And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me. 20 And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the LORD thy God brought it to me. 21 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not. 22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. 23 And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him. 24 And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am. 25 And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son. 27 And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed: 28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: 29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee. 30 And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31 And he also had made savoury meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s venison, that thy soul may bless me. 32 And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau. 33 And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed. 34 And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. 35 And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing. 36 And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? 37 And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son? 38 And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept. 39 And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; 40 And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck. 41 And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob. 42 And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran; 44 And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother’s fury turn away; 45 Until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day? 46 And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me? 28:1 And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. 2 Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother. 3 And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; 4 And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham. 5 And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padanaram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother. 6 When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padanaram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan; 7 And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padanaram; 8 And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father; 9 Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.
I want to draw your attention to the intense effort put forth by Jacob in the above passage to obtain the blessing of Isaac. Being blessed was no minor thing for Jacob and Esau. It meant everything to them. Reread verses 27:31-38. Pay close attention to how Esau reacted when he did not get the blessing that he longed to receive. How did he feel and what did he and his father do?
Now let’s look at the final passage, Genesis 32:24-30, where Jacob wrestles with a divine being. Please observe what Jacob is willing to do and the hardship that he is willing to go through in order to receive the blessing he desired.
Genesis 32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. 26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. 27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. 28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. 29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. 30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
Finally, I would like you to go back and reread Matthew 5:3-11. Study the word blessed in each verse. Do you see anything in these verses that you didn’t see before?
There are a few points that stand out for me from the events surrounding the giving of Isaac’s blessing and the reactions of his sons, which I want to highlight.
A blessing was no minor event in their lives. Jacob and his mother used every tool at their disposal including deception to obtain the blessing. Jacob fought with God’s divine messenger and would not let go unless he was blessed. Even when his hip was disjointed, he refused to give up. It appeared that he would not let anything stop him from getting the blessing he wanted.
At this point, I think I should dispel the common belief of many church organizations that blessing is equivalent to prosperity. This simply is not true. Similarly, the belief of the world that anything that appears to be positive or happens without effort is a blessing is also false. Trials, pruning, and refining can all be blessings from God when they build our Christ-like character and prepare us for future work. God wants to bless us so that we can be salt and light in the world. God wants to bless us so that we can fulfill the law of Christ and bear one another’s burdens. God wants to bless us so that we can truly be living sacrifices for His kingdom. God wants to bless us so that we can fulfill the Great Commission and share the Gospel, baptize people in His name, and teach one another to obey the words of Christ our King. Finally, God wants to bless us as we conform our nature to the holy qualities of Christ, and become like our Lord and King.
I will not argue about whether we already have some or all of the blessing, because we have been born again. I will not argue over whether we can earn more blessing or it all comes as a free gift of salvation. I will not argue over what it means to be blessed. I simply want to state a single simple truth. The King is giving His blessing and His blessing is linked to certain conditions of the soul, to certain behaviors, and to certain reactions of the world that come against us. I do not want us to go beyond what the scripture actually says, but I see nothing in scripture that says we should not examine ourselves regarding God’s blessings in our lives. Therefore, I want to challenge you to consider whether you are blessed.
Do you believe you have been blessed by God?
Is your belief general in nature, or do you have credible evidence of being blessed?
If you are not sure, then are you willing to do battle with the beings that oppose God, so you can receive God’s blessing?
Are you willing to submit to the authority of God and obey His statutes, so that you can obtain His blessing?
Are you willing to repent for all known sin and turn away from the ways of the world, in order to be blessed by God?
As a born again son of the kingdom of God, I must admit that I have been rather ignorant regarding what it means to be blessed. I haven’t spent time thinking about being blessed by God, and I haven’t given much thought to how to obtain God’s blessing. However, after studying Jacob’s desire to be blessed and his willingness to go after blessings with all the cunning and strength that he had, I must admit that I am rethinking this whole topic.
I believe it is in God’s nature to want to bless His sons and daughters. Indifference to the gift of His blessing is actually rebellion against God’s will. I believe God is calling us into an intimate relationship with him in which we can be blessed. I have repented for my rebellion and have called upon God to strengthen me to seek His blessing.
My prayer for myself and for you is that we will strive to know the blessing of God. I pray that we will elevate God’s blessing to its rightful and exalted place, and will cherish and seek it with all the strength that God has given us. I pray that as we study the beginning section of Matthew Chapter 5, verses 3 through 11, we will long to understand and experience the blessing that Jesus the King bestows upon His subjects.