Pure in Heart – Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Have you ever eaten something only to realize it was contaminated? Did the thought make you sick, even if the contamination did not? When it comes to our bodies, we want purity in all forms; after all, our well-being is at stake. Purity (Strongs H2998) means we are clean ceremonially [of unclean animals], physically [from filth and disease], and inwardly [morally clean]. No one wants adulteration. However, when it comes to purity of heart, we often dismiss our sinful attitudes and actions as harmless. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The Lord loves purity. He established guidelines for purity for His house and His people. Purity was especially essential for the sanctity of the Tabernacle and the Temple. Purity was a requirement for the priests who labored in the priestly realm and was necessary for every aspect of priestly life. The Tabernacle and Temple, with all the items associated with worship: the Mercy Seat, candlestick (Menorah), and the vessels and utensils, were overlaid with pure gold. God regulated every aspect of His house, deeming all must be clean. In other words, without purity, God’s presence would not descend.
Notice these verses from Psalm 24:3-5: Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Although the psalmist referred to ascending the Temple steps, the concept is the same for drawing near to God in every era of life. The guidelines and instructions for clean and unclean [Tahor and Tamei] were not just for ancient times; they are for all generations.
The disciples lived in the first century when the Temple was an active part of Jewish life. We, therefore, can assume they were familiar with the concept of purity, but cannot judge their degree of understanding. Perhaps they were like many of us who know basic concepts but lack maturity and wisdom in understanding. The Master realized they needed a fresh reminder that purity is closely linked with nearness to God. It is also possible that the Master thought of Judas, knowing he would vacillate between his personal purity and proximity to the Master.
Years later, Peter, who was present in the mountain class, wrote these words concerning purity: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” 1 Peter1:22
We can agree that Peter understood the concept of purity. Notice he mentions purity of soul in obeying God’s Truth and purity of heart in loving the brethren. He understood that purity of heart (and soul) was essential for both relationships: God and man. Peter’s words continue to speak to us today.
You and I would do well to remember that when we are pure before a holy God, and pure in relationships with others, we will see God, and others will see God in us.
Peacemakers – Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. It means completeness (in number), safety and soundness (of body), health and prosperity, quiet, tranquility, contentment, peace and friendship in relationships, and peace with God, especially in the covenant relationship. From this, we understand that a peacemaker brings shalom to the world around him.
Many days after the mountain message, the disciples were terrified during a storm on the sea of Galilee. Wind gusts created violent waves. Panicked, the disciples thought the storm would sink the ship. Inwardly, their hearts raced as their fears swelled! Terror overtook them; they did not want to die. In desperation, they woke the Master. The Master stood and spoke shalom to the tempest. The storm obeyed, and the sea returned to calm. Can you sense the disciples’ relief when the storm abated and they safely sailed to the other side?
You and I encounter many storms in life: a wayward child, a troubled marriage, a grave financial problem, a critical health concern, and the list continues. The Lord uses various means to bring peace, but nothing brings shalom like His Word. My challenge is to seek peace by first having shalom in your heart. This kind of shalom is a settled confidence in God’s oversight of your life. Second, be a peacemaker when difficulties come by sharing a word of shalom [peace and comfort] to someone facing hardship and trouble. Speak shalom and allow the Lord to calm the sea.
Persecuted for Righteousness – Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven….
All the disciples except John would face a cruel death. At the time of the mountain message, not one of the disciples knew his future trials. If they had known the hardships yet to come, they may have allowed fear to dominate their lives.
Persecution comes in many forms and for many reasons, but to be persecuted for righteousness is challenging to conceive. In our minds, the radical contrasts between blessing and persecution do not agree. The disciples were likely the same, linking persecution to the prophets of yesteryear and not with their suffering for righteousness.
No one wants to face times of trial. However, the Master taught that when we live righteously, we will be falsely accused, persecuted, and reviled. He concluded with an exhortation to rejoice and be glad when those times of suffering come.
Notice the concluding words He gave to the disciples: Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
It may seem strange, but the Master did not focus on the awful devastation of persecution. He instead spoke of the reward for living righteously. Reward does not come because of persecution; it comes because of righteousness. There is a vast difference between the two. When we live righteously, we will be reviled, maligned, falsely accused, and suffer wrath at the hands of others. May we have the grace to look beyond the earthly trial to the future heavenly reward.
Finally, let us consider the disciples’ fate. We may not have complete historical accuracy, but there is evidence concerning the circumstances surrounding the disciples’ deaths. I have not included some of the details out of respect. Peter was crucified. Andrew was scourged and nailed to a cross. John was exiled. James was killed by the sword. Bartholomew (Nathaniel) was ruthlessly beaten and beheaded. Philip died by crucifixion. Thomas was stabbed with a spear. Matthew was impaled on a stake and beheaded. James was cut in pieces. Jude was crucified, and Simon (the Zealot) died by crucifixion. I want to think when these disciples were reviled to the point of death, they remembered the mountain message, looked beyond their present pain, and focused on the reward of future blessing.
Note: As a point of reference, when I wrote the rough draft for this section, the date was July 25th. According to biblical and historical records, it was July 25, 44 CE, when Herod “killed James the brother of John with the sword.” (Acts 12.1, 2).
Copyright © 2023 – Sheilah Smith
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