Thoughts on the Beatitudes (3) - Evan Gear

Matt. 5:3 — Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The king, exalted high on the mountain, opens his mouth and, in judgment, speaks his
authoritative word.

What does he say?

How does he speak to the gathered mass of humanity? In condemnation? No, but in
benediction. He, like the great high priest emerging from making atonement for the
people of Israel, lifts his voice to pronounce a blessing (see Num. 6:22-27).

Blessed, he says. It is the first of nine such benedictions.

His first words are nine statements of blessing. Not command but blessing upon — it is
quite a list — the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, hungry, merciful, pure,
peaceable, the persecuted and those about whom people speak words of cursing and
revilement. In a word, it is those who are or will be like the one who speaks. “Blessed are
the Christ like

And they are not just blessed but they are blessed in very specific, concrete ways.

We will take each one in turn.

First, the poor in spirit.

Luke’s Gospel describes the poor but here the emphasis is a hidden poverty, in spirit.
Matthew records our Lord’s blessing upon those who know a poverty that their neighbors
cannot see. They are poor in the hidden realm of the spirit. We may even capitalize it,
Spirit, for the original adds the definite article. Blessed are the poor in the Spirit.

To read it this way adds a certain nuance to the phrase. It is more than just the unseen
poverty of the heart; it is the unseen poverty in the realm of the Holy Spirit. To be in the
Spirit is to be in the place of revelation. The scriptures testify that Ezekiel prophesies in
the Spirit 
(Ezekiel 11:24; 37:1), David writes his Psalms in the Spirit (Matthew 22:43),
and the apostle John in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day receives the Revelation (Rev. 1:10).
To be in the Spirit then is to be in the rarified air of God’s heavenly temple and so to
know heaven’s perspective on earthly affairs. So, the impoverishment of which Jesus
speaks is not just a general sense of lack. It is instead a blessing upon the very specific
poverty known only through the ministry of the Spirit of God.

We can see such blessing embodied by the prophet Isaiah (Is. 6:1-5):

I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train [a] of his robe filled
the temple.  2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his
face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  3 And one called to another
and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the
house was filled with smoke [a material sign of the presence of the Spirit].  And I said:
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a
people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

And again, by the apostle Peter, who having seen the glory of Christ in the haul of fish is
brought to his knees confessing “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord (Luke

This then is the beginning of the blessings. Blessed are those men and women who
encounter the realities of heaven and so, encountering them find themselves poor.
Blessed are all those who know themselves to be sinners in the sight of God.
Posted in
Tagged with , ,