Summary: Part 5 in a 14-part series of studies I call “The Christian Character” as described by Jesus to a crowd of people as he delivered as the “Sermon on the Mount.” This part examines the beatitudes, "Blessed are the merciful..." and "Blessed are the pure in heart..."

Part 5 - Beatitudes – The Merciful and the Pure in Heart

Sermon on the Mount

The Christian Character

Matthew 5:3 - 7:27

(Cf. Luke 6:20-49)

This is Part 5 in a 14-part series of studies I call “The Christian Character” as described by Jesus to a crowd of people on a Galilean hillside as he delivered what is more familiarly known as the “Sermon on the Mount.”

The 14 parts are as follows:

Part 1 – Introduction

Part 2 – Beatitudes – the poor in spirit

Part 3 - Beatitudes – those who mourn

Part 4 - Beatitudes – the meek, and those who hunger and thirst

Part 5 - Beatitudes – the merciful and the pure in heart

Part 6 - Beatitudes – peacemakers

Part 7 - Beatitudes – the persecuted and insulted

Part 8 - Salt of the earth and light of the world

Part 9 - Righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees; divorce, oaths

Part 10 - Eye for eye, loving neighbor and hating enemy, being perfect

Part 11 - Three things to do, not to be seen by men and a model prayer

Part 12 - Laying up treasures, eye is the lamp of the body, serving two masters

Part 13 - Do not judge, do not give what is holy to dogs and pigs

Part 14 - Ask, seek, and knock; the narrow gate; false prophets; building on the rock

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Last week we were talking about what it means to “inherit the earth,” by which inheritance the meek are blessed. I offered my understanding, which I do now as part of a very quick review. I suspect that most of readers of the third beatitude – like myself – think primarily about what meekness is and glide past the blessing meekness produces. The earth!?

I do not believe Jesus was referring to the planet we live on. I cannot make any sense of the blessing if it is about the planet.

It’s a stretch to say Jesus meant the meek are more appreciative of the earth, recognize it as the place God built as man’s abode, and are therefore more sensitive to its beauty. It’s a further stretch to say that the meek are destined to govern the planet, or that the meek are the ones who are to “save the earth” from man’s destructive appetites and habits.

The word earth is from the Greek ge (ghay), which may rightly be translated earth. But I believe that here it is a poor and misleading translation in the context of this beatitude. We read in Acts 7 from Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin council where the word ge is used several times by the writer. Even within that one chapter, we found the word ge translated “land” 5 times, in addition to being translated “country” twice, “ground” once, and “earth” once where he quotes from Isaiah 66:1, “the earth is my footstool.”

“Earth” is one of several possible correct translations of the word, but not the only one, and none of us came up with a plausible answer last week of what the blessing is (if it is the literal earth).

However, I can see a reasonable meaning if the word is translated “land” and used as a type.

The type can have meaning only if “land” refers to Canaan, a familiar place and idea to every Jew who heard Jesus say it. Canaan was the “promised land,” - promised to Abraham and given to his descendants as their inheritance.

Canaan is well-understood as a type of heaven.

I offered my further belief that Canaan is part of a 3-tier type:

Literal Canaan is a type of the state of being “in Christ.”

“In Christ” is a type of heaven.

• Canaan was a physical place whose specific connection was to the Israelites.

• The nation of Israel is a type of the present state of being “in Christ,” or spiritual Israel.

• The state of being “in Christ” is a type of heaven, the eternal home of the saved.

Canaan was temporary. Our present state of being “in Christ” is a cross between the temporary and the eternal. Until Christ returns, all mankind is destined to die, so this life is only for a time. But as being “in Christ” now, our citizenship is in heaven, and as Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “…the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." (1 Corinthians 15:53-54)

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