Summary: The Beatitudes inaugurate the Kingdom of God. Jesus teaches about an upside down and backwards kingdom where the greatest are servants and those with the greatest impact are small
At the Beginning of the Kingdom of Israel we have a story about how the first king, Saul, got started:
Samuel: “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”
Saul: “Tell me”
-So far, this sounds like to Indian gentlemen having a conversation.
17 Samuel said,
“Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”
20 “But I did obey the Lord,” “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”
22 But Samuel replied:
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”
Now, let’s back up to the first few pages of the Bible-Genesis 1, 2 & 3.
God creates a wonderful fruitful world out of chaos and emptiness. He then places the first humans in a garden and commands them to “be fruitful & multiply”. They have one restriction-everyone knows-“eat from all the fruit of the garden, except that one tree”. They were not supposed to eat from the tree of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. If they had honoured God as the source of information about what is good and evil, they would have obeyed. But, as they were tempted by the serpent, they decided maybe they knew better than God what was best.
Saul, in this story, in his position of power, felt he could decide what was best to do, rather than simply seeking to obey God.
He, and the whole kingdom of Israel, was better off when he was small in his own eyes.
The title of this message is Small. I know we all know what the word means, but I looked it up online anyway. Here’s what the dictionary says:
1. of a size that is less than normal or usual.
synonyms: little, small-scale, compact, bijou; tiny, miniature, mini, minute, microscopic, nanoscopic, minuscule; toy, baby; poky, cramped, boxy; wee; tiddly, teeny, weeny, teeny-weeny, teensy, teensy-weensy, itsy-bitsy, itty-bitty, eensy, eensy-weensy, pocket-sized, half-pint, dinky, short, little, slight, slightly built, small-boned, petite, diminutive, elfin, tiny; puny, undersized, stunted; squat, stubby; dwarf, bantam; Lilliputian, inadequate, meagre, insufficient, ungenerous, not enough; measly, stingy, mingy
2. not great in amount, number, strength, power.
3. not fully grown or developed; young.
4. lacking strength and confidence.
How is it we have one word for love, but dozens of words for small? As a species we seem obsessed with smallness.
Back to the Scriptures:
At the inauguration of the kingdom of Israel:
“Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel?”
The Context of the Sermon on the Mount
The inauguration of the Kingdom of God
Jesus starts the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, by preaching. & His preaching begins with a collection of paradoxical statements about blessedness, happiness. All of them turn our ideas of what makes us happy on their head.
As a world society, since ancient times, we have thought of health, wealth, fame, and power as the means to happiness. Jesus taught the opposite:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
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 filled.
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 children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.