How Are the Mournful Comforted?
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted."— Jesus, Matthew 5:4
The Blessedness of Mourning
The word mourn here means to mourn and lament from the very depths of one's soul as if someone has died. When I look at the meaning of the first beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," this beatitude falls right into place after the first. To be poor in spirit, in a nutshell, is to be humble and broken before God, recognizing one's own sinful state, and the necessity of being totally dependent upon God's mercy. The state of mournfulness is a natural result of being poor in spirit.
The story in Luke 18:10-14 is about the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee was proud and arrogant, and very sure that he was better than everyone else and most deserving of God's special favor. He felt he obeyed all the commandments, to the letter of the law. The tax collector, the most hated person in society, was humbled and broken before God because he realized his utter wretchedness and sinfulness (being poor in spirit). The Bible says he beat his chest in sorrow and cried out for God's mercy. This man was mourning and lamenting the sins he committed all his life. His tax collector stigma was well deserved. He stole and deceived, and filled his pockets with money from the poor and rich alike. He so lamented with sorrow, that he could not even look up to God as he prayed for mercy. He was repentant to the core of his being.
Pharisees are prideful they obey all the law
God, be merciful to me a sinner."— The repentant tax collector, Matthew 18:13
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
The reason he was blessed was that God honored his humility by extending his mercy and forgiveness. He received comfort because as it said in the previous verse, the kingdom of heaven was his. God welcomed him into His kingdom because the man got it right - God was God, and he was not. God was sovereign and holy, and he was pitiful and rotten. He was ready to surrender to God his whole life and being.
There was a time when I just didn't get it. I was quite impressed with all the wealth of knowledge I had about God and the Bible. I had God all figured out, or so I thought. I had a great fall and had to clean up a lot of wreckage. Spiritual pride is the worst pride there is. As uncomfortable as it was, I am glad God brought me to the truth, that I am a wretched sinner and I am not even close to having him all figured out. My shame was great when I had my fall, and I mourned. I stopped that behavior and turned to my relationship with God in humility (repentance). What a Savior who forgave me.
King Saul - Proud and Definant
King Saul was another one who just didn't get it. Samuel, the great prophet of the day, tried to correct Saul over and over. The Lord or Samuel would give Saul instructions, and Saul would say, "Ya, sure, okay," then walked off and did it his own way. Each and every time he went his own way in pride and self-sufficiency, he was called out and consequences followed. Samuel would chastise him saying, "Saul, why did you do that? I told you to do this." Then a judgment would be passed. Each independent act Saul committed made him more dark and sinister. It cost him his throne, his reputation, and finally his life. What a wasted life all because of his pride, arrogance, and rebellion. Saul was not blessed.
David Mourned and Was Restored
King David had his moment as well when he sinned with Bathsheba. He got her pregnant, and had her husband killed, and took her as his wife. The prophet Nathan went to him and confronted him. David was devastated by and mourned the gravity of his sin. Like the tax collector, he repented in great humility. "I have sinned against the Lord," he said. Psalm 51 is David's full confession and prayer for repentance. Here are some excerpts of that prayer:
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies. Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight--that You may be found just when You speak and blameless when You judge...
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow...Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast (right) spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You....
I love this humble prayer of repentance. It is one of the most complete prayers of confession and repentance in the Bible. Not only did David make a full confession of his sins, but also he admitted that it was God whom he ultimately sinned against. He hurt two of God's people. He took a life that was not his when he killed Uriah so that he might also have what was not his, Bathsheba.
In his prayer of repentance, David went on to ask God to cleanse him of every last grain of sin. "Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow...Create in me a clean heart...renew a steadfast spirit within me." He didn't want his old heart of sin. He wanted a new one, clean, bright, and unblemished.
One might ask, "In light of David's sin, how could it be that he was a man after God's own heart?" David remained a man after God's own heart when he recognized and mourned his sin and repented. If someone is not a person after God's own heart, he would not be convicted of his sin, repent and would continue to sin. God does not reject a repentant heart.
Despite his repentance, and having his sin forgiven, their child was born and died soon afterward. But later on they were blessed with a son, Solomon, who was the wisest king of Israel and wrote so many proverbs to teach us.
The Prodigal Son Mourned and Was Restored
I think the most beautiful story in the Bible that exemplifies true repentance, forgiveness, and redemption, is the parable of the prodigal son. We all know the story. The young man demanded his half of his father's inheritance and left home, breaking his father's heart. He squandered the money quickly on sinful living.
Then a famine struck the land and the son found himself penniless, dirty, tattered, and hungry. The only work he found was feeding pigs. Coveting their slop one day in an utter state of demoralization he realized how wretchedly he had behaved toward his father. Like the tax collector and David, his moment of clarity brought him to his senses and he returned to his father in total repentance. His father, ecstatic to see his lost son returning, he ran a long distance and welcomed him with an embrace and smothered him with kisses. The son said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
The father rejoiced that his lost son had been found and honored him with a ring, a robe, and a great celebration. This is what God does when one of his wayward sheep is found.
I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance."— Parable of the lost sheep, Luke 15:7
© 2010 Lori Colbo