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Blessed are They Who Mourn, for They Shall be Comforted
Mourning brings blessedness
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matt. 5:4)
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 your own sinful state and being totally dependent upon God to exend mercy. The state of mournfulness is a natural result of being humble and broken, 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
The reason he was blessed was because 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. There was a time when 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 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 lost his soul to pride
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 fell flat on his face. Samuel, as God's spokesman, would chastise him and say, "Saul, why did you do that? I told you to do this." Then a judgment would be passed. Each independent act Saul did, became more and more dark and sinister. It cost him his throne, his reputation, and finally his life. A wasted life, because of his pride, arrogance and rebellious attitude. 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. However, when the prophet Nathan came to him and confronted him with his sin, David was like the tax collector., "I have sinned against the Lord." 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 hall 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. Bathsheba and Uriah. Two lost their lives, Uriah and David and Bathsheba's baby, who died as a consequence of his father's sin. He took a life that was not his when he killed Uriah so that he might also have what was not his, Bathsheba.
David went on to ask God to cleanse him thoroughly from his sins. He wanted it all out of there. 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.
Finally, David was willing and offers to teach others God's way and lead them to God. I like it that David was willing to be open to others about his sin, and God's glorious ways of mercy and forgiveness to bring them to a living relationship with God. David committed some pretty terrible sins, and his sorrow, humility, and repentance, allow him to be blessed, because God was able to restore him and make him useful to the Kingdom. It is true, prayer changes things.
David's prayer of humility
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 story of the prodigal son. We all know the story. The young man demands his half of the inheritance and leaves home, breaking his father's heart. He squanders the money quickly on sinful living. In the end, the son was at the pig trough, penniless, unemployed, ratty, tattered clothing, and cold, dirty, and lusting for pig slop. The son realizes at his point his utter state of demoralization. How wretchedly he had behaved toward his father, and toward his heavenly Father. Imagine what this young man and the tax collector in the other story felt like at their moment of clarity. The prodigal son became blessed, however, because as he mourned his sins and behavior, he humbled himself before God and his father, and repented. And that precious father ran a great distance, and without demanding or an explanation threw his arms around the boy and kissed him. The accurate meaning of kiss was that he actually smothered him with kisses. He not only forgave his son, he lavished gifts of honor on him, and threw a great party for him. It gives me goosebumps when I imagine the scene with the father running to his lost boy. The boy had come to the place of great mourning, but he soon became blessed, happy, because in his mourning, he repented and was forgiven. Psalm 32 starts out with these words, which sums it all up in one tight bundle: "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."
The Message translation of Matthew 5:4 says, "You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
The comfort of God
What I, David, the tax collector, and the prodigal son all lost in our sin was our self-respect, and right standing with God. But when He, the One most dear to us, forgave us and restored us, we received comfort became blessed.