I. Blessed are the Merciful (verse 7)
William Perkins describes mercy as “a holy compassion of heart, whereby a man is moved to help another in his misery.” The specific kind of mercy that Jesus has in mind here is the kind of mercy that finds its primary motive in love for God. We desire to alleviate the afflictions of others, because we know that this is what pleases and honors our God who is merciful (c.f., Luke 6:36). The Bible makes clear that God is a God of mercy and that He delights in showing mercy. He shares in the afflictions of His people and “in His love and in His mercy” he redeems us (Isaiah 63:9; c.f., Exodus 3:7-8). In His mercy and compassion toward us, “He caused us to be born again to a living hope” (1 Peter 1:4).
This beatitude teaches us that those who belong to Him, those who have been brought into His kingdom and have experienced His mercy, will delight in showing mercy, just as He does. The promise is that as we show this kind of mercy, we also have the assurance of receiving mercy. A merciful life gives evidence that we ourselves have received the mercy of Christ in salvation, and assures us that His mercy rests upon us now and will be fully revealed to us in the final day.
- Who around you is in need of mercy? Who is in the midst of physical or spiritual affliction or suffering? What would it look like for you to be merciful, as your Father is merciful?
II. Blessed are the Pure in Heart (verse 8)
This Beatitude is probably a paraphrase of Psalm 24:3-6, where the pure in heart is described as “He who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully” and as “the generation of those who seek Him, who seek [His] face.” To be pure in heart means that you sincerely seek the face of God with a heart that is free of falsehood, deceit, and hypocrisy. Directly connected to this sincere heart that seeks the face of God is the promise that “they shall see God.” Those whose hearts long to see God and to know Him, will one day see Him.
Jesus is not teaching that we have the power in ourselves to make our hearts pure. Our hearts are naturally impure and are full of corruption and sin. Only the Spirit of God has the power to make a heart pure. God in His grace finds us in our sins, living in the impurity and corruption of our hearts, He gives us a new heart, a heart that believes Him and loves Him. And He sets us on a new course of purity that flows out of this new heart that loves Him and longs for Him.
- Do you long to see God? If you examine your life and look at your motives, do the things you do flow from a heart that seeks after God Himself? In what ways are you tempted to want the appearance of godliness, without lacking the inward reality in your heart? Repent of those things and ask God for His purifying grace.
III. Blessed are the Peacemakers (verse 9)
Everywhere we look, peace has been lost. The conflict, violence, broken relationships, and divisions that have been introduced through sin have spread to every sphere of life. However, all of the horizontal loss of peace among mankind is owed ultimately to the vertical loss of peace between man and God through sin. Sin puts God at enmity with man, and man at enmity with God. However, God has proven Himself to be the God of Peace and the ultimate peacemaker, by removing the enmity. The wrath that caused the holy God to be at enmity with sinful man has been satisfied and removed so that there is now friendship for those who are believing in Christ. When we believe this gospel of peace and when we are brought into a relationship of peace with God, our hearts begin to express that same desire for peace in all relationships. By making peace, just as God has made peace, we prove ourselves to be “sons of God.”
- What does James 4:1-2 teach us about the true peacemaker’s heart? What are specific things that ruin peace in relationships, and how can it be restored? Do you have any opportunity in your life right now to restore peace where peace has been lost? How does this Beatitude relate to Jesus’s words in Matthew 10:34-36?
IV. Blessed are those who are Persecuted for the Sake of Righteousness (Verses 10-12)
The final Beatitude is something of an exclamation point on the preceding seven. Those who seek to live righteously, according to the description Jesus has given in the other Beatitudes, will face some degree of opposition in a world that is opposed to righteousness. Jesus is not so much speaking about the degree of persecution as much as the principle of it. Essentially, he is pointing to the blessed reward that will be given to those who choose to live for the kingdom of Christ no matter the cost. Though persecution will come in the life of the believer, the reward is far great—“theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In light of this great reward, we can even “rejoice and be glad” in the midst of persecution, “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
- When given the opportunity to either conform to the sinfulness of the world for the sake of ease or live for Christ at the cost of rejection and opposition, what do you choose? Are you living in light of the hope of your reward in the kingdom of heaven?