The Wisdom of Our King Depicted In The Beatitudes

(excerpt from my upcoming commentary on Matthew)
By Tom Wacaster

When the Queen of Sheba heard of the wisdom of Solomon, it is said by the sacred writer that “she came to prove him with hard questions” (1 Kings 10:1); and come she did! “She came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones” (verse 2). Her entourage must have been a spectacle to behold. It is doubtful that anything was spared to make her journey comfortable and her interview with Solomon profitable. Upon her arrival she was granted an appointment with King Solomon, and it is said that “there was not any thing hid from the king which he told her not” (verse 3). Upon the completion of that meeting with Solomon she said, “It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thine acts, and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me” (1 Kings 10:6-7). And then she added this most remarkable observation: “Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, that stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom” (verse 8).

Fast forward to a mountain side in Galilee, where “a greater than Solomon” (Matt. 12:42) sat down and taught the disciples and the multitude that surrounded Him. If the sayings of Solomon manifested the wisdom of a mortal king over a physical kingdom, how much more do the sayings of Jesus declare Him to be “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). It is fitting that the Son of David would begin this Sermon On The Mount with the same word used by the Queen of Sheba to describe the effect of Solomon’s wisdom on the people of Israel: “Blessed”! The first one-hundred-forty words from the lips of our Savior (in English) not only provide us with heavenly advice for a joyful and happy life here upon this earth, they also set the background for the remainder of this sermon, and point us to the majesty of Jesus the Christ. To borrow a phrase from the Queen of Sheba, “And, behold, the half” has not been told.

In slightly more than a half dozen “beatitudes,” Jesus unleashes heavenly wisdom for those who would find true happiness. His sayings are not politically correct, they do not cater to the physical part of man, and they run contrary to the thinking of every generation of men that have walked the face of this earth. How can someone be happy when they are poor? Where is the joy in mourning? How can the meek inherit anything, especially the earth? Why should men hunger and thirst for something they cannot see with the physical eye or hold in the palm of their hands? Who ever heard of refusing to seek revenge, and instead be merciful toward those who do us harm? Of what value is purity of heart? After all, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, filled with “evil men and imposters” who shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). Wherein is the value of making peace when those about us promote only hatred and violence? How can a person find contentment when he is being falsely accused and reproached for the cause of Christ?

Keep in mind that our Lord paved the way for us. He blazed the trail as the “author (literally, ‘captain,’ or ‘trailblazer,’ TW) and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). He manifested each and every one of these beatitudes (with perhaps the only exception being His mourning over sins committed) to perfection, “one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Being “poor in spirit,” it is said that “he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem at the beginning of the Passion Week, “this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, Meek, and riding upon an ass, And upon a coal the foal of an ass” (Matt. 21:4-5). His entire life was a demonstration of what it means to “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” showing compassion and mercy to those in sin and in need of redemption. His heart is the epitome of purity, having never once entertained an evil thought or committing some vile deed. He was, to say the least, the Great Peacemaker, reconciling man to God and bringing about a peace of mind and calm assurance for everyone who would take His yoke upon them and thereby “find rest” for their weary souls (Matt. 11:28-30). His godly life caused Him to endure every form of reproach imaginable, culminating in a horrible death upon the cross thereby securing our salvation.

Read again each of these eight beatitudes and see if you don’t see a portrait of our King that will cause the heart to swell with deep appreciation and love for He Who gave Himself for our sins. Let men talk of earthly kings that have come and gone, and then let them look at Christ with an honest and open mind, and in view of the overwhelming evidence, bow in grateful submission to our King. The words of Napoleon Bonaparte bear repeating:

I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. You speak of Caesar, of Alexander, of their conquests, and of the enthusiasm which they enkindled in the hearts of their soldiers, but can you conceive of a dead man making conquests, with an army faithful, entirely devoted to his memory? My armies have forgotten me even while living. Can you conceive of Caesar as the eternal emperor of the Roman Senate, and, from the depth of his mausoleum, governing an empire, watching over the destinies of Rome?  Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love; and, at this hour, millions would die for him (original source not known).

If the beatitudes were all that men might read of the Sermon on the Mound, they would be the better for it. Yet “the half hath not been told,” and as we continue our study of these chapters in Matthew, our life cannot help but be enriched and our allegiance to our King the stronger.

Peace And Confidence Borne Of Assurance

By Tom Wacaster

When our fiery trial descends upon us  - and it will if we are living godly lives in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:12) - it would behoove us to have the kind of faith that will see us through that trial. John has told us in advance of the trials that we will face in life, and that “this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). Look at the catalogue of the faithful men and women listed in Hebrews chapter 11. They endured some of most severe challenges to their faith that men can, and often will, have to confront; and each and every one of those recorded in that “hall of fame of the faithful” came through with shining colors. What is it that saw them through? How is it that they were able to overcome the temptations that came their way, while so many throughout history have simply thrown in the towel and followed the multitude to do evil? I submit to you that it was a faith that gave them unshakable assurance in the face of adversity. Someone once said, “Men will wrangle for religion; write for it; fight for it; die for it; anything but live for it.” What the world needs is more men and women who will be willing to live their faith, and be willing to die for it as well. I submit to you that unless men have the same kind of unshakable assurance in God and His promises to us as did those men and women of faith recorded in the pages of God’s word, when the time for battle comes they will fail the test every single time. The absence of faith and assurance can be seen in the fact that too many Christians live their life in fear and anxiety of what the future holds. Their demeanor and countenance suggest that they have no joy. Were someone to inquire as to their relationship with God their answer would be filled with doubt and foreboding.

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, he expressed great confidence in his eternal salvation: “I know him whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). Again, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day” (2 Tim 4:7). John said, “I have written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).  And yet, in spite of so many passages that speak positively of our “blessed assurance,” there are a great number of our brethren who doubt their salvation! That doubt is reflected in a gloomy disposition of despair and despondency characteristic of a world in darkness. One sister in Oklahoma used to say, “Too many of my brethren act as if they were baptized in vinegar.” One of the most beautiful passages in all the Bible is 1 John 1:7 - “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” There are two important truths that emerge from this passage.

First, while walking “in the light” we are still going to sin. Did you catch the words of John: “If we walk in the light...the blood of Jesus cleanseth.” Even if we are walking in the light we are still going to sin from time to time. All too often we demand of ourselves that which we are not capable of giving, namely sinless perfection. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1:8). Will we stumble from time to time? Indeed we will. But even when we occasionally sin out of inattention or a moment of weakness due to the fleshly limitations in all of us, we can be assured that our relationship with God is not severed.

Second, we have the cleansing blood of our Lord at our constant disposal. Like an ever flowing fountain, limitless in its resources, and powerful in its efficacy, our Lord’s blood will wash away every single sin and remove the guilt associated with it. No wonder John could, in this same letter, write of our assurance of salvation (5:13). It was once said, “A joyless saint will never win a joyful sinner to Christ.” If your lack of assurance has robbed you of the joy of Christian living, how can you ever expect to convert someone who, though living in error, has greater confidence of his salvation than do you? No wonder Paul told us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). And as if to drive the point home, he immediately repeats, “again, I will say, REJOICE!”  Beloved, we CAN know that we are saved, and with that assurance comes the great joy of Christian living!

Brethren, let us get on with living, and while doing so, let us rest in the assurance that God is on our side, His promises are sure, and that even though we sin from time to time, we can rest upon the realization that “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:2). He is the “propitiation for our sins, the Protector of our souls, and the Provider of our salvation. Some years ago I came across the following wonderful illustration/quote:

Cyprian, a third-century martyr, writes to Donatus, saying: “This is a cheerful world as I see it from my garden under the shadows of my vines. But if I were to ascend some high mountain and look over the wide lands, you know very well what I would see: brigands on the highways, pirates on the sea, armies fighting, cities burning; in the amphitheaters men murdered to please the applauding crowds; selfishness and cruelty and misery and despair under all roofs. It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have  discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are the Christians—and I am one of them.”

That, my friends, was peace and confidence borne of assurance that comes as a result of an undying and unflinching faith in the God Who has promised, “I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

Who Is The Real Loser?

By Tom Wacaster

The Fort Worth Star Telegram for Tuesday (Nov. 1st) had an interesting article addressing the record turn out for early voting in the state of Texas. A record 2.6 million registered voters have already taken advantage of the opportunity to cast their ballots in advance of the general election on November 8th, almost double that in previous Presidential elections. One expression that caught my attention was the author’s explanation as to why he thought so many voters were voting early: “convenience” and “exasperation” with this year’s elections; they simply want to put it all behind them and get on with their lives. I find it incredibly sad that our nation has reached a point in her trek away from God that they now view the privilege of voting as something to endure rather than an opportunity to elect their leaders for whatever period of time they might have to serve.

In one week we will have elected our next President, along with the re-election and/or rejection of Senators, Representatives, Judges, and so forth. I guess you could say that when all has been said and done (with perhaps far too much having been said rather than done) there will be those who will be winners, and others who will be losers. So far as the Presidential election, one of the major two party candidates will be the winner, and one will be the loser. From what I have seen and heard so far I don’t envision either of them being a gracious loser.  I have no doubt that once the ballots are cast and counted, that sometime in the late evening of November 8th one of the two candidates will appear before the cameras and microphones and give his/her concession speech; the other will claim victory. Then comes the “blame game.” The news media will make sure that the American people know why (at least in their opinion) one candidate won and the other lost.

No one can predict the outcome of this Presidential race at this point. The polls are too close to be reliable and the momentum seems to shift each and every day, depending on what “scandal” we might read about in that day’s headlines. Regardless of who wins or loses in the Presidential race, I think I can say with confidence that the real loser will be the American people. They will have lost because the opportunity to select a true leader for the nation will not occur for another four years. I don’t know who wrote the following but it is certainly pertinent here: “The world today is looking for men who are not for sale; men who are honest, sound from center to circumference, true to the heart’s core; men with consciences as steady as a needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right if the heavens totter and the earth reels; men who can tell the truth and look the world right in the eye; men who neither brag nor run; neither flag nor flinch; men who can have courage without shouting; men in whom the courage of everlasting life runs still, deep and strong; men who know their message and tell it; men who know their place and fill it; and men who know their business and attend to it” (author not known). God, please give us leaders!

The political polls reveal the startling fact that this nation is divided—split right down the middle. We are at war and the opposing sides are represented by two distinct cultures, both of which seem to have an equal following. One culture, the one that captured and captivated the minds of men for the first 200 years of this nation’s existence, is based on God and His word. The framers of our Constitution were part of this culture. The Bible is the foundation upon which this culture was built, and upon which it has survived for more than two centuries. It is a culture whose moral basis has influenced the behavior of its citizens, producing the fruits of freedom, liberty and justice. It is a culture that has allowed the preaching of the Gospel to flourish and have free run, giving every man woman and child the opportunity to enjoy life upon this earth to the fullest, and the opportunity, unrestricted by governmental interference, to pursue God’s will in their lives. The other culture is based on humanism, atheism and agnosticism. It is a culture that has absolutely no moral basis. It is a culture of corruption, crime, and carelessness. It calls for no restrictions except the limitations of basic human rights “endowed by our Creator.” It is a culture where lying and deception are the norm, power is the pinnacle of success, and wealth is the measuring stick for genuine happiness. It is a culture that is divisive rather than unifying, and engenders hatred and animosity rather than peace. It is a culture that is addicted to sex, averse to truth, and antagonistic toward anyone and anything that opposes its path of destruction. What do either of these candidates bring to the table that will reverse the course upon which this nation has embarked? To ask is to answer.

The American people will be the true losers in this election. Who, then, will be the winners? I suggest to you that the true winner in this election, or any election for that matter, will be the people of God. Come what may, the battle belongs to the Lord and the outcome is promised to be one of victory. “What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom. 8:35). “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-39). Our God is alive, His Kingdom imperishable, her walls impenetrable, and our constitution inspired. “We rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh stedfastness; and stedfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). If the Lord’s church could remain faithful, upbeat, optimistic, and confident under some of the most cruel and inhumane governmental leaders of the past, what makes us think that we cannot do the same? Meanwhile, we keep fighting the good fight of faith (2 Tim. 4:6), knowing that when our Lord comes again the real winner will be those who have been faithful until death (Rev. 2:10).

In 1992, Dennis Lee Curtis was arrested for armed robbery in Rapid City, South Dakota. In his wallet, police found a list of rules Curtis had written for himself - guidelines for his robberies.  For example, he wrote: “I will not kill anyone unless I have to.” “I will take cash and food stamps - no checks.” “I will not rob mini-marts.” “If I get chased by cops on foot, I will get away.  If chased by vehicle, I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line.” “I will rob only seven months out of the year.” “I will enjoy robbing from the rich to give to the poor.” A thief with standards? When Mr. Curtis stood before the court, the judge did not consult Curtis’ list of rules. He pulled out the laws of the state by which to judge him and ultimately to convict him. The judge’s remarks are reminiscent of our Lord’s declaration that His words shall judge us in the last days (John 12:48) - not human opinion, creeds of men, traditions of our parents, or our own feelings and emotions. By what standard are you living? How will that measure up to the standard of God’s divine word when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive our eternal sentence?
You’ve heard some of those little puns that describe a person who just does not seem to get it together. One of these is, “Lights are on, but nobody’s home.”  Here are some that appeared in a military journal some years ago: “Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” “Got into the gene pool while the lifeguard wasn’t watching.” “A room temperature IQ.” “Got a full 6-pack, but lacks the plastic thingy to hold it all together.” “Bright as Alaska in December.” “Gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming.” “So dense, light bends around him.” “If brains were taxed, he'd get a rebate.” “If he were any more stupid, he'd have to be watered twice a week.” “Was left on the Tilt-A-Whirl a bit too long as a baby.” “Wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead.”