Matthew 5:1-2 An introduction to the Sermon on the Mount – The King and His Precepts and Principles for the Kingdom. The message of the King is very closely related to the Older Covenant; in fact, it is a further testimony of its holiness. Yeshua however brought new meaning to the commandments. This is accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit, which would take up residence in the New Covenant Community (Jer. 31:31ff). The dominant message of the Sermon on the Mount is that right theology, philosophy; separation from the world or any other religious emphasis is not as essential as a right heart. He repeated the message that Samuel gave to Saul (1 Sam. 16:7, Prov. 4:23, Mk. 7:20-23). The Sermon on the Mount shows us the impossibility of following the precepts and principles of the King without receiving Him as Lord and Savior. We need a new heart and a super-human power to live and walk in the Kingdom of God. When the inside is changed the outside experiences change and thus we are able to fulfill the commands of the Law (Gal 5:16-18). There are some who believe that the teaching contained in the Sermon on the Mount is not relevant for believers today. That this has to do with the Kingdom that Israel rejected, this is instead for the millennium. Nowhere does Yeshua indicate that this is not relevant for this time. Many of the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount could not apply to the millennium 5:10-12,44). Every principle taught here is reinforced in other portions of the New Covenant. Jesus is the second Adam who came to restore what the first Adam lost. Adam lost dominion of the world to Satan. Jesus came and began the process of taking dominion of the world. First in the hearts of man then at his second coming over all creation. The first king sinned and left the world a curse, the second king was sinless and left the world a blessing. The first Adam came to a garden and was cast out the second will bring us to paradise, an even greater Eden. We are born into the kingdom of Adam; we must be born again to be a part of the kingdom of God.

V 3 Blessed is from the Greek “Makarios” it means happy, fortunate, blissful. Greek Mythology used this word to describe the attitude of the “gods”. They were happy (makarios) within themselves because they were unaffected by the world of men. They were not subject to poverty, disease, weakness, misfortune, and death. The full meaning speaks of a contentment that is unaffected by outward circumstances (Phil. 4:11-13). Blessed are the poor in Spirit – The word in the Greek poor means to “shrink, cower, or cringe”, as beggars often did in that day. They would with one hand beg for money and with other hide their face. On the other hand, a different Greek word is used for poverty. Jesus is not speaking here of material poverty but rather of the state of the spirit. To be poor in spirit is to recognize one’s spiritual poverty in relation to the holiness of God and His expectations. It is to recognize how lost, and unrighteous we really are. To understand this is to truly know and experience God’s grace. To truly be fruitful and happy we must know our own spiritual state. (Is. 662, Ps. 34:18, Ps. 51:17, Luke 18:9-14). Pride is the greatest hindrance to the kingdom of God. Being poor in spirit is foundational to everything else in the kingdom of God. The church at Laodicea fell because of their arrogance (Rev. 3:17). Naaman was not healed until he was willing to humble himself (2 Kings 5). Humility begins when we recognize ourselves for who we really are. Not putting ourselves down but knowing ourselves for the fallen men and women that we are. Rather than thriving or looking for compliments we should be careful to rightly appraise them. Humility will come to us if we ask God to give it to us (Ps. 51:10). How can I tell if I am humble or poor in spirit? Ask yourself these questions. Am I concerned primarily with myself? Or is Yeshua and His will, most important to me (Gal. 2:20, Phil. 1:21). Do I find myself complaining about my circumstances? If I am then I have forgotten what I really deserve. Do I consider others as more important that ourselves? (Phil. 2:3) Real humility allows me to truly see that. How is my prayer life? Real humility recognizes the need to seek what we really need from God. Do I have an attitude of praise and thanksgiving for all things? A person who is truly poor in spirit is thankful for any favor.

Beginning with Matthew 4:17 Yeshua demonstrates his authority as King. The Beatitudes demonstrate Yeshua’ authority to interpret the law of Moses. The sermon is the standard of righteousness that the Law demands. His interpretation is more authoritative than the Mishnah. The Pharisees claimed that they had the way of righteousness through their traditions which led to the Kingdom of God. Their righteousness was based on an external righteousness. Yeshua teaches that righteousness must exceed Pharisaic righteousness (5:20), thus nullifying their authority. Yeshua’s righteousness is based on internal rather than external.

Matthew 5:4 – Once again we are told that we might find happiness in something that is contrary to the world’s philosophy. Blessed or happy are those who mourn. This is the King’s answer to what Isaiah promised in 61:1-3. Remember that we are told that this word Blessed means a happiness that comes apart from circumstances. As we were told that the blessing of poverty is not a material poverty in our study of 5:3, but an attitude of the heart, so too poverty here is speaking of the spiritual realm.

Godly mourning or sorrow is one that leads to repentance (Ps. 51:3-4, 2 Cor. 7:10-11). This is the companion to the concept of humility spoken of in v. 3. It is a requirement for entrance into the Kingdom of God. It is having a sensitivity to sin. The Greek word is “pentheo”. There are eight other Greek words that speak of sorrow, sadness, etc. The word used here is the strongest. It is the same word that described Jacob mourning over what he thought was the death of his son in Gen. 37:34 as translated in the Septuagint. It is the word that is used to describe the emotions of the disciples after the death of Yeshua (Mk. 16:10) before they knew that He would rise from the dead. Blessedness does not come from mourning but from the response of God to our mourning. What follows from godly mourning is comfort and fellowship with God (James 4:8-10). The focus of true mourning over sin in not on ourselves but upon God, who alone can forgive and remove our sin. Rom. 7:15ff. Love of our sin prevents us from the blessedness that comes to those who enter the kingdom. Despair also keeps us from being blessed. Despair keeps us apart from the comfort that God gives (Jer. 8:12).

Matthew 5:5 – As we continue in our study, we come to still another paradox. Now we are told that the world is to be given to the meek. The world we live in says exactly the opposite. This is one of the reasons that a large segment of the Jewish population rejected Yeshua. They were looking for a King that would restore Israel to worldly greatness. After all the prophecies foretold that Israel would be head of the nations at the coming of Messiah. Consider Isaiah 40-66, which speaks of Israel restored by the Righteous King. What Israel did not consider was that interwoven in this message was that this King would be humble and a Servant that we would not recognize. The difference between 5:3 and 5:5, is that being poor in spirit focuses on our sinfulness, while meekness focuses on God’s Holiness. Humility underlies both characteristics. When we look honestly at ourselves, we are humbled by seeing how sinful and unworthy really are. When we consider God, we are made humbled is Biblical meekness is not in any way compared to weakness, it is not niceness. It is power under control. It is not a natural quality; it comes by the indwelling Spirit of God. It is essentially having a true view of us. We can never be meek unless we understand what it is to be poor in spirit. Knowing how truly sinful we are. It is to know that there is nothing within us that we can boast about. Being like the Messiah, Phil 2:5-8. A meek man is not defensive, because he doesn’t worry about himself and what others say about him. He no longer needs to protect himself because he knows that there is nothing in himself that is worth protecting and defending. If there is anything of worth than it came from God through His Spirit. A meek man will not feel sorry for himself or pity himself. It is because of the realization that he has no real rights at all. When this realization comes you understand that no one can harm you. When someone rails against such a person he realizes that he deserves that and more. A meek person is one who is amazed that any good thing can come from him, and experiences wonder when people actually do treat him well. This attitude causes us to have patience, and to be teachable. A person who has no confidence in himself is eager to learn from others and especially from the Spirit of God. A meek person has committed everything of self to the hands of God. What is a meek man’s reward? They will inherit the earth. In a sense they experience their reward immediately because a meek man is always satisfied! Such a life can only come from the Spirit of God. When the Spirit is present in a life He humbles us, he transforms us to experience poverty of spirit, and makes us to mourn over sin.

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. So far, we have looked at our own utter helplessness and weakness, our spiritual poverty and realize that apart from God we can do little in ourselves to follow the way of the Lord. We have seen that in ourselves there is missing what we long for and desire. Where then is the answer to what we are seeking? It is discovered when we hunger and thirst for righteousness. The only truly happy people are those who seek righteousness. The world hungers after happiness, and can’t find it, why? Because it is found only as we hunger and thirst for righteousness. Too often we treat the pain rather than seek the cause of the pain. Righteousness here can be defined as the desire to be free from sin. It is sin that separates us from the source of real life, God (Isa 59:2). It is first being declared righteous (Gen 15:6 & Rom. 4) that releases us from the bondage of the world the flesh and the devil. It is only then that we can seek after righteousness. It is the desire to be like Yeshua. What is this righteousness that we should be seeking? For the unbeliever it is salvation, Rom. 4:5. For the believer it is sanctification, Eph. 2:10, Phil 1:9-10. What are the results for those who hunger for righteousness? They will be satisfied. Our part is to seek, His part is to satisfy. As we continually seek God’s righteousness, wanting more but never getting all because we are stuck in sinful bodies, yet we will experience satisfaction. The satisfaction that we experience causes us to want more. (Ps. 107:9, Ps. 34:10, Ps. 23:1,5) The Messiah came to bring us this kind of satisfaction (John 4:14, 6:35). How can I tell if I am hungering and thirsting after righteousness? Am I satisfied with my own righteousness? Rom. 12:1-2 Do I find satisfaction in the things of this world? Do I have a hunger for the word, 1 Pet. 1:2. Do I have an assurance that all things that happen in my life are for the good? Rom. 8:28.

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. The first four beatitudes concern us in the inner man, the heart and the mind, and its relationship to God. The last four relate to the fruit that flows from a transformed heart and mind. The emphasis of the New Covenant is upon being, rather than doing. God is more concerned with our attitudes more than He is with our actions. A believer is something before he does something, we must be believers before we can act like a one.

There is a tendency to consider this beatitude in a self-serving mode. We are really doing ourselves a favor when we show mercy because we will be treated with mercy. The new age movement has labeled this as “Karma”. This won’t work in this world as a rule. Man is not naturally merciful. Consider the example of Yeshua in John 8:7-11. Look at the response to the mercy shown by Yeshua. Mercy to men does not bring mercy from men but rather mercy from God.

What is the difference between mercy and grace? Grace has to do with mankind regarding his sin. Mercy has to do with man in his distress. Mercy is not only seeing but acting as well. The good Samaritan is an example of mercy and grace working together. The Samaritan’s mercy relieved the pain by binding the wounds, grace was demonstrated in taking him to the Inn. Mercy relieves pain, grace provides healing. How does mercy and justice relate? If God is just, how can he show mercy? If a sinner is forgiven of his sin without being punished how then is God Just? The death of Yeshua provides Justice and Mercy.

Mercy is not natural it is a gift from God. True mercy flows from the experience of receiving God’s mercy. It is the natural fruit of those who have experienced the other beatitudes. It is the Spirit of God has revealed to us the poverty of our own spirit, which causes us to mourn, and to submit to God in meekness resulting in our hungering and thirsting for His righteousness. The resultant fruit is mercy flowing from the mercy we have received. In the parable of the unrighteous steward (Mt. 18:21 ff.) the cruel servant would not forgive the servant under him. This demonstrated that he did not understand forgiveness or his master, the result was that he was not forgiven. Repentance is necessary for forgiveness. If I am not merciful, it is because I have not understood the grace and mercy of God, which demonstrates that I have not been born again, and have not really experienced His mercy.

Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. The word “heart” comes from the Greek word “Kardia” which is where the word cardiac comes from. The word is used metaphorically to represent the inner person. The center of personality, motives, and attitudes, it also involves the thinking process and particularly the will as well as emotion (Prov. 4:23, Gen 6:5, Matt. 15:19). Saul and David demonstrate the difference between a pure heart and an impure heart (1 Sam 13:14, 16:7, Ps. 78:72). “Pure” is from the Greek “Katharos”, which is the root of our word Catharsis. The word in Greek was used to describe the process of refining metals. It is impurity of heart that separates man from God. (Isa. 59:1-2). How is purity of heart attained? 1. By recognizing that we are impure. 2. Study of God’s Word (John 15:3; Ps. 119:9) 3. Walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:16) 4. Prayer (Ps. 51:10, Lk. 18:1) 5. Confession, Lev 26:40, 1 KI 8:33, Psa. 32:5, Mat 10:32, Rom. 10:9, Phi 2:11, Jas. 5:16. If we seek and find purity of heart will we really see God? Can God be seen while we are in flesh? Moses sought to see God. Ex. 33:12. The glory of God must be veiled. For no one can see God and live. That is the reason for “Theophanies” and for the incarnation Gen. 16.

Matt. 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers. There are several reasons why this world lacks peace. First, it is because of the work of the god of this world system, Satan. Secondly it is because of man’s disobedience to God. This is the reason for lack of peace in the external world. But when an individual turns to the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6, Eph 2:13-14, Col. 1:19-20) he experiences the Peace of God. There can be no peace until there is repentance. Isa. 48:22, Jer. 8:11-12. This is why repentance is a foundational necessity to the new life. To be a peacemaker is to be an ambassador of the King and His Kingdom (Eph. 6:19-20). In order to qualify as a peacemaker, I must 1) Experienced the peace that comes from God. 2) I must know how to share this message of peace (Eph. 6:15). Successful peacemaking comes from an individual who understands and has embraced the other beatitudes. 3) A peacemaker helps people to make peace with each other (Mat. 5:23-24, Rom. 12:18). 4) A peacemaker is one who seeks to find points of commonality and builds from there. Being a peacemaker is the identifying mark of a Child of God.

Matt 5:10-12 Here again is another contrast with our present world. The first two beatitudes have to do with recognizing our own unrighteousness. The next five have to do with seeking and reflecting God’s righteousness. This last beatitude has to do with suffering for the sake of righteousness. Blessed are we when we are persecuted. This is the crowning feature of the happy or blessed person. If we desire to live a godly life we will be persecuted. 2 Tim 3:12 “And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Why? Gal 4:29 This was in the context of Isaac and Ishmael. Righteousness is convicting to the world without even uttering a word. Cain and Abel are an example of this truth. Persecution is in some ways an indication that we are really believers (Phil 1:29). These persecutions may take the form in extreme cases as physical abuse, or verbal abuse and being falsely accused Matt. 5:10-11.

Perspective is most important when dealing with persecution. We need to remember that if we are being persecuted because of our faith, that it is not we that is really being attacked but rather Christ in us. There is a promise given, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. But we should realize that our reward is not just in heaven we experience some of the reward now. Mk 10:29-30 “Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” Joseph the beloved son of Jacob was an example of this truth. We are told in V. 12 to be glad when these attacks come upon us. We can rejoice knowing that all things work for good for those that love God. We also can rejoice knowing that our peace does not come from the world but rather from God. We are storing for ourselves heavenly treasures. Heaven is forever while the trials of life are only for a season. Furthermore, we know that our persecution is similar to what the prophets of old experienced we are identified with them Heb 11:36-39. As we consider this last beatitude, we need to remember that this is the King bringing the law of the Kingdom. Israel had a worldly notion of what the kingdom was like. The natural man has one idea, and the spiritual man is supernaturally given God’s idea.

Blessing comes when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, but we need to understand that being persecuted for our political beliefs is not the same as for righteousness’ sake. For example, the faith of the Messiah is not anti-communist as opposed to capitalist or socialist or any other political worldview. It is interesting to note that those who have been the persecutors over the course of history have been the most religious. It was the Pharisees who pursued Jesus. It has been the church that has been the most hostile toward those that stood opposed to her. The protestant reformation and the inquisition, and the crusades are still other examples. Formal Christianity is often the greatest enemy of simple faith in the Messiah. We are told in V. 12 to be glad when these attacks come upon us. We can rejoice knowing that all things work for good for those that love God. We also can rejoice knowing that our peace does not come from the world but rather from God. We are storing for ourselves heavenly treasures. Heaven is forever while the trials of life are only for a season. Furthermore, we know that our persecution is like what the prophets of old experienced we are identified with them. Heb 11:36-39.

Matt. 5:13-16 – Salt and Light – Most of us know the story told in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life”. George Bailey is granted the wish to see what his world would have been like had he not been born. The result was life changing for him. In much the same way whether we realize it or not, our lives are influencing everyone around us. We are salt and light in a dark world. How much of the Messiah is seen through our unique personalities and gifts will affect for all eternity that world that we live and pass through. We who are citizens of this new Kingdom are not to reflect the world but influence it. We are in the world but not of it. Look at what Paul says on this subject. (2 Cor 2:14-16).
Contrary to the teaching of evolution man and the world is not getting better but far worse. But evil men and impostors will proceed {from bad} to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Tim 3:13 Salt is a most valuable commodity in ancient times. Its primary value was in its ability to keep food from becoming inedible. The beatitudes speak of the character of a believer while this portion deals with the function and purpose of a believer. According to the Talmud, not only was every offering salted, but the wood for the fire upon the altar as well. It symbolized the incorruptible and that which was from above. The soul was compared to salt. We are an offering to God and our souls are likened to salt. Leaven and honey were forbidden from sacrificial offerings because it symbolized fermentation and subsequent decay and decomposition, salt on the other hand is a preservative. It is the idea of permanence that is the basis for the covenant of salt in Num. 18:19. Salt was also known for its cleansing and hygienic power. This is reflected in Elisha’s actions in 2 Kings 2:20-21, and the rubbing of newly born infants with salt Ezek. 16:4. When salt was thrown on the ground it would ruin the ground for harvesting. This is what was in mind in Judges 9:45 sowing salt was indicative that the city should never be rebuilt again. Other commentators suggest that just as many foods are tasteless without salt so also the world would be tasteless, or boring, without believers. Still others suggest that just as salt when placed in a wound causes stinging, so too should a Christians presence sting the world and pierce its conscience. Still others suggest that salt creates thirst, and we should cause the world to thirst for the living waters. Yet clearly most believers hold to the preserving feature of salt that is most emblematic of us as believers.
As believers we individually influence the world. This is different than the church affecting the world. As believers we can individually be involved in political matters. But the work of the Church is the proclamation of the Gospel. As the church is effective in proclaiming the Gospel then you will see the world’s actions change. Righteousness comes only through a changed heart. The Great revivals of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries show clearly that when men hear the Gospel that social change for the better occurs.

The word light in the Jewish understanding is a most significant one. The Greek work here is phos, from the root “to shine, or “to make manifest”, this is the word that was used to describe the Shechinah, or glory of God in the Rabbinic writings. Two words that are used as roots of the word Shechinah they are “Shakan” whose primary root is lodging, to reside, or permanently stay, abide, continue, dwell, habitation, lay, place, remain, rest. The other word is “mishkan” which is the primary word used to describe the Tabernacle. Shekinah was used to signify God’s presence. In reaction to Hellenism and paganism, the sages of Israel attempted on the one hand to preserve the biblical notion of God’s presence while on the other hand emphasizing the vast gulf between deity and mankind. The word first appears to Israel in Ex 13:21ff. It was in Ex. 24:15ff that God gave to Moses the instructions for the Tabernacle. God’s presence in the Tabernacle was the guarantee of the Covenant in Ex. 29:45.

When the Tabernacle was completed the glory of the Lord filled the Temple Ex. 40:34. Later at the dedication of the Temple the Glory rested upon the Temple in the Cloud this too is spoken of as the Shekinah 1 Kings 8:10. In Rabbinical writings the Shekinah was present whenever anyone abided in the Law of the Lord. The Shekinah resists the proud, rebellious, sinful, and lazy, but rests in large measure upon the saintly, and the wise. Matthew when referring to the Light has this word in mind. This is the thought of Luke in 2:9 and John in John 1 and John 9:5 “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Which corresponds to our being “Light” for He dwells within us when he is unhindered by our worldly ways or sin (John 17:22) I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one”. This glory rests upon all who abide in the Messiah, John 15:4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

We also need to understand that this section that describes us as light of the world follows the beatitudes. This is, I think most significant. We “are” something, before we can “act” as something. When we come to the Messiah and receive His forgiveness and atonement, we are transformed people. Our priorities change as our hearts are changed. This transformation allows God’s Light to be seen in us. Light exposes the darkness and the things that belong to the darkness. We tend not to be aware of the darkness until we become exposed to the light. A genuine believer provides a contrast to the world. Light not only reveals but as light we are able to explain the darkness. Essentially it is man’s estrangement from God.

V 18-19 – Do not think that I have come to destroy the law and the prophets… The following scene from the film “A Man for All Seasons” might in some ways help illuminate the importance of the Law.

Young lawyer: The man is bad you should arrest him. Moore: There is no law against being bad. Young Lawyer: Yes there is, God’s law. Moore: Than let God arrest him. Wife: While you talk he is going. Moore: And go he should, if he were the devil himself, until he broke the law. Young Lawyer: So, you would give the devil himself the benefit of law? Moore: Yes, what would you do? Cut down the law to go after the devil? Young Lawyer: Yes I would. I would cut down every law in England to do that. Moore: And when the last law was down and the devil turned around on you, where would you hide with all the laws being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, man’s laws not God’s, and if you cut them down, and you are just the kind of man who would do it, Do you think you could stand upright against the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake.

What is the Law? – The term “law” must be defined in each individual context. Sometimes the term “law” refers to the entire Old Covenant or Tanakh (Romans 2:17). More often the context limits the term to the Law of Moses (Ezra 3:2). Occasionally the law refers to specific stipulations of the Mosaic covenant (Leviticus 14:54). In the Old Covenant the law was divided into three principal types. First, there were civil laws intended for Israel as a nation at that time. These laws are not imparting to us wisdom and insight but are not binding upon the various nations of the world today. They were given to the children of Israel to govern their daily affairs by these civil laws. These laws would include the law of a slave (Exodus 21:1-11), laws of restitution (Exodus 22:1-15), laws concerning social and moral injustice (Exodus 22:16-23:9), and instructions for conquest of the land (Exodus 23:20-33). The second type of law was ceremonial law. These included observances of holy days, sabbatical years, clean and unclean foods and regulations concerning clothing and agriculture. Also included in the ceremonial law were the particulars for offering sacrifices. They demonstrate the Holiness of God and the need to approach God in His appointed way. Messiah fulfilled the ceremonial law by His death, offering Himself up as the supreme and eternal sacrifice and imputing to us His righteousness. In Romans 6 Paul taught that when we believed in the Messiah, we died with Him. In Rom. 7:5-6 Paul explains that a person who is dead is no longer subject to the Law for righteousness, for our righteousness is found in our husband, the Lord. Paul taught that “Messiah was the end of the law for everyone who is justified by faith” (Romans 10:4). But the Law still holds men who are alive to this world in check. The third type of law in the Old Covenant was the moral law. This is most clearly and succinctly exemplified in the Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20 and reiterated in Deuteronomy 5. The principles of every one of these commandments have been restated in the New Covenant except for the stipulation to keep the Sabbath day and for the believer the Sabbath is every day in a spiritual sense but in the physical world that we live in we need a physical Sabbath.

The Purpose of the Law – The law of God is perfect, but it is weak. It was not able to change man, but it laid down the objective standard of righteousness, a standard that never changes. It has always been and will always be wrong to lie, cheat, steal, covet or commit adultery. The law demonstrates God’s desire that Israel sanctify herself to the Lord (set herself apart from the ways of the world). The law is governmental for the people of Israel, providing maxims of order and priority. The law is a restrainer, preventing men from following their evil inclinations, and a guide to the standards that brings man peace with himself. Finally, the law is a revelation from God concerning His nature, the sinfulness of man and the grace of the coming Messiah. The law could not justify a man or cancel out his past sins (Romans 3:28). The law could not regenerate a man, that is, it could not make spiritually dead men live. This can only be done by the Ruach Ha Kodesh, The Holy Spirit (John 3:3-7). Lastly, the law could not purify or sanctify men in the sense of making man’s heart good. For this work of justification, regeneration and sanctification of the individual would be the work of God and God alone. Many believe that the Law is the overriding theme of the Older Testament. We must never lose sight that Grace abounds even more. Noah, and multitudes of others in the Older Testament found Grace in the sight of the Lord. There also is evident God’s immutable law in the New Covenant. Jesus said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21). Some believe that the Law could not be kept and therefore is fatally flawed, but there were some who fully kept the Law (Luke 1:6), this was made possible because of the sacrificial system for atonement. God is always the same, and we find evidence of Law in the New Testament and Grace in the Older. James has clearly told us that faith and works (commandments) are merely two sides of the same coin. (James 2:26)

The believer and the Law – Is the believer today under Law? We have stated that the believer today is not under either the ceremonial law or the civil law of Moses for our righteousness. As believers we are no longer under the moral law of Moses as a “system”. The moral law of Moses contained injunctions as well as penalties. If believers today were under that system, the penalty for disobedience to parents would be stoning. The penalty for adultery would likewise be death. Believers today are not under that system. If the believer is free from the law, why does the New Covenant contain laws? If the believer’s life is merely based on a love relationship to Messiah Jesus, what then is the relationship between love and law? The answer is that even love itself is in constant need of definite and detailed guidance. Because our children love us, we don’t cease to command them. We do not say, “My children love me, that is enough; let them do whatever they want.” And while men may love their fellow man and earnestly desire their country’s good, nevertheless, society creates laws, which compels them to obey. It does not trust the general principles of brotherhood or patriotism to do all that is required.

And though in the believer’s life it may be true that love is the fulfillment of the entire law, we still need the directing finger and the guiding voice to say, “This is the way; walk ye in it.” Here is the relationship between love and law in the New Covenant. Believers, Jews, and non-Jews, are not under Mosaic law. They walk by faith also. The motivating mainspring for this new law (Jer. 31:31-33, 2 Cor. 5:14) is the love of the Messiah Jesus.

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. How can our righteousness surpass the Pharisees? By understanding that righteousness comes through faith. We need to understand that Jesus did not questions the authority of the Pharisees. Mat. 23:2-7. The righteousness that God is seeking comes from a broken and contrite heart. For us to fulfill Matthew 5:20 we need to understand that righteousness comes through faith. The righteousness that God is seeking comes from a broken and contrite heart. The next section of the sermon on the mount builds on this most important truth. God is concerned with the heart. In both Old and New Covenants God is concerned not with what is seen on the outside but what we are like on the inside. 1 Kings 8:39, 1 Chr. 28:9, 2 Chron 16:9, Prov. 16:2, Jer. 17:10, Rev. 2:23, 1 Cor. 4:4-5.

V 21-26 The Biblical definition of murder – Murder was the first crime committed in the Bible. Gen. 4:8, Cain killing Abel. While God had not specifically prohibited murder at this point His punishment of Cain demonstrates that Cain was aware of its evil. The first command on murder is found in Gen. 9:6. The commandment that Jesus is referring to comes from Ex. 20:13. The Law did not condemn all killing, but criminal murder. Warfare, accidental, self-defense, and capital punishment all were excluded in the Law. What Jesus does in this passage is cause us to realize that murder is not just committing the act but the process that leads up to it, hate. This is an action of the inward person. It is not just the outward action that brings judgment but the heart. The interpretation of Law had become mechanical and separated from the One who gave the Law. The Spirit behind the Law was lost. This is the case in our justice system. Our system is based on precedent not upon empirical truth. When Jesus says, “But I say to you”, he is not contrasting his teaching with Scripture but Talmud or tradition. Murder does not consist of simply the act but of what precedes it in the heart, regardless of whether the act is committed. This was shocking to His hearers. It placed those who sat in the seat of Moses on the same level as a convicted felon. Sociologists and psychologists report that hatred is what brings people to murder. Hatred is the outgrowth of murder. The point that the King is making is that all of us to one degree or another are murderers. The anger in v. 22 described by Jesus is self-serving anger rather than the anger of Eph. 4:26. Guilty before the court means that this kind of anger is the same as the physical act of murder. Raca was an epithet used to put down a person. What Jesus is saying is that such a put down is to be guilty before the Sanhedrin, or the Supreme court of appeals. To call someone a fool was to accuse him of not only stupidity but godless as well. This word in the Hebrew comes from the root “Mara” “to rebel”. Such slander is the third degree that Jesus leads us to. Hell is from Hinnom, which was Jerusalem’s dump. Garbage was burned and there was fire, smoke, and a continual stench. The concept of Hell is rooted in the history of this site. 2 Chron. 28:3, Jer 19:6. Our anger affects our relationship with God in our worship. It is not enough to confess our sinful thoughts of hate toward our brother, we are now told we must take steps to remove its root from our hearts. We are called to go and seek reconciliation. Sometimes we try to justify ourselves with religious activity, and God will not allow that (Ps. 66:18). An overriding lesson of this new Covenant and law is the ministry of the Spirit of God (2 Cor. 3:6-8). This concept of the Spirit rule continues in the next section regarding adultery.

Vv. 27-28 this concept of the rule of the Spirit continues in the next section about adultery. The very thought of adultery is enough to cause us to sin. This section is written to once again bring home the need that in us righteousness is not possible. The law is not enough. Telling us what to do will not make us righteous, this is exactly what the Law accomplished. The root of unrighteousness is the heart. Religion causes us to comfort ourselves by our actions, but never really confronts the attitude of the heart. If we are to understand the Kingdom of God, we must know the depth and power of sin. Sin is not merely action or deeds it is the fruit of what is in the heart. It is not so much the sins that cause us real problem but rather “sin”. Sins are the symptoms of the disease of sin. My coughing could lead to death if I just take cough drops instead of treating the tuberculosis that may be causing me to cough. Consider Romans 7:5ff.

VV 29-30 is not to be interpreted in a stiff literal way. God is not calling us to mutilate ourselves. Mutilation will never cleanse the heart. These impossible standards are given to cause us to despair that we, through our actions, will make ourselves righteous. They are to move us to find righteousness through the Messiah.

V 31-32 Before we attempt to discuss the issue of divorce, we need to spend some time considering the issue of Marriage. One of the greatest clues we have on what God considers on this subject can be found in His relationship to Israel and to the Church. In Scripture, Israel is represented as the “Wife of Jehovah”. Her marriage covenant is outlined in the Book of Deuteronomy which is written in the form of a traditional Ketubah or “marriage covenant”. In Dt. 5:1-3 we have God’s declaration of His covenant with Israel. Israel is warned that God is jealous for her. In Dt. 7:6-11 Israel is once again described in terms of a wife and the reason for God’s choice was His love for her. This is the basis of his covenant with her in vv. 9-11 which calls the wife of the Lord to fulfill her obligations to her Husband. Ezekiel 16:8 describes this relationship in terms of marriage.
These words are like the one’s spoken by Boaz to Ruth. (Ruth 3:7-9) Though Israel was warned about faithfulness, she committed adultery. Jeremiah 3:1-3. Ezekiel describes this adultery further: Eze. 16:15-34, So too did Hosea 2:2-5. Israel’s adultery caused God’s covenant with her to be broken. Jer. 31:31-32. Because of this adultery God decreed a separation in the days of Isaiah. According to Dt. 24:1, if a husband wished to divorce his wife, he had to write out a bill of divorcement. Once given into her hand the divorce was final. In the time of Isaiah Israel’s adultery was so bad God had withheld the blessings spoken of in the marriage covenant in Dt. 28. This caused many to suggest that God had divorced Israel. So, God declared to Isaiah that He had not given her the bill of divorcement. So, God declared in Isaiah 50:1 that He had not given her the bill of divorcement. But Israel’s continued adulterous ways caused God to separate from Israel, as described in Is. 50. The separation demonstrated by the removal of God’s blessings from Israel failed to cause Israel to return to God. The result was that God was forced to issue the certificate of divorce (Jer. 3:6-10). The reason for this divorce was for the pollution of the land with the bloodshed in her idol worship. Then, based on the conditions of the Ketubah outlined in Deuteronomy God begins to discipline Israel. Ezk. 16:35-43 describes God’s judgment. Once she has been fully judged God will once again renew His covenant with her. Hosea 2:6-13 also describes God’s judgment upon Israel his wife. Israel to this day is being judged for her idiolatry. This discipline is to call Israel to repentance, Jer. 3:12-13. When Israel repents Israel will once again be remarried to the Lord with even greater blessings. A new marriage Ketubah will be made, and this is found in Jer. 31:31-34, Ezek. 16:60-63. This restored relationship is described in Is. 54:1-8, 62:4-5. The land that was lost will be restored, and God’s relationship with her will also be restored. Hosea 2:14-23 also describes her restoration. Thus, we see how God considers the marriage relationship. He never gives up on a relationship, never. Marriage in God’s eyes reflects Himself (Gen. 1:27). The effects of divorce are manifold. Consider the damage done to children, parents, the family, and society. Not to mention the emotional trauma of the divorcing parties.

The Rabbinic justification for divorce is based on a dubious interpretation of the passage in Dt. 24:1-4. The focus of this portion of Scripture is not allowing divorce is has rather to do with the issue of adultery. This was allowed because of the hardness of our hearts. Mat. 19:18 The certificate did not make it right to divorce, it was rather given to protect the woman from slander and gave her proof of her ability to remarry. The indecency of Dt. 24 is not a reference to adultery but other behavior, such as immoral behavior or some other indecency. The punishment in the law for adultery was death. The conditions were stipulated so that the first husband would not remarry her if her second marriage failed. The idea is that divorce and remarriage is in God’s eyes adulterous and so remarriage would be compounding the sin.

What Scripture teaches on divorce cannot be understood apart from its teaching on marriage. Immediately after woman was created. God declared that man and woman were to be one flesh (Gen. 2:24). Marriage was God’s idea not ours. It reflects God Himself Gen. 1:27. The idea of cleaving denotes a permanent joining together. One of the greatest consequences of Adam’s sin was the damage done to the marriage relationship. Adam and Eve ruled together, with Adam as head and her as helper. His leadership was loving, caring, and understanding. Eve’s role was that of loving, willing submission, and support. Both were totally devoted to the Lord and to each other. But after the fall her desire was no longer to submit but to control, man’s rule was distorted and became stern control rather than humility. Divorce in God’s eyes was tearing apart what God had created in making a reflection of himself. Mal. 2:13-16 demonstrates how God feels about divorce. God does not command divorce, endorse it, or bless it. It is totally the result of sin and rebellion to Him and His plan for our lives.

The entire book of Hosea is a picture of God’s forgiving and patient love for Israel as seen in Hosea’s relationship to Gomer. God never gives up on His people, so too should we husbands never give up on our wives. Thus, we see how God considers the marriage relationship. He never gives up on a relationship, never.

Matt. 5:33-37 Jesus is now dealing with a subject that goes to one of the pillars of being a new person in the New Covenant, truth. He is once again dealing with the distinction between tradition or talmudic interpretation of the Law and the spirit of the Law. The law taught that any type of oath was acceptable, just as long as it was not false and that the promise would be fulfilled. But rabbinical interpretation led to insincere and false vows. Only vows to the Lord, made directly to His name would be considered honest and mandatory oaths. All other oaths were considered optional. The command ‘Do not swear falsely by my name. (Lev. 19:12), was interpreted to mean that swearing falsely by any other name was allowed. Thus it was taught that every word that God’s people spoke need not be perfectly true unless prefaced with the Name.

Modern Christianity has a tendency to compartmentalize honesty. We live in a day when we think that if my doctrine is true, and that the Congregation that I belong to embraces that truth then therefore we are true. Jesus said that “He was the truth” John 14:6. In essence truth is not merely a right answer or something to have, it is something that we are, and growing into. Most of us have an idea of what it is to seek truth, and to know truth, but we are called to be truth. God seeks to make us true. Truth is more than what we say; it is to be what we are (3 John 1:3-4). In essence walking in truth is learning to be real with one another and the world. To have the faith to become transparent that people might begin to catch hold of who we are.

The reason God gave man the provision to make oaths was a direct result of our sinful nature to be like our father the devil. For he is the father of lies, and our natural tendency is to emulate our Father. In Hebrews 6:16 we have a definition. The name of someone or something greater than the person making the oath usually gave credibility to the person making the oath. Even God made oaths on certain occasions. Gen. 22:16-17, Heb. 6:13-14,17. Having said this does this mean that we should never take an oath? Quakers teach that since Jesus taught never to swear at all, we should never accept swearing even in a court of Law. Jesus Himself responded when asked to swear to His answer in Matt. 26:63. Jesus taught that “He came not to nullify the Law but to fulfill.” His life was a demonstration of what it was to let your yes be yes. When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus “What is truth” Jesus gave no reply? Because He was truth. Paul used an oath in Romans 9:1. When we appeal to heaven, earth or Jerusalem, we are invoking a formula that the talmudic tradition gave for not telling the truth since we were not using the name of God in giving our word.

Matt. 5:38-48 This section continues with Jesus’ emphasis of bringing a New Halakah (Law) to His people; His teaching, as opposed to the traditional rabbinical interpretation.

Bearing in mind that Jesus came to fulfil the Law we should understand that Lex talionis predated the Law of Moses in the code of Hammurabi. In both instances it was instituted to curtail further crime. It matched punishment to the offense. Insisting that the poor would receive the same justice as the wealthy. It eliminated over-reaction which is a natural human tendency. It provided justice by punishing crime. This ruling however was not guidelines for individual retaliation but judicial. The traditional interpretation gave the individual the right to retaliate in kind. Allowing an individual to be both judge and executioner (Dt. 19:16-19). Exodus 21 outlines that this procedure is to be the work of the judicial system and not the individual who has been hurt, or his survivors. When Jesus says do not resist him who is evil. This is not saying that we should not take a stand against evil and allow it to run its course. Jesus drove out the moneychangers from the Temple. We are to resist the devil and all the evil that he inspires. (Gal. 2:11 & 1 Cor. 5:13) The government is called to resist evil and is described in Scripture as an instrument for justice that God has ordained. Romans 13:4 Jesus is referring to private retaliation. The law in the Older Testament did not impose retaliation, it simply made provision for compensation. In cases not involving life and death, the retaliation could be commuted by the injured party with a financial settlement Ex. 21:12ff. The spirit of the Law was not to exact revenge but rather to limit and check it.

In Mt. 5:39 Jesus did not necessarily mean for us to literally turn the other cheek. Jesus didn’t (John 18:22-23). Nor did Paul literally follow this injunction (Acts 16:35-37). We can literally fulfill this injunction if we choose, but it is the attitude of the heart toward our adversary that is most important. How we react to mistreatment is the thought here. Rather than react when wronged we should commit our defense to the Lord (Exodus 14:14). In essence we are called to die to ourselves. We want to defend and justify ourselves when our feelings are injured. But we like Isaac are called to die to those feelings that can enslave us Rom. 12:1-2.

Matthew 5:40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. The tunic is a reference to a garment like a shirt or undershirt. The cloak was an outer garment that served a dual role as sleeping cover as well. Bedouins in Israel today still wear garments that are described here. Under the Law, God required that this outer garment was to be returned before the sun sets (Exodus 22:26-27). This is an allusion to giving security on a loan, like a pawnbroker. An article was pledged as a guarantee that the loan would be paid back. Keeping the cloak overnight along with a grinding millstone were two articles forbidden to be received as security (Deuteronomy 24:6). However, some kept a man’s cloak during the day and returned it to him at night to insure prompt payment of a debt. According to Jewish law a man could not be sued for his outer garment, but you could legitimately sue for the undergarment. Jesus says that if some brings such an action give him the outer coat as well. Jesus is suggesting here that though we have the right to keep our cloak, we are to give up the legal right that we are entitled to. Again, the emphasis should be on our attitude when we are sued. We are not to be vindictive, and we should not become bitter. This is what Paul admonished the church at Corinth to understand (1 Cor. 6:1-7). Going the extra mile is a reference to the law that allowed Roman soldiers to force civilians to carry their load a mile. Jesus instructed His followers that if we are called to do something we don’t want to do that we should be willing to do it above and beyond what we are called to do. This was especially galling to the Jewish people who resented occupation and humiliation by a foreign pagan government. Again, this has to do with having a consciousness of the kingdom of God that we live and walk in which is not of this world. We are ambassadors of our King and His Kingdom (1 Peter 2:12-14).

Finally, this last point has to do with giving and lending: Matthew 5:42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. This is a call to live life with an open hand rather than a closed one. It is to avoid the Dead Sea syndrome. This doesn’t mean that we should give to all without qualification. To those who are clearly dishonest or who use our generosity in a hurtful or evil way we have the responsibility to say no, wisely and prayerfully.

Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ etc. This is not just a new covenant command this was a command in the Older Testament as well, Leviticus 19:18, Exodus 23:4-5. The traditional interpretation is voiced by Jesus: Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. However, it should also be noted that the Rabbinical teaching was very strong to love one’s neighbor. Consider, Luke 10:25-28, Mark 12:28-33. To hate your enemy was not in Scripture, but it is easy to see how one could justify such behavior. When the children of Israel entered the promised land, they were told to exterminate the Canaanites. Later God told them not to treat the Amorite, Midianite, and Moabite with kindness. Then Saul was told to annihilate the Amelekites. Under the Law if someone murdered your relative you were free to kill him if he did not make it to the city of refuge. Then of course we have the imprecatory Psalms with Psalm 69 a chief example. Psalms 69:22-28. Is it then any wonder that there was strong teaching to hate your enemies? The attitude had gotten to the point where anyone who wasn’t Jewish was an enemy and looked upon as dogs. There was incredible hostility to anyone who wasn’t Jewish. It must also be remembered that Jesus used this appellation when referring to Gentiles as well (Matthew 15:22-28).

The section that we just completed deals with being non-retaliatory. The key truth being that we must surrender our rights. Now the King bids us not just to be passive in the face of those who persecute us but to be active in response. Don’t just turn the other cheek and walk the extra mile, start praying for these people. Be perfect like God is. For God cares for those that are evil. We need to understand that God does not deal with man according to the kind of people that they are or according to what they do to Him. This is the kind of love that God had toward us. He loved us despite our hearts and our actions. This kind of love is only possible through a certain kind of separation from those that we interact. Holiness defined is separation from that which is unholy. God’s Holiness does not cause him to remove his love from us. So too we must be separate. Separated from the actions of others that incites us to react and retaliate. This kind of separation is made possible again by learning to die to self. If we are concerned primarily with ourselves this calling will elude us. But when we give up jealousy, envy, sensitivity, and the myriad of other feelings that tend to run our lives we can begin to grasp what it is to be godly. More times than not it is the actions of others that cause us to say and do things that we know are unlike the Messiah and His kingdom. Like Pogo we can say “I love mankind, it’s people that I hate.

It will help us also to realize that the world is blinded and submitted to the god of this world. Without really being aware of it they serve him, and furthermore are in bondage to him. When we realize this, it should become easier to have compassion on those that are lost and who are slaves to the world, the flesh, and the devil. Ultimately what is the eternal destiny of those without God in their lives? Eternal separation. Our call is to rescue the perishing. How do we do this? The same way our Messiah did. by laying down His life. There are some who think that we are to love our enemies because this is the best way to turn them into friends. Others think that by loving our enemies we will be psychologically motivating them to do good. There is a myriad of motives but all of them will fall short of the intended reason and motive. That motive is to demonstrate God’s love. Bless them that curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those that persecute you. Do we pray for those kinds of people? Not to please ourselves, not to put us right with God, but for the very welfare and peace of our enemies? What can give us this power? When we love our enemy as ourselves. One of the problems is that we do not love ourselves. We have not really received God’s forgiveness, and the result is that we are unable to forgive others. If we are unable to love our enemies perhaps it is because we have not truly received God’s forgiveness and love (Matthew 6:12-15 Matthew 18:21-35). The fact of the matter is that each of us have not fully succeeded in this call. We can take comfort that if we confess our sin we will be forgiven. But make no mistake that this is our calling. It is based on the forgiveness we receive from our Father in heaven.

As we conclude chapter 5, we are struck again with the impossibility of this new covenant that we have been born again into. Our natural inclination is to observe the law, but we are called to be more concerned with the spirit of the law than with the letter of the law. The natural tendency about morality is to be avoid certain actions, instead of worrying about what we don’t do we are called to hunger and thirst after God. The natural man is concerned about actions, but we are called to be concerned about our hearts. The natural man will say that he is not all bad. The believer will recognize that there is nothing good within himself. He is poor in spirit and mourning over his natural self. The natural man might feel sorry for bigots and those who may despise him but the man who is born again mourns for his enemy who is held captive. The natural man sees God as a heavenly policeman and stern judge, who is to be obeyed and feared. While the man of God sees Him as someone to be loved and yielded to as a loving Father. The believer is someone who sees himself as he really is, and yet despite all that is greatly beloved of God. When this is fully known and understood he can love others, as he is loved.