|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:3-12 Our Saviour here gives eight characters of blessed people, which represent to us the principal graces of a Christian. 1. The poor in spirit are happy. These bring their minds to their condition, when it is a low condition. They are humble and lowly in their own eyes. They see their want, bewail their guilt, and thirst after a Redeemer. The kingdom of grace is of such; the kingdom of glory is for them. 2. Those that mourn are happy. That godly sorrow which worketh true repentance, watchfulness, a humble mind, and continual dependence for acceptance on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, with constant seeking the Holy Spirit, to cleanse away the remaining evil, seems here to be intended. Heaven is the joy of our Lord; a mountain of joy, to which our way is through a vale of tears. Such mourners shall be comforted by their God. 3. The meek are happy. The meek are those who quietly submit to God; who can bear insult; are silent, or return a soft answer; who, in their patience, keep possession of their own souls, when they can scarcely keep possession of anything else. These meek ones are happy, even in this world. Meekness promotes wealth, comfort, and safety, even in this world. 4. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are happy. Righteousness is here put for all spiritual blessings. These are purchased for us by the righteousness of Christ, confirmed by the faithfulness of God. Our desires of spiritual blessings must be earnest. Though all desires for grace are not grace, yet such a desire as this, is a desire of God's own raising, and he will not forsake the work of his own hands. 5. The merciful are happy. We must not only bear our own afflictions patiently, but we must do all we can to help those who are in misery. We must have compassion on the souls of others, and help them; pity those who are in sin, and seek to snatch them as brands out of the burning. 6. The pure in heart are happy; for they shall see God. Here holiness and happiness are fully described and put together. The heart must be purified by faith, and kept for God. Create in me such a clean heart, O God. None but the pure are capable of seeing God, nor would heaven be happiness to the impure. As God cannot endure to look upon their iniquity, so they cannot look upon his purity. 7. The peace-makers are happy. They love, and desire, and delight in peace; and study to be quiet. They keep the peace that it be not broken, and recover it when it is broken. If the peace-makers are blessed, woe to the peace-breakers! 8. Those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake are happy. This saying is peculiar to Christianity; and it is more largely insisted upon than any of the rest. Yet there is nothing in our sufferings that can merit of God; but God will provide that those who lose for him, though life itself, shall not lose by him in the end. Blessed Jesus! how different are thy maxims from those of men of this world! They call the proud happy, and admire the gay, the rich, the powerful, and the victorious. May we find mercy from the Lord; may we be owned as his children, and inherit his kingdom. With these enjoyments and hopes, we may cheerfully welcome low or painful circumstances.
Verse 6. - They which do hunger and thirst. The application of the figure of eating and drinking to spiritual things (cf. Luke 22:30) is not infrequent in the Old Testament; e.g. Isaiah 55:1. Yet the thought here is not the actual participation, but the craving. The Benediction marks a distinct stage in our Lord's argument. He spoke first of the consciously poor in their spirit; next of those who mourned over their poverty; then of those who were ready to receive whatever teaching or chastisement might be given them; here of those who had an earnest longing for that right relation to God in which they were so lacking. This is the positive stage. Intense longing, such as can only be compared to that of a starving man for food, is sure of satisfaction. After righteousness (τὴν δικαιοσύνην). Observe:
(1) The accusative. In Greek writers πεινάω and διψάω are regularly followed by the genitive. Here by the accusative; for the desire is after the whole object, and not after a part of it (cf. Weiss; also Bishop Westcott, on Hebrews 6:4, 5).
(2) The article. It idealizes. There is but one righteousness worthy of the name, and for this and all that it includes, both in standing before God and in relation to men, the soul longs. How it is to be obtained Christ does not here say. For they. Emphatic, as always (ver. 3, note). Shall be filled (χορτασθήσονται); vide Bishop Lightfoot on Philippians 4:12. Properly of animals being fed with fodder (χόρτος); cf. Revelation 19:21, "All the birds were filled (ἐχορτάσθησαν) with their flesh." At first only used of men depreciatingly (Plato,' Rep.,' 9:9, p. 586 a), afterwards readily. Rare in the sense of moral and spiritual satisfaction (cf. Psalm 17:15). When shall they be filled? As in the case of vers. 3, 4, now in part, fully hereafter. "St. Austin, wondering at the overflowing measure of God's Spirit in the Apostles' hearts, observes that the reason why they were so full of God was because they were so empty of his creatures. 'They were very full,' he says, 'because they were very empty'" (Anon., in Ford). That on earth, but in heaven with all the saints -
"Ever filled and ever seeking, what they have they still desire,
Hunger there shall fret them never, nor satiety shall tire, -
Still enjoying whilst aspiring, in their joy they still aspire." ('Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family,' ch. 9, from the Latin Hymn of Peter Damiani, † 1072.)
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst,.... Not after the riches, honours, and pleasures of this world, but
after righteousness; by which is meant, not justice and equity, as persons oppressed and injured; nor a moral, legal righteousness, which the generality of the Jewish nation were eagerly pursuing; but the justifying righteousness of Christ, which is imputed by God the Father, and received by faith. To "hunger and thirst" after this, supposes a want of righteousness, which is the case of all men; a sense of want of it, which is only perceived by persons spiritually enlightened; a discovery of the righteousness of Christ to them, which is made in the Gospel, and by the Spirit of God; a value for it, and a preference of it to all other righteousness; and an earnest desire after it, to be possessed of it, and found in it; and that nothing can be more grateful than that, because of its perfection, purity, suitableness, and use: happy souls are these,
for they shall be filled: with that righteousness, and with all other good things, in consequence of it; and particularly with joy and peace, which are the certain effects of it: or, "they shall be satisfied", that they have an interest in it; and so satisfied with it, that they shall never seek for any other righteousness, as a justifying one, in the sight of God; this being full, perfect, sufficient, and entirely complete.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
6. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled—"shall be saturated." "From this verse," says Tholuck, "the reference to the Old Testament background ceases." Surprising! On the contrary, none of these beatitudes is more manifestly dug out of the rich mine of the Old Testament. Indeed, how could any one who found in the Old Testament "the poor in spirit," and "the mourners in Zion," doubt that he would also find those same characters also craving that righteousness which they feel and mourn their want of? But what is the precise meaning of "righteousness" here? Lutheran expositors, and some of our own, seem to have a hankering after that more restricted sense of the term in which it is used with reference to the sinner's justification before God. (See Jer 23:6; Isa 45:24; Ro 4:6; 2Co 5:21). But, in so comprehensive a saying as this, it is clearly to be taken—as in Mt 5:10 also—in a much wider sense, as denoting that spiritual and entire conformity to the law of God, under the want of which the saints groan, and the possession of which constitutes the only true saintship. The Old Testament dwells much on this righteousness, as that which alone God regards with approbation (Ps 11:7; 23:3; 106:3; Pr 12:28; 16:31; Isa 64:5, &c.). As hunger and thirst are the keenest of our appetites, our Lord, by employing this figure here, plainly means "those whose deepest cravings are after spiritual blessings." And in the Old Testament we find this craving variously expressed: "Hearken unto Me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord" (Isa 51:1); "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord," exclaimed dying Jacob (Ge 49:18); "My soul," says the sweet Psalmist, "breaketh for the longing that it hath unto Thy judgments at all times" (Ps 119:20): and in similar breathings does he give vent to his deepest longings in that and other Psalms. Well, our Lord just takes up here—this blessed frame of mind, representing it as—the surest pledge of the coveted supplies, as it is the best preparative, and indeed itself the beginning of them. "They shall be saturated," He says; they shall not only have what they so highly value and long to possess, but they shall have their fill of it. Not here, however. Even in the Old Testament this was well understood. "Deliver me," says the Psalmist, in language which, beyond all doubt, stretches beyond the present scene, "from men of the world, which have their portion in this life: as for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness" (Ps 17:13-15). The foregoing beatitudes—the first four—represent the saints rather as conscious of their need of salvation, and acting suitably to that character, than as possessed of it. The next three are of a different kind—representing the saints as having now found salvation, and conducting themselves accordingly.
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