New Testament 08 - Blessed Are Ye - Gospelstudy.us

New Testament 08 – Blessed Are Ye

blessed
Scheduled to be studied Feb. 18-24, 2019. The topic for this week is to be blessed. What do we need to do to be blessed? We will also take a look at what it means to live the higher law Jesus gave, and to be the salt of the earth.

Day 1

Matthew 5:1-12; Luke 6:20-26 – Lasting happiness comes from living the way Jesus Christ taught.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

Happiness is, perhaps, the eternal and universal pursuit. Who doesn’t want it? But where can we find it? Is there a kind of happiness, among all the varieties of happiness out there, that is universally available, and that will satisfy everyone? The verses in today’s reading assignment contain the bulk of what we call the Beatitudes. Beatus is the Latin word that is the basis for our English word “beatitude,” which means to be blessed, happy, or fortunate.

I must admit that I have heard the beatitudes repeated in part or in whole so many times in my life that, for me, they have become trivialized and trite. They roll off the tongue like a grocery list. This has taken me some contemplating to feel a little deeper about them. Let’s look at the qualities Christ recommends to us if we want to find lasting happiness. Remember, the Godhead only speaks in terms of eternity, never in terms of the temporary.

Definitions of happiness

When the world talks about being happy, there are a set of assumptions or built in expectations attached. We don’t expect or assume that someone who is happy will be burdened with sorrow or experience trials. We don’t expect life to be harder and more difficult as a result of being happy. In the world’s view, happiness is the very absence of hardship, trials, suffering, difficulties. The bliss we all hope for is characterized by having enough money, sufficient notoriety (fame), enough time to do what we want, instead of what someone else demands of us, etc. In fact, in many ways, happiness is so unclearly defined that we have difficulty imagining what life would really be like if everything that was unpleasant were suddenly swept away and we had a complete life of ease.

I suspect that if most of us suddenly received what we imagine life would be like if we were truly happy that we would either be bored to tears, or unhappy in our relationships and living situation. Happiness simply can’t just be about the lack of all things inconvenient. There must be more to it than that. I have often stated that most people’s definition of the heavenly experience of sitting in a park all day with our loved ones or paving the streets of the heavenly city with gold, would get really boring. I’m not much of a harp player either, and clouds make me sneeze.

How does the Savior define happiness? I haven’t seen a single definition anywhere in the scriptures, but the Beatitudes give us some clues as to what is included in being happy. Can we all agree that being in heaven is supposed to make us happy? If you said yes to that question then we can proceed. Here are some of the verses in today’s reading from Matthew 5.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus identifies those who are poor in spirit as those who are humble, lack pride, and if you look at 3 Nephi 12:3 he adds “who come unto me.” So happiness can come to those who have gotten rid of their pride (much harder than we think), and who come to Christ. I am assuming that means those who come seeking forgiveness of sins so they can better follow the Master.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Notice that he did not say that those who follow him will not have a reason to mourn. He said that those who do mourn will receive comfort.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

This will be covered in day five. Suffice it to say here that one of the main qualities of those who are meek refers to their having suffered. Wow. Didn’t see that coming.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

What does Jesus mean by the phrase, “shall be filled?” Remember that Jesus is both the bread of life and the water of life. In other words, what he has to offer us, which is the gospel of salvation, is designed to satisfy our souls and bring us joy. After all, the work and the glory of God is to bring to pass our exaltation and eternal life. Therefore, whatever it is the gospel offers to us is supposed to ultimately bring us supreme happiness. But we are seeing already that this definition hardly includes the absence of anything uncomfortable. If anything, God’s form of happiness includes lots of suffering and sorrow. Hows that for a plot twist?

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

By offering others mercy the Lord will offer us mercy. Over and over again in the scriptures we are assured that our final judgment will consist of the law of reciprocity. If we are merciful to others, we will receive mercy. If we are judgmental toward others we will be judged harshly as well. If we forgive, we will be forgiven. This is a tit-for-tat judgment. The more Christlike attitudes we learn to develop and live, the more of those merciful qualities will be used in our final judgment. Now that is what I call an incentive!

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

The scriptures tell us that no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of God. Only those who have learned to be pure in their thinking and in their attitudes will feel comfortable being in the presence of the Savior and our Father in Heaven.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Christ is the Prince of Peace. Ever wondered why he has this title? Think about that. How would you explain and justify that title for him to someone else? What scriptural references would you use to back up your feelings about this title for him?

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happiness in the eternities, by whatever definition defines it there, probably includes some suffering here in mortality. Those who suffer on account of them trying to be righteous are promised a place in the kingdom of heaven. We may experience some uncomfortable situations in the here and now, but in the end we will live with God, where those who persecuted us will not be allowed to enter.

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

This is an extension of verse 10. Our eternal happiness is based on our ability to be patient in our trials in mortality. Eventually, those things which we are so anxious to get rid of in this life will be rewarded with the absence of all those things which caused us such pain in the life to come. Does that mean God does not ever suffer? He is supposed to be as happy as they come, right? What about when he lost one third of his children to Satan’s rebellion? Do you think our Father was giggling with joy over that? Don’t you think he was heartbroken, even though he knew eons before it was going to happen? The scriptures use the phrase “swallowed up” to refer to the joy in the righteous that overcomes the sorrows we feel over those who chose lesser degrees of happiness.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Wow, Jesus is actually telling us that not only can we be happy, but that we can rejoice and be exceeding glad. Why? Because when we develop these virtues that are the basis of a Christlike life and attitude, we will suffer for it in mortality. So many of the prophets of old were persecuted because of their efforts to be Christlike, yet the reward in heaven, as a result of this effort made by mere mortals, is so great that the Lord tells us to “rejoice, and be exceeding glad.”

We are promised peace in this world, but not unbroken happiness in this world. Happiness can be experienced in this life, but eternal happiness is the promise made to those who are willing to undergo some discomfort in this life. I use the term “discomfort” a little tongue-in-cheek, as this is what my doctor always says to me (“You may feel a little discomfort) right before he stabs me with something.

Where can you find scriptures that refer to our happiness? Make a list of them then look at the qualities required for happiness to happen.

Do you believe we can experience enough permanent happiness to make it through mortality so we can gain our eternal happiness?

Is all happiness fleeting and temporary, or is there a kind of happiness that has staying power, even in times of hardship?

Day 2

Matthew 5:13 – Why did the Savior compare His disciples to salt?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

Salt is as common and as mundane as any element around today. We can buy it cheaply at the store, and we can even get it in many forms and flavors. We no longer have a sense of the importance that was attached to salt in the Old/New Testaments. Salt acts as a purifier and a preservative. Because of its useful qualities the Lord used salt to represent important elements of the sacrifices in the law of Moses. For example, ALL burnt offerings had to be accompanied by salt. Below I have included at tiny snippet from a website that refers to salt, and how it was used in the sacrifices. It also shows that salt was so important that the Lord referred to his covenant with King David as a “covenant of salt.”

2 Chronicles 13:5

Ought ye not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?

Here, a covenant of salt suggests an agreement of enduring qualities, even forever. Thus a covenant of salt is one that is very strong, though it may not always be everlasting. Salt is understood to be the preservative, suggesting endurance. When God makes use of this metaphor, He is urging us to be faithful despite how circumstances appear on the surface because His Word is absolutely sure. Like Himself, His Word endures forever.

Salt was required in every sacrifice burned on the altar. Besides its preserving factor, it also has a purifying affect on what it comes in contact with. Ezekiel 16:4 records that newborn babies were rubbed with salt. In addition, Elisha treated a bad water supply in Jericho with salt. Besides purifying, then, it also signifies a new beginning.

Salt is such a powerful purifier and preservative that God refers to those who make covenants with him as “the salt of the earth.” To those in ancient days who were intimately familiar with the rituals and sacrifices of the temple, being referred to as the salt of the earth made perfect sense. Salt is one of the most basic of flavorings for any food. It has the ability to make sweet things sweeter, and enhance the flavor of whatever else it is paired with.

Knowing these characteristics about salt, how does salt describe God’s people in relation to all the other people of the earth?

Over and over again in the scriptures the Lord tells us that if salt loses its savor, or its ability to do what salt does, then what good is it? How would you answer that question?

Pure salt never goes bad. It is extremely stable as a chemical. One of the patterns of the Lord shown from the beginning of creation til now is that he often demonstrates his covenants in a physical form before demonstrating them in a spiritual form. One such example of this process is God’s covenant with Israel. In the first few thousand years of his covenant with Abraham’s family, they were to keep themselves pure by remaining isolated as a people. They were strongly discouraged from mixing with others, because when they did they became corrupted as a people. This is evidenced by all the problems Israel had when they married those outside the covenant and ended up worshiping idols.

The covenant of salt referred to above is God’s effort to keep the people pure and to preserve them as a people. They simply didn’t have the ability to mix with other cultures and remain true to the covenant. They, in effect, lost their savor, or saltiness. They were no longer able to be a covenant people when they worshiped other gods. Each time they became corrupted by the religions around them they became worthless to God and his purposes to bless them. As a result they were usually conquered, scattered, and trampled under the feet of other nations. Only when they kept themselves pure was the Lord able to fulfill his part of the covenant and protect them.

In the latter days we are no longer required by the Lord to keep to ourselves and shun the company of other religions and peoples. Now our obligation to the Lord requires that we go out and mix with all the peoples of the earth and share the covenants of God with them. In the ancient days the people lost their “savor” or saltiness by diluting their covenants by marrying outside the covenant and with the worship of other gods.

How do we dilute ourselves and lose our saltiness today (Doctrine and Covenants 103:9-10)?

What is the process by which we help scattered Israel regain its “savor?”

Are covenants involved?

Day 3

Matthew 5:17-48; Luke 6:27-35 – The law of Christ supersedes the law of Moses.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

What are the differences between the law of Moses and the law of Christ? In really basic terms, it is the sacrifice that is required. In the law of Moses a person took their sacrifice to the temple and the priest killed it and offered it to God in behalf of the person who brought the sacrifice. The person didn’t actually have to do anything but bring the offering to the temple and the priests did the rest for them. The sacrifices in the law of Moses were all external to the person offering the sacrifice. The animal died, not the person. The animal was a surrogate for the human.

What makes the law of Christ a higher law is that now the person has to become the sacrifice. Instead of offering a lamb, for example, the person seeking redemption must submit themself as humbly and as uncomplainingly as a lamb being taken to the slaughter. We must be willing to undergo anything required of us to make our offering to God. It isn’t the lamb’s heart He wants now, it is our heart that is required.

The only thing about us that God does not own, and cannot take from us is our will. When we look at the nature of the sacrifice in the law of Moses, the sacrificial animal was cut into four pieces for the burnt offering – the head, the legs, the bowels, and the fat then the whole animal was burned to ash. Keep in mind that there were a number of different kinds of sacrifices one could make, and the custom of how they were done changed over the centuries, but the purpose was pretty clearly described in the law Moses gave them.

Here is a small quote from lds.org on sacrifices.

The burnt offering got its Hebrew name from the idea of the smoke of the sacrifice ascending to heaven. The characteristic rite was the burning of the whole animal on the altar (Lev. 1:9Deut. 33:10). As the obligation to surrender was constant on the part of Israel, a burnt offering, called the continual burnt offering, was offered twice daily, morning and evening.

I include the above quote because I want to make a specific point. Jesus was, and is, our exemplar. It was part of his calling as our Savior to show us the way back to our Father in Heaven. In the law of Moses that which was sacrificed in the burnt offering was completely consumed. When the Savior came he showed us that in the higher law he brought we have to be willing to lay down our wills on the altar of sacrifice and give our all, without holding anything back. Jesus demonstrated this with his suffering in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. There was no part of himself that he held in reserve. At no time did Christ ever say to our Father that He (God) couldn’t make this demand or that demand. At every point in his life, Jesus submitted himself to God and gave God everything He (the Father) demanded of him. Jesus became his own burnt offering. We must be willing to become our own burnt offering.

This is the most fundamental difference between the law of Moses and the higher law Jesus gave. Under Christ’s law we must be willing to give up all that we are in order to be fully acceptable to God. At any point in time the Lord may require sacrifices to be made, whether in time, money, effort, will, or anything else he deems needed in order for us to learn the lessons required of us to become celestial people. This is what we covenant to do. It starts with the general covenant of baptism then becomes specific in the temple covenants we make. We are all willingly placing ourselves on the altar of sacrifice.

How does the law of Christ require us to be more righteous than the Pharisees and Sadducees were, who were the “masters” of the law of Moses?

As you review Matthew 5:21-48 and Luke 6:27-35, make a list of what the law of Moses required, and then list what Jesus requires. How does what Jesus requires raise the spiritual bar for you?

As you go through the list you just made, are there some things you are already doing? What things do you still need to work on?

Day 4

Matthew 5:48 – Does Heavenly Father really expect me to be perfect? 

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

The answer to the question for today’s study is, “Yes.”

How does repentance affect our efforts to become perfect?

Can we keep the commandment to be perfect even when we are not yet perfect? If so, how?

We know we cannot become “complete” or “whole” in this life, because it is a process which is started in this life, but completed long after the resurrection. Why do you think God wants us to begin the process of change now, instead of letting us wait until after the resurrection?

If we don’t start the process of becoming perfect in this life, can we be worthy of a celestial body in the day of the resurrection?

Who do you think is more patient with your attempts to become perfect, you or your Redeemer? What difference does this make to you?

Day 5

Matthew 5:43-44 – Why does the Lord want us to pray for those who have been unkind to us? 

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

To begin answering the question for this idea for Family Home Evening or personal scripture study, let’s look at one of the words used by Jesus in the Beatitudes. Having just read the Beatitudes this week, and having had the Savior describe how we are each supposed to be in our daily walk with others, how do you think the Savior describes himself? There are three sentences in Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus describes himself. I find it interesting that of all the words he could have chosen to describe himself, the first descriptor he chose is “meek.”

28 ¶ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

If you have the King James version of the Bible that is produced by the Church, turn to page 1192 and look at the footnote for verse five of Matthew 5. It reads thus: GR gentle, forgiving, or benevolent; the Hebrew in Ps. 37:11 characterizes as the humble those who have suffered. The English word “meek” is what was chosen to represent the Greek (GR) word used originally to write the book of Matthew.

We tend to think of those who are meek as weak, mouse-like, timid. Those descriptors definitely don’t describe Christ. Yet Christ certainly fits the Greek description of the word we use as “meek.” His second descriptor for himself is “lowly of heart,” which refers to someone who is absent of any pride, humble, and teachable. This is the essence of what he wants for us.

When we are willing to yoke or attach ourselves to Christ, and we do this through the covenants we make, as we go about learning to become more Christlike, he teaches us how to become more forgiving, more patient, and more gentle. Through the things which we suffer, just as he learned from the things he suffered, we learn to more willingly submit our wills to God and let Him teach us the lessons we need to become more like His Son.

To help answer the original question for today’s study, what did Jesus ask the Father with regards to those who put him on the cross?

Why do you think Jesus prayed for those who hurt him?

Does praying for our “enemies” do anything for us? What might that be?

Those closest to us are those most able to hurt us. What do you think learning to pray for them will do for our personal relationships?

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

New Testament 08

About the Author:

Kelly is retired and living in Rexburg, Idaho, USA. He currently writes for gospelstudy.us. You can find articles by Kelly on ldsblogs.com, ldsliving.com, and moronichannel.org as well. He has also published multiple works, including Premortal Promises, and Contributions to the Kingdom, both available on Amazon.com.

5 Comments

  1. Sandra Stone January 24, 2019 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    I can not find the link to click at the bottom of the lesson to print it pdf.

    • Kelly Merrill January 24, 2019 at 11:52 pm - Reply

      My bad. Sorry about that. The PDF file is now at the bottom of the study material. Thanks for catching that early on!

  2. Judith Deschenes February 16, 2019 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Brother Merrill,

    Do you have your study aids in a book or manual that we can buy? I don’t have a printer and many times I have just hand-copied your lessons to refer to in my studying and teaching. I am so thankful that you share your wisdom and insights! They really help!! Thank you!

    • Kelly Merrill February 16, 2019 at 9:50 am - Reply

      Any of the classes from the past are available in book form, but the Come, Follow Me series I am still writing as we go along. Have you looked at the New Testament Self Study Guide? That uses the old New Testament curriculum, but has the articles I wrote for the whole New Testament in it. Some are finding that to be helpful in addition to their studies in Come, Follow Me.

  3. Judith Deschenes February 18, 2019 at 7:40 am - Reply

    Thank you Brother Merrill!

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