The Sermon on the Mount is Heaven’s benediction to the world—a voice from the throne of God. (Ellen White, Preface to Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pg. vii)
Jesus continued His discourse with the people on the mountain side, saying, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
Meekness was not something that was considered a noble trait by either the Jews or the Gentiles in the days of Jesus; it was thought of as cowardice and weakness. In fact, even today it is commonly considered a characteristic of weakness; in Webster’s Dictionary, one of the definitions of meekness is: “deficient in spirit and courage.” (Webster’s Dictionary, pg. 527).
Patience and gentleness under wrong were not characteristics prized by the heathen or by the Jews. The statement made by Moses under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that he was the meekest man upon the earth, would not have been regarded by the people of his time as a commendation; it would rather have excited pity or contempt. But Jesus places meekness among the first qualifications for His kingdom. In His own life and character the divine beauty of this precious grace is revealed.” (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pg. 14)
This statement from Jesus that to the meek was given the inheritance of the earth must have shocked the people even more. “The Jews cultivated a spirit of retaliation” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, pg. 310). In their minds, those who inherited the earth were those who would rise up against the hated Romans and courageously avenge the wrongs committed against them. In the minds of the Jews, the coming Messiah was going to be the embodiment of retaliation and revenge; He was to be the power that would conquer and destroy.
Why was it that the Jews, while professing that the Lord was their God, cultivated this spirit of retaliation and held such a notion concerning the Messiah?
It is a law of the human mind that by beholding we become changed. Man will rise no higher than his conceptions of truth, purity, and holiness. If the mind is never exalted above the level of humanity, if it is not uplifted by faith to contemplate infinite wisdom and love, the man will be constantly sinking lower and lower. The worshipers of false gods clothed their deities with human attributes and passions, and thus their standard of character was degraded to the likeness of sinful humanity. (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pg. 91)
By sending their students to the schools in Alexandria, which taught Greek philosophy, the Jewish people unintentionally ensured that the minds of their children were never elevated above that of the human, and thus were continually “sinking lower and lower.” In Ministry Magazine, F.C. Gilbert writes:
While the religious schools continued to operate, a marked declension in spiritual influence and power was visible. Year by year the word of God was studied less, as the courses of studies based on culture and philosophy increased.…‘A child of five years should study the Bible, at ten the Mishna, at fifteen the Gemara.’ The Mishna is a voluminous commentary of the Bible; the Gemara is the commentary of the Mishna. So as the student advanced in years and developed in mental acumen, he studied God’s word less, and man’s writings more. (F.C. Gilbert, “Why the Jews Rejected Jesus as the Messiah,” The Ministry, December, 1933, pg. 15)
From this, the Jews were led to entertain false, pagan conceptions of the character of God. “Though they professed to know and to worship the true and living God, they wholly misrepresented Him.” Through all this they “had so misrepresented God that He was looked upon as a stern judge, incapable of compassion, mercy, and love” (Ellen White, Fundamentals of Christian Education, pg. 309).
While the “[heathen] worshipers of false gods clothed their deities with human attributes and passions,” the Jews, who despised them as great heathens, did no better. Though they claimed to worship the one true God, they clothed Him with the degraded attributes and passions of humanity, and thus they rose no higher than their false conceptions of God, and by beholding they were changed. Thus, in their unconsecrated beliefs, attitudes, and practices, they were simply playing out a false conception of what they thought God was like.
Christ, in his Sermon on the Mount, lays out meekness as one of the first characteristics of those who posses His Kingdom. But Christ never requires of His children that which He Himself does not practice. In the life of Christ was exemplified the grace of meekness.
Though He was the “mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6), and “thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). Christ took on all our experiences; He walked the path we must walk, “not as a king, to demand homage, but as one whose mission it was to serve others. There was in His manner no taint of bigotry, no cold austerity. […] united with His divine majesty were meekness and humility” (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, pg. 14).
Christ tells us, “Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29), and, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself” (Matthew 16:24). Christ was made of no reputation. For us we feel it a tremendous disgrace to have a bad reputation, but for Christ, He gave up His reputation; He was made of no reputation, so that we might have His salvation.
While slander may blacken the reputation, it cannot stain the character. That is in God’s keeping. So long as we do not consent to sin, there is no power, whether human or satanic, that can bring a stain upon the soul. (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pg. 32)
During his years of ministry, the Lord Jesus’ life was constantly under attack from His enemies. Yet amid all the conflict of the jealously and malignity of His enemies, He could say, “He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). “No storm of human or satanic wrath could disturb the calm of that perfect communion with God” (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, pg. 15). And to us Christ says: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Christ is acquainted with all that is misunderstood and misrepresented by men. His children can afford to wait in calm patience and trust, no matter how much maligned and despised; for nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest, and those who honor God shall be honored by Him in the presence of men and angels. (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pg. 32)
Christ was oppressed and afflicted, “yet he opened not his mouth.” Christ suffered silently; of Him it is said, “he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). One of the hardest things is to suffer silently. Many times it is easy for human nature, when one is wronged, to seek retaliation. But we are told in Mount of Blessings: “Far better would it be for us to suffer under false accusation than to inflict upon ourselves the torture of retaliation upon our enemies. The spirit of hatred and revenge originated with Satan, and can bring only evil to him who cherishes it” (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, pg. 17).
It is true there is an indignation that is justifiable, even in the followers of Christ. When they see that God is dishonored, and His service brought into disrepute, when they see the innocent oppressed, a righteous indignation stirs the soul. Such anger, born of sensitive morals, is not a sin. But those who at any supposed provocation feel at liberty to indulge anger or resentment are opening the heart to Satan. Bitterness and animosity must be banished from the soul if we would be in harmony with heaven. (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, pg. 310)
But to the meek who in this life suffer affliction and reproach is given the promise: “They shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). The earth that the meek will inherit will not contain the shadow of the curse; there will be no more sorrow, suffering, affliction, or reproach. Then all things shall be made right.
Jesus continued: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
First, let us ask ourselves, “What is righteousness?” Second, “How do we become righteous?”
Righteousness is holiness, likeness to God, and ‘God is love.’ 1 John 4:16. It is conformity to the law of God, for ‘all Thy commandments are righteousness’ (Psalm 119:172), and ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Romans 13:10). Righteousness is love, and love is the light and the life of God. The righteousness of God is embodied in Christ. We receive righteousness by receiving Him. (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, pg. 18, emphasis added)
Let us break this paragraph down and connect it with Matthew 5:6. What kind of righteousness is here expressed? Well, it says that righteousness is holiness, likeness to God—it is the holiness of God; righteousness is conformity to the law of God—it is the character of God; righteousness is love—God’s love. This is speaking of the perfect righteousness of God—this is God’s righteousness, not our own. If that is the case, then there is no hope for us to manufacture this righteousness, for one must be God Himself in order to make this righteousness. The moment I seek to make this righteousness myself, it ceases to be God’s righteousness and becomes my righteousness, which is “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
This righteousness must be hungered and thirsted for. If you must hunger and thirst after something, then you must receive it and not produce it yourself. In the natural world, when I am thirsty, I cannot create water, I must simply receive water provided by an external source. I cannot quench my thirst from within; I must look without to find water. So in salvation, I cannot create righteousness, I must simply receive the righteousness provided. I cannot look within myself to find righteousness but must look to a source outside of myself, a power from without, to create within me the righteousness of God.
Righteousness is more than doing the do’s and avoiding the don’ts. The Pharisees were really good at this–making a list of all the unrighteous don’ts and all the righteous do’s: “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11-12). To them this was righteousness, and this was sufficient to give them an honored place in heaven.
Believing this or acting in this manner comes from a misconception of what righteousness is. If we feel that righteousness is simply doing and being a certain way based on our conceptions what is right, in the end all we will possess by “doing” and “not doing” is self-righteousness, which is “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). But the righteousness Jesus spoke of is not man’s righteousness but God’s righteousness. And like we saw earlier, one cannot manufacture God’s righteousness, one must simply receive what is provided. And when God’s righteousness is taken into ones life, it will change the outward actions to be in accordance with God’s righteousness.
Where do we find this righteousness? “The righteousness of God is embodied in Christ. We receive righteousness by receiving Him” (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, pg. 18). Again here, we must receive the righteousness. And if we must receive righteousness, it means we cannot produce it ourselves, for you cannot produce what must be received. And this righteousness is embodied in Christ. Indeed, He is called: “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jeremiah 23:6). And “Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness” (Isaiah 45:24).
Perfection through our own good works we can never attain. The soul who sees Jesus by faith repudiates his own righteousness. He sees himself as incomplete, his repentance insufficient, his strongest faith but feebleness, his most costly sacrifice as meager, and he sinks in humility at the foot of the cross. But a voice speaks to him from the oracles of God’s Word. In amazement he hears the message, ‘Ye are complete in him’ (Colossians 2:10). (Ellen White, Reflecting Christ, pg. 76)
“Every revelation of God to the soul increases the capacity to know and to love. The continual cry of the heart is, ‘More of Thee,’ and ever the Spirit’s answer is, ‘Much more.’ Romans 5:9, 10” (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pg. 20). If we recognize our need, we will continually cry to God for His righteousness and not our own. If we fail of thirsting or hungering after the righteousness of God, we will fail of being filled, not because the promise of God failed, but because we made ourselves incapable of receiving. We failed to recognize the fact that we are in desperate need of righteousness—the righteousness of God and not our own. So long as we feel ourselves sufficient in our condition of righteousness, we will not hunger and thirst after God’s righteousness.
“Not by painful struggles or wearisome toil, not by gift or sacrifice, is righteousness obtained; but it is freely given to every soul who hungers and thirsts to receive it” (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pg. 18). And what is the promise? Those who hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God “shall be filled.” There are no if’s or maybe’s to the promise. It is a fact. It is a promise of God that will never fail anyone who casts himself on the promise.