This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.
All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.
1. Matthew 5:2–12
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Read More
Blessed. More than a temporary or circumstantial feeling of happiness, this is a state of well-being in relationship to God that belongs to those who respond to Jesus’ ministry. The poor in spirit are those who recognize they are in need of God’s help. theirs is the kingdom of heaven. It belongs to those who confess their spiritual bankruptcy.
The Beatitudes all begin with “Blessed are …” They are called “beatitudes” from Latin beatus, “blessed, happy” These short statements summarize the essence of the Sermon on the Mount.
2. Psalm 1:1–2
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night. Read More
Blessed. The truly happy person is happy because God showers him with favor. Jesus uses the Greek equivalent in Matt. 5:3–11; cf. also James 1:12. The Latin translation, beatus, is the source of the word beatitude. the man. A specific, godly individual (Hb. ha’ish, “the man”) is held up as an example for others to imitate. Such teaching by use of a concrete example is common in OT wisdom literature. wicked … sinners … scoffers. These are people, even within Israel, who refuse to live by the covenant; the godly person refuses to follow the moral orientation of such people’s lifestyle. Some have seen an increasing level of sinfulness in the terms “wicked-sinners-scoffers,” together with an increasing loyalty in the metaphors “walk-stand-sit”; however, it is likely that the terms “wicked” and “sinner” here are equivalent, while a “scoffer” is certainly more committed to evil.
Contrasting Sources of Values. The truly happy person guides his life by God’s instruction rather than by the advice of those who reject that instruction.
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3. Ecclesiastes 3:9–13
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. Read More
Despite the repetitiveness of the natural world (Eccl. 1:4–11), the Preacher can see that God has made everything beautiful in its time. The problem is that God has also placed eternity (that is, a sense that life continues beyond this present existence) into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. The word “find,” or “find out” (Hb. matsa’) has the sense of “figure out, comprehend by study” in this verse and other places in the book (Eccl.7:14, Eccl. 7:24, Eccl. 7:26, Eccl. 7:27, Eccl. 7:28, Eccl. 7:29; Eccl. 8:17). The Preacher thus realizes that both his desire to understand all of life, as well as the limitations on his ability to do so, have been ordained by God.
Rather than becoming embittered by what God has not granted human beings (namely, the ability to comprehend all of reality), one should enjoy the gifts that God has given.
4. Philippians 4:4
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Read More
Rejoice. The joy that Paul calls for is not a happiness that depends on circumstances but a deep contentment that is in the Lord, based on trust in the sovereign, living God, and that therefore is available always, even in difficult times.
5. Proverbs 15:13–15
A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
All the days of the afflicted are evil,
but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast. Read More
These proverbs focus on the heart. A cheerful face indicates a positive attitude toward life; this comes about when the inner self is healthy (Prov. 15:13a). Such a person has inner joy all the time (Prov. 15:15b). But circumstances, whether internal (Prov. 15:13b) or external (Prov. 15:15a), can rob a person of tranquility. The key to gaining a joyful heart is in Prov. 15:14: seek knowledge.
6. James 1:2–3
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Read More
Joy in Trials. Trials are designed to produce spiritual maturity and should therefore be counted as joy.
Trials are “tests” that challenge faith (James 1:2–5). When trials occur, one should count it all joy—not meaning mere worldly, temporal happiness, but rather spiritual, enduring, “complete joy” in the Lord who is sovereign over all things, including trials.
Testing of your faith defines the meaning of a trial for the Christian: as Jesus was “tested” in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1–13), so believers are tested. The Greek dokimion (“testing”) denotes a positive test intended to make one’s faith “genuine” (cf. 1 Pet. 1:7). The result is steadfastness, a life of faithful endurance amid troubles and afflictions.
7. 1 Peter 4:12–13
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. Read More
Beloved marks the beginning of a new section of the letter (1 Pet. 2:11). Suffering is the norm for Christians, not a surprising exception. To suffer as a Christian is a call to rejoice as a disciple of Christ, and such joy is the prelude to the joy that is to come at the return of Christ (when his glory is revealed).
8. Psalm 37:4
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. Read More
the desires of your heart. Some take “the desires” as referring to the feeling of desire, i.e., “God will shape your heart so that it desires the right things”; but the sense is rather, “he will give you what your heart desires.” It is safe to say this to those who embrace the advice of this psalm, because as they delight themselves in the LORD, their hearts will desire the right things (Psalm 37:16, 31).
9. John 15:10–11
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. Read More
Obedience is not to be equated with drudgery; it is all about joy. The OT prophets envisioned a period of great end-time rejoicing (e.g., Isa. 25:9; Isa. 35:10; Isa. 51:3; Isa. 61:10; Isa. 66:10; Zeph. 3:14–17; Zech. 9:9). God threatened judgment if his people would not serve him “with joyfulness and gladness of heart” (Deut. 28:47–48). that my joy may be in you. Just as Jesus had great joy in obeying his Father even in the midst of opposition, so Christians will have joy in obedience.
10. Romans 5:1–2
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Read More
Therefore, since we have been justified. Chapter 5 begins with a ringing affirmation of the objective legal standing of the Christian—that the Christian, through faith in Christ, has been justified and declared righteous by God, once for all. The result of this is that the Christian no longer lives under the fear of judgment and the wrath of God but has peace with God, which is not merely a subjective feeling but an objective reality.
The grace in which we stand refers to the secure position of the believer’s standing (as a blessing of justification), and the hope of the glory of God refers to the promise that Christians will be glorified and perfected at the last day—a hope that results in joy.
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