Poor in Spirit
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3).
Being poor in spirit, is linked to “the kingdom of heaven”. Its not about physical poverty, but a spiritual condition. The kingdom of heaven in this context, is the rule and reign of God in the heart.
If a person’s heart is not completely faithful to God, by living a perfect life of righteousness in keeping all of God’s commands; then they are not acceptable to God, and His just and holy judgement is upon them.
God is perfectly justified, in holding all people to account, who do not perfectly keep His laws and requirements. As the Creator of all life, He is also the judge of all life, and He has absolute power and authority to sentence all who do not meet His holy requirements to eternal separation from Him.
People react in two ways to God’s demand for purity and holiness; they either hear and agree with God, see the sin in their heart, and seek God to have mercy upon them, or they will reject God, and demonstrate hostility toward Him in thought and action.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” (Romans 1:18-19).
People who acknowledge God’s demands through His Law and within their conscience, will understand that they are not what they should be. The feeling of guilt and the intuitive sense of right and wrong within us, is a wake-up call from God in the conscience and spirit, because He has not left Himself without witness in the human heart.
People who see God’s holiness, and His perfect character of love as revealed in Jesus, will feel a poverty of spirit and will seek to be reconciled to God. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, by the grace of God, in bringing people to see their need of salvation and accept God’s irresistible grace in Christ.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ - this Jesus whom you crucified." Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:36-39).
Everyone who hears and understands that they fall short of the requirements God, can be considered to be poor in spirit, and the good news of Jesus taking the punishment for our sins upon Himself, is a sweet sound to a sinner’s ear.
Because the poor in spirit know in their heart, that they are not the perfect, righteous and holy people God has created them to be, and have no basis within themselves to receive favor or mercy from a Holy God for not keeping His Law.
This is why the poor in spirit are “Blessed”, because they see their need for salvation and are drawn to the cross of Jesus to receive forgiveness and the righteousness of God.
The following examples from the Old Testament demonstrate the essence of being poor in spirit.
“In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory."
And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
Isaiah has a vision of God and the first thing he says is, “Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Isaiah sees the glory of God and it changes his heart, it makes him poor in spirit. God’s holiness makes Isaiah see his own uncleanness, his own failure as a human being in not keeping God’s Holy Law and not being holy in heart. He sees himself as a sinner before a Holy God and in his spirit he feels guilt, condemnation, and total unworthiness.
The term, “I am ruined” dramatically brings out what is happening in Isaiah’s heart. He feels his hope of being acceptable to God is destroyed, because he is unclean and has no righteousness or moral claim before God.
God’s holiness is like a purifying fire, sin cannot exist in the presence of God.
In Isaiah 57, God declares His dwelling place to be in heaven but also “with” the contrite and lowly of spirit.
“For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, "I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15).
Someone who is contrite and lowly of spirit feels guilt in having done wrong and neglect in not doing right. The feeling is one of spiritual and moral poverty before God’s holiness. The poor in spirit have nothing to offer God to atone for their sins and can only seek God’s mercy.
But the blessing from God comes as the free gift of salvation in Christ to revive the poor in spirit and give them great joy and acceptance with God.
Jesus plainly illustrates this in the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector:
“And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'
"But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14).
People sometimes think they are good and decent, and even though they’re not perfect, their good deeds will atone for their sin before God. This is not what Jesus has declared to be the way of salvation and reconciliation before God, because, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
People can twist what God says and trust in their own experiences, or gather for themselves arguments to justify their own ideas, which oppose God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus; but it cannot change the fact that God has given us His clear and trustworthy instruction in the Bible about our eternal salvation.
Without the sacrificial atonement of the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection - our debt to God will not be paid.
By faith, the reality of our inability to be righteous and acceptable before God will make us poor in spirit. This is a true encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
By all Biblical accounts, it must make us “feel” unworthy, contrite and poor in spirit. It must humble us to know our unacceptable standing before God, and to a certain extent, make us fear that our very souls are in danger, and we need to get right with God as soon as possible.
This is how God draws people to the blessing of the kingdom of heaven. By finding acceptance with God through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
Some people say that this type of “fear of God” message or preaching, is no longer affective in the modern world. This may be true as a technique to scare people into accepting Jesus, but it is not, “an evangelical technique” or psychological mind trick to manipulate people - it is part of the message of the gospel which leads to salvation in Christ.
The overarching message of the Bible, is that our physical life is temporary, because of the universal rebellion of mankind against God, which has introduced sin and evil into His world. And God will destroy the present heaven and earth, in order to create a new heaven and earth - without sin and evil. But before this event happens, God has provided a means of salvation in Christ.
The Bible clearly announces “Judgment Day”, when all human beings will be sentenced to either eternal damnation, or to inherit the kingdom God has prepared for those who are save in Jesus Christ.
The whole point of being “saved” - is saved from the wrath and condemnation of God on Judgment Day. For the person who sees the spiritual poverty of their soul, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus is the greatest news they will ever hear, because it means salvation is available to all who turn to God in repentance and place their trust in Jesus.
The cross of Christ is the demonstration of God’s love and commitment, in showing mercy to the sinner, by sparing them from the consequences which the Law demands, and giving the sinner the free gift of Jesus’ righteousness, as an unmerited act of grace, so the sinner can be forgiven and legally justified before God, and reconciled into a new relationship with God as an adopted child, instead of a rebellious enemy.
“Thus says the LORD, "Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? "For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being," declares the LORD. "But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2).
This is the attitude of heart God requires of us, to be humble and contrite of spirit, and tremble at His word. This is the attitude which will stem from trusting in His word as we see ourselves as sinners before a holy God.
We are flawed, corrupted and rebellious human beings with a sinful nature and a deceitful heart, and we cannot trust that our righteousness will justify us before God. We must trust in God’s revelation of His way of salvation, and submit to His will by accepting the finish work of Jesus on the cross on our behalf.
“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:21-24).
The poor in spirit see the seriousness of their sin before God, and in turn recognize the gift of God’s great love in giving us Jesus to die in our place, so that we can live with Him forever in heaven.
There is no greater sacrifice and demonstration of love than Jesus laying down His life for us.
“All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the sin of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:6).
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Amen...