The Mount of Beatitudes stands serenely near the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. It is the only definable mountain that is in close proximity to the Evangelical Triangle, that area in which Jesus conducted most of his ministry. The Triangle was the area falling between the cities of Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida. The Mount of Beatitudes is the likely spot where Jesus sat down and gave the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12. Today the mount is adorned with a lovely Roman Catholic church built in 1937. The church grounds have an abundance of beautiful flowers and a breathtaking view of the Sea of Galilee as well. Scattered throughout the grounds are plaques reminding the visitor of each Beatitude.
JESUS LIKENED UNTO MOSES
It is often pointed out by scholars and Bible teachers how Jesus was like Moses. As a child he was pursued by an evil king just as Moses was. He gave the law like Moses, although it was more of an application and fulfillment of the old law. He delivered the people and fed them miraculously like Moses. He ascended a mountain and taught the people as Moses did. Indeed, Moses actually spoke of one like himself who would come in the future: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him” (Deut. 18:15).
There were some differences in their ministries. The old Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, remarks concerning one of these differences. He says that in Moses’ day “… the people were ordered to keep their distance; now (in Jesus’ day) they are invited to draw near: a blessed change!” (Logos electronic Bible) Perhaps the prophet Malachi pictured Jesus sitting and giving the Beatitudes when he wrote: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness…” (Mal. 3:3).
The Beatitudes and the whole Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7 seem to be a giving or perhaps a re-emphasizing of the law of God. Today some feel that Christ is the end of the law and that we should not concern ourselves with law any longer. These folks often quote Romans 10:4 saying, “For Christ is the end of the law …” The complete verse reads “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (NKJV). Thus Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, but not the end of the law. Instead, Christ says in His Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mat. 5:17).
LAW WRITTEN ON THE HEART
It was always God’s intent to write the law on the hearts of his people. In Deuteronomy 6:6 we read: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” Jeremiah speaks of a day when this will become a reality: “‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people’” (Jer. 31:33). The writing of the law on the heart is thus finally accomplished by the New Covenant.
Christians claim a right in the New Covenant by adoption through Yeshua (Jesus) and the engrafting into the olive tree of Israel. Now we must ask what is involved in this covenant. What is involved in having the law written on our hearts? Is it just for show? Is God just doing some unusual exercise in calligraphy?
All indications are that the law is written on the mind and in the heart for a purpose. The divine intention is that the law would be perfectly fulfilled in each individual life. The purpose is that God’s people should do what the law says. James exhorts us: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (Jas. 1:22). Clearly those who only hear the law are deceived. Obviously those who spurn the law are equally deceived.
God wills that our lives should be lawful, law-abiding and not lawless. However, we are living in an exceedingly lawless age. Today, Christians without knowing it, are being swept along with the tide of this age and are becoming more and more lawless. Let us consider what it means to have the law written on the heart.
SOME EXAMPLES OF LAW ON THE HEART
For centuries Christians have said that the Beatitudes are only an ideal and not reality. However, the Beatitudes are reality. They are the marks and characteristics of God’s men and women. Let us consider a few of them.
1. The poor in spirit have the law of humility written on their hearts. It is a lowly and humble spirit that God prizes rather than a spirit of pride and self-sufficiency. In that great passage of Micah 6:8 the prophet states: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” It is strange that poverty in spirit would be listed first among the graces. The philosophers and worldly-wise men have not regarded it so. Jesus reckons the poor in spirit as truly happy and blessed. They inherit the kingdom of heaven. In Jewish writing the concept of “heaven” is a standard substitute for “God,” in order that the sanctity of the divine name may be protected. Thus, the poor in spirit ultimately inherit God and the certainty of his presence forever.
2. The mourners have a sorrow at lawlessness written on their hearts. We must learn to cry at our own sins and the sins and abominations of our lawless age. In Ezekiel 9:4, the Lord says to his messenger, “…Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” In this case the order was given to slay those who were not found mourning. We also read this admonition in scripture: “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure” (Eccl. 7:4). Those who mourn have this comfort in Revelation 21:4. At the end of this lawless age, the Master himself will wipe away all the tears from their eyes.
3. The meek have submission written on their hearts. The meek have learned to be like their Master. Jesus says in Matthew 11:29-30: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Meekness has often been described as strength under control. Moses was called the meekest man on earth (Num. 12:3). This must not be confused with weakness. Moses in his righteousness indignation could fling the tablets of the law to the ground and break them to pieces. For the meek, these gentle, lowly and God-led souls, we have this promise in Psalms 37:11: “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.”
4. The merciful have kindness written on their hearts. In the Bible we see that mercy is the very name of God, for he is “…merciful and gracious…” (Exo. 34:6). God’s original idea was that mercy be written on the tablet of our hearts and that we wear it as a necklace (Prov. 3:3). From Matthew 23:23, we learn that mercy is a “weightier matter” of the law. There are many pictures of mercy in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 22:8, the Israelites were instructed to make a parapet on the roof to avoid needless injury or death. This was an added expense in building a house, but it was also a necessary act of mercy. The command to not boil a kid in its mother’s milk (Exo. 23:19) and the sparing of the mother bird when the young are taken (Deut. 22:6-7) are obvious acts of mercy. Today we see many supposedly wise people who shun mercy, but the Bible informs us that the wisdom that comes from above is full of mercy (Jas. 3:17).
5. The pure in heart have holiness written on their hearts. There is a lot more involved here than the avoidance of sin. The heart is our center of being. Jesus describes it in Mark 7:21-23 “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” Also from within springs that holy desire to pursue God and be like him. Someone once said that purity of heart is to will this one thing. It is to hunger for God alone and seek him with all the heart, soul, mind and strength. This is without a doubt the most comprehensive of all the beatitudes. The pure in heart shall see God and this is the greatest promise in the Bible. In reflecting on this promise the Psalmist exclaims: “And I—in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (Psa. 17:15).
There is not space to discuss the remaining beatitudes but they too amount to the Law of God written on the heart of man. The way of life that Jesus has ordained for his disciples has become greatly misunderstood over the centuries. We must try to recover it. Today the beautiful and placid Mount of Beatitudes stands in the Galilee. It is representative of the new Sinai where God no longer writes on tablets of stone but on tablets of the heart.
– Jim Gerrish
This updated article presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem