Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pierced with joy

Yesterday, our family read through Psalm 1 as we began to memorize those verses as a part of the Fighter Verses program at our church. Then we looked closely at the first few words, "Blessed is the man . . ." What exactly does that word Blessed mean anyway? Some of the kids had an idea of what it might mean–righteous, loved, happy, receiving a gift, getting a reward. We couldn't pin it down exactly, so we looked it up. Lydia found a note in the Reformation ESV Bible that explained that there is more than one Hebrew word that we translate as "blessed." The Hebrew here was a word used to denote something stronger than happiness, but English doesn't have a perfect word for that. I later found some information mentioned by a number of sources: in the Greek translation of Psalm 1, and in the New Testament original Greek, the word that we translate as blessed (makarios) had a flavor in the Greek culture of godlike joy attained by specially favored people–royalty, the exceedingly rich, or the gods themselves–enjoying all the riches of their position in a state of happy contentment, living above the normal cares of earthly life.

In a tired, brain-foggy sort of way, I've been thinking about this word Blessed in the midst of Holy Week, wanting to abide in Jesus especially as we look forward to Easter. Mostly, though, these thoughts were just on the fringes of my mind with lots of distracting things going on all around me. Suddenly, thinking about the explanation of the word Blessed having connotations of royalty and the powerful privileged enjoying their riches brought the beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12 into my mind with a small catch of my breath.

Oh! Jesus was saying something so counter-cultural to the common meaning of those who are "blessed."  The contrast must have been startling to those who were listening that first time on the hillside. He said, blessed are those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are merciful, those who are pure in heart, those who are peacemakers, those who are persecuted, and those who are reviled and falsely accused of evil on account of Jesus. Those who suffer now in these ways and put their hope in God are blessed beyond measure in the kingdom of heaven.  They are comforted, made heirs of the earth, satisfied in righteousness, they shall see mercy, see God and be called the sons of God. Theirs is the kingdom...the KINGDOM... of heaven!

Therefore rejoice and be glad!

As I thought through these things, my definition of blessed meaning strong happiness shifted to thinking of it as piercing joy. At the same time I'm thinking of Jesus, pierced for our transgressions and enduring the cross for the joy set before Him. Perhaps to those described in the beatitudes, the promise of being blessed is a painful happiness, as though they are pierced with joy.

This week as I look forward to Easter Sunday and remember the cross and the resurrection, my hope is that God our loving Father would pierce me with His joy, capture my wandering thoughts, and turn my eyes to Jesus.


The Beatitudes
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 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."
                                   ~Matthew 5:1-12

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.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

                            ~Psalm 1~

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Treasure from the Junk Drawer
copyright © Sara Shull
•All text and poetry by Sara
•Art illustrations by Sara
•Photos by Sara or the Shull kids
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Bible verses:
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV)