The Song of the Mountains

verse V – the beatitudes – matthew 5:1-12

In Matthew 5:7, Yeshua/Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” 

What exactly is mercy? 

The word picture created by mercy from the Hebrew language, רַחוּם, “rachum,” is a mother or father picking up a crying child into their arms or lap, and giving them comfort; deeper still, mercy is the womb – the place of comfort, care and protection provided by the entire body of the mother.

In modern usage, mercy and kindness are often used somewhat interchangeably. This, however, is not the meaning of mercy as noted above. Another Hebrew word, חֶסֶד, “chesed,” does express the entwined characteristics of mercy, kindness and love as a threefold cord in action. While kindness is included in the act of mercy, mercy is deep empathy for another who was/is stricken by misfortune or in a position of vulnerability. The one walking in mercy sees, feels and then does something about the need – often placing their entire body into the remedy. Mercy, unlike charity, can be shown to rich and poor alike.  

What is Godliness? 

In earlier articles on the Sermon on the Mount, we have considered: poverty of spirit, mourning the human condition before God, meekness, and a hunger and thirst for righteousness. So why is mercy placed here?    

In Luke 6:36, in a parallel telling of the Sermon on the Mount often referred to as the Sermon on the Plain, Yeshua commands us, “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful,” (cf. Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:8). Yeshua is speaking of imitation, ordinarily a negative trait in the western mind, yet, in the Jewish community, then and now, imitation is seen as the highest form of devotion to one’s rabbi or mentor.   

Yeshua is directing us to imitate the covenant Lord in our everyday life; to demonstrate “God-like-ness” even as difficult or impossible as that may seem (Lev. 19:1; cf. Deut. 28:9; 1 Cor. 11:1). A merciful “faith-style,” as opposed to lifestyle, is often our first real test as disciples of Messiah Yeshua. 

Applied Godliness.  

How does the inward knowledge of “godliness” translate to real life? Do we honor the Lord with our lips while our hearts are far from Him? Do we have a “form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:5)? Are we able to be merciful, even when we have been wronged? Can we be merciful to those stained by the filth of life (James 1:27)? 

I recall, as a child, my first real taste of mercy – apart from that obviously shown by family and friends. During summer vacation after sixth grade, some neighborhood friends and I decided to build a treehouse in the woods; with several construction sites on our street we decided to visit the dumpsters to get some supplies. Over a weekend we worked diligently to build an awesome treehouse – but we were soon discovered by some very unhappy construction works, who accused us of stealing. We all ran home scared out of our minds, thinking that we were going to be arrested at any moment – the great treehouse bandits – but mercy was extended to us, as the owner of the construction company was a friend of the family, who said that his employees overreacted.

The owner of the company had the power to pursue any avenue of resolution he desired – but he chose to extend mercy.

Many more compelling examples of mercy, godly mercy, can be drawn from life, particularly, to my mind, from the lives of organ donors, who literally show mercy with their body – mercy resulting in life.

No Ordinary Godliness. 

Godliness in the eyes of many is going to church, giving charity, being a nice, kind, or gentle person, etc. However, in light of Yeshua’s words on mercy, we are confronted by this thought – how much of the covenant Lord’s qualities do we really want to imitate? Where is Yeshua leading us? John 15:13 or Romans 12:1, perhaps?

How do we respond when people have let us down terribly? When people have hurt us deeply? When people have spread rumors about us? Do we desire to cause them a lifetime of guilt; or to receive justice for our injustice? Would this be a display of godliness? 

We are unable to be merciful until we have first recognized our impoverished condition before the Lord. Mourning that condition, we are then able to endure criticism and even hostility without offering a defense, which then causes us to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Recognizing our position, our natural position, then inspires us to assist those waiting for and in need of rescue. From this place, we demonstrate godliness through mercy. This is not a position of weakness, or a philological pacifism, as we will see later in the Sermon, but a position of faith in the Lord Who will see to a just end to all injustice (Ro. 12:17-19).

Godliness, imitation of God, is walked out in mercy, love and kindness – the deep empathy for and stooping to the human other. Godliness is, in the deepest sense, showing others the mercy that God has shown us – the condescending God who stooped to us upon Sinai (Ex. 20) and in the person of Yeshua (Jn. 1:14) – Emmanuel. This outworking of mercy into the lives of those around us is evidence of our inward condition – as extending ourselves in acts of mercy truly is placing our body into the commandments of God (Jn. 15:14).   

We extend mercy because it has been extended to us in innumerable ways – gratitude keeps that mercy in a place of prominence in our hearts and minds. All of us know what it feels like to be in need, and to long for the comfort of others. God is merciful, and He asks us to be so as well. Mercy is being willing to get down on the ground with someone, to meet them where they are, in order to help them recover from the damage of sin – just as Messiah did for us. Therefore, we must learn to forgive, give and not condemn.  

Shalom. Be well.  

The Song of the Mountains

verse IV – the beatitudes – matthew 5:1-12

Hunger and thirst?

Have you ever experienced a hunger that could only be satisfied by a specific food; but not only a specific food, a specific food from a very specific place? 

On my first trip to Kenya, East Africa in 2011, I spent nearly five weeks in country. Contrary to what I had expected, I was fed extraordinarily well and enjoyed the local food – Ugali anyone? – and on several occasions enjoyed pancakes that my hostess, Pastor Rachel Midodo, wife of Bishop Peter Midodo, had learned to prepare for visiting missionaries – with real Vermont maple syrup.

Nevertheless, by the third week a hunger began to develop – a hunger that by the fourth week became insatiable. I wanted the food of home. The airplane food, although western, did not satisfy; the McDonald’s in Amsterdam, Netherlands would simply not suffice. I needed real American food – so after customs in Detroit, I ran to the first sandwich shop I could find. The next stop on the way home from the airport: Tony’s Pizzeria in Herkimer, New York. Then I was blessed by days of my wife cooking my favorite foods. 

Perhaps a poor illustration, but effective in expressing the heart of what Yeshua/Jesus is communicating regarding the blessedness of those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Yeshua is using an illustration that everyone can relate to, “hunger” and “thirst,” as these are two fundamental physical needs shared by all human beings. 

Yeshua said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” 

In Psalm 42:1-2 we read, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirst for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before Him?” Additionally, Psalm 84:2, “My soul longs, yes, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” The psalmists are revealing their desperation for the righteousness of the Lord; a need that they, and we, cannot live without having filled – literally what the Greek of Matthew 5:6 is communicating

Today our appetites are wetted by advertisers; with carefully placed images, words and sounds, they stimulate our desire for what they are selling: particular food brands, clothing, vehicles, or what “should” be appealing to us in the opposite sex. We “consume” these suggestions and allow them to build in us a hunger and thirst that needs satisfaction, which can never really be satisfied by objects from creation.  

What is righteousness? 

The verb root of righteous is צָדַק, meaning “to be just or righteous.” צָדַק is often paralleled with the Hebrew word ישר, “yashar” meaning “upright, straight, or strength,” as we read in Psalm 32:11, “Be glad in the Lord and exult, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Emphasis added). This word yashar is also used in Jeremiah 31:9 and is translated as straight, as in a “straight way.” 

To clarify the meaning of righteous we should also consider another word that it is paralleled with: רשע, “rasha” meaning “wicked.” Consider Psalm 37:17, “For the arms of the wicked are broken, but the Lord sustains the righteous.” (Emphasis added). 

Still, rasha, wicked, as a verb means “to depart,” an example of this is found in Psalm 18:21, “For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not departed from my God.” (Emphasis added). 

Using these clues we can more accurately develop the word-picture of “righteous.”

The righteous is one who is straight/upright, and does not depart from God’s way. The righteous follows the path to the pasture land and the staying places (Psalm 23; John 14) – paths tamped down by the Lord. The psalmist prayed in this way, “Make me understand, that I might observe Your Torah, and guard it with all my heart. Make me walk in the path of your commands, for I have delighted in it” (Ps. 119:34-35). To follow the path of the Lord is to believe Him, as in faith exemplified by Abraham (Gen. 15:6), who followed the Lord along the way into the unknown to the promise (Gen. 12:1-3).

The wicked, rasha, depart the path of God – heading out into the brush and wildwood – and become lost. 

Righteousness is understood most simply as following the way established before you by the covenant Lord to the green pastures and staying places – the way, however, is not always straight, it can be winding, but He straightens you along the way. The ancient Hebrews, as nomadic shepherds, followed this path by following the wind – רוח/ruach – as the winds changed, they knew it was time to follow the way to the next staying place – ruach in Hebrew means spirit, wind, or breath.

How do we get hungry? 

How do we develop a hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God, as described in the psalms referenced above? 

At times, mournfully, through personal tragedy, be it: illness, bankruptcy, death of a loved one, etc. At other times, it is through the hearing of God’s Word, and yielding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in us to pray more, to read our Bibles daily, or to be more involved in godly activities.  

Notice that brokenness and humbling before the Lord causes us to desire more of Him in our lives – His righteousness: His truth, His uprightness, His strength, and His way.  

This righteousness is not the imputed righteousness of Messiah reckoned by faith (we will consider the subject of double imputation in a separate article); neither is it a hunger for moral justice, as admirable as that is; nor is it speaking to us about personal vindication. It is the implanted (or imparted) righteousness of Messiah which results in an absence of smugness, arrogance and haughtiness. It is righteousness that is not noticed by external action and is often not appreciated by others. It is living to be approved by God and Him alone, without concern for acceptance or popularity by the broader society, as He is the one you are hungering and thirsting for – as one is made right with the God, one will naturally endeavor to do right before Him (2 Pet. 1:3-4). Yeshua was hated by the world – and He is the righteous One, who only did His Father’s will perfectly.   

This hunger and thirst is a longing for right relationship with the covenant Lord – to be reconciled with Him, and live that reconciliation out in human community as living evidence of right standing before Him. When we stop and consider this hunger and thirst for righteousness, we find it multifaceted, depending largely on the circumstance of the individual or individuals.  

How do we know? 

How do we know whether or not we are properly hungering and thirsting for righteousness? Turn to the Word. I recommend Hebrews 11 as a starting point and overview, then specific character studies in the Word for further elucidation.  

In Luke 18:9-14 as the Pharisee and tax collector are praying, the Pharisee believed that he had achieved righteousness before God because of his own right action, while the tax collector, considered to be the sinner of all sinners, trusts the Lord and His righteousness, and desires to be accepted by Him through forgiveness and faith – causing a hunger, a thirst and a longing for Him, because He cannot live without Him – he cannot even lift his head.   

A.W. Tozer once said that you can have as much of God as you desire – to drink of the stream that the deer panted for and desire the refreshing that only the Lord can give. Frances Ridley Havergal, a hymn writer of the nineteenth century, expressed it this way, “Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest; finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.” 

This rest and peace come from the filling that we can receive from the Lord every day; a filling that no food or product can satisfy, but is only meet through the Spirit that is given to us to overflowing. 

Shalom. Be well.  

New Battery Day!

Pictured – the power control center of the house. The long white rectangle with the green strip is the power inverter – it takes the DC power stored in our batteries behind the wall, and coverts it to AC power for most of our appliances. Next is the small black square to the left of the inverter, this is a Trimetric battery monitor, kind of not necessary for us at this point, as all the info we need is in the charge controller. The big white square is the charge controller for the 1000w windmill. Finally, the black rectangle is our Outback solar power charge controller. The toggle switch below the inverter adjusts our 1200w solar array. Vertical for winter months, and nearly horizontal for summer months. And adjusted as needed between seasons.

In an off-Grid solar/wind power house the battery bank is the heart of the operation. They require monitoring for daily voltage levels, and in our case, the water in the batteries needs to be checked and filled as necessary.

For the past several months I had been noticing that our battery bank wasn’t holding the charge it once had. I was needing to run our backup generator more often, mainly on little or no sun days.

As I have mentioned, we have been in our off-Grid home for 21 years. This past Monday we had our third set of 8 6v deep cycle batteries installed. We are averaging about 10 years with each set of batteries – about their expected life for this application.

We have always used Trojan T105 6v deep cycle batteries. But this time our go to solar guy recommended Crown CR 235 deep cycle batteries. I took his advise. Time will tell, but he has had good results in other systems, so I am not expecting any issues.

The CR 235’s cost about $160 per-battery. Although I know how to do the install, time, once again, is a factor for me – so installation adds to the overall cost.

Solar and wind systems are not the cheap alternative to life on the grid. It’s a lifestyle choice and you do pay for it. The nice aspect of it is that it’s modular – you can add to a basic system as need and money allow – and that’s exactly what we have always done.

Planning is always good. And setting aside a little bit of money each month will help tremendously when you need to update part of your system or have something repaired. You know your budget, but think of a small amount per-month: $50 – $100.

What do we power? I’ll write more on this in the weeks ahead, but: lights, TV’s, computers, cellphones, other USB devices, well-pump, and a refrigerator. We are all so used to this lifestyle that it’s second nature, but we are still attentive about usage.

A change in habit and lifestyle is key to off-Grid, solar powered success – Turn off the lights when not using them! Don’t leave things running! Become familiar with the power requirements for every day items. Plan to charge devices when the sun is shining if possible! You get the picture. Comment below if you have specific questions.

New battery day is part of this lifestyle, and it is a welcomed day when the low voltage alarm has been going off at 6:00am as of late!