1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. 2 For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. 3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. 4 My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. 5 My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. 6 I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. 7 My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. 8 I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. 9 All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. 10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. 11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbours stay far away. 12 Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception. 13 I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth; 14 I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply. 15 I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God. 16 For I said, “Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips.” 17 For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me. 18 I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin. 19 Many are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous. 20 Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good. 21 O Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. 22 Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Saviour.
Last week we looked at the first Beatitude: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. An important point that Jesus was talking about here is that there has to be an emptying of our lives before there can be a filling. In other words, we must become poor in spirit before we can become rich in God’s blessings. There needs to be a recognition of our unworthiness before God before we can accept His salvation, and as we begin the process of emptying our lives of human pride and self-assurance, we learn what it really means to be poor in spirit, and how God is then able to really change our lives.
The second Beatitude starts the filling process and enables us to start filling our lives with the blessings of God. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Before we get into this beatitude in detail, I think it’s important to deal with how at first glance most of us read or understand this statement of Jesus. We’ve all experienced the pain of losing those we love. And that pain is a universal pain. It doesn’t matter how close to God or how far from Him you are. It doesn’t matter what religion or faith system you believe in. It doesn’t matter if you’re the godliest person in the world or the biggest scoundrel on the planet. Losing a loved one hurts, and no-one is spared that pain.
Undoubtedly the hardest task in ministry is somehow trying to walk alongside grieving families as they go through the whole gambit of emotions. On the one hand I’ve seen denial, anger, bitterness and fear, and on the other I’ve also seen relief, acceptance and peace. Surely there is no human experience more raw and painful than bereavement, but one of my greatest privileges in these times is pointing people to Christ, and the comfort they find in Him. Many already know the peace of Jesus, and many refuse to turn to Him – it’s not my place to judge, because I’m not the one with the broken heart, but as the Church we have the duty and the honour of reminding those who mourn that God cares, and He cares deeply when we mourn.
So when Jesus says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” absolutely, yes, we can apply that truth to the reality of losing those we love. We have all seen and experienced the peace that God brings in those times, and while the comfort of God does not lessen the pain, He does help us to cope and to see things from an eternal perspective. As Christians we know that this is not our home, and that truth comforts us in our saddest moments. So to say that this second beatitude does not apply to those who mourn a loved one is a mistake.
However, you’ll remember from last week that the beatitudes given by Jesus are given in a specific sequence, so it stands to reason that beatitude 2 refers back to the first.
Psalm 55 is one of the most passionate psalms of the Old Testament, as David cried out, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert. I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.” (Psalm 55:6-8)
David’s cry for comfort is as ancient as the fall in the Garden of Eden. He wanted to be able to fly away from his pain and anguish, and this same cry has often been uttered by those who yearn for comfort.
Fortunately, David found a source of comfort, and he speaks about it in verse 16: “I call to God, and the Lord saves me,” and he encourages his readers in verse 22 to do the same. “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.”
The prophet Isaiah wrote about the same hope in the midst of the Jews’ suffering during their Babylonian exile. “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
The second beatitude expresses the same lesson that both David and Isaiah learned - happy are those who the God of heaven blesses.
So if mourning in the context of the second beatitude is more than mourning the loss of a loved one, just what is it?
The Greek word for ‘mourn’ in Matthew 5:4 is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek New Testament. The basic meaning of the word is to bewail or lament, and the Hebrew equivalent is the same word used to describe Jacob’s grief when he thought Joseph was dead. Now this is important, bearing in mind that this beatitude is more about mourning over our sin than it is over the loss of a loved one. The point is that our mourning over our sin should actually be as intense.
Jesus is urging us to mourn, and to mourn intensely over our sin and unworthiness before God.
Remember that the message of Jesus was a message of repentance, and as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:10, we can’t truly repent without godly sorrow. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.”
The problem is that we have cultivated an immunity against the seriousness of our own sin. When we examine our sin we almost always compare ourselves to those worse than us. I’m not a mass murderer, and I haven’t embezzled millions of rands of tax payers’ money to line my own pockets, so my sin is not that bad. As Del Tackett says in the Truth Project, “Can you hear the hiss of the snake?”
We read of people in the Old Testament in particular tearing their clothes as they repent in dust and ashes. Does this mean we’re supposed to do the same? No, but at least they had an understanding of the extent of their sin. We brush off our own naughty little misdemeanours and think they don’t really matter, but they do. They mattered enough for Jesus to hang on a cross and to die for. So until we grasp the awful truth of what our sin has done, and how much it has destroyed us, we will never truly understand what Godly sorrow means.
“Blessed are those who mourn.” Those who mourn in this context are those who, feeling their spiritual poverty, mourn after God, lamenting the iniquity that separated them from the blessings of God. One commentator has said, “Everyone who flies from sorrow and seeks after joy, discovers that true joy is the fruit of sorrow.”
So the blessing that Jesus talks about in the second beatitude is not a blanket statement covering all those who merely mourn, but rather it is spoken specifically to those who mourn about their sin. They will find comfort as they discover and experience the forgiveness of God.
The Bible commentator Robert Jamieson expands on this by saying, “This mourning must not be taken loosely for that feeling which is wrung from men under pressure of the ills of life, nor yet strictly for sorrow on account of committed sins. Evidently it is that entire feeling which the sense of our spiritual poverty begets, and so the second beatitude is but the complement of the first. The one is the intellectual, the other the emotional aspect of the same thing. It is poverty of spirit that says, ‘I am undone’, and it is the mourning which this causes that makes it break forth in the form of a lamentation - ‘Woe is me! for I am undone.’”
Jesus was filled with sorrow over sin - not His own, but of others. Isaiah 53 is one of the most quoted Old Testament prophecies of Jesus. In this chapter it says He was “a man of sorrows.”
As Jesus entered Jerusalem before His death He wept over the city and her inhabitants because of the depravity of their sin, and how far it had driven them from God.
As we saw last week, the apostle Paul had a clear understanding of his unworthiness before a holy God, and in Romans 7:24 he mourns over his sin. “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” But in the very next verse he answers his own question, because he knows where to find comfort in his mourning. “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Those two verses explain the second beatitude perfectly.
Mourning over sin and its consequences is something that naturally follows once we understand what it means to be poor in spirit.
But then, as Paul so eloquently puts it in Romans 7:25, there is hope, there is comfort for our mourning. “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Mourning ends in comfort only when it leads to Jesus. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only source of true comfort for those who are afflicted by sin.
Just listen to this incredible promise in Isaiah 61:1-3, words which Jesus quoted in Luke 4 as He began His public ministry: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour.”
Jamieson again in his commentary writes, “The days of our mourning shall soon be ended, and then God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. Then, in the fullest sense, shall the mourners be comforted.”
John MacArthur says, “Mourners are happy because they are the only ones who are forgiven. The rest of the world has to live with that endless guilt. Get it straight now - the happiness does not come from the mourning. It comes in God’s response to it. His response? Comfort. Keep sin in your life and bottle it up, and you’ll see how ruinous it becomes. Confess it and see the freedom and the joy that comes in forgiveness.”
Godly sorrow or Godly mourning is not about just sitting in a heap and wailing about how bad we are. True, Biblical mourning drives us to God, because it is only in Him we will find true peace and comfort.
David’s mourning over his sin with Bathsheba drove him to God with a broken and a contrite heart. We looked at Psalm 51 last week.
Later on in Matthew’s gospel Jesus says in 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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.” That’s exactly the same promise He makes in the second beatitude.
Do you want to find peace – real peace in this life? You’ll only find it in Jesus.
The book of James was written to encourage believers back to faithful living instead of sinful wandering, and at the height of his letter, James cries out for Christians to see their sin for what it really is, what we are to do about it, and what God will do in response. “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:8-10)
James wants us to feel the weight and seriousness of our sin, and to mourn over it. But why as believers should we? Why should we weep over our sin? Because the horror of our sin magnifies the beauty and the glory of Jesus’ sacrifice. In a sense it gives more power to the Cross. The gospel becomes glorious when we grasp the depth and depravity of our sin. The reality is that the gospel is good news of great joy, because it gives us the opportunity to escape the punishment we deserve. It steps in and changes things. As we mourn over our sin, we are driven to God, and as He lovingly accepts us, He gets the glory and we receive the joy.
The problem in this fallen world is that our sin no longer bothers us. Instead of loathing our sin we are loving it. Instead of destroying our sin we are desiring it. The result is that we belittle the cross and deceive ourselves. Our perceived need becomes less and the enormity of Jesus’s sacrifice fades. The quickest way to lose the wonder of the gospel is to lose sight of the depth of our sin.
Yes, we should be weeping. We should be appalled, disgusted, shocked, and grieved in the depths of our hearts over our sin. All our sin is treason against God.
We mourn over our wicked sin when we begin to see it as God does.
True mourning over sin is also more than simply being sorry. We may regret and genuinely feel sorrow for our sin, but so did Judas when he tried to give back the 30 pieces of silver.
True repentance and mourning over sin puts Jesus at the centre. It is only because of what He did on the cross that we can repent. It is only because of God’s work in our lives that our sorrow over sin can become a life-giving mourning that brings lasting comfort and forgiveness. God’s amazing forgiveness changes us and empowers us to live our lives for Him as a sign of gratitude for what He has done.
Last week I quoted from a book by John Stott, and this is what he says of the second beatitude: “This is the second stage of spiritual blessing. It is one thing to be spiritually poor and acknowledge it. It is another to grieve and to mourn over it. Or, in more theological language, confession is one thing, contrition is another.
We need, then, to observe that the Christian life, according to Jesus, is not all joy and laughter. Some Christians seem to imagine that, especially if they are filled with the Spirit, they must wear a perpetual grin on their face and be continuously boisterous and bubbly. How unbiblical can one become? No. In Luke’s version of the sermon Jesus added to this beatitude a solemn woe: ‘Woe to you that laugh now.’ The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.”
Where are you in this second beatitude? Do you recognise sin in your life? Are you convinced of your need for salvation? Or are you already a mourning sinner, comforted only in the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross and living daily for Him?
Wherever you are, know that the promise about every tear being wiped away only applies to those who have mourned over their sin, have truly repented and trusted in Jesus.
Look at the cross.
Jesus hung there for you. The sin you’re mourning was a sin for which He died. But there’s more to the cross than merely seeing what your sin did to Jesus.
See how much you are loved! You’ve been sinning against Jesus, and what does He do? He bears your sins.
Mourn over your sin. Grieve over it. See what it’s done to you, and what it did to Jesus…
But “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
The good news of the Gospel is that you are not left in your grief. Jesus does not leave you in despair and mourning, because the one who died for you is the one who will give you comfort and blessings.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Homegroup Study Notes
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
At first glance it would seem that this beatitude is addressed specifically to those who are mourning the loss of a loved one.
Of course, we do find comfort in Jesus at these times, but this is not the kind of mourning He was speaking about here.
Read the first 2 beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-4.
How does the second beatitude refer to the first?
Read Psalm 38:4-6 and 2 Corinthians 7:10.
Discuss the differences between Godly sorrow and merely being sorry for something you have done wrong.
How does Godly sorrow draw us to God?
There is a general lack of Godly sorrow in the world (and sadly, in the Church too).
As Christians we are forgiven, and this truth brings us great joy.
We have been freed from the condemnation of our sin.
Bearing this in mind, read and discuss James 4:8-10, remembering that this letter was written to Christians.
Pay particular attention to James’ words in verse 10: “He will lift you up.”
What comfort have you found in Jesus as you have mourned over your own sin?
Next week: Matthew 5:5
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”