The Power of Weeping in the Spirit

“Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be COMFORTED.” Matthew 5:4
 
Have you ever wondered about the different ways Christians try to explain these words spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount???
 
Most often we are used to hearing these words from Matthew 5:4 at a funeral service or when someone has gone through a terrible loss. Some people even say that the real comfort of Matthew 5:4 can only occur in the Millennial Kingdom when Christ returns.In traditional Christian interpretations, the Biblical Scriptures are most often interpreted through the lens of Plato, Aristotle and Socrates – the Greek philosophical traditions which view God as transcendent and impassable, i.e. distant and mostly uninvolved.  
 
As a Pastor I DO NOT support the idea that God is transcendent (beyond the realm of human understanding) or impassable (cannot travel to touch Him)...from the Scriptures!  For the Lord Jesus is the descent of God into the middle of our muddled lives, just as they are, not the ascent of our lives to God, hoping that somehow he might approve when He sees how hard we try. This Word of the Lord shows us that the commitment that God is looking from humankind is NOT to escape from this life but to realize God’s power and presence in the HERE and NOW - this can literally transform both our lives and our society.  Unfortunately, the history of the Church reveals to us that when Christians become fixated about only finding God in the “next world to come", they often miss finding the God of earth and history, the Healer of the Universe, in the here and now – in our soiled ordinariness.
 
We need to affirm creation by finding a sense of holiness in the here and now. There is no division between the secular and the sacred areas of our lives. It is ALL belongs to God. As stewards of God’s world, Christians are to live within this world and use it in accord with divine directives. In this way, we will know the dynamic presence and power of the Lord at work on earth in our daily lives and activities.
 
 Now back to Matthew 5:4...Let me simply say that to properly understand this text, we must figure out the way Eastern Rabbis used the word “Mourning” and “Comfort” during the times of First Century Judaism. It is very important for us to understand figures of speech, slangs and colloquialisms of First Century Rabbinic Judaism to properly understand the Bible, especially the New Testament which is written by Jewish believers in Classical Greek of the First Century.
 
To understand Matthew 5:4, let’s look at some examples of American Slangs and Colloquialisms in the following statements:
 
  1. “Blessed are those who have a GREEN THUMB, for they shall be FRUITFUL.”
 
  1. “Blessed are those who HIT the HAY EARLY, for they shall find GOOD REST.”
 
  1. “Blessed are those who don’t go at EACH OTHER’S THROATS, for they shall find peace.”
 
  1. “Blessed are those who make way for peace when the JERK made them PULL the Car OFF the Road.”
 
  1. “Blessed are those who don’t get angry when the LITTLE BIRD told all their DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS.”
 
Americans readily understand the above statements. HOWEVER, for those in other countries who are not very familiar with American-English Slangs and Colloquialisms this could be quite difficult. They will miss the true message of these statements if they rely simply on just grammatical word studies on the English words within these statements. They will miss what people are trying to communicate within our American culture and context. Robert Frost once said that we miss the poetry of a culture when we translate from one language to another language - i.e. Lost in Translation!
 
To understand the New Testament, especially Matthew 5:4, we must try to understand how First Century Judaism used the words “Mourning” and “Comfort.” There have been vast amounts of Judaic and rabbinic literary data made available to us, especially after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in modern Israel. From these new discoveries we get a better understanding of the rabbinic interpretation of MOURNING and COMFORT of Matthew 5:4 during the time of Christ in ancient Israel:
 
  1. MOURNING” is the attitude and action of Biblical LAMENTING – weeping in the Spirit!  It is lamenting the fact that God’s Kingdom, Word and Will are NOT evident in one’s life and community due to the dominance of sin. This type of mourning/lamenting was a common community practice after the destruction of the First Temple in 586BC. Just read the Book of Lamentations! This community practice of mourning always involved FASTING & PRAYER for God’s Kingdom to be established in the community. It is even practiced today after the Rabbis of the Talmud assigned the season of “Mourning” during what is called “Tishah B’Av” – the ninth day of the fifth Jewish month (AV). Tishah B’Av became a SINGLE national fast day (25-Hours of fasting) recalling the calamities and misfortunes that occurred to the Jewish people throughout the ages. It was lamenting sin, trials and tribulations expecting the hand of God to move on earth today!
 
  1. COMFORT: The ninth day of the fifth Jewish month (AV) became a symbol for all the persecutions and misfortunes of the Jewish people since the destruction of the First Temple in 586BC. Yet, Jewish tradition also sees Tishah B’Av as a day of potential promise and salvation – the Talmud reads: “The day the Temple was destroyed, the redeemer was born” (Yerushalmi Berakhot 2:4; Lamenations Rabbah 1:16). The Talmud relates the tale of a woman who gives birth to a child on the very day the Temple was destroyed. This child was named Menahem, “Comforter,” and He will return one day to COMFORT the bereaved people. Jewish lamentations are often paired with Redemption. That is why the Rabbis instituted seven Weeks of Consolation-Comfort following the Ninth of Av…” (According to David Roskies, The Literature of Destruction (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1990), p.565) Thus, not only did the Rabbis make Tishah B’Av into the day of national disaster. They also saw in this day of mourning the seeds of national redemption and comfort.
This combination of “mourning-comfort” is often seen in “fasting-prayer” in “sackcloth and ashes” resulting in the great redemption of the Jewish people especially after the destruction of the First Temple in 586BC. In the Exilic Books of the Bible we some examples of this are found in:
 
  1. Daniel Chapters 9 & 10
 
  1. Ezra Chapter 8
 
  1. Nehemiah Chapter 1
 
  1. Esther Chapter-4
 
In Daniel 9:1-3 while the Prophet Daniel reads the 29th Chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, he mourns the fact that the prophesy of the seventy years has NOT been realized even though the Jews had been in captivity for almost seventy years. God’s Word appeared to be unfulfilled??? Instead of “mourning passively” the fact that God’s will has NOT been established on earth in Daniel’s community, Daniel mourns for the “comfort of Yahweh” – he “mourns actively!” He “mourns actively” by “fasting-prayer” in “sackcloth and ashes” resulting in the great redemption of the Jewish people (See Psalm 126 – which is a direct result of Daniel’s fasting and prayers).  Similarly, in Daniel-10:2-3 the Prophet Daniel mourns and the “comfort of Yahweh” comes to him (Daniel 10:10-21).  In Daniel 9 & 10, we see what the Lord Jesus meant when He said in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be COMFORTED.”
 
In Ezra 8:21-23, we see the mourning of the Jewish community understand the spiritual leadership of Ezra. They were “mourning” for the “comfort of Yahweh” for their perilous journey from Babylon to Jerusalem with NO help from the emperor due to miscalculations by Ezra. !” The entire community “mourns actively” by “fasting-prayer” resulting in the great redemption of the Jewish people (Ezra 8:23). Here we see what the Lord Jesus meant when He said in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be COMFORTED.”
 
In Nehemiah 1:1-4, the Prophet Nehemiah hears about the brokenness and barrenness of his Jewish community in Jerusalem. The walls and gates of Jerusalem were broken down. Because of the brokenness and barrenness of the city, the enemies of Judah were able to invade, loot, and cause great trouble and shame for the Jewish community. Nehemiah laments for his people (Nehemiah 1:5-11). He “mourns actively” by “fasting-prayer” resulting in the great redemption of the Jerusalem and its inhabitants. Nehemiah “mourns actively” by “fasting-prayer” in the month of November-December (Nehemiah 1:1-4), and the “comfort of Yahweh” arrives in March-April (Nehemiah 2:1-8). Here we see what the Lord Jesus meant when He said in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be COMFORTED.”
 
As I am writing this blog I can see the Jewish festival of Purim marked down on my calendar, Sundown March-14 to Sundown March-15 in 2014. It is a festival celebrating the great redemption and deliverance of the Jewish community from an almost certain holocaust. Purim is a festival that celebrates “mourning of the Jewish people” turning into “rejoicing” because of the “Comfort of Yahweh.” In Esther-4, Mordecai, Esther and the entire Jewish community “mourn actively” by “fasting-prayer” in “sackcloth and ashes” resulting in the great redemption of the Jewish people.  The word "Purim" means "lots" and refers to the lottery that Haman – the enemy of the Jewish people in the Book of Esther, used to choose the date for the massacre. When the Jewish community mourned in fasting and prayer, the lot quickly changed in their favor through the “Comfort of Yahweh!” Here we see what the Lord Jesus meant when He said in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be COMFORTED.”
 
Now here are some questions for you to think about...
 
  1. What are the personal “promises of God” in your life that has NOT yet been fulfilled (...like in Daniel 9:1-3)?
 
  1. What are some “miscalculations” and “mistakes” in your life that you want to repent from BUT you are powerless to change your current circumstances (...like in Ezra 8:21-13)?
 
  1. What are some of the “brokenness and barrenness” in your life that is opening you up to ridicule, shame, lack of self-control, trouble and trials from the enemy (...like in Nehemiah 1:1-4)?
 
  1. Do you complain about your “lot in life?” Do you feel that life circumstances are stacked against you? Do you feel that you have been assigned a “bad lot” in life (...like in Esther 3 & 4)?
We are called to exercise the privilege of our role as prayer-intercessors—believing God's promises, speaking His Word, and praying in faith to see social peace, justice, and spiritual opportunity manifest throughout our world. Now let me encourage you to “actively mourn” in fasting and prayer for the “Comfort of the Holy Spirit” – for your miracle that will redeem you from your mess!!! In the New Testament of Christ, the COMFORTER who brings the COMFORT is the HOLY SPIRIT.
 
Luke 11:9-13 (NIV)– “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
 
John 14:15-21 (NIV)– “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate (COMFORTER) to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
 
In Mark 9:14-29 & Matthew 17:14-21, the Lord Jesus encourages His disciples to fast and pray for certain tough and impenetrable strongholds to be broken! In Acts-12 we find that when the church community prayed, the chains and strongholds fell down resulting in the Apostle Peter’s freedom.
 
“Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be COMFORTED.” Matthew 5:4
 
Now...what are your ACTION PLANS for receiving your BREAKTHROUH by partnering with the “Helper and Comforter of Christ?” (Hint: “Mourning actively” by “fasting-prayer” while listening-obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit (James 5:13-18).
 
Pastor Jack Hayford writes, “You and I have the power to decide the spiritual and social climate in the local community in which we live, and then beyond that to our state, our nation, and the world. This is our starting place as functioning agents of the Kingdom of God—to respond in faith to the Holy Spirit's assignments, and to pray and invite Heaven's rule into specific situations on Earth. Our prayers are indeed decisive. As the living Church of Jesus Christ, we are called to exercise the privilege of our role as intercessors—believing God's promises, speaking His Word, and praying in faith to see social peace, justice, and spiritual opportunity manifest throughout our world.”
 
References:
 
  1. Rabbinic Assembly: http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/story/history-tishah-b%E2%80%99av
 
  1. The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson
 
  1. Plato and the Talmud by Jacob Howland
 
  1. Believing Your Prayers Are Decisive by Jack Hayford: http://www.jackhayford.org/teaching/articles/believing-your-prayers-are-decisive/

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