4A. Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13. This reading makes it clear that to be God’s people, we must be lowly and humble. God is the great one and we would be nothing except what he gives us. After the people of Israel had been taken captive and put into slavery by the Babylonians, apparently many fell away from the faith of their fathers. When it came time for them to return to their old homeland, only a remnant came back of those that had left. However, Zephaniah writes that their captivity made them humble and lowly, ready to treat their God as the Lord and master of their lives, ready to faithfully observe his law. God promises bring peace and prosperity to his loyal remnant.
Matthew 5:1-12a. Matthew likes to bring out that Jesus is establishing a new people, different than the Old Testament people. The beatitudes are one way of expressing that difference. The New Testament people are not so much observers of laws, emphasizing the externals, but rather, a people who grow spiritually, mature in holiness within themselves in a way that shows itself externally.
- Poor in spirit – not self-centered but God centered
- They mourn with those who are hurting – compassionate, sorrowing with those who are in sorrow
- Meek – they do not think of themselves as more than they really are
- Hunger and thirst for righteousness – enthusiastically and energetically live for the accomplishment of God’s Will
- Merciful – forgive as God forgives
- Clean of heart – love for God is the only rationale and motivation for everything in life, it is the love from which every other love flows
- Peacemakers – all our endeavors and thoughts come from being members of God’s family and joining in God’s work, making peace on earth by helping the earth to think as heaven thinks
- Persecuted for righteousness – attacked for insisting that we must be obedient to God’s Will
- Persecuted for being loyal to Jesus. “Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31. “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly, and despised of the world, those who count for nothing.” Those who think they alone have made themselves into someone who is important without God, who hold themselves in high esteem and others, as beneath them, are now put to shame. Everything that is truly good is at root a gift from God and God alone.
The Athenians wrote magnificent books of philosophy. They were highly thought of, whereas the Corinthians were lowly dock workers and the like. However, the Corinthians accept Jesus as their Savior and so had eternal treasure in heavens. At death it was the Athenians who counted for little or nothing.