The Tablets of the Heart
Vol: 18 Issue: 14 Thursday, January 14, 2016
The Mount of the Beatitudes stands near the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee and is the most likely spot for Jesus to have preached the Sermon on the Mount. It isn’t an actual ‘mountain’ as we’d understand it, but rather a large hill.
The reason that this is believed to be the exact location of the Sermon is because of its incredible acoustics. Along the slope there is a meadow that has the shape of a shallow bowl.
The effect is really quite amazing, as I’ll demonstrate when we visit the Mount of the Beatitudes during our upcoming Israel tour. A person standing in the center of that bowl’s voice carries everywhere within the rim of that bowl as if it were an amplified stadium.
The last time I was there, Peter Lalonde had me hike down that slope to the middle and read the Sermon on the Mount aloud, so I can’t tell you how clearly my voice carried from personal experience. I can only tell you I wasn’t speaking any louder than I would have spoken in my living-room.
Looking back up at our group, they were far enough away that I couldn’t clearly distinguish their faces. Many of those who were on that tour with us were in their 60’s and 70’s. But all of them said they could hear me as clearly as if I were standing beside them.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about that acoustical effect of that place is a sense of awe. To think not only that I was standing in the place where Jesus once stood, but also that I was standing in a place specifically designed by God for His use in giving one of the most important sermons of His earthly ministry.
It is the place where Jesus stood when He proclaimed His mission statement:
“Think not that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
Jesus came to fulfill the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant and to fulfill the purpose of the Law. In Genesis 15 we read of the covenant agreement between Abraham and God.
“And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness.” (15:5-6)
But Abraham was a man of the Chaldees, a merchant from Ur, and business is business, so, where’s the contract?
“And he said, LORD God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?” (15:8)
Since Abraham WAS a Chaldean, the Lord instructed him to prepare a blood covenant according to the customs of the Chaldees.
“And He said unto him, Take Me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto Him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.” (15:9-10)
These animal parts were used to form a somewhat grisly aisle through which, by custom, the two parties to the covenant would walk hand in hand while reciting its terms. It was also an object lesson in what fate would befall the one who broke its terms.
The Bible says that Abraham prepared the covenant and waited for God to come so they could seal the bargain together. Instead, Abraham had a vision. In it, God recited the terms of the covenant while passing through the aisle in the form of a smoking furnace and a burning lamp, in effect, signing the covenant on both sides.
If the covenant was broken, somebody had to die, and God made Himself responsible for both parties. It was there on the slopes of that hill near the Sea of Galilee that Jesus explained that He came to fulfill the terms of THAT covenant — on behalf of Abraham’s seed.
It was always God’s intent to write the law on the hearts of His people. In Deuteronomy 6:6 we read:
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.”
Jeremiah speaks of a day when this will become a reality: “‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people'” (Jeremiah 31:33).
The writing of the law on the heart is finally accomplished by the fulfillment of the Old Covenant at the Cross and the establishment of the New Covenant whereby believers are grafted onto the olive tree of Israel.
I actually stood in the place where Jesus made that monumental announcement! It was awesome beyond description.
Many Christians see the Beatitudes more as idealistic guidelines than reality. Others take the opposite view; that the Beatitudes form a list of do’s and don’t’s regarding salvation.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” If you want the kingdom of heaven, it seems, one must be poor in spirit. But what does “poor in spirit” mean to believers who see themselves as the “King’s Kids?” Seems a bit contradictory, but only until you remember that the purpose of the sermon is to write the law on men’s hearts.
The prophet Micah writes:
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
The ‘poor in spirit’ are those who recognize they are unworthy of entrance into heaven by virtue of their own sin nature, that there are no good works they can do to thereby purchase admission on their own, and that Jesus Christ paid the price of redemption on their behalf.
If you are a Blood-bought believer, you’ve already acknowledged your spiritual poverty and your dependence upon God’s riches. This isn’t a goal that stands before you, its your present state of reality — together with the attending promise, “for theirs [yours] is the Kingdom of Heaven.
“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. ” Why would believers ‘mourn’? We’re saved, we’re joyful . . . we’re told to be joyful because of the certainty of spiritual comfort. Paul writes, “that you sorrow not, as others who have no hope”.
Do you care about the lost? Why? And when one dies in his sins, do you not mourn? The Beatitudes are not a future goal to the Christian, but a state of present reality.
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Meekness — this one is a tough one for Western Christians. (Fortunately, believers are joint-heirs with Christ, so they inherit the universe.)
In context, however, “meekness” means to have a submissive heart. Jesus said,
“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.” (Matthew 11:29-30)
Meekness can best be described as “strength under control” which is the characteristic Jesus said would “inherit the earth.” Meekness is not something to be attained, it is the current state of those who trust that Jesus has everything under control.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Uh oh! How does one manage this while navigating this lost and sin-sick world?
The pure in heart have holiness written on their hearts. There is a lot more involved here than the avoidance of sin. The heart is our center of being.
Jesus describes it in Mark 7:21-23;
“For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.”
But also from within springs that holy desire to pursue God and be like Him. To be ‘pure in heart’ is not to accomplish the impossible by living a perfect life — it is the desire to get back up again after we fall. The ‘pure in heart’ shall see God. To be pure in heart is not a goal to be attained — it is the present state of the believer.
The Law of Moses was written on Mount Sinai on tablets of cold, hard stone. The Sermon on the Mount represents the place where God, now and forever, writes His laws on the tablet of the heart.
Originally Published: September 5, 2008
Featured Commentary: Signs in the Sky ~ J.L. Robb