Light also is a positive image: the world is in darkness and Jesus’s followers are to be a light in that darkness. A “light in the darkness” is part of the messianic age, the suffering servant was to be a “light in the darkness.” Zechariah alludes to this in Luke 1:79, his son John will shine a light for those living in the darkness. They are in the dark because they live “in the shadow of death.” The Gospel of John describes Jesus as the “true light that gives light to everyone” (John 1:9) which overcomes the darkness (1:4-5).

Jesus offers two metaphors for the way his disciples were to be light in the world, a city and a lamp. First, a city on a hill cannot be hidden, in can be seen from a distance and any light from that city will be seen clearly in the darkness. Jeremias (Parables, 217) understands the saying as a word of comfort for the disciples, the “citizens of the … eschatological city of God … whose light streams through the night needing no human efforts.” Second, when a lamp lit, it was normally on a stand or in a niche in the wall so the light can illuminate the whole room. In makes no sense to hide an oil lamp under a basket, the point of a lamp is to shine light in the darkness.

The point of the two illustrations is that it is impossible for the Christ-follower to hide their light, and even if they could manage to hide their light, it makes no sense to do so since their entire purpose is “being a light.”

If the “Salt of the Land” referred to the disciples as a preserving agent within Judaism (as opposed to the Pharisees), then “Light of the World” refers to the function of Israel as the light to the Gentiles. Jesus uses κόσμος rather than γῆ, so the whole world (Jew and Gentile) is in view rather than just the Land of Israel.

Pennington points out that Scot McKnight is unique in his assertion the two words refer to different things. He argues they are in parallelism and therefore have the same reference. Pennington, Sermon on the Mount, 164, note 74. Late he says “both the salt and light metaphors are communicating the same idea, that Jesus’s disciples are not the heralds of the new and lasting covenant being effected by Jesus” (p. 165). While it is true Jesus’s disciples are heralds of the new covenant, is that what this passage is actually saying? He argues that salt and light overlap in the area of covenant, salt used with bread to conclude a covenant agreement, and light as associated with the messianic age of the new covenant.

Israel was supposed be so devoted to God, living out a wise lifestyle, that the nations would see them and be attracted to God. They were the “light of the world” in the Old Testament, but they failed to be devoted to the Law and failed to live out a wise life and rarely attracted Gentiles to the God of Israel. There are some examples of Gentiles honoring the God of Israel (Nebuchadnezzar, for example, perhaps Nehemiah, Esther and Mordecai), but for the most part Israel did not act as the “light to the world.” Ultimately, the “light to the whole world” is the messiah, especially in Isaiah 9:2, a passage quoted by Matthew 4:16 (cf., Isaiah 42:6, 9).

Finally, the followers of Jesus are to let their light shine in the world so that people will see this and glorify the Father. This too was supposed to be a function of Israel in the Old Covenant (Deut 4:5-8). If Israel is obedient to the Law, then the nations will see this and consider Israel to be a great and wise nation.

The followers of Jesus are to be the preserving agent in their culture; they are still the only light in this dark world, the only want that light can be seen is if it is active in the world in some real and tangible way. Good works is “a translation of the Jewish מַעֲשִׂים טֹובִים, the thought is of those demands of God that are not legally prescribed by the Torah, such as especially works of charity and almsgiving” (Luz, Matthew 1-7, 208).

There are many examples of Christians who live out their faith in a way which benefits the whole culture and demonstrate to the culture the light of Jesus Christ. Some Christians live out a Christ-like lifestyle in a way which makes life better, healthy, etc. so that people are attracted to the Light.

But there are far too many Christians who are not unlike the Pharisees in the first century, so committed to a narrow way of thinking they are no longer benefiting their culture and they are more like a dim lamp underneath a basket!

Like the third beatitude, the “earth” (γῆ) in Matthew 5:13 refers to the land of Israel. If I am right about salt as a preserving agent, then Jesus is telling his circle of disciples they are the ones who will preserve Israel (and not the Pharisees).

The worthless salt is “thrown out and trampled (καταπατέω) under people’s feet.” Although this is the type of thing one might do with worthless salt, there may be a hint of coming judgment on people who do not hear Jesus’s message. Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns against giving sacred things to dogs and casting “pearls before swine” (Matt 7:6). This is a troubling verse for many reasons, but on the surface it appears to warn disciples they will be attacked (trampled and torn to pieces) when they preach the Gospel to some types of people. In Luke’s version of the parable of the sower, some seed falls on the path and is trampled (Luke 8:5) In Matthew 13:4 the seed on the path is eaten by birds and Jesus interprets this as the “evil one” snatching away the word of God.

Although the phrase does not appear in Matthew, in Luke 21:24 Jesus says “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles” (using the cognate verb πατέω). Revelation 11:2 is a possible allusion to this verse, the Gentiles will trample (πατέω) Jerusalem for 42 months. But Gentiles trampling Jerusalem appears in clear eschatological texts the Hebrew Bible as well. For example, in Daniel 8:13 Daniel asks how long the sanctuary and host will be “trampled underfoot?” Although it is not the same word as Matthew 5:13, the LXX uses a related verb, συμπατέω. Daniel 8 refers to the desecration of the Temple prior to the Maccabean revolt, but Jesus uses the language of Daniel 9:27 to predict the coming fall of Jerusalem (Matt 24:15).

Perhaps Jesus implies a contrast between his (true) disciples and those who are not his disciples. The “not the salt of the earth people” are the Pharisees and other leaders in Jerusalem who are not hearing Jesus nor accepting him as the messiah. After the Sermon on the Mount Jesus demonstrates his authority through a series of miracles (Matthew 8-9), but there are also a series of stories describing resistance to Jesus. The “teachers of the Law” think Jesus is blaspheming when he forgives sin (9:3), the Pharisees complain Jesus is eating with sinners (9:11), the disciples of John the Baptist question Jesus on fasting (9:14) and even John himself wonders if Jesus is really the messiah (11:1-19). Whole villages reject Jesus (11:20-24), the Pharisees condemn Jesus for breaking the Sabbath (12:1-14) and eventually declare his power of demons proves he is an agent of Beelzebul (12:22-37). After refusing to give the Pharisees a sign (Matt 12:38-45), even Jesus rejects his own family in favor of his true followers (12:46-50). By the end of Matthew it is the Pharisees who are judged as blind guides, those who cannot preserve Israel any longer and are in danger of being cast out (Matt 23).

With this overview of Matthew in mind, the saying in Matthew 5:13 may be an encouragement to the disciples to be the preserving agent within Second Temple Judaism and a veiled threat to those who reject Jesus as messiah. That the Pharisees are the ones to be tossed out and trampled is a typical ironic reversal of expectations: those who think they will enter the Kingdom of Heaven will remain outside while others enter the Kingdom before them.

I find this a remarkable warning to contemporary Christianity. There are far too many people who claim to be following Jesus but they are more like the Pharisees. It is very easy for a church or a Christian to become so wrapped up in what people think counts toward religion and piety and completely miss the whole point of following Jesus. This might take the form of religious practices which lose their meaning, or the kind of political activism which mixes a poor understating of the Bible with a radical Americanism. To what extent is Jesus’s warning to those about to be cast out and trampled underfoot a call to the modern Christian church?

“Salt, city, and light can be used for almost anything, and the history of interpretation shows that this indeed is what has happened” (Luz, Matthew 1-7, 205).

The second section of the Sermon makes two remarkable statements about the followers of Jesus. They are the “salt of the Earth” and the “light of the world.” Both metaphors have become common in western culture, although the meaning of “salt of the earth” has changed. For example, the common dictionary definition is “a simple, good person” just as Jesus’s followers were simple fishermen. But this completely misses the point of what Jesus intended in Matthew 5:13.

Salt Grains Scoop

So what does Jesus mean by these two metaphors? As is common in the teaching of Jesus, he is looking back to the Hebrew Bible and interpreting as a prophet by applying texts and metaphors to himself and his followers.

Since salt is a preserving agent in the ancient world, the followers of Jesus will in some real way act as agents of preservation. Salt has several different uses, from purification (Exod 30:35) to adding flavor to foods (Luke 14:34, “lost its taste”). Scot McKnight suggests the exact nuance of “salt” is less important than the loss of saltiness (McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, 57; Davies and Allison list eleven possibilities, Matthew 1-7, 472-3). Whatever the use of salt Jesus as in mind, salt is worthless if it is not salty! The verb μωραίνω sometimes has the nuance of “foolish” here the aorist passive refers to something which has become tasteless, or possibly “become insipid.”

Can salt actually lose its saltiness? It seems unlikely for the chemistry of salt to change into something else simply through disuse, so scholars often refer to Dead Sea salt, which is only about one-third salt. The other minerals can lose their taste when they dry out. It is possible the reference is mixing salt and other things, so that the salt is no longer effective.

Or, is “salt losing its saltiness” a metaphor for an impossible thing, like hiding a city on the hill? If it is impossible for a city on a hill to be hidden, perhaps the point is that in the unlikely event salt goes bad, it gets tossed out. This may be an eschatological allusion, tramping under foot may be part of judgment.

“The salt is thrown out, according to the everything-in-the-street law, which was the principle of garbage disposal in the ancient Orient. Understand that the disciple will be excluded from Jesus’ following … will be trodden underfoot; an image of the scorn—even on the part of humans—that is the lot of disciples who have fallen away from their fervor” (M. J. Lagrange, cited by TLNT 2:536).

This metaphor implies the follower of Jesus can become less effective, so that they are “worthless.” Looking ahead to the end of the Sermon, Jesus says many will come to him on the Day of Judgment expecting to enter into the Kingdom of God, claiming to have prophesied and cast out demons in his name, but he will say to them “I never knew you” (Matt 7:21-23). Not everyone who appears to be a follower of Christ is actually a follower, just as not everyone in a church today has a real relationship with Jesus.

This saying is spoken directly to Jesus’s followers, the ones who are sitting at his feet and listening to his teaching. They are the ones who are told they are a preserving agent designed to keep their culture from decaying into foolishness. It is perhaps not insignificant the word Jesus uses is also used by Paul in Romans 1:22, those who claimed to me wise had become fools when they worshiped idols. The follower of Jesus potentially can decay from a wise person (with their house built on the rock) into the foolish person (with their house built on the sand), as Jesus will conclude the sermon in Matthew 7:24-26.

This is not particularly comforting. Jesus says it is possible for his followers to become “worthless” and no longer of any value. On the one hand, this may be part of a common theme throughout Matthew that there are some followers of Jesus who are not “true followers” and will be separated out for judgment at some point (Judas, for example). But on the other hand, this is a warning to all the followers of Jesus to maintain their effectiveness as disciples of Jesus.

In what ways might the church (or an individual Christian) “lose their saltiness”? Is it possible some parts of the western, Christian church has already become ineffective for the Gospel and has become worthless? What are some ways the Church heed this warning?

There are many theological threads in this introduction to the Sermon on the Mount, here I want to settle on just three points which will resonate through the rest of the Sermon.

The Kingdom of God. There is an eschatological promise in the beatitudes; there is coming a time when the people of God will experience a reward for their oppression and perseverance (Allison, The Sermon on the Mount, 42). These promises are all related to the hope for a restored kingdom for Israel in the future.

Here is but one example of dozens of texts in the prophets with similar expectations. The conclusion to the first half of the book of Isaiah begins with a judgment of the nations using Edom as a model of Israel’s enemy. Isaiah 34:2-4 describes an apocalyptic judgment on the nations. The Lord will utterly destroy them, they will wither like leaves on the vine. But in 34:16-16 the Lord gathers his people back to their allotment and “they will possess it forever.” Feeble hands will be made strong, the eyes of the blind will be opened, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap, and the mute will speak (35:5-6). The way to Zion will be opened and the redeemed will travel this “way of holiness” in gladness and joy (35:9-10). The prophets anticipate Israel’s liberation from her enemies but also a time of Edenic peace and prosperity.

Although the kingdom is in many ways still future (from both the perspective of Jesus and the present church), there are some aspects of that kingdom immediately present in the ministry of Jesus. Immediately following the Sermon, Matthew collects a series of stories which indicate the Kingdom of God is in some ways present in Jesus’ ministry. For example, the first story is the healing of a man with leprosy. Jesus makes him clean, the verb (καθαρίζω) is cognate to the noun used in Matthew 5:8, the “pure (καθαρός) in heart.” Although this man is made clean physically, he has “seen God” in Jesus.

In Matthew 11:1-5 disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus if he is the messiah, and Jesus responds by pointing to the many miracles and healings which bear witness to a messianic outpouring of the Spirit of God. In 11:6 he concludes by pronouncing a blessing on those who do not stumble on account of him.

The kingdom is therefore present in the ministry of Jesus in a very real way. People are experiencing the presence of the king. These are a foretaste of the kingdom expected in by prophets in the Hebrew Bible.

Reversal of Expectation. “The beatitudes “present true human flourishing as entailing suffering as Jesus’s disciples await God’s coming kingdom that Jesus is inaugurating” (Pennington, Sermon on the Mount, 153). In each of the beatitudes there is a reversal of what the outside might think is the way to receive blessing from God. The obvious example is the blessing pronounced on those who suffer for the sake of Jesus.

Suffering is not usually something people rejoice in, so to say, “the way to flourish as a human is to suffer for the sake of Jesus” would have surprised, even shocked the Jewish listener who would see suffering as a sign of judgment for sin. A later Greco-Roman reader would also consider this a strange saying since the pursuit of honor in the Roman world left little room for suffering on account of a crucified criminal!

Redefining Happiness. The form of a beatitude implies the one who does part one of the saying will be happy because part two of the saying will make them happy. But as Scot McKnight observes, these sayings are not descriptions of happiness in the modern sense of the word. Just google “how to be happy” as see all the pages listing “fifteen ways” to be happy: smile, meditate, spend time outside (on the warm day) or with friends, practice gratitude, etc. Although these are all very good things to consider, they are not at all what these eight beatitudes describe as happiness. Modern happiness tends to be focused on my personal happiness, feeling good about myself.

These eight beatitudes are all other focused, being a peacemaker is not about your personal happiness but rather reconciling others; one cannot “show mercy” without acting on behalf of others.

In addition, these beatitudes redefine happiness as future oriented. Even if this exact moment seems oppressive and difficult, the person truly seeking the will of God always has confidence the struggle is worth it because God is working in history to re-establish his order on the chaos of creation. If we focus our happiness on ourselves and this particular moment, then we will probably not be total happy.

This beatitude is one of the more surprising reversals of conventional expectations in the beatitudes. Most people consider being persecuted for any reason to be a “blessing.” But in first Second Temple Judaism, there was virtue in being persecuted for the essential boundary markers of Judaism.

The stories in the first part of Daniel are examples of Jewish people who face persecution and death because of their commitment to the Jewish God. In each episode Daniel and his companions refuse to obey a particular command of the king and in each case their life is threatened. In chapter 3 and 6 the men are more or less executed for their stand and are only preserved by divine action.

Fourth Maccabees is another example of a Second Temple Jewish text which praises those who lie out their commitment to their Jewish heritage. Seven brothers are willing to die rather than defile themselves with unclean foot or to bow to the king. David deSilva suggested the book addressed a Jewish community which may face persecution as they have in the past, in order to encourage them to maintain their faithfulness to the Law in the face the dominant culture (deSilva, Introducing the Apocrypha, 357).

2 Baruch 52:5-6 has a similar saying, “And concerning the righteous ones, what will they do now? Enjoy yourselves in the suffering which you suffer now.” Suffering is preparation of the soul for reward, “and make ready your souls for the reward which is preserved for you” (52:7).

Jesus is not talking about enduring generic bad times, but persecution “for the sake of righteousness.” As with Matthew 5:6, righteousness does not necessarily refer to spiritual discipline or personal holiness and piety, but rather concrete actions of justice such as care for the poor and helpless. Those who “inherit the kingdom” in Matthew 25:31-46 are the ones who cared for the hungry and thirsty, those who were naked or in prison. It is very easy to make this beatitude a blessing on those who are persecuted for performing some public act of piety such as praying in public.

Who would persecute someone for doing acts of justice for the poor and helpless? In the immediate context, the Pharisees will challenge Jesus for his ongoing actions towards the underclass in Galilee. He touches a leper to heal him (Matt 8:1-4), even though the leper was “unclean” and forbidden to worship at the temple. He heals the servant a centurion’s servant (8:5-13). Even if the centurion was a God-Fearing gentile, he would not be permitted to enter the court of the men and worship at the Temple. Jesus eats with “tax collectors, prostitutes and other sinners” (Matt 8:9-13) and the Pharisees question Jesus’s non-observance of fasting traditions (Matt 8:14-17). One of the indications you are a true disciple of Jesus disciple of Jesus is that you are suffering in the same ways as Jesus.

Matthew 5:11-12 seems to be an extension on the eighth beatitude which makes this theme of “suffering like Jesus” more clear. The form of the beatitude changes to include the immediate audience, “blessed are you (μακάριοί ἐστε) when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” In addition, France points out the two blessings in verses 11-12 are “forward looking” to a time when the disciples will face the same kinds of attacks Jesus endured. Jesus was reviled (ὀνειδίζω) in Mark 15:32; Paul alludes to Psalm 68:10 when he says Christ endured “reproaches” Romans 15:3. In addition to persecution, people will say “all sorts of evil things” about the disciples, the same kinds of false accusations Jesus faced.

This final saying in the beatitudes is perhaps the most challenge for western Christians since for the most part Christianity is not suppressed. But for the majority world, Christians really do suffer for their faith. There are many examples of Christians in North Africa or the Far East who have been impoverished and imprisoned because of their faith in Jesus, many are killed because they refuse to recant their faith in Jesus. This is “suffering like Jesus. It is very difficult to consider the Starbucks red cup controversy as a real attack on Christians.

A peacemaker (εἰρηνοποιός) is one who helps to reconcile disagreements. Philo described God as the one who is the “giver of peace” using this word (Spec. Leg. 2.192). As with each of the beatitudes it is important to hear the saying in the context of the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple period Judaism. Although this saying is often associated with pacifism, to “make peace” goes beyond non-participation in the military. The kind of peace Jesus refers to here is shalom, the state of the world as God intended it to be. To “make peace” is to create conditions in the world which reflect the character of God. This may be peacemaking in interpersonal relationships, but as is often the case in the beatitudes, the disciple of Jesus will be instrumental creating conditions which encourage shalom.

Blessed are teh PeacemakersThe coming kingdom of God will be a kingdom of peace. Isaiah 9:5-6 anticipates a time when the weapons of war will be destroyed because the Prince of Peace has begun his rule.  Isaiah 45:7 is the most likely intertext for this beatitude. God describes himself as the maker of peace, (עֹשֶׂ֥ה שָׁל֖וֹם, LXX ὁ ποιῶν εἰρήνην). This title appears at the end of the section which described Cyrus the Great at the “anointed one of God,” or messiah. According to Isaiah 47, Cyrus was chosen to subdue the nations, usher in a time of peace, to end Judah’s exile and allow them to return to Zion to worship God. The original return from exile did not come close to the prophecies of a time of peace and prosperity for all Israel. Texts like Daniel 9 imply the exile would be far longer than seventy years, it will continue for seventy times seven years. It is no coincidence that Jesus’s ministry is near the end of first 483 years of that long exile.

In some prophetic texts, the kingdom begins with a slaughter of the enemies of Israel. The “wedding supper of the lamb” is the slaughter of Armageddon (Revelation 19:11-21, Ezekiel 38-39). The result of the destruction of all of the enemies of Israel is a kingdom of peace! So peacemaking in the Hebrew Bible is something God will do to put an end to the enemies of Israel.

Peace making is therefore not tolerance of difference so everyone can get along, but stepping in between two warring parties in order to reconcile the two.  In Xenophon’s History, a diplomat describes his role as a peace maker: “For whenever there is war she [the state] chooses us as generals, and whenever she becomes desirous of tranquility she sends us out as peacemakers.” (Xen., Hell. 6.3.4).

For some Jewish listeners, this may have been a reversal of expectations. The kingdom of God will be a kingdom of peace, but that peace will be the result of a violent uprising against Rome. The roots of the revolt against Rome in A.D. 66 were already present in Galilee in A.D. 30, so some may wanted to used Jesus’s words as warrant to revolt; but to take up arms against Rome would not be “peace making.”

The ones who make peace will be called the “sons of God.” France calls attention to the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7:14, cf., Psalm 2). The kings in the line of David were called “sons of God” and the title was eventually expanded to include all of God’s faithful covenant people (France, Matthew, 205). At this point in reading the beatitudes closely, this eschatological flourish is not at all surprising.

How ought the church live out a calling to be peacemakers? Is this beatitude commanding pacifism (as in the Anabaptist tradition) or peacemaking in interpersonal relationships (as in the Reformed tradition)? I think it is too much to read “beating swords into ploughshares” from this beatitude, and reducing the saying to “only pacifism” misses the broad theological category of shalom. So how does the disciple of Jesus create the state of peace?

Although purity can refer to ritual cleanliness, Jesus refers to a person who is actually pure in their inner being. The adjective pure (καθαρός) is the word used frequently in the Septuagint to translate “clean” in the Law. For example, Numbers 8:7 refers to “waters of purification” or clean animals (Gen 7:2). A Jewish worshiper going up to the Temple would wash themselves in one of the many pools leading up to the Temple entrances. This was a ritual performed to symbolize purity and the person could be said to have “clean hands” the waters could not make the person actually pure.

Is Psalm 24 in the background of this saying? R. T. France (Matthew, 204) and McKnight both suggest the possibility since the answer to the psalmist’s question “who may ascend the holy hill of God?” is the one with a pure heart.

In Matthew 5:8, the heart of the follower of Jesus is called clean. The heart is the center of a person in the ancient world so the one who is “pure in heart” (οἱ καθαροὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ) has been really been made pure. In Psalm 26:6-7, the worshiper says “I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.” Similarly, 2 Timothy 2:22 uses the same phrase, those who call on the Lord from a “pure heart.”

What is a “pure heart”? In the immediate context of the Sermon on the Mount, the followers of Jesus are the ones who keep the Law internally. In 5:21-26 the follower of Jesus not only avoids murder, but also controls their anger and inner thoughts. In 5:27-30 they not only avoid adultery, but control their lustful thoughts. In both cases, the inner life of the true disciple of Jesus is pure.

The followers of Jesus also stand in contrast to the hypocrites, those who do their acts of worship in public to be seen by people (Matthew 6:1-18). The actions of hypocrites make them to be pure in heart, but in fact “are like whitewashed tombs” (Matt 23:27).

The result in the beatitude is remarkable: they will see God. Exodus 33:20 says no one can see the face of God. After God allows his glory to pass by Moses, God himself writes the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets and then he announces he is the gracious and compassionate God (Exodus 34:5-7). Yet Moses himself cannot see God. In Isaiah 6 the prophet sees the throne room of God and glimpses only the train of God’s robe. Yet he says ““Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa 6:5).

In contrast to these two examples of Moses and Isaiah, the true disciple of Jesus will see God. It is possible Matthew intends for us to remember the sign of Emmanuel (Matt 1:23), Jesus is “God with us,” but perhaps the force of the metaphor is judicial. In Psalm 11:7 “the Lord is righteous and loves righteous deeds, the upright shall behold his face.” Remember righteousness is not a state of inner holiness, but real social justice (Matt 5:6). Therefore the person who acts justly will behold God’s face is a metaphor for vindication before a judge. When Joseph interpreted the dream of the butler, he said the pharaoh would “life up his head” and render justice (he would be restored to his position and the chief butler). In the context of a trial, for an ancient Near Eastern king to allow someone to look up is a sign the person has been found innocent.

Once again this beatitude has some persecution and a (future) vindication of the persecuted followers of Jesus. The ones who are pure in heart (the disciples) will look upon the face of God and be vindicated when the king renders justice. There is eschatology here as well, since seeing God may hint at the future coming of the son of Man to render justice when he establishes his kingdom.

Johnson, John, under open heavenLast week I celebrated the beginning of the new school year with a book giveaway: John E. Johnson, Under an Open Heaven: A New Way of Life Revealed in John’s Gospel (Kregel, 2017). This is a book which reflects good scholarship, but is written for a popular audience and would make a great addition to a pastor’s library. I reviewed this book when it was published, where I commented:

The thirteen chapters of the book read like sermons, with introductory illustrations drawn from pop culture or personal experience, and chapter sections with alliterative headings. He even cites Bob Dylan, which is always a plus. Since the book is written on a conversational level, it would work well in a small group environment or as personal devotional reading. Johnson has included a few questions at the end of each chapter to prompt discussion.

There were only twelve entries this time, so I sorted them at random and picked a number at The winner is:

Steve Williams

Steve’s “favourite pericope is John 9:23 to 9:38.” The spelling of “favorite” makes me think I will be shipping this book some distance, so get in touch with me soon at and I will drop in the in the mail as soon as I can. Thanks to everyone for participating.

This is an exceptionally good semester for me, should I do one more giveaway?

Most people tend to think of mercy in terms of withholding punishment. In contemporary English one “begs for mercy” or “throws themselves on the mercy of the court.” The person who wants mercy is admitting their guilt and hoping a judge shows them mercy and withholds their full deserved full punishment.

But both the noun (ἐλεήμων) and verb (ἐλεέω) refers to being merciful to others: “being concerned about people in their need” (BDAG), primarily by giving to the poor. The word can have the nuance of compassionate or sympathetic, but in the Hebrew Bible it often refers to actions which are compassionate.

This is the word often used to translate the word hesed in the Septuagint. The word is used often and is one of the key theological terms in the Hebrew Bible. Hesed is steadfast love, loving kindness, even covenant loyalty. As such, it is one of the key characteristics of God in the Hebrew Bible. In Exodus 34:6 and Numbers 14:18 God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (hesed, LXX ἐλεήμων) and faithfulness.” God’s merciful character is the basis for many commands in the Law. For example, Exodus 22:6 the prohibition of taking a man’s cloak as a pledge is based on God’s merciful character.

In Hosea 6:6 God wants “mercy, not sacrifice,” and in Micah 6:8 the prophet tells his readers that God requires his people to “love mercy.” In both of these cases doing mercy stands in contrast to making sacrifices and in both cases doing mercy involves care for those in need, the widow, orphan and alien. Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 in Matthew 9:13 and 12:7, in both cases to contrast his ministry to that of the Pharisees and their concern for ritual purity and Sabbath traditions.

A major difference between contemporary usage of the word mercy and the Hebrew Bible is that one does “an act of mercy.” In the LXX, Proverbs 28:22 contrasts the stingy man with a merciful (ἐλεήμων) person. In Acts 9:38 Dorcas is described as always doing good and helping the poor, in 10:4, Cornelius was praised for generously giving to the poor. Both of these are “acts of mercy.” The true disciple of Jesus imitates God’s merciful and generous character by meeting the needs of other people.

The promise in this beatitude is that the merciful will themselves be shown mercy. The verb is a future passive, often called a divine passive since the implied actor in the sentence of God. God himself will give mercy to the ones who do mercy. If doing mercy is meeting the physical needs of others, then this verse says God will meet the needs of those who help others. This is consistent with the previous beatitudes, the hungry will be filled, the mourners will be comforted, etc.

This should not to be dumbed down to sappy pop-culture karma or a Christian form of “what goes around comes around.” If it is God’s nature to help people in need then it is the nature of God’s people to do mercy towards those in need. It is possible western Christians think they are being merciful towards those in need when they give money to relief programs for the majority world, but does that fully engage this beatitude? How does the true disciple of Jesus “do mercy” to those who are in need?

Preaching and Teaching the Last ThingsLogos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” for September 2018 is Walt Kaiser’s Preaching and Teaching the Last Things: Old Testament Eschatology for the Life of the Church (Baker Academic 2011). Walter C. Kaiser Jr. is distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Kaiser has contributed more than 40 books on both Old and New Testament exegesis and theology, including standard textbooks on OT Introduction, OT Theology and OT Ethics. He has been a prolific writer and speaker, check out the list of his publications.

Darrell Bock blurbed this book saying, “What can we know about eschatology from Scripture, especially the Old Testament? Walter Kaiser’s Preaching and Teaching the Last Things shows us that we can know quite a lot. This is a helpful work for those who wonder how to preach or teach about the end with balance and clarity.

Logos usually offers one or two similar books “almost free” books in the same series as the free book of the month. This month you can add Kaiser’s Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament: A Guide for the Church for only $2.99 and his Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching for another $3.99. That’s a mere $7 for three excellent books on teaching and preaching by one of the most influential scholars of the last fifty years. I would much prefer to have the physical copy of a book, but the Logos system makes these books easy to read, the iOS app is easily the best reading app available. Any notes or highlights made while reading in the app appear in the desktop version and vice versa.

Logos is also running a giveaway during the month of September: Baker Academic Theological Interpretation Collection (18 volumes, $399 value). There are several ways to enter the giveaway, so enter early and often.

This offer is for September 2018 only, so get the free (and almost free) books for your Logos Library before the end of the month.


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Christian Theology

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