It was a common thing for a teacher or as the Jews would have called Him, Rabbi, to sit when they taught. We are not sure what mountain this was but we know it was most likely in Galilee. The prior chapter ends with the fame of Jesus going abroad and the many miracles that were being accomplished through Him. Because of this, Jesus had started to amass quite a group of followers.
Matthew 4:25 (KJV)
25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.
You have to notice the way this verse is written. When Jesus saw His multitude of followers he decided to go up into a mountain or a place elevated and usually a place where the voice will carry and then his followers gathered around him. When Jesus made this sudden detour He had a specific purpose in mind. Once His close group of disciples arrived, Jesus began to teach. Even, His close disciples needed to hear the message that He would preach on that Mountain.
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Here is the Teacher with a Capital T. I like how it starts…and He opened His mouth. Remember the first time God opened is anthropomorphic mouth worlds were framed. He is going to begin with a series of scriptures which often times are called the “Be-Attitudes.” It is important to note that in each instance the initial word “blessed” that is used does not contain a verb connection. Bible translations have added an italicized “are” but the original does not include a connecting verb.
This is important because, instead of reading them as statements, they should rather be read as exclamations which create quite a punch to the listener. For example: “Oh the blessedness of the poor in Spirit!” This agrees with a common Hebrew use found in much of the Old Testament (Psalms 119:1, 2; 128:1). In fact, understanding the prevalence of the Psalms in the culture Jesus emerged from, it would seem that the foundational blocks for the Sermon on the Mount arose from the structure commonly found in the Psalms.
Psalms 128:1-2 (KJV)
1 Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways.
2 For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.
In Hebrew, the word blessed is ’esher which points to a person’s state of bliss. “This Hebrew word is always used to refer to people and is never used of God. It is almost exclusively poetic and usually exclamatory, “O the bliss of. . .” (Complete Word Study Dictionary). The word originates from the Hebrew root word “asher” which signifies “one that follows a straight path.” Therefore, the “blessedness” which is described is connected to individuals who walk righteously upon the straight paths (Psalms 5:8).
There is no “blessedness” outside of the “path, way, or course” which Scripture clearly presents. Sadly, in our world today many assume they are blessed based upon their prosperity. The “blessedness” which scripture alludes to in relation to those who follow Him, walk His paths, delight in His law, and serve day and night is not a temporal, physical, worldly concept.
Psalm 73:1-3 (KJV)
1 Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.
2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Asaph was at a point in his life where he acknowledged that God was good to Israel and those that had a clean heart, but as for him… “my feet were almost gone; my steps had well night slipped.” Asaph’s confidence was shaken due to his circumstances. He was living for God, doing the right thing, but his world seemed to be in disarray. He then declared that when he had seen the “prosperity of the wicked,” he was envious of them.
The “shalom” of the wicked! Here Asaph was as a child of God, adhering to the Law of God and his world seemed so far from settled. Then to compound matters he saw what he considered the “safety, peace, tranquility” of the wicked. They had their money, pleasures, and fatness of physical life (vs. 7) and yet did not recognize the One True God of Israel. Asaph felt this way, until…
Psalms 73:17-19 (KJV)
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.
18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.
19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.
When Asaph went into the sanctuary of God something occurred to him when he realized the foolishness of the temporal prosperity of the wicked. Sure, they were living large and with a seeming joy and peace in their lives. But when Asaph considered their end everything changed and his perspective on his present conditions changed.
He realized that what he saw in the lives of the prosperous, ungodly people was not a true picture but only pretense: “you will despise them as fantasies” (v. 20, NIV). In New Testament language, “the world is passing away, and the lust of it …” (1 John 2:17, NKJV). Although God can and does give success and wealth to dedicated believers, worldly success and prosperity belong to the transient dream world of unbelievers, a dream that one day will become a nightmare (Bible Exposition Commentary, Old Testament).
Luke 12:16-21 (KJV)
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Before we ever step foot into the lessons found in the Sermon on the Mount we must vividly understand that “blessedness” is not defined by physical prosperity, wealth, or pleasure. It is usually when we are “fattest” in our physical wealth that we deceive ourselves into believing that we are being “blessed” by God and His stamp of approval is upon us.
Revelation 3:17 (KJV)
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
The world and so many in it are living in a dream, supposing themselves to be right with God and basing that conjecture upon their pleasures and success. Riches are deceitful (Mark 4:19) to so many who do not realize their lifestyle and success has choked out the very source of life which is meant to sustain them and carry them into eternity with God.
Luke 16:19-25 (KJV)
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
There is no greater feeling in all the world, regardless of how poor, hurting, broken, and ruined one may be, than to wake up every morning and know without a shadow of doubt that you are living a life that is “perfectly pleasing” to God. To know that I am “being Holy as He is Holy,” (1 Peter 1:16) and living in obedience to the “separation” which God has demanded of those who profess and take His name upon them (2 Cor. 6:17). For those who do not separate (sever, excommunicate, cut off) from the world which God explicitly demands that we not love, neither the things in it, (1 John 2:15) then He will still remain God (since nothing can change that fact) but He will not be our Father (2 Cor. 6:18). It is a life where treasure of the heart is found not in things corruptible, temporal, and fleeting; but those whose “delight is the Law of the Lord.”
Matthew 6:19 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
It’s that hidden man, the heart which only God sees and bases His pleasure upon, that loves God will all his/her heart, mind, soul, and strength. One whose “treasure faileth not” (Luke 12:33). One whose “loins are gird about with Truth” (Eph. 6:14; Luke 12:35), and whose Lights are burning (unlike the foolish virgins whose lamps went out.) It is the life devoted to the incorruptible, unceasing Word of Truth, where no thief can steal and no moth can devour (Luke 12:33).
1 Peter 3:3-4 3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
Therefore, everything from this point forward in the Sermon on the Mount, is hinged upon this “blessedness.”
Psalm 1:1-6 (KJV)
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.