Blessed are Those Who Mourn

For They Shall Be Comforted


Dr. John Hoole – September 6, 2015




We return again in our studies to Matthew 5, as we continue understanding each of the 8 Beatitudes.  The second beatitude is found in Matthew 5:4 (NKJV), Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.


We have looked at the word, blessed, that begins each beatitude.  To say if differently, yet not taking away any of its true meaning, blessed simply means “to be approved of God”. “to have God’s smile”, “to have the applause of heaven.  We are not simply referring to happiness that is based on our circumstances.  For this reason, some don’t like to use the word, happy, when speaking of these beatitudes.  The word happy comes from “hap” or “happenstance,” which has the meaning, “a circumstance that is due to chance.”  But we know that to be blessed by God is not due to chance or luck.  The approval of God is something that transcends external realities or circumstances.  Blessedness is to have God’s hand resting upon you, God’s smile in your life.


In Psalm 55, (NKJV) David cries out:


6       Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.

7       Indeed, I would wander far off, And remain in the wilderness. Selah

8       I would hasten my escape From the windy storm and tempest."


Such a cry like this comes from the lips of almost everyone at some time or another.  David echoes the cry of humanity – a cry for freedom, a cry for escape from things that weigh heavy on us.  When we face great sorrow, disappointment, tragedy, or failure, we wish that we could escape the troubles and hide.  The deeper the sorrow, the harder the pressure, the worse the despair, the more elusive comfort seems to be.


As we said in earlier lessons, all of the Beatitudes appear to be paradoxical, because what they promise for what they demand seems incongruous.  They appear to be to be upside down in the eyes of the natural man or woman.  And this paradox becomes obvious in the second beatitude that we address today.


You might say that “Blessed are those who mourn,” could be stated, “Happy are the unhappy” or “Happy are the sad.”  This is truly a paradoxical statement, since those who genuinely mourn are anything but happy.  According to the world, such a statement seems illogical and perhaps incoherent.  What could be more self-contradictory that the idea that “the sad are happy.”


In the routine of ordinary day-by-day living, the idea seems absurd.  The whole structure of most human living – whether by the primitive or sophisticated – the educated or the uneducated, the way to happiness is based on the principle of having things go your own way.  We have learned over the past weeks that the attitudes of the Lord, and the doctrine He is presenting here, is the absolute antithesis to everything that society believes today.  If you went out into the street and you got a microphone in the open air and you shouted: “Blessed, happy are they that are unhappy,” they would lock you up.  It doesn’t make sense and does not seem to be logical at all.  It doesn’t fit in with our way of life, our system of reason and logic.


You see, in society – and especially in our American society – to be unhappy is not in vogue.  We live in a pleasure society, that wishes to bring everything to themselves that satisfy their fleshly lust.  No matter what it is, good time is the goal.  As long as you are having a good time, no matter whether it is sin, no matter whether you break the law, as long as it gives you a buzz, well, then it is OK.  We live in a hedonistic, self-indulgent, pleasure-seeking society


In our culture, it is thought that pleasure brings happiness, along with money, entertainment, and fame.  On the negative side, avoiding pain, trouble, disappointment, frustration and hardship bring happiness.


Neil Postman – he is not a believer, but he has written a book and the title explains the whole book that he has written.  The title to his book is: “Amusing Ourselves To Death.”  We laugh at the things we should weep over, don’t we?  And we weep at the things we should laugh at.


Let me tell you a story that might illustrate this.  There was a train crash a few years ago overseas, and it carnage was televised.  It showed you the Fire Brigade and the ambulances coming to rescue the people, and there was a shot of a mother that was sitting in passenger seat, strapped in.  She had died in the crash, but she was holding a young child perfectly well.  As the rescue crew came in to lift the child, she began to laugh.  Then they saw that the young child had chocolate eggs in both hands.  They took the chocolate from her hands, and she began to squeal and wail.


Is that not like human nature?  At the tragedies of this spiritual world that we live in, we laugh.  But immediately when our candy is taken away from us – whether it be health, whether it be wealth, whether it be status, whatever it may be, we wail and we cry.  But our Lord Jesus said this: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”


Jesus said, “Happy are the sad.”  He went so far as to say, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25).  This is the converse of the second beatitude.  Jesus turned the world’s principles exactly upside down.  He reversed the path to true happiness.


In the Bible, we can see different kinds of mourning.  There is “improper mourning,” “legitimate and natural mourning,” and also “Godly Mourning.”


Improper Mourning


Improper mourning is the sorrow of those who are frustrated in fulfilling evil plans and lusts, or who have misguided loyalties and affections.  To those who mourn in that way the Lord gives no help or solace.


We can find one biblical case of this in 1 Samuel 13.  David’s first son by Ahinoam was Amnon, and was half-brother to Absalom, who was son of David by his wife, Maacah.  David also had a daughter by Maacah, named Tamar.


Amnon fell in love with his half-sister, but grieved and mourned because he could not have a sexual relation with her.


2 Samuel 13:2 NKJV


2       Amnon was so distressed over his sister Tamar that he became sick; for she was a virgin. And it was improper for Amnon to do anything to her.


If you read the following verses, you find Amnon was so grieved, he was losing weight.  Amnon’s grief was caused by incestuous, unfulfilled lust.


Legitimate, Natural Mourning and Sorrow


There are legitimate sorrows that are common to all mankind, and for which reasonable mourning is appropriate.  To express sorrow opens an escape valve that keeps your feelings from festering.  It provides the way for healing.


An Arab proverb says, “All sunshine makes a desert.”  The trouble-free-life is likely to be a shallow life.  We often learn more and mature more from times of sorrow.


The poet, Robert Browning Hamilton expresses the truth:


I walked a mile with Pleasure,

  She chattered all the way,

But left me none the wiser

  For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,

  And ne’er a word said she,

But, oh, the things I learned from her

  When Sorrow walked with me.


When Abraham’s wife, Sarah, died, it caused Abraham to mourn.


Genesis 23:2 NKJV


2       So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.


Abraham did not weep from lack of faith but for the loss of his beloved wife.  We also know that Jeremiah wept when he saw his beloved nation go into captivity.


Godly Mourning


We generally understand the meaning of the word, mourn but the question is, “mourn what?”  What does it really mean by “blessed are they that mourn?”  Most certainly we know that all mourners are not blessed.  And so we can readily understand that it is a specific mourning that will be comforted.  And that brings us the question, what is this comfort given of God because of such mourning?


Obviously Christ is not speaking of a universal comforting on everyone who mourns.  No one is automatically blessed because they mourn.  Quite clearly the Lord is speaking about a particular type of mourning that will bring blessing and relief from God.


At the turn of the eighteenth century, the court chaplain to King Louis XIV was Jean Baptiste Massillon, one of the great preachers of all time.  Massillon was an honest and courageous man as well as an admirable scholar.  Where persons of lesser character might have catered to the king, Massillon tried always to speak the truth.


On one Sunday, with the king in attendance, Massillon was about to preach on the beatitude we are addressing today.  From his pulpit, he spoke directly to the king and said:


“If the world addressed your majesty from this place, the world would not say, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ but ‘Blessed is the Prince who has never fought but to conquer; who has filled the universe with his name; who through the whole course of a long and flourishing reign enjoys in splendor all that people admire ….” “But, sire,” he continued, “the language of the gospel is not the language of the world.”


Indeed it is not.  The mourning about which Jesus is talking in the second beatitude has nothing to do with the types that we see often in the world today.  When it comes to the legitimate and natural sorrows of His children, He promises to console, comfort and strengthen us when we turn to Him for help.  But those are not the kind of sorrow at issue in this beatitude.  Jesus is speaking of Godly sorrow and mourning.


Paul speaks of this sorrow in his second letter to the church in Corinth.


2 Corinthians 7:10-11 NKJV


10     For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

11     For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.


The only sorrow – sorrow that brings spiritual life and growth is godly sorrow, sorrow over sin that leads to repentance.  Godly sorrow is linked to repentance, and repentance is linked to sin.


The first beatitude makes clear, entrance into the kingdom of heaven begins with being “poor in spirit,”…  with recognition of total spiritual bankruptcy.  The only way any person can come to Jesus is empty-handed, totally destitute and pleading for God’s mercy and grace.  Without a sense of spiritual poverty no one can enter the kingdom.  And once we are in the kingdom, we should never lose that sense, knowing “that nothing good dwells in [us], that is, [in our flesh.] (Rom. 7:18.)


It is fair to say that the one who mourns does so in connection to also being poor in spirit.  Without the attitude of poor in spirit, there is no reason to mourn.  When a person finally gets a clear look at himself in contrast to God, there is one thing that stands out above all else.  He realizes that God is a high and holy God, set apart in righteousness, majesty and power.  And man is feeble, lowly, and most of all, marred by sin.  Spiritual poverty leads to godly sorrow – that is, the poor in spirit become those who mourn.


After his great sin involving Bathsheba and Uriah, David repented and expressed his sorrow in Psalm 51.


Psalms 51:3-4 NKJV


3       For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.

4       Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight —  That You may be found just when You speak,  And blameless when You judge.


Job was a model believer, “blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1)Yet he still had something to learn about God’s greatness and his own unworthiness, about God’s infinite wisdom and his own very imperfect understanding.  Only after God allowed everything dear to Job to be taken away and then lectured His servant on His sovereignty and His majesty, did Job finally come to the place of godly sorrow, of repenting of and mourning over his sin.


Job 42:5-6 NKJV


5       “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.

6       Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes."


God loves and honors a morally righteous life, but there is no substitute for a humble and contrite heart, which God loves and honors even more (Isaiah 66:2).


The condition necessary to realize the promise in the second beatitude is mourning.  There are actually 9 different words used in the New Testament to speak of sorrow.  I suppose you could say, this reflects its commonness in the life of mankind.  It is woven into the cloth of the human situation.  The story of history is the story of tears.  And before the earth’s situation gets better it will get worse.


Jesus tells us that before He comes again, nations will rise against nation, and kingdoms against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.  But all these things are merely “the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:7-8).  Until the Lord returns, history is destined to go from tragedy to greater tragedy, from sorrow to still greater sorrow.


Of the nine terms used for sorrow, the one used here – PENTHEO (mourn) – is the strongest and most severe.  It represents the deepest, most heart-felt grief, and was generally reserved for grieving over the death of a loved one.   In the Old Testament Greek Septuagint, it is used of Jacob’s grief, when he thought his son Joseph was killed by a wild animal (Genesis 37:34).  It is used of the disciples’ mourning for Jesus before they knew He was raised from the dead (Mark 16:10).


The word carries the idea of deep inner agony, which may or may not be expressed by outward weeping, wailing, or lamenting.  When David stopped hiding his sin and began mourning over it and confessing it (Psalm 32:3-5) he could declare, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!  How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (verses 1 & 2).


Happiness, or blessedness, does not come in the mourning itself.  Happiness comes with what God does in response to it, that is with the forgiveness that such mourning bring.  Godly mourning brings God’s forgiveness, which brings God’s happiness, joy and blessing.  Mourning is not merely a psychological or emotional experience that makes people feel better.  It is a communion with the living, loving God who responds to the mourner with an objective reality – the reality of divine forgiveness.


When we mourn over and confess our sins, only then can our happiness be genuine.  Sin and happiness are totally incompatible – where one exists, the other cannot.  Mourning over our sins brings forgiveness of sin, and forgiveness of sin brings freedom and a joy that cannot be experienced in any other way.


The Result of Godly Mourning


Christ promises comfort to those who mourn, but what kind of comfort is it?  Our English word COMFORT comes from two Latin words that mean “with strength.”  The words fortify and fortress carry the same meaning.  We are prone to confuse comfort and sympathy, but they are not identical.  To sympathize means “to feel with,” whereas to comfort means “to encourage, to give strength.”  Godly  mourning puts us in touch with the eternal resources of God, and the result is God’s comfort.


As our mourning rises to the throne of God, His unsurpassed and matchless comfort descends from Him by Christ to us.  Ours is the “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).  This means that God’s attitude toward us is not one of hostility, but one of love and encouragement. He is not against us; He is for us.  Our comfort and encouragement is God Himself.  1 Samuel 30:6 tells us that “David  strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”


The result of godly mourning is comfort: they shall be comforted.  That is why they are blessed.  It is not the mourning that blesses, but the comfort God gives to those who mourn in a godly way.  And it is only those that mourn over sin that will be comforted.  The blessing of God’s comfort is reserved exclusively for the contrite of heart.


The English word, comfort, comes from the Greek root, PARAKALEO.  Does that Greek word bring anything to your mind?  That is the same word, in its noun form, this is rendered COMFORTER in John 14:16.


John 14:16 KJV


16     And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;


The New King James renders the word, Helper.  And the NIV has it, Counselor.  The word, parakaleo, simply means to come along side to help.


The Old Testament also speaks of God comforting those who mourn.  Isaiah tells of the Messiah’s coming, among other things, “to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes and the oil of gladness instead of mourning. (Isaiah 61:2-3).  And David speaks of the comfort of God’s rod and staff – Psalm 23:4.


We also have the comfort of Scriptures.


Romans 15:4-5 NKJV


4       For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

5       Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,


He is always ready to meet our need, admonishing, sympathizing, encouraging, and strengthening.  God is a God of comfort; Christ is Lord of comfort, and the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of comfort.  As believers, we have the comfort of the entire Trinity.


This comfort is not only true in the future when Christ returns, but is present now.


2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NASU


16     Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace,

17     comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.


Happiness comes to people who are godly mourners because their godly sadness leads to God’s comfort.  Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)He will lift the burden of those who mourn over sin and give rest to those who are weary of sin.


Once we grasp the holiness of God and the great sacrifice to carry our sins, we will mourn.  If seeing Christ die for our sins does not thaw a cold heart or break up a hardened heart, it is near beyond melting or breaking.


In her poem “Good Friday,” Christina Rossetti gives these moving words in her first stanza”


Am I a stone and not a sheep,

   That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,

   To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss

And yet not weep?


That Jesus  Christ was the Man of Sorrows suggests that, as we experience true mourning for sin, we become more like Christ.  I find it significant that in Matthew 16:14, Jesus is likened unto the prophet Jeremiah.  Jeremiah wrote not only the book by his name, but also the book of Lamentations.  Because of his lamentations, he is sometimes called ”the weeping prophet.”  Like Christ, Jeremiah was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.


Lamentations 1:12 NKJV


12     Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see If there is any sorrow like my sorrow,…


                   Jeremiah cried over the sin of the nation of Israel.


When we sin, do we mourn?  When sin becomes pervasive in our country, do we mourn.


Charitie Lees Smith (1841 – 1923) – also called Charitie Lees Bancroft, after she married Arthur Bancroft.  She was an Anglican Irish American hymnwriter.


Let me read all three stanzas of the hymn, The AdvocateYou sometimes see it titled: Before the Throne of God Above.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Saviour and my God!

Praise the Lord – I agree!


         Let’s pray.