Happy are those who mourn…
What? That doesn’t make sense. It’s a contradiction. How can mourners be happy? Sometimes when we are remembering our loved ones we smile. Even at the funeral. But smiling does not equate to happy, especially while we are mourning. Yet the Good News Bible translates Matthew 5:4 as, “Happy are those who mourn….” Hmmm.
The word translated “happy” in the Good News Bible is the Greek word μακάριος (makariŏs). Happy is among the possible translation choices, but most other translations translate it as blessed instead of happy. Blessed are those who mourn…. That sounds a little better, but still doesn’t sound right to my ears. What does blessed mean? Does it just mean happy? According to the Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words, μακάριος (makariŏs) often is used to describe a person who has received divine favor. In the Bible specifically, people receive that favor from the one true God. That puts them in a state of blessedness.1 They are happy yes, but favored by God is better here. We no longer have a contradiction if blessed or happy isn’t an emotion. Instead we should read it as a position that we are in. We are favored by God, no matter the emotions we may be feeling. And grief does not remove us from that position.
So blessed are those who mourn or favored by God are those who mourn. God sees us when we mourn. In fact, the rest of Matthew 5:4 says, “for they will be comforted.” To be comforted, we have to be seen. To be blessed or favored, we have to be seen. God sees us in our pain. He promises comfort.
This last year has contained a lot of mourning by a lot of people. And this verse says that in our pain, we are blessed. Why? Because God sees us. He favors us. He comforts us. What a blessing to know that. Allow yourself to mourn what you need to grieve today, knowing that in doing so, God sees you and He himself will comfort you.
Looking forward to Psalm 1…
On a side note, later this week I will be posting about Psalm 1 which begins, “Blessed is the man…” The Old Testament was written in Hebrew not Greek, so the word that begins the Psalms isn’t the same. But it’s meaning is similar. It means happy. But it can also mean to be straight, level, or right. There is a standard to all of those things. Straight compared to what? Level compared to what? Right compared to what? A man is right with God in Psalm 1. To be right with God, could also be described as being favored by Him. I am looking forward to looking at the rest of those verses with you.
As the Lord told Moses to have Aaron bless the Israelites with these words, may you be blessed by them as well.
May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.Numbers 6:23-27
So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.
1Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.