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Is this a kind of weakness, or of strength; and if strength, how does it perform richly, when poor ?

A: Poverty of spirit could be referring to a weak, anaemic, curds-and-whey, junket-type of spirit; putty in the hand of circumstance, the manipulator's dream, the ravisher's thrill, the bully's desideratum? But it is not of this kind.

Q: In that way then does it differ; or what is its genre, how does poverty become a thing to be desired?



A: it differs the moon from the sun, as atomic power from children's balloons when released to the wind.

Q: I am not at all interested in imagery here, but in reality.

A: The reality is first being focussed for you in the imagery. Next, I want to give you, since the "real" is so important in your eyes, an historical example in which PRECISELY what you fear in terms of weakness, is what is ABSENT in a man who had GREAT poverty of spirit in the episode concerned.

Q: So long as you do not rest in examples. I want the principles. However, let's see the case; that would certainly help. Could you describe it then? You may recall that I mentioned this quality a little time ago, when we were discussing things?

The Old Testament Historical Example


A: Yes. I have in mind the case of King Hezekiah of Judah, in a case where a nation's very existence was, from a secular point of view, at stake. A rampaging, ravaging, proud, arrogant and haughty king had just sought to propagandise the people of Judah, by clever reference to a sort of Communist dream situation, yet without Marx, in which great material benefits would accrue to the men of the land, if they simply thankfully capitulated to the GRAND SOVEREIGN, Sennacherib, who was of such might and finesse that none dare oppose him - that is, in his own eyes.

The King of Judah, hearing of this, had forbidden his people to answer the jibes, taunts and offers. In this he showed simple strength, mixed with prudence. If the answer were of men, then the power of men would be invoked, and not only was the case absurdly disproportionate, but it would be a false start.

The contest IN ITS ESSENCE, properly speaking, was between a secular power that trusted in its propaganda machine, its armed forces and its past exploits, and a COVENANTED BODY WHICH WAS IN FORMAL ASSOCIATION WITH THE LORD WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH.

Q: Could you detail the relevant elements that we have here, so that they do not lurk in the shadows of the narrative, only to be forgotten.

A: Surely.

There are really three points here. NOT ONLY did Judah have a celestial power available for its defence; it ALSO had a covenantal agreement, a solemn and binding, an authoritative and formal treaty with this Being, whose name was involved with them. While this covenant with this Being was a two-edged sword, bringing - not always swift, because of mercy - but sure penalty if there were chronic rebellion, yet it provided for earnest, heart-felt entreaty on the part of a people so long as they were in earnest, zealous for the Lord, and not merely trying to make use of Him.

The third point of course is this: He is not some heavenly power; HE IS THE KING OF HEAVEN, the Author of the Universe, the ONLY GOD, the sovereign Lord who has not merely no equal, but none LIKE Him. There are of gods many; but as to God, He is One. The Jews and Moslems are quite right in this; it is only that they have rejected the ONLY ONE THERE IS, the Jews by formally, as a nation, excluded His SENT PERSON, Jesus Christ, and so losing THE SENDING PERSON WHO SENT HIM, the Father; the Moslems by worshipping a God who explicitly does not have this SENT PERSON, who has nothing of society and family within Himself. (Cf. SMR pp. 50-63, 91, 829-836, 986-1002C, 1032-1082, 1186Aff.; and 755-829.)

Hence, there is this same situation: Assyria had many gods, but they did not include the One who IS God. That was a fatal omission. The Jews at that time had indeed had many escapades which had brought them low, but had in King Hezekiah one who was so earnest, so sincere, so dependent, so merciful with the very mercy which God gives, to others, so warm, so understanding in heart, that the REAL issues as between God Almighty who left His visiting card in the ALWAYS fulfilled prophecies of His servants the prophets, and ANY other gods whom you care to name, could now, as often before, be put to the test.

Q: But doesn't it say somewhere, not to tempt God, or test Him out?

A: Tempt in the sense of rousing Him to necessary action through foolishness, in the light of His known principles which He uses, and purity, which He never loses: yes, it is not good to tempt Him, as for example by having someone throw Himself off the pinnacle of the Temple, in order to show His marvellous significance when God would rescue him, even from that. You will recall that this is what the devil tried to engineer. Christ quoted back to him the fact that God is not to be tempted.

That would be like getting delivery of a new aeroplane from the research division, and in trying out its protested strength, diving it straight into the ground at 1000 mph, to see what it could take. THAT is foolishness, folly; but can have appeal when enormous power is yours - that type of thing. Hitler had a go at Russia, even delaying dangerously close to Winter, and so lost what could have conceivably been a masterly assault on a proud nation

However, to reach a situation where, in principle, it is necessary to invoke God's power in order to do His work, that is something entirely different. The difference is PRECISELY, being poor in Spirit. You DO what you MUST, by FAITH in the Lord, when the situation is such that a failure to do so would dishonour Him, His commitments, His promises and His stated purposes in the Kingdom of Heaven. THEN you do so by faith, trusting that He will have the answer, because faithful is His name. This - if you want to be mathematical, is poverty point [1].

The emphasis is on HIM; the poverty is in you - but HE makes you better than rich, who,

"though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (II Corinthians 8:9) -

and how rich is His personal purity, peace and presence, steadfast, immovable, undeterrable! To abide in Him is like swimming, free but accompanied, in the immensity of the ocean, with His power to prevail over all storms in peace.

Q: So then it was God versus man?

A: It was not, obviously, a mere question of strength. God HAS the power, but the glory is another point: HE is not interested in giving His glory to another (that is one reason why this present world is SO VERY INGLORIOUS, for it almost invariably, in the powers that be, chooses ANYTHING but the moral, pure and articulate God who made everyone who breathes on this earth, through His initial creation and provision for procreation). Here was a MAN POOR IN SPIRIT, AT THE CIVIC HELM IN JUDAH. A GREAT DAY HAD DAWNED.

As in the days of Elijah at Mt Carmel, Moses in Egypt, so now HERE was someone who was - and we must say this to the point of your question - willing to act, anything but neurotic, clear about the power of God, certain about the need to honour God, of great pastoral heart towards his people. He called on the name of the Lord for intervention, since the other option was to have the divine name ridiculed, brought to an open shame. The case was perfect for action to honour God. It allowed human poverty of spirit and grandeur of divine exploit to cohere [2].

On the one hand, there was a willing King, devoted to the Lord. On the other hand, THERE was a braggart, an arrogant aristocrat, fed on power, dependent on empire, willing to taunt Israel - and because of its sins, this was perfectly possible - but to TAUNT THEM AND TO MOCK THEM IN TERMS OF THEIR ONE GOD, THE GOD ALMIGHTY.

Q: Could we have the actual story in its sequence now then, if you will?

A: Let us consider it. You read about these things in three places - Isaiah 36-37, II Kings18-19 and II Chronicles 29-32) we find some echo of the events, like this.

"Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and eat every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink every one, the waters of his own well., until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you saying, The LORD will deliver us. Have any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?... Who are they among all the gods of these lands that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my land?" (Isaiah 36:16-18,20).

Now Hezekiah had FIRST of all done a negative thing. DO NOT ANSWER THIS MESSENGER FROM SENNACHERIB, he had said. He ensured that precipitancy did not spoil things. If there was challenge HE HEZEKIAH WAS NOT THE CENTRE OF IT, for he was a SERVANT and a FUNCTIONARY acting in the name of God, who owned Judah, in whose name he, the king, was operating, for whose glory he was zealous [3].

HE KNEW HIS LORD, and referred things to Him, before making a response. THAT IS POVERTY OF SPIRIT. He was not rich in himself, in his own powers, in his imagined splendour, was not carried away with his function as king, did not formalise and distance God, but was about to draw close to living God, to find what His good pleasure might be. THAT, secondly, was poverty of spirit - but it was a very powerful response, since it invoked the One who was in justice and truth, OVER ALL NATIONS!

Next, he had his chief household officials and elders clothed in sackcloth, to signify outwardly and formally the crisis, the deathly duel he faced, the overwhelming evil that menaced the nation (37:1-2). Now he sent them to the PROPHET ISAIAH. That was important. This meant that in addition to the prerogatives and duties of being king, he recognised those of the prophet - or as we now would put it, the Bible now being a finished document, and the Messiah having come and left His testament: he recognised the power and certainty of the word of God, and sent with this in mind, to the prophet of God, to find what the Lord might wish [3].

Thus, not only did he not react in his own (imagined) splendour and strength as a person in his place [4], he also showed the depth of his concern and his recognition of the challenge [[5]. This rather reminds one, to a degree, to the reaction of the British to Hitler, when the Battle of Britain was on, and many swarmed into the churches; but here it would seem, there was less of a rump, and more substance. Hezekiah had for long been purifying and strengthening the people in the things of God [6].

Thus he was not rich in spirit, giving orders to the prophet, far less did he ignore him; nor did he make any secret of his seeking the mind of the Lord from the prophet. He was realistic, loyal and showed where his heart lay; and it was not in his own hand, or in his own land that it lay. He made approach to the Maker of all lands, in terms of covenanted realities, through the appointed channel, and he did this all openly, with that courage that comes from faith.

THIS was poverty of Spirit: the LORD had the power, he the king had the access and the responsibility to go to the Lord expressly, and he USED this. Fear did not blight him, though he saw the terror implicit in the situation; nor did hauteur blind him. He acted as directed by Him who is above all, to whom he justly related, who was the source and quality, the generation and gladness of his life.

As the aircraft of State neared the crash site which seemed certain, he took the emergency procedures as directed. The chief: SEEK THE LORD THROUGH HIS APPOINTED MEANS. He did so. In this, poverty of spirit showed with personal courage and intelligent action.

This was not only a possible combination, but the sort of symphony of action andresponse you see in an athlete doing the high jump, almost tenderly moved about the high bar as he wafts over it with a sort of surgical skill. He executes his procedure as he is supposed to do it, with a certain flair and grace. Thus courage, character with lowliness of mind and grace were in a NATURAL and LOVELY SYNTHESIS; so far from opposites, it was here, where they all belonged, that they best were melded: in the Lord!

Isaiah sent back a message:

"Do not be afraid of the words that you have heard with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. Look, I will and a blast upon him, and he will hear a rumour and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land."

All this was to happen, of course, since God never errs; but AT THE TIME it was still future, the crisis still continued, so we look again to see what this king would do. As a matter of fact, the mighty and arrogant Sennacherib would be killed in the very temple of his gods in the processes of worship, after he returned, humiliated, from his failure against Judah, whose Lord he had ridiculed.

We now read that Sennacherib heard that the King of Ethiopia had come to make war with him, and he was at the same time engaged in war with Libnah. However, with precisely the opposite kind of response to his situation, to that just shown so clearly by Hezekiah, he blustered yet again against Israel.

"Do not," he said, "let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Look, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly; and will you be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed.." He then itemised a few goddish failures which had occurred in some of the ravaged nations. Was not the Lord like that?

Q: I must say, it was a perfect case, and does show the need to be close to the Lord in order to allow such black and white contrast to be investigated historically, so that the power of God might be shown, His reliability and His willingness to respond. Is that not so? I suppose one key to poverty of spirit is the way it makes it so readily fitting for the Lord to show His grace, the case here heart of Hezekiah [7]. It is like colour contrasts: the poor accentuates the rich; and the whole is lovely.

A: Of course, you are right. This shows at once the height of the wisdom in GOING AT ONCE TO THE LORD WHO MADE MAN (Isaiah 45:5,12,18-19) and the heavens and the earth. THEN He can intervene according to His own wisdom. In this case, the bluster of Sennacherib was allowed to reach such a height that He even attributed directly TO THE LORD some sort of deception by which he might hoodwink the king Hezekiah, into the allegedly false belief that he was safe, that Jerusalem would not fall.

Now it was a clear issue indeed: THE LORD VERSUS SENNACHERIB. Whose word would stand? As soon as the issue was put in this purity and clarity, there was only one possible result! POVERTY OF SPIRIT HAD MADE HEZEKIAH STRONG!*1 "When," says the apostle Paul, "I am weak, THEN I am strong" - II Corinthians 12:10. He had learned that strength, power belongs to God, as the Psalmist puts it. It is not in his own power, but in resting in the Lord, as a flower on its stem, as a branch on the vine, that the necessary nurture and fruit come. In the same epistle (13:4), Paul puts it:

"If I come again, I will not spare: Since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you is not weak, but is mighty in you. For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove your own selves. Do you not your own selves know how Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates." (That is, people who turn away, and are fickle, unsound and who depart.) He goes on:

"For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth..."

There it is. Personal pomp and pride

and arrogance and self-esteem with self-assurance

are a horrible travesty of truth.

They are precisely that satanic dynamic:

all sound and fury; accomplishing nothing that endures,

but spoiling much;

that is eulogised and sainted in the Survival of the Fittest tautology.

And that ?

It is a matter that is really the cryptic praise

of the autonomy of the creation, including man,

as if he had the power

to make him what he is.

In fact, he has in high measure

the capacity to foil loveliness,

spoil beauty,

damage righteousness and put-put his petty scenarios

into the lake of life,

like an angry pollutant, playing wag from school.

There is MUCH that man, where dismissing his Creator with disdain, has etched with the glass of pride and envy; but in what has he extended the creation ?

Its visible peak on arrival from his Maker, he does not improve.

He has created neither the universe,

nor the world nor his own heart or mind.

He has, however, created havoc,

if this may be entered in his curriculum vitae.

Man without God is like fire without flame,

unquenching water, cold steam, the dreams of delirium:

even what good it might do is undone in the evil it does.

See THAT MAGNIFICENT ROCK, Ch.6, What is Life For ? and The Kingdom of Heaven, Appendix I, II, III.

But in truth the God of all comfort is ALMIGHTY, and there is NOTHING TOO HARD FOR THE LORD (Genesis 18:14, Luke 1:37). As to Paul, he showed much restraint in dealing with the church at Corinth, in view of terrible immorality which was going on, and which HAD TO END without delay! If necessary, however, the Lord would purge the church, and the apostle would act as the case required. (For the parallel, see I Timothy 2:24 with Titus 1:9, 3:10.)

In himself, he showed great patience, self-control and watchfulness, the honour of the Lord and the well-being of the church being of great importance. ONLY if necessary would surgery be done; and he appealed to their own understanding, not merely tyrannising. So there was blessing. THE LORD had been the criterion of all action, HIS HONOUR the motivating force, HIS LOVE and protection and concern, at work. Looking beyond himself to the Lord, the apostle, just like Hezekiah with the King of Assyria, had his eye on the glory of God, using the methods of the Lord, following the principles of the Lord. THERE IS POVERTY OF SPIRIT - but not weakness of heart.

There it is. Personal pomp and pride and arrogance and self-esteem and self-assurance are a horrible travesty of truth. They are precisely that satanic dynamic, all sound and fury, accomplishing nothing that endures, spoiling much, that is eulogised and sainted in the Survival of the Fittest tautology: a matter that is really the praise of the autonomy of the creation, including man, as if he had the power to make him what he is. In fact, he has in high measure the capacity to foil loveliness, spoil beauty, damage righteousness and put-put his petty scenarios into the lake of life, like an angry pollutant, playing wag from school.

There is MUCH that he, dismissing his Creator with disdain, has etched with the glass of pride and envy; but in what has he extended the creation? Its visible peak on arrival from his Maker, he does not improve. He has created neither the universe, nor the world nor his own heart or mind. He has, however, created havoc, if this may be entered in his curriculum vitae. Man without God is like fire without flame, unquenching water, cold steam, the dreams of delirium: even what good it might do is undone in the evil it does. See THAT MAGNIFICENT ROCK, Ch.6, What is Life For ? and The Kingdom of Heaven, Appendix I, II, III.

But in truth the God of all comfort is ALMIGHTY, and there is NOTHING TOO HARD FOR THE LORD (Genesis 18:14, Luke 1:37). Paul showed much restraint in dealing . Paul showed much restraint in dealing with Corinth, in view of terrible immorality which was going on, and which HAD TO END without delay! In the church. If necessary, however, the Lord would purge the church, and the apostle would act as the case required. (For the parallel, see I Timothy 2:24 with Titus 1:9, 3:10.)

In himself, he showed great patience, self-control and watchfulness, the honour of the Lord and the well-being of the church being of great importance. ONLY if necessary would surgery be done; and he appealed to their own understanding, not merely tyrannising. So there was blessing. THE LORD had been the criterion of all action, HIS HONOUR the motivating force, HIS LOVE and protection and concern, at work. Looking beyond himself to the Lord, the apostle, just like Hezekiah with the King of Assyria, had his eye on the glory of God, using the methods of the Lord, following the principles of the Lord. THERE IS POVERTY OF SPIRIT - but not weakness of heart.

To return to Senncherib, a blast killed some 180, 000 troops, and the king was by now aware of his own precarious position, withdrew and was murdered while at worship. The blast - could have been meteoric - the possibilities are numerous, and as Velikovsky shows, there was interesting celestial happenings in these eras. The point is not the METHOD God employed, but the result He obtained, exactly in conformity with His word.



Q: That took a while! However I can now see quite clearly how strength can be associated with what looks like weakness, when the One who IS strong is invoked and you humbly execute and rely on His word. Yet I should like the meaning of being POOR IN SPIRIT spelled out, and to see it as it were, like a sculpture, sitting there for study and regard. What IS poverty of spirit?

A: It might be defined, I think, in some such way as this.

First note however, that what follows will cover the case, of course, only of redeemed sinners, Christ having shown the way in His unique manner, being Himself the deity, in human form. However, the parallel must be noted in terms of RELYING on the word of God, for the redeemed, in that He PRECISELY PRESENTED IT (cf. Hebrews1:3-8), stating this of Himself, in John 12:49:
"I have not spoken of Myself, but the Father who sent Me, He gave Me a commandment what I should say and what I should speak."

Let us however return from the Redeemer, to the redeemed:

To be poor in spirit is to embrace the superior power that made the universe,

in a personal way in that He is personal.

It is to do so without earning the privilege,

since His is a free Spirit,

and costs and cleansing are freely borne by Him

through the plans and procedures of Calvary (Isaiah 64:6).

It is to cling to His covenant, to trust in His mercy and grace,

and without self-affirmation (Galatians 2:20),

to affirm HIM, His Covenant and His merciful kindness (Luke 9:26);

and in terms of EXPRESS PROMISES (II Peter 1 deals with that), to approach, beseech and walk with Him in earnestness and assurance (I Peter 1:33-5, I John 3:9, 10:9,27-28),

acting as He undertakes for you (Isaiah 64:4-5).

It includes a willingness for:

1) cleansing in your own heart, if the case so requires.

2) being turned to more of His own commands, if you are neglecting these.

3) the answer to take any form which He, the Lord, prefers and

4) a desire to see Him honoured and glorified in the process, which exceeds any other desire. It may also be seen to involve:

A) a delight in Him (Psalm 37:4,11), which is lively, living and aware of His creativity in the meeting of need, since it is He who created the universe and all in it, and

B) that Messianic realism which knows that the God who had promised the personal expression of Himself in human form, at a given date in history (SMR pp. 886-899) has not failed, but has done all He said.

It is a realism which not only knows this, but holds from the word of God:

C) the keen awareness that He also will do all He has said, till that same Jesus Christ returns in the most massive deliverance, which will make the Battle of Britain by contrast look almost like a skirmish.

D) a readiness to provide, or to have provided a reason for the faith to those who ask, since it is in truth and reality, the non-pareil, the unequalled and incomparable answer to all philosophy, to all torment and anti-rational rioting of the spirit, as likewise to all empty pride of mind (SMR esp.Chs.1,3,5,6,10, That Magnificent Rock).

It holds likewise:

E) the conviction that as He manifests His control over a universe long given opportunity in His patience (II Peter 3:9), His Gospel is to move across the globe, giving scope for people to repent; and that eternity is to follow for the redeemed, with Him, in a kingdom which nothing can alter, which will never pass away.

The Sennacheribs of today will go with the rest, and this epoch will end, as did the specifically Jewish epoch till Christ's death. Then all epochs will be drawn into one in Christ (Ephesians 1:10). Poverty of spirit, in short, is aware of the unsearchable riches available in Christ, of His plan of salvation and His unalterable procedures in the spirit of man, who said:

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."

Q: Isn't it time we looked at these words on poverty of spirit in their sermon context?



A: Soon we shall look at the Lord Himself in this function. Before, however, we look at Jesus Christ personally, for the perfect expression of this and the other beauties of spirit, let us see the actual phrase, "poor in spirit" in the setting He gave it, when He preached upon a mountain, to the multitudes who came to hear Him. Let us indeed see it in the light and company of those blessings about it, its companions.

Actually, it is in Matthew 5, in the Sermon on the Mount, that we read this beatitude:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

It is the FIRST one listed. After it comes:

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. This follows: Blessed the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

These form an ensemble. If you are poor in spirit, then you are realistic about yourself, as a sinner and creation of God, about what it cost to panel-beat you into shape, to pardon you and to engrace you into Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6); and similarly, more will be found in you also. You will also be aware of the imperfections - like someone who has recovered from the Black Death, and sensitive to them.

Hence you will mourn if you are for a moment overcome in any evil way, and seek with divine aid the immediate deliverance from such things, so that you may once again walk free in the spirit of holiness, and at peace in the Lord who has loved you and given Himself for you.

Again, like Nehemiah (1:2-6), you may for the loss of righteousness in your people, or your land, or the afflictions and be moved to act for the Lord (Isaiah 58:6-13), doing it all however in the covenant of Christ. Godly and spiritual mourning is comforted - as seen also in Daniel Chs. 9-10, where he fasted and sought the Lord in fasting, sackcloth and ashes, and was given what may be the most precisely articulated, long-range prophecy of all time, including the historical time at which the Messiah would enter into history in human form.

With this, comes a meekness which is flavoured from on high. Having grasped by grace, the One who did not consider it grasping to be equal with God (Philippians 2), but took the form of a servant, you will be moved towards a liberty of Spirit (cf. II Corinthians 3:17) which is unbound by convention and the consuming passions of the flesh towards wealth, prestige, power and so on: your eyes opened, your spirit refreshed you will be free to taste even now, of the glory of the universe which is that of your Father, which will indeed be replaced for righteousness in its consummation, with a new heaven and earth beauty in its wonder (Isaiah 51:6, II Peter 3:9-13).

Then that also is for the redeemed, whose "unsearchable riches" (Ephesians 3:8-12) are found in Christ Himself, for whom also God is their "shield" and their "exceedingly great reward" (Genesis 15:1), whose faith like that of Abraham (Romans 4) so regards the Lord...

The earth is before your opened eyes, and its author is yours. Paul says:

"... the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come: all are yours; and you are Christ's";

and Christ, speaking of the Holy Spirit, declared:

"all that the Father has are mine: therefore I said, that He shall take of mine, and shall show it to you" (John 16:15).

At the same time, you will not be inclined to boast of a cure that Another performed, but of Him who performed it: hence there will be a meekness, a willingness to be led, developed, matured in the Lord (Philippians 3:12-14). Nor is this meekness a form of weakness either, any more than is poverty of spirit.

It exhibits a certain slowness to anger,

willingness to suffer taunt if need be, for peace' sake,

a detestation of arrogance,

and a continual looking to the Lord

for His directive deliverances,

rather than action in

cunning contrivances

or foolishly provocative poses.

John Bunyan spoke of this in his work, The House of God:

"Meekness will make you quiet, hardy, strong,

To bear a burden, and to put up wrong.

Meekness, though divers troubles you are in,

Will bridle passion, be a curb to sin.

Thus God sets forth the meet before our eyes;

A meek and quiet spirit God does prize."

Q: That is interesting verse. Could you summarise our steps now ?

A: Yes. You see, these three,

being poor in spirit,

sensitive to the need to purge evil and

alien from possessiveness and autonomy,

they go together like three friends. But let us return now to this perfection of poverty of spirit, manifested in the Person of Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.


It is time to look at the One who uttered the beatitudes of which this, Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, is one! We shall consider in this, first things direct, then some that are indirect.

Things Direct

That is true blue poverty of spirit. In Philippians 2, you see the acme, paragon, perfection, culmination and colossus (to allow oxymoron) of poverty of spirit in Jesus Christ. Why, what more than this, that being in the form of God He should in love make Himself to have the form of a servant, enter His own creation, and there in the midst of its sinful self-abasement, abase Himself not merely to endure its afflictions, but its taunts direct to His face, and with that same taunted face, now marred beyond human recognition (Isaiah 52:14-15), to face with His cruel comedy of the crown of thorns, a slow death that endured without flinching the pincers of sin, crushing His chest...

There, facing taunts about using His power to come down from the Cross (having already resisted the devil at the first, in terms of having the kingdoms of this world for His own), He allowed comedy and tragedy to mix its potent brew while dying as the case required, a substitute for every sinner who would ever come to Him in faith, the redemption of a new people, Jew and Gentile. There, in its essence, is poverty of Spirit as exemplified and indeed defined in the life and deeds of the one who command us to have it. Without this quality, one cannot be Christ-like. With Christ, one is so united that such a quality is a fruit of His presence and favour.

Thus we have now seen a decisive historical example of poverty of spirit in terms of strength through apparent weakness, and both why and how this could be so; we have defined it and have then moved to the face of Jesus Christ to show it in a sculptured format, where it portrays at once the grossness of sin and the wonder of the Lord who, no arrogant sovereign, shows love's masterpiece, nature's necessity, and the solution to sin all in one: with poverty of spirit like a mountain in the landscape of His life.

The grandeur and glory of God is the obverse side of poverty of Spirit so that we read on Philippians 2, the centrepiece of Scripture for this phase of things, these words:








He humbled Himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the Cross. For which, God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Capitals added.)

Q: This is decisive. What however did you mean by the "things indirect"? We looked at things related in the Beatitudes to the poverty of spirit one. What else did you have in mind, something again personal to the Messiah?

A: Yes. Let us survey the situation. Personality can blend principles in such a way that, at least when it is a matter of the divine Being, you begin to see that the principles proceed from the Person, in this realm, from the Persons who with infinite intimacy are that Being. God loves - and says He loves - righteousness for example, and that it is the foundation of His throne; but mercy proceeds before His face (Psalm 89).

Things Indirect

We have seen how some of the beatitudes are friends together, as principles. It is time now to see this: that a spectrum of spiritual qualities is by no means hard to find, when you look at the life of Jesus Christ. It is broad as well as pure!

Q: Yes, this is what I should like. I do not merely desire an example, but to see the principles and qualities in such total, pervasive action, not as atoms of precious things, but as a tiara of them, that the whole thing lives before my eyes. In other words, I want to see a working model - one in which these things appear in their total inter-relations.

A: No one could accuse you of being excessively modest in your desires; but if it is hunger for righteousness that drives you, that too is one of the blessed things noted by the Lord in these same Beatitudes, and you assuredly will be filled.

Thus, the Christ who was so intensely and intensively poor in spirit, was also quite able to denounce the sickening sins of the Pharisees, which drove a wedge into the things of the Lord, as if struck by an expert axeman. Their pretentious pseudo-spirituality was nauseous. Their self-declaration merely using the things of God as a medium was like an abortion of life. In Matthew 23 and elsewhere you find Christ condemning their folly, exposing it remorselessly, speaking of them as graves that men walk on and do not realise it (so dead and hidden away, that their necrotic realities are not for the moment apparent!). Language like this is amongst the most intense in condemnation ever found anywhere - amongst what is rational and evidential!

Q: Now we are coming to some of my earlier thoughts about the robustness which I like to see, living all together in one place with poverty of spirit. Please show the case! - or should I rather say, the crux?

A: Crux certainly! Poverty of spirit and acute denunciation can indeed go together. Certainly, much patience was in this. For hundreds of years, God had borne with much of this, but now, having sent His Son, He was not prepared to allow it to flourish without a rebuke that would resound for ever!

Yet poverty of spirit is NOT found when it is the personality itself which is merely annoyed, irritated, piqued and so on; nor is the patience and longsuffering of God something which leads to His being soon angry. When once His anger is roused however, it is due and just, and hence results accrue, if repentance does not set in: and these may relate to the fact, as the author of Hebrews 12:29 puts it, that "our God is a consuming fire". There is no love in allowing a permanent residence for open refuse in the kitchen. While patience is not pique, neither is love laxity.

Q: That requires then some differentiation. What is the negative, then, which quickly dissembles and makes itself appear genuine, when in fact it is no more genuine as a spiritual accompaniment of poverty of spirit, than is fungus a good accompaniment of bodily health?

A: I shall give you a scriptural list to cover this.

Thus POVERTY OF SPIRIT IS NOT FOUND IN WHAT PAUL DESCRIBES IN II CORINTHIANS 12:20-21. Just listen to this list of the condemned:

"For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found to you such as you would not like: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: and lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall bewail many who have sinned already; and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed."

There you see how physical, moral and intellectual sins can all fester in one sore, a sore that is neither meek, nor poor, nor mourning, but one of proud, if not indeed cancerous flesh!

Poverty of spirit, however, is too poor to "pay" for these "luxuries" of the flesh, these ambitious bungee-jumps to the depths, as if to see how low you can go before you hit! It does indeed not wish to tempt the Lord! Would an expert horticulturist want to 'tempt Providence' by failing to protect the blooms on which he has laboured, to catalogue his findings or to discover the means which best bring blossom to his rarities, and with it, strength and a flourishing condition?

How then would a man/woman/child of God, live dangerously as if the most precious things were a mere nothing, a vapour, able to be bartered amidst loose sins? The one who is forgiven much, loves much; and the one too righteous to be in need of such cost as the Lord provides for all who have deserved death (and there is no sinner who does not), is not amongst those the Lord came to save: for He did not come to save the righteous, but sinners, and to call them to repentance!

And how would one spoil the young by tolerating when they are young, such personality laxities as "normal" or "their temperament". That is not poverty of spirit but low standards, reminding one of the unhappy end of Eli's sons, who were lavished with the luxury of laxity. Neither is poverty of spirit harsh, nor lax, but pure and self-controlled.

To revert to one's own soul before the Lord: realisation of the preciousness of what He provides, of its cost to Him personally, encourages poverty of spirit, awakening the Christian to holiness of character, and like David, to be careful to "keep from my iniquity" (Psalm 18:23).

Q: Wait a minute! Are you saying this: that unless you have such a profound sense of your own sinfulness, that you realise that the cursed death of Christ on the cross was NEEDED for you, then you have not realised what your sin is, and are in danger of being a mere self-righteous puppet, not spiritual but formal ?

A: Alas, I must say this. If the Cross was an excessive payment for you, then how will you be able to agree with this:


You might rather say: 'God forbid that I glory only in the Cross, but may I rather glory in my own restraint and natural goodness, which - together - made a lot of Cross stuff really unnecessary for me!'

In that case, however, you should not realistically glory in your own nature and the Cross, not in the Cross only; for though it COULD have done all you needed, it DID NOT. In your view, you did it partly!

Q: I DID? No, I am not in that category. That would be rubbish. I could not more cleanse my heart than remove radioactivity from the world. Sin like that radio-rubbish is too pervasive, too invasive and too powerful.

NEGATIVE EXAMPLE and Its Corollary


A: You see well, and I praise God you eyes are open. In fact, the condemnatory words of Christ put the issue deftly and sharply both with that normal comprehensive beauty of His, in declaring the truth. He said this:

"For Judgment I am come into this world, that those who see might not see; and that those who see might be made blind" - John 9:39.

After this, we read the response: "And some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him: Are we blind also?"

Q: What did He tell them then?

A: This: -"If you were blind, you should have no sin: but now you say, We see; therefore your sin remains."

Put it differently, Paul says this (from Romans 6:6-11):

"Knowing this, that our old man (nature ) is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he who is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him... Likewise reckon also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

HOW would you old nature be crucified with Christ, if this was not the correct place for it, and it merely needed some amendment? GOD IS JUST. Further, Paul makes it clear that this is to ALL Christians, including himself. Not only does he write "to all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints", but he declares:

"Now we know that whatever things the law says, it says to those who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."

He proceeds to speak of the righteousness of God "without the law" which "is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ to all and upon all those who believe: for there is no difference."

Then he announces this:

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him who believes in Jesus.

"Where is boasting then: It is excluded. By what law? The law of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" - from Romans 3:19-28.

Again, in Ephesians 2, we read this, addressed to the saints at Ephesus, as Gentiles - they fail just as did those who had the law:

"And you has He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins...For by grace you are saved through faith: and that not of yourself - it is the gift of God: not of works lest nay man should boast... You were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace..."

Q: That is categorical enough for anyone! God must have such incandescently pure standards! That is one thing I find irresistibly attractive: this - that ANYONE could have standards so celestial, and yet lower Himself to take on people like us, baring our worst to redeem us.

A: That is quintessential poverty of spirit. This helps thieves of time, misusers of the divine gift of life, to open to the sheer wonder of His perfection, and from this by comparison, the sheer shoddiness of our condition.

Thus here in Ephesians, we find that HE, and not your own nature in whole or in part, is the peace. If you are of the body to which Paul refers, then you too were "dead in trespasses and sins".

Perhaps one of the greatest of sins is to lack this: POVERTY OF SPIRIT. For it is this which aids the realisation that there is no difference ; ALL have sinned. The wages of sin is death. A "good nature" can be the barrier to heaven, for it can make a person -and often does this seem to occur - immune to conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment, a sort of co-Saviour with Christ, a superior soul to whom the pit was never a possibility.

Such spiritual pride and blindness has its own reward, not recognising both the infinitude of the Person who came as Jesus Christ and His infinitely pure standards, by which any "self' you care to name on this earth, appears as a tangle in need of truth and liberty, and deliverance and purification and purging and regeneration altogether; for, as Jesus put it,

"Except you be born again, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." Indeed, He went further saying this:

"Truly, truly I tell you: Except a man be born again, he cannot SEE the kingdom of heaven." (Emphasis added - John 3:3.)

On the other hand, when a person IS born again, re-generated, then HIS SEED STAYS IN HIM (I John 3:9). The kingdom of heaven is then none too pure when the time comes, for sin is defilement and of this heaven is void (Revelation 22:1-4, 21:4-8,27).

Growth is of the Essence of the Child, the Child of the Essence of Poverty of Spirit
Are not then Christians, the children of God? Being poor, we can be enriched, being hungry, we can be fed, being ready, we can be grow.

Becoming again as a little child has be humbling (Matthew 18:1-3), but it is entirely necessary. After that comes growth in the word; and remember this, part of poverty of spirit is not only the coming to Him who causes new birth, through the drawing of His Spirit; it is also the preparedness to be as it were, a school child in the classroom of Christ, and to grow up into Him. Thus people who are all for experience and so on, and who do not drink freely of the pure milk of the word, and seek to grow to the time of eating "meat" and becoming really strong in the Lord, are like Lot's wife, looking back.

Nor is rebellion child-like: rather it is childish. There is sometimes a willingness to use the name of the Lord, and even to talk of being born again, or to make a feature of it, when it is merely a spiritual excursion. It is the case of the pilgrim whom John Bunyan called Talkative, in Pilgrim's Progress. In such cases, it is no more "godly sorrow" which "works repentance to salvation not to be repented of" (II Corinthians 7:10), no more a walk with the Lord: than is a rebellious puppy which whimpers and wants to get on your lap, but then destroys your garden and refuses to learn - a good dog!

Obedience is always a hallmark of poverty of Spirit, for the simple reason that we who know the Lord know also this, that it is no use at all saying Lord, Lord and not doing the things He says (Luke 6:46). A person poor in spirit is always ready to learn, to grow, to mature into the full stature of manhood/womanhood in Christ. In that way, it has a certain blessed child-likeness, not in immaturity of heart, but in willingness both to acknowledge and to act in the realities of being MADE by God, made FOR God, and made in His love.

It is then that a rich blessing comes; for

far from this being a perpetually stunted life,

it is one so amply related to the infinite magnificence of the living God, that

it can soar and sit in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6, 3:16-21),

looking with desire and delight for the mark of the high calling in Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:13-14),

to whom always, and to His word, is the reverence due,

the obedience and the delight.

As to growth and progress, such as exhortation provides for (Hebrews 6:1-3): note of the more consummate things, the "meatier" areas (Hebrews 7-12) which follow the exhortation to growth in Hebrews: these still centre, yet with more magnification, around the cross in alliance with the faith by which one lives in and grows before the Lord, whose the Cross is (I Corinthians 3:1-2, II Peter 3:18).

Let us hear the latter:

"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever . Amen."


*1 The response of Isaiah the prophet, when Hezekiah a second time went to the temple, after the bluster of Sennacherib became even more blatant - ("Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you saying, 'Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria' ") was such a jewel of glistening beauty, in the setting of the lamb almost of the teeth of the tiger, that we should look at it. It is found in Isaiah 37:22-35, and we shall quote here a small portion of the answer of the Lord through the prophet. Emphasis is added.

"The virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised you, laughed you to scorn.

The daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head at you!

Whom have you reproached and blasphemed ?

Against whom have you raised your voice, and lifted up your eyes on high ?

Against the Holy One of Israel...

Did you not hear long ago how I made it,

From ancient times that I formed it ?

Now I have brought it to pass that you should be

For crushing fortified cities into heaps of ruins.

Therefore their inhabitants had little power.

They were as the grass of the field...

But I know your dwelling place,

Your going out and your coming in,

And your rage against Me.

Because your rage against Me and your tumult

Have come up to My ears,

There I will put my hook in your nose

And my bridle in your lips,

And I will turn you back by the way which you came....

He shall not come into this city,

Nor shoot an arrow there.

Nor come before it with shield,

Nor build a siege bound against it.

By the way that he came,

By the same shall he return;

And he shall not come into this city, says the Lord.

For I will defend this city, to save it,

For my own same and for My servant David's sake."