For I am your guest— a traveller passing through, as my ancestors were before me. (Psalm 39:12bNLT)
Two phrases identify our place.
We are God’s guest for the earth is the Lord’s. As a guest, the owner may have said, feel free to use whatever you like, yet I take a circumspect attitude respecting the owners wishes. This is an attitude for life. Everything belongs to God. We are here as his guests, and need to be respectful of all he entrusted.
We are travellers passing through. Having become citizens of heaven we lost our say in our host culture. We travel through, maybe critiquing, but ceasing to demand saying, ‘This is the way it should be.’ That is not the place of a traveller.
We find ourselves in the weak place. We cannot appeal to our rights for the guest and the traveller are there at the discretion of others. The first part of the verse takes renewed significance.
Hear my prayer, O Lord! Listen to my cries for help! Don’t ignore my tears. (Psalm 39:12aNLT)
God has become our only recourse, and it is to him that we cry out as ‘the poor in spirit’. So, having nothing, we end up having the power of God available to us and are blessed with the kingdom of heaven.
If God is so great, how come he made me like this? There are many who look at themselves and see only imperfections and a choice between a helpless God, or a God who doesn’t care.
God speaks to this in Isaiah 44:2.
This is what the Lord says – he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you:
The Lord affirms that it really is He who formed us. He does not pick up where nature leaves off. Everyone has been formed with care and purpose.
We forget that those who seem ‘perfect’ have an inner wealth that tends towards independence. They are tempted to think that they don’t need God, or worse that God needs them.
It is no accident that the following statement is that the Lord will help us. If we think, I am made so poorly I need help, we miss the wonder of our creation. We were not made to be independent but to live in partnership with God. Only in unison with the Father are we complete – the poor in spirit who inherit the Kingdom.
do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
Dancing with an invisible partner leaves us feeling exposed. When we appreciate our situation fear rises. This takes us from a naïve presumption to real faith where we trust God to fulfil His perfection in us. He chose us not as dispensable add-ons but ones who cost Him His son’s life! We are chosen in love, with patience and care.
When presented with the impossible, I am challenged to be poor in spirit. When my peers flout their wealth, I am challenged to be poor in spirit. Much of Jesus’ ‘sermon on the mount’ can be summarised by this. We need to have courage, look reality in the face and acknowledge that we are in a weak position. Then we look to the King as against our abilities, networks or resources for the impossible to be fulfilled.
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Matthew 5:3
The poor in spirit are not necessarily materially poorer, but they know their wealth is not the answer. Wealth can take many forms: our money, our heritage, our network of friends, our skills, our profession, our family, knowledge of the Bible, our spiritual gifts, … Those who have these advantages find it hardest to let go of the security found in wealth and entrust themselves to the King.
People who allow the Word to speak into their lives and take action are the poor in Spirit. They act not knowing how the end can be achieved, for at the start they don’t have the resources. They act confident that their Lord will back them up. This poverty of spirit requires a surrender of life and reputation into the hands of the King. It is not easy. ‘When I step out in faith the question lurks in the darkness: Was this God’s idea or my presumption?’ We learn the difference as we develop in our relationship with God.