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LESSON 3 - THE MOURNERS (MATTHEW 5:4)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: This week we turn out attention to the second
Beatitude. Solomon tells us that "sorrow is better than laughter"
(Ecclesiastes 7:3) and Jesus tells us we are happy when we mourn.
Sounds like doubletalk, right?  Let's find out what all this means.
 

I. MOURNING = HAPPINESS?

     A. Turn with me to Matthew 5:4. Read. Remember last week we
     learned that "blessed" in the Greek can mean "happy," "well-
     off," or "fortunate."

          1. Have you ever heard of an "oxymoron?" An oxymoron is
          an internally inconsistent term.  For example, "living
          dead" is an oxymoron. "Highly intelligent idiot." "Short
          giant." "Floating rock." These are all oxymorons.

          2. Does "happy mourner" have to be an oxymoron?

     B. Turn with me to Ecclesiastes 7:3. Read. Do you agree that
     "sorrow is better than laughter?"  That "a sad face is good
     for the heart?"

          1. Does Solomon need a remedial lesson in Proverbs?
          Proverbs 17:22 says "A cheerful heart is good medicine."

          2. Our hearts should be doing great if both a "sad face"
          and "cheerfulness" are good for us!  What do you think,
          can both be true?

II. WHY SHOULD A MOURNER BE HAPPY?

     A. Let's see if we can work this problem out. In Matthew 5:4
     does Jesus say that mourning is a happy event?
 
     B. Is there an advantage to mourning?

          1. If you say, "yes," what is that advantage?

     C. Have you heard the saying, "I love to hit my head against
     the wall, because it feels so good when I stop?"

          1. Is this the message of those who say mourning is good?

          2. Look again at Matthew 5:4. Why are mourners happy?
          (Because of a future event: they WILL BE comforted. Jesus
          does not say there is joy in mourning.  He says there is
          joy in the future hope of mourners.)

               a. To what future hope for mourners is Jesus
               referring? (Remember last quarter we studied what
               Paul said about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians
               15?  He said that if we are wrong about the
               resurrection of the dead, we are in a pitiful
               state. (1 Cor. 15:19)  We are not wrong, however,
               for Paul tells us that Jesus' resurrection is proof
               that we will be resurrected! (1 Cor. 15:20-23, 50-
               57.)

     D. Should we want to remain in a state of mourning? (No.
     The "advantage" of mourning is the comfort of knowing that
     Jesus will (and has) made it all right.)

III.  A DIFFERENT MOURNING: SADNESS OVER SIN

     A. If there is no advantage to mourning, if it is best
     to get to the "comfort" part as soon as possible, what is
     Solomon talking about when he says, "Sorrow is better than
     laughter?" (Ecclesiastes 7:3)

          1. Is Solomon off on a "toot" of his own?

          2. Solomon writes statements in Ecclesiastes that show
          he is depressed. For example, in Ecclesiastes 3:19
          Solomon tells us that "everything is meaningless" and man
          has no advantage over animals! In Ecclesiastes 9:5 he
          says, "the dead know nothing; they have no further
          reward...."

               a. How can you reconcile this "no further reward"
               statement with Paul's clear teaching in 1
               Corinthians 15 that the righteous have the further
               reward of a resurrection and new life?

               b. Is Solomon's statement that "sorrow is better
               than laughter" just another one of his statements
               while he is depressed and not thinking correctly?

     B. Will someone read Ezekiel 9:3-6? The picture here is of six
     warriors and a scribe in Jerusalem.  The scribe is told to go
     through the city and put a mark on the forehead of everyone
     who is upset over sin.  The warriors are then told to kill
     everyone who does not have a mark on his forehead.  I think
     this little story is symbolic of the final judgment.

          1. Can you put together Solomon's statement about "sorrow
          is better than laughter" with Ezekiel's story and draw a
          common conclusion? Is there a message here that makes
          sense? (Sorrow shows a concern about what is happening in
          your life.  If things are always going well, you may
          never question what you are doing. God tells us, through
          Ezekiel, that He is looking for followers who are upset
          about the sin problem.)

     C. Do you know people who confess their sins, but do not mourn
     over them?

          1. Do you confess your sins, but not mourn over them?

          2. Does God expect us to mourn over our sins?

               a. Is mourning necessary for a genuine conversion?

               b. Will we ever come to a real sense of our
               sinfulness if we do not mourn over our condition?

     D. Let's come full circle here. Remember I asked you earlier
     if mourning was a state in which we should remain? At the
     time, the context was mourning over death. You agreed that we
     should not be in a constant state of mourning. Do you want to
     change your mind when it comes to "mourning" over your sins?

          1. I read an article a few years ago that attacked the
          "celebration" style of worship. The theme of the article
          was that celebration should be the last thing on our
          minds.  We should be sad because of our sins. This
          article was embarrassingly short of citations to the
          Bible. While it contained some general Bible quotes, it
          cited no scripture which specifically supported its
          point.  Have we discovered the missing citations? Do
          Ezekiel and Solomon teach us that mourning, and not
          celebration are the right attitude?

IV. COMMON HOPE

     A. So far we have at least two kinds of mourning: mourning
     over death and tragedy and mourning over our sins.  You told
     me that the reason why those mourning over death can be happy
     is because they have the comfort of the resurrection.

          1. What comfort, if any, do those have who are mourning
          over sin?

          2. Would this comfort take away the sadness?

          3. Should this comfort take away the sadness?

          4. Can we both rejoice and mourn at the same time?

          5. Consider Isaiah 66:10.  Chapter 66 talks about
          problems in worship at Jerusalem and moves to a prophecy
          about what God is going to do about it. Verse 10 says,
          "Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who
          love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn
          over her." Is God saying her that we can rejoice and
          mourn about sin at the same time? (I think so!)

     B. Let's examine two texts from Psalms. Turn with me first to
     Psalms 30. Read verses 5-12.

          1. Was the Psalmist mourning? (Yes. Verses 5 and 11 refer
          to weeping, wailing and sackcloth.)

          2. What do these verses suggest is the reason for
          sadness? (Verse 7 -- "You hid Your face..." (referring to
          God), v. 5 -- God's anger, and v. 9 -- refers to the
          Psalmist's death.)

          3. What is the reason for (vv. 11-12) joy, singing,
          dancing and thankfulness? (God's mercy (vv.8-10) and
          God's favor (v.5))

     C. Turn next to Psalms 126. Read. When verse 5 says, "Those
     who sow with tears will reap with joy," does that sound like
     Matthew 5:4, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be
     comforted?" (You bet it does!)

     D. Friends, has (v.3) the Lord "done great things for us?" (Oh
     yes!)

          1. Can we rejoice over His victory and the (v.4)
          restoration of our fortunes? (While God is looking for a
          people who mourn for their sin, He is also looking for a
          people who rejoice that He has paid the price for their
          sin. The victory is won! Praise God, He is a great and
          mighty God who is bringing the (v.1) "captives back to
          Zion!")

V. NEXT WEEK: "THE MEEK"  Study Matthew 5:5!