For I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and make them rejoice from their affliction. Jeremiah 31:13
Mourning – “Blessed are those who mourn,” said Yeshua. Do you suppose He was connecting this thought with Jeremiah 31, the prophet’s announcement of the new covenant? It certainly seems possible, especially when we look at the context of the Beatitudes. Of course, we only have the Greek text of Matthew 5:4, so we can’t be sure, but the idea of mourning belongs in the vocabulary of the renewed covenant. There are other connections buried here. One takes us all the way back to Abel.
The translation of the second Beatitude disguises its shocking impact. Yeshua doesn’t announce a step in spiritual maturity. This is not a Be-Attitude. He doesn’t give us a reward formula. We can’t earn comfort. And in spite of many commentaries, He isn’t telling us to mourn for our sins. In fact, the Greek text doesn’t even have a verb in the opening phrase. It says, “A state of bliss those mourning.” You will notice it is simply a description of the inner state of those who at this moment mourn. It is a real-time observation of their present emotional condition. And it is completely wrong! No one who stands before a grave feels bliss! What they feel is emptiness, despair, agony and loss. But Yeshua says they are lucky, happy and pregnant with bliss.
So, how is it possible for Yeshua to claim these mourning people are bliss-expectant? It’s possible because mourning opens the door for God’s comfort. It’s possible because Yeshua’s announcement of Kingdom characteristics recognizes that mourning is directly associated with this verse from Jeremiah. When life slaps us with the reality of its fragile existence, when we are rocked by the ever-present specter of death, God shows His hand! He is the only one able to turn death’s dominance into joy and rejoicing. He makes those who mourn find the bliss of His comfort and the way out of their affliction.
The Hebrew word here is ‘ebel. It is quintessentially about death. The consonants Aleph-Bet-Lamed paint an oppressive picture: Strength that Controls the House. Some things cannot be overcome by our own efforts. No matter what we do, they control us. Death is one of those things. But God has done something about this omnipresent power. He sent His Son in the flesh so that “through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14). The second Beatitude is the announcement that death is about to be overturned. It is the official commentary on Jeremiah’s proclamation that God is going to turn mourning into rejoicing by taking away the strength that controls the house.
Abel died. No, the Hebrew word for his name is not the same as ‘ebel. It is Havel (Hey-Bet-Lamed). The pictograph is “what comes from a house under control.” Nevertheless, ‘ebel applies. Did you notice that the story of Qayin (Koof-Yod-Nun “the last or least to make or work life”) and his brother does not include mourning? There is no ‘ebel for Havel. Did you ever wonder why? Perhaps God anticipated overcoming death right from the beginning. Perhaps our mourning for Havel was postponed until we were ready to receive God’s rescue from death. Perhaps we could not find comfort for the first of our own to be murdered until we encountered the Son of God murdered.
Topical Index: death, mourn, ‘ebel, Abel, Cain, Jeremiah 31:13, Matthew 5:4