Oh the blessing of the ones having been persecuted on account of their being righteous, because the kingdom of the heavens is theirs.
1 Firstly let us look at what the word ‘persecution’ means. It comes from the Greek word ‘dioko’.
This means to pursue something, to chase after something.
It is a word that Pauls uses concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
He wrote: Let love be your highest goal, but also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives, especially the gift of prophecy – 1 Corinthians 14.1 (NLT).
This means that we are to chase after the gifts, pursue them.
This is the positive meaning of dioko.
However, there is a negative understanding of the word and it is to zealously persecute, to hunt down.
Hence the negative meaning is to ‘persecute’ someone or some group of people.
One of the prayers of David is to be found in Psalm 5 and verse 8:
Lead me in the right path, O LORD, or my enemies will conquer me – (NLT).
Walking in the righteous ways of Jesus may well bring with it persecution. This has always been the case, and it always will be, and we can see from this Psalm that David also suffered persecution. There were those who hunted him down.
Every believer in Jesus stands in the firing line of satan’s attempts to pursue us, because the world is opposed to the ways of God, and satan certainly is opposed to God’s ways.
2 Secondly, let us look at persecution in the Old Testament.
The word persecution does not exist within the Old Testament.
However, the idea of persecution, being hunted down is to be found in the Old Testament.
We find this in chapter three of Genesis:
[3:1] Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the LORD God had made. “Really?” he asked the woman. “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?” – (NLT).
The serpent, the devil made a ‘b’ line for Eve. He pursued her.
He tempted her with the only purpose of getting her, and Adam, to disbelieve God.
Later on we read of Cain who persecuted his brother, Abel, by killing him.
There are many incidents of men and women in the Old Testament who were persecuted because of their faith in God.
We must all be aware that the enemy seeks to hunt us down. Therefore, it is reassuring to know what God’s word says:
The Name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to Him and are safe – Proverbs 18.10 (NLT).