I am sure you have seen the poster. “The meek shall inherit the earth – if that’s OK with everybody else.” I am told that is the motto of the Dependent Organisation Of Really Meek And Timid Souls, usually known by their acronym, the DOORMATS.
The quality of meekness is not valued by the world we live in. The world today believes “might is right.” The most powerful nations are the ones with the biggest armies and the biggest bombs. So many film series from Rambo to Die Hard and even Avatar and Star Wars proclaim that the underdog can always fight back and win – as long as they have the latest weapons and no conscience whatsoever about how many extras get killed or injured on the way. So many people and even whole nations seem to live by the motto, “Blessed are the strong, for they can overwhelm the earth any time they like.” It seems there is no place in the world today for the words of Jesus in the third Beatitude, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Remember, the beatitudes are not commands to obey. Jesus didn’t say, “you have to work hard to be meek.” The Beatitudes are promises. Promises of rich rewards in God’s eternal Kingdom for those who live by the values of God’s Upside-Down Kingdom. Rewards for the kinds of people this world does not reward but rather looks down on and rejects or despises or ignores. Promises for people who are poor and helpless and downtrodden and marginalized. Blessings which come when God acts as King and sets this messed-up world the right way up again. Blessed are the meek!
There are different translations for this idea of meekness. As the eighth of the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit meekness is translated in the New International Version as gentleness and in the Good News Bible as humility. Gentleness means showing the same love and kindness to other as people as God has shown to us. We thought two weeks ago about “blessed are those who know they are spiritually poor” and humility is about seeing ourselves as God sees us, seeing ourselves as miserable sinners and that gives us nothing to be proud about.
John Stott explained meekness as “a humble and gentle attitude to others determined by a true estimate of ourselves.” So meekness has an INWARD aspect of a humble trust in God and dependence on His grace and power, not on our righteousness or our own efforts or good works. At the same time meekness has an OUTWARD aspect of accepting other people in love, showing them patience and gentleness.
The idea that meekness is a virtue is not new with Jesus. Meekness is treasured in the Old Testament and nowhere more than in Psalm 37. Again we see the INWARD aspect of a humble trust in God.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
The humble poor – depending on God to act on our behalf.
The outstanding example of meekness in the Old Testament is Moses.
Numbers 12:3 Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.
Yet we should not mistake meekness for weakness. Moses was the meekest man on earth, yet he received this obituary.
Deuteronomy 34 10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
Moses was the meekest man on earth. The sign of Moses’s meekness is that he did not attempt to win Israel’s battles himself. Instead Moses trusted that God would intervene to save His chosen people. We are going to look at that tonight in Deuteronomy 20. Meekness is the opposite of sin and pride and independence and self-sufficiency. Not trying to do everything “my way” but depending on God to do things His way. A person who is meek relies on God to intervene on His behalf. He does not “fight for his rights”, but rather he waits for God to attend to his rights. Jesus quoted at the beginning of His ministry,
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
The prophet Isaiah especially looks forward to the day when the God’s chosen one, the Messiah, will come and bring justice for the benefit of the meek of the earth.
Isaiah 11:3 He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
The prophet Zephaniah anticipates the day when God will bring justice and on that day only the meek will escape God’s wrath.
Zephaniah 2:1 Gather together, gather together, O shameful nation,
2 before the appointed time arrives and that day sweeps on like chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD comes upon you, before the day of the LORD’s wrath comes upon you.
3 Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger.
God’s blessings are for the humble of the land. For the meek. Meekness is not weakness, but an inward humble trust in God, depending on God to act. At the same time the OUTWARD side of meekness is gentleness towards other human beings.
Psalm 37 1 Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.
This promise in Psalm 37 is the root of the third Beatitude. The meek will inherit the land. The earth and the land mean the same thing. But we should not confuse this meekness with the kind of non-violent resistance practiced for example by the pacifist Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi. Meekness is not about trusting in the forces of social and psychological pressures to change circumstances. Meekness is a conscious dependence on God, waiting patiently for God to act and bring vindication for the poor and needy in His eternal Kingdom. We could say, “Blessed are the unassuming.” “Blessed are those who claim nothing.” Because what matters is not what people do for themselves but what God does for them.
“The meek will inherit the land.” The idea of inheritance comes 230 times in the Old Testament. Three quarters of those promises refer to inheriting the Land, the Land God promised to His people. Again inheriting the Land is not talking about anything people deserve or earn for themselves. An inheritance is not something which people can work for or achieve. The promised land of blessings is God’s generous free gift to His people. And in the New Testament we find 30 occasions where Jesus talks about inheriting the Kingdom or inheriting eternal life. The meek will inherit the land.
Only the meek can receive God’s promise and inherit the new heavens and the new earth where God’s righteousness dwells. Rich people and strong people and powerful people trust in themselves and in their own efforts. Only the meek put their trust in God.
Many Christians are described as meek in the New Testament but supremely we have the example of Jesus Himself, Jesus who when He entered Jerusalem in triumph, came, we read, “Gentle and riding on a donkey.”
Jesus sais in Matthew 11 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus gave us the perfect example of humble trust and gentleness, even as he dealt with his opponents. Even as Jesus was betrayed and arrested. Even as He faced Pilate and Herod. Even as Jesus was mocked and scourged and nailed to the cross. Humble trust and gentleness as He fulfilled in his own body the prophecy of Isaiah 53.
1 Peter 221 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Meekness brings together inward humble trust and outward gentleness. But we must not for one second imagine that weakness is weakness. Meekness is not being a doormat for everybody to trample over. Being meek does not mean being “easy-going”. Meekness is not flabbiness. Some people just lack a spiritual backbone but that is not meekness. Meekness is not compromise. Meekness does not mean “peace at any price.” Meekness is not about just being nice to everybody.
If we think about Jesus’s dealings with the Pharisees, or the occasion when He drove the money-changers out of the temple, meekness means knowing when to get angry and when not to get angry, how angry to get and how long to be angry for.
Meekness is not weakness. It takes strength and courage to be gentle in a vicious and violent world! For Jesus, meekness meant putting His trust in God even in His darkest hours, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. And then facing death on the cross as foretold in Psalm 22.
Psalm 22 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.
Psalm 22 ends like this.
24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.
26 The (meek) will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him – may your hearts live forever!
God’s promises are for the meek and humble. Gentleness to others arising from a humble trust in God – relying on God to act. Without the meekness of the cross there could never have been the victory of the resurrection!
And at the same time this meekness of Jesus is the example Christians are called to follow.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “We are to leave everything – ourselves, our rights, our cause, our whole future – in the hands of God, and especially so if we feel we are suffering unjustly. We leave everything with God, with a quietness in spirit and in mind and in heart.”
Humble trust, gentleness and prayer. That kind of meekness is commended throughout the New Testament. When we have any disagreement in beliefs, or in church life.
Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Whenever we are talking about Jesus, caring for Christians who are struggling with life and faith and when we are seeking to share Jesus with other people who do not yet believe.
1 Peter 3:15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
Meekness, even towards those who make life difficult for us, when we are mocked insulted or opposed or even persecuted. If ever we feel like having a good old argument, or “demanding our rights” or even hitting out, Jesus commands us to go the extra mile and turn the other cheek. Even when it seems impossible, we should cling to the promise of God in His Son Jesus Christ, in whom meekness and majesty truly lived in perfect harmony.
“Blessed are the meek – for they SHALL inherit the earth!”