Kingdom Norms, Part Three
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, March 9, 1997
Copyright © 1997, P. G. Mathew
Blessed Are The Meek
The third beatitude Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount is "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth," which we could paraphrase as, "See God and be cool."
What does it mean to be meek? We know that when Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek," he was not commending people who are pushy, proud and self-assured. But neither was he commending those who are weak. What, then, does it mean to be meek?
A God-Controlled Person
In the Greek world, the word for meek, praus , was used to refer to domesticated animals (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount , [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972], 37). The word does not refer to a wild, unruly animal; it refers to a horse or an ox that was trained and disciplined so that it could be controlled by a human. Therefore the word meek used in Matthew 5:5 refers to a strong person who is under control, a God-controlled person.
Now, we must realize that the characteristics Jesus spoke about in the beatitudes--poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness and so on--are not natural human qualities. They are produced by the Holy Spirit in the citizens of the kingdom of God. Thus, the beatitudes speak of character qualities which every Christian ought to possess and manifest.
How does a person become meek in the sense that word is used in Matthew 5:5? First, a citizen of the kingdom of God recognizes that he is poor in spirit--spiritually bankrupt. That is the first beatitude. Second, he grieves for his particular sins and truly repents. And as St. Augustine said, he repents enough to not repeat the sin he repented of. If he does not repent in that way, his repentance is phony. Third, he demonstrates meekness particularly in his relationship with God and man. So meekness is a relational quality. The first two beatitudes deal with conviction of sin, and the third one deals with faith in Christ--a relational life characterized by faith. In other words, the third beatitude deals with conversion.
The third beatitude is not our own declaration that we are meek people. It is the declaration and certification of God and man that we are meek. A meek person is a man or woman of God whose strength is controlled by God. He or she is controlled by the Holy Spirit in thought, word, will, emotion, and action.
Meekness Is Not Weakness
This particular beatitude, "Blessed are the meek," is cited by Jesus from Psalm 37:11. Jesus adds this benediction, "Blessed are the meek," to that verse, "But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace." In context, the meek man is one who submits, not to his own will, but to the great and gracious will of God.
A meek man is not a weak man. He is not wishy-washy, effeminate or timid. He is not a doormat. As Professor D. A. Carson says, he is not a timid man looking for "a hard slap from a wet noodle" (D. A. Carson, The Sermon on the Mount , [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1978 (ninth printing, 1995)], 20). A meek man is not a passive, spineless man, although we have a lot of such men today.
The Meek See God
What makes a person meek? He sees God. No one becomes meek unless he sees the infinite, personal, almighty, all-wise, all-holy God. When we are made able to see God by faith, we will be poor in spirit, we will mourn for our sins and we will be meek.
A meek person is the one who by faith sees God as great and himself as nothing. And because of that, he submits to the great and gracious will of this great God. A meek person is the one who purposes and proclaims, "Not my will but Thine be done." He submits to the will of his heavenly Father and does not argue with the Holy Scriptures wherein God's will is clearly revealed.
A meek person submits to God's delegated authorities. In the family, meek children submit to parents in everything. A meek wife submits to her husband in everything. A meek husband submits to Christ in everything. And in the church meek believers submit to the elders, who are leaders, as well as to one another, considering the other superior to oneself. In the world meek believers submit to all God-ordained authorities.
A meek person is ever conscious of the infinite, personal, triune God--the covenant God of our salvation. He is so continually conscious of God that he gladly submits to his wise and gracious leading. Therefore, the meek person is led by the Holy Spirit, and, as we said before, it is the Holy Spirit who produces this quality of meekness in a Christian.
See God and Be Cool
We find a description of a meek person in Psalm 37. When we read that psalm, the first thing we notice is that a meek person is one who does not fret. Three times we read the admonition, "Do not fret" in verses 1, 7, and 8.
What does this word "fret" mean? It means to be heated up or worked up. It is like the engine of a car which heats up because there is no oil and/or coolant. What happens to such a car? It is destroyed, and some people, by their fretting, can also be destroyed. But the meek man keeps himself cool. How? When he sees the wicked men and observes their circumstances, he fixes his eyes on the greatest reality in the whole world, the Sovereign Lord, who is the ultimate Ruler of the world.
The meek man's motto is, "See God by faith and stay cool in the situation." But the man who does not see God gets all heated up inside. Such a person becomes anxious and grumbles, murmurs, hits the wall and throws temper tantrums. Such a person eventually might suffer a heart attack or stroke. Why? He has no way of relieving the destructive pressures inside of him and so he dies prematurely.
Trust in the Lord
The second thing we notice in Psalm 37 is that a meek person trusts in the Lord. In verse 3 we read, "Trust in the Lord and do good."Fides est fiducia --faith is trust. The meek person, the believer, trusts the Lord, meaning he rests in God by entrusting his whole life to him. His whole being is resting upon the sure foundation of the almighty God.
The meek man knows that his past, present and future rests in God. He heard the gospel proclamation which says, "Come unto me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." It is not "Come unto me and I will solve your problems," but "I will give you rest," meaning God will bear us up--our entire being.
This does not mean God will not solve our individual problems. He will do that also, as he did for Israel who labored in Egypt under the taskmasters of Pharaoh. They responded to the gospel call by Moses. He told them, "God has sent me to let you know that he is going to take you out from under your burdens. He heard your cries and groans and has come down. I heard him and saw him, and it is his purpose to give you rest." And truly God did bring them out from their burdens and into a land that flowed with milk and honey. God gave them rest.
In the same way the meek person who comes to Christ and trusts in him for his salvation is always at rest in God. Jesus Christ is his rest, no matter what circumstances he faces.
Delighting in God
Not only does the meek man not fret, not only does he trust in the Lord always and rest in him, but also the meek man delights in the Lord, as we read in Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord." Is the meek person just tolerating God? Is he just putting up with Jesus Christ? No. The meek man is having a ball as a result of his relationship with Christ. He enjoys God and delights himself in him.
Now, unbelievers and backsliding Christians think that God and enjoyment can never mix, but David tells us differently. In Psalm 16 he tells us that in God's presence there is fullness of joy and on his right hand pleasures forevermore. It is a lie of the devil that tells us that God and pleasure never mix. In fact, God, in Jesus Christ, came down to bring us out of our groaning and misery and bring us into enjoyment of God. As St. Augustine said, "Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God." Everlasting joy and pleasure are to be found in God--pleasures forevermore, as David said.
The meek man delights in God, in God's word, in prayer, in obedience, and in fellowship with God's people. In fact, it is pure fun to be a Christian, and if you have not discovered that, I feel sorry for you. I exhort you to pray that you may be shown that realm in the kingdom of God called pleasure. Paul defines the kingdom of God as righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Commit Your Way to the Lord
Psalm 37:5 then counsels us, "Commit your way to the Lord." The meek person does not rely on himself, saying, "I can do all things. I have confidence in myself. After all, I am a hunk." No, the meek person says, "I see God, and he is able to help me. I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengtheneth me."
The meek man commits his way to the Lord. And in his commentary Dr. James Boice says this word commit means to roll one's burden over to God who is infinitely greater than we are and the one in whom we trust (Boice, p. 38). We are to roll it onto him, meaning we must bring our cares to him and let him solve our problems.
The idea here is that once we commit our problem to God, it is no longer our burden, and we can rest. Our problem becomes God's problem, and he is quite able to deal with it. That is why Peter says in 1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." John the Baptist introduced Jesus by saying, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) Just as Jesus Christ bore our sins, he will also receive our burdens and bear them away. What will be the result? We will be free of our burdens and able to enjoy rest.
Be Still and Wait for the Lord
Next, Psalm 37:7 tells us, "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him." Whenever we see terrible circumstances, we want to murmur, complain and let corrupt words come out of our mouths. But we must stop acting that way. Why? Such speech is not directed by the Holy Spirit. The meek person is to be still before God.
In Exodus 14 we read how God delivered his people out of slavery. Afterwards, Pharaoh pursued God's people with chariots, horses, and a great army. And in Exodus 14:9 we read, "The Egyptians--all Pharaoh's horses and chariots, horsemen and troops--pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon." And in verse 10 we read, "As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord."
Just listen to the language of these people: "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!'" This was the language of murmuring, complaining, and unbelief. What should we counsel these people? "Be still! Stop complaining! Don't just look at the wicked. Don't just look at the armies that pursue us. Be still."
In verse 13 Moses answered the people: "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today." When we face tough situations, what do we need to understand? We need to know that Jesus is Savior, Jesus is almighty, and Jesus has already defeated all his enemies on the cross. We need to think about theology and fix our eyes on Jesus Christ. Remember, it was Jesus who said, "He who believes in me will never die." So what does God say to the meek person? "Be still. Wait on the Lord, in other words. Stop murmuring and complaining. Be still and wait, so that you can hear what God has to say to you in reference to your particular problem."
In Isaiah 40:28-31 we read, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth." It is good to have knowledge of a great God. If your god is too small, you will murmur, complain and throw fits. "The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord," those who wait on the Lord, in other words, "will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:28-31).
Wait on the Lord! If you are anxious and complaining, you are hearing too much of your own voice. Be still, and hear what God has to say in your situation.
Don't Be Angry
A meek person is not angry at God. In Psalm 37:8 we read, "Refrain from anger and turn from wrath."
How many times have we looked at our problems, gotten angry at God and accused him of somehow being unjust? I urge you, do not get angry at God, and do not get angry at pastors as well. Some people come and say, "Pastor, I have not yet received this thing I wanted--whether it be a husband or a wife or a job or a promotion or whatever." Let me tell you, a pastor is not in the business of giving husbands, wives, jobs, or promotions to anyone. A pastor's job is to introduce people to the Lord Jesus Christ who alone is the Savior. He is the one who will give us all that we need, not what we think we need.
I urge you, if you are a citizen of the kingdom of God, do not get angry at your parents or other family members. Do not let angry words of unbelief come out of your mouth. Do not hit the wall and put holes in it or destroy things in the house. Do not hit your nice car or your children. Do not destroy relationships. Do not be angry at your boss and lose your job. Do not become so angry that you suffer a heart attack.
The meek man does not become angry for the wrong reason at the wrong time, and he never retaliates in anger. The Bible tells us not to take revenge, but leave room for God's wrath. Why? The Lord says, "It is mine to avenge, I will repay." (Deut. 32:35, Heb. 10:30). That assures us that it is not our business to avenge, but God's. The meek man, therefore, submits to God's word and refuses to take revenge. He knows that God will act in his own time.
Psalm 37 tells us that a meek person has a long view of things, meaning he understands eschatology. In verses 9-11 we read, "For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace." In verse 20 we read, "But the wicked will perish: The Lord's enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish--vanish like smoke," and in verse 35, "I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found."
A meek man is patient. He has a long view of life, knowing in the end it is not the wicked who wins but the meek. How can he be sure of this? The meek person knows that in the end God wins, and in God the meek win. The Bible tells us that the meek, not the wicked, will inherit the earth.
And not only will the meek inherit the earth, but they will "enjoy great peace." The wicked may possess the earth today, but the truth is, they have no peace. (PGM) The Bible declares, "There is no peace for the wicked," saith the Lord (Is. 48:22; 57:21). What is the fun of possessing the earth and having no peace?
Even now the meek enjoy peace on earth. When Jesus was born, the angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" (Luke 1:14). God's favor rests upon his people who are on earth, which means that we enjoy peace even now on earth.
Jesus referred to this when he said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33, KJV). "These things" include food, clothing, health, and welfare, which indicates a lot of peace, doesn't it?
All Things Are Ours, Both Now. . .
For the time being the wicked may possess the earth, but they have no peace. The earth belongs to God, and so it also belongs to us as God's children. We are heirs of this earth, holding title to it, and even now we enjoy peace on earth.
In 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 Paul spoke concerning our condition now on earth: "So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours. . . ." What is an amazing statement: all things are yours! ". . . whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God." All things are ours!
In 2 Corinthians 6:10 Paul said he is "poor, yet making many rich." And in Mark 10:29-30 Jesus spoke concerning our life on the earth: "'I tell you the truth,' Jesus replied, 'no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life." We will receive these things in this present age as well as in the age to come. Think about it.
. . . And In the Age to Come
In 1 Corinthians 6:2 we read something about what the future holds for us. Paul asks, "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" And in 2 Peter 3:13 we read, "But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness." The meek will inherit an earth that will be without sin, in which dwells only righteousness, and where only the righteous will dwell. Let me tell you, even now we enjoy peace, but there is coming a day when the meek will enjoy great peace because they will inherit a new heaven and a new earth.
The Meekness of Moses
The Bible gives us several examples of people who demonstrated meekness. First, there is Moses, who was commended by God himself for his meekness. In Numbers 12:3 we read this profound statement: "Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth."
The twelfth chapter of Numbers tells us something about the life of Moses. He had married Zipporah, his first wife, while he lived in Midian, as we read in Exodus 2. It seems that Zipporah died and Moses married a Cushite woman, meaning a black woman from Ethiopia. Moses' sister Miriam did not like this. Becoming very upset, she rebelled against Moses and treated him with contempt. But in this passage we see that Moses refused to defend himself and take revenge. Why do you think Moses reacted that way? He saw God. Moses had met with God many, many times. A person cannot meet with God regularly and be proud at the same time. So Moses in meekness was not defending or avenging himself. A meek man trusts in God and lets God deal with situations.
God did come down to deal with Miriam. She instantly became a leper and was only restored seven days after Moses interceded for her. Moses was meek because he saw God. All who see God will become meek, humble, and gentle.
We must also note that although Moses was meek before God, he was mighty before Pharaoh. He who sees God by faith will be meek before God but mighty and bold before the world and Satan. In Exodus 15 we read that the people murmured against Moses, provoking him. Every time this happened, Moses fell facedown and began to pray. That is a sign of meekness. Moses wanted God to deal with the situation, and he did.
The Meekness of David
David was also meek before God, as we read in 2 Samuel 16. As David fled Jerusalem during the insurrection of his son, Absalom, a Benjamite man named Shimei came out from Bahurim and began to curse David, the anointed king, and pelt him with stones. But here we see a demonstration of David's meekness. He refused to have Shimei killed. Why? He saw God and humbly accepted this humiliation from him.
In 2 Samuel 16:9 we read that Abishai son of Zeruiah asked David if he could kill Shimei for his actions. But in verse 10 David replied, "What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, 'Curse David!' who can ask, 'Why do you do this?'" You see, David saw God. And verse 12 in adds: "It may be that the Lord will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today." As David suffered, he also trusted and hoped in God, and submitted to God's sovereignty and chastening.
The Meekest Man
What about Jesus? In Matthew 11:28-30 he says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me," and then he adds, "for I am gentle and humble in heart." The meekest person in all the world was not Moses but Jesus Christ himself.
Remember that we said that the more God-conscious one is, the more meek one becomes? Jesus was the most God-conscious person who ever lived on the face of the earth; thus he was the meekest person who ever lived. Why is an unbeliever arrogant? He is not conscious of God and there is no fear of God in him. In Psalm 53 we read, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" An unbeliever is naturally arrogant, but Jesus was meek.
The Meekness of Christ
In Matthew 21:5 we read a quotation from Zechariah that tells us that Jesus Christ is King: "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey. . .'" But although Jesus is King, he came in meekness. We know that because he submitted completely to God's will. A meek man is one who submits to God's good and gracious will. Concerning Jesus it is said in Psalm 40, "Here I am, I have come. . . .I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart" (Ps. 40:7, 8). Jesus was King and yet he came in meekness.
Not only was Jesus King, but he was also God. Yet he came in meekness as we are told by Paul in Philippians 2: "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death. . ." even to the shameful death of the cross (Phil. 2:6-8). Why did Jesus do this? It was the will of God that he do so, and Jesus Christ always submitted to the will of God.
Peter spoke about the meekness of Christ in 1 Peter 2:23. "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate." Why is that? He wanted to let God take care of him. He knew God had said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay" (Deut. 32:35). So here Jesus Christ was saying, "No, I will not retaliate. Let God do it." Peter continues, "when he suffered, he made no threats." Why? Again, let God do it. "Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." And in the same way, Peter told slaves that if they were beaten up unjustly, they should be conscious of God in their suffering. The meek man is conscious of God and submits to him. He says, "Not my will but thine be done." Therefore, the meek man will not retaliate. He refuses to defend himself but trusts in God just as the meek Jesus submitted to God's righteous judgment.
The Meekness of Martyrs
We have other examples of meekness from the history of the Christian church. Look at all the martyrs throughout the history of Christendom. Were these people timid? No, they were very strong men and women. Yet they imitated their Lord in his meekness and suffered martyrdom. Why? They were conscious of God and fixed their eyes on Jesus. They fixed their eyes on the infinite, almighty, personal, sovereign God and not upon themselves or their enemies. When the meek man sees God, he knows that everything is going to be all right in the ultimate analysis.
The Necessity of Meekness
Meekness is a characteristic necessary for every Christian. In conclusion, let us consider the following aspects of meekness.
- We must put on meekness. In 1 Peter 3:3,4 meekness is likened to an ornament, like a piece of jewelry that you must wear: "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." And in Colossians 3:12 Paul tells us this characteristic of meekness is like clothing: "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." We must put on meekness so that people will not see our nakedness.
- Meekness comes with a promise. We must notice that there is a promise attached to this characteristic: The meek will inherit the earth. That is a promise for Christians.
- Meekness is necessary for teachers. In 2 Timothy 2:25 we see the necessity of meekness for teachers: "Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance. . . ." If you are a teacher, you should exhibit meekness.
- Meekness is necessary for disciples. James 1:21 tells us that if we are disciples, we must "get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." If you are a disciple, you must receive God's word with meekness, and if you do not have meekness, you will not receive it. Meekness is extremely necessary for disciples.
- Meekness is necessary for ruling elders who have to govern. In Galatians 6:1 we read, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently," with meekness, in other words. Restoring a person who has sinned is like putting a broken bone back together. You do not want to be rough. That is why meekness is so important in church government.
- Meekness means might, not weakness. Proverbs 16:32 says "Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city." A meek person is a mighty, self-controlled person. Meekness means strength.
- A meek person is like Christ. Christians are called to imitate Jesus Christ; therefore, we must be meek.
- Meekness, at times, can cause our enemy to surrender. In 1 Samuel 24 we read how Saul went into a cave in the desert of En Gedi. Even though David was already in the cave, he refused to kill Saul, this enemy who was pursuing him and desiring to kill him. Instead, David cut off a little of Saul's robe, and even for doing that his conscience became disturbed. After doing that, David called to Saul, "My lord the king!" and described himself as just a dead dog, a flea. And then David said, "May the Lord judge," and all of a sudden Saul melted. He justified David, saying, "You are more righteous than I" (2 Sam. 24:8, 15, 17), and returned to his home.
Are We Meek?
May God help us to be meek. May he help us to see him--the great, almighty, all-wise, all-just, all-holy God--who is for us. We know that the more we see him, the more we will become meek. We can then refuse to defend ourselves and retaliate, knowing that in due time the meek shall inherit the earth. Understanding eschatology, we can take comfort in the fact that there will be a day coming in which our enemies will be gone. We will look for them but we will not find them. Why? God will have acted. So we will trust God, not fret, delight in him and commit our way to him.
May God help us to see him regularly in the way the Scripture reveals him to us. May we study systematic theology and have theological understanding so that we will have a great view of our great God and his will--the will of God to save us and bring us with all glory before his presence that we may enjoy pleasures forevermore. Such knowledge will give us this fruit called meekness. May God help us to put away arrogance and learn to be meek that we may receive his word for our own edification. Amen.
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Copyright © 1997, P. G. Mathew
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