Dear radio friends,
The citizens of the nations of this world are recognized by their distinctive dress: the kilt of the Scottish Highlander, the sari of the Indian woman, the wooden shoe of the Dutch. So also the citizens of the kingdom of heaven are recognized by their spiritual dress. In Matthew 5 Jesus is describing the members of the kingdom of heaven. Only He is describing them from a spiritual point of view — from the viewpoint of the graces that He implants within them — graces and virtues that are not to be found in this world, that do not come from this world. They are otherworldly. They are alien. They are from heaven. They are from God. They were earned and made at Jesus’ cross. They are bestowed graciously and sovereignly by the Holy Spirit. They are given to the citizens of Christ’s kingdom, in order that they might display these graces.
The citizens of the kingdom of heaven are taken from every nation of the world. Outwardly, they take on the appearance of this world. That is, they dress how the world dresses. But they are transformed by the Holy Spirit within them. They are now dressed in their heart with other-worldly virtues, which have been won for them by Jesus Christ.
Jesus is describing them. He begins with the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” which, as we saw a couple of weeks ago, refers to the fundamental characteristic of the child of God. He knows that he is nothing, deserves nothing, has nothing, and is a bankrupt sinner before God. Jesus says that, by grace, He will give them the kingdom of heaven. Last week we saw that the citizen of the kingdom of heaven is characterized as one who mourns. There the promise was that they shall be comforted.
We come to the third Beatitude today. It reads this way: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”
How those words must have shocked the Jews. And how shocking those words are yet today. For our proud nature to hear the first two Beatitudes was hard enough. Blessed are the poor in spirit? Blessed are they that mourn? That would be troubling. But, at least, one could think, those characteristics deal with inward feelings, and everyone should have a certain amount of personal humility. But meekness? Meekness is something that is seen in one’s attitude towards others. The meek are blessed?
To the unbelieving Jews, those words would have been repulsive. They wanted the Messiah to restore the kingdom unto David. They were looking for a display of human power and might. Blessed are the meek? Those words were shocking to them.
So also today. Meekness is considered to be weakness. You will have people walk over you? You will inherit the earth by meekness? That is nonsense, says man. Is it not all about strength, and power, and assertiveness? You must assert yourself. And the more you assert yourself the more you will have. “Blessed are the meek,” says Jesus, “for they shall inherit the earth.” “That is nonsense,” says the world.
But, you see, the Christian, the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, is altogether different from the world. “Blessed,” said Jesus, “are the meek.”
What is this meekness? Let us begin by being very clear on what this meekness is not. The Lord is not referring to a natural quality, what would commonly be understood in the world as meekness. He is not referring to a natural disposition in which we would say, “She is meek, that is, a bit reticent, she doesn’t push herself forward, and she is very quiet.” Or we might mean that she is nice. She is less forceful in her personality. She is meek. She does not show aggressiveness. That is not what the Lord is referring to. He is not referring to a natural quality called “meekness,” of being quiet and non-aggressive.
Nor is meekness here weakness. The meekness of men leads to weakness, to indiscretion, to indecisiveness, and to waffle over their calling. Think of Moses (Num. 12:3): “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” But that does not mean that Moses was morally weak, that he was indecisive. Very often, in the human sense, meekness refers to being indecisive.
Meekness, again, is something that is spiritual. Jesus is referring to a grace that He alone imparts within us. It is something like humility — godly humility. But it is not to be identified with humility. It is a very beautiful idea — meekness. There is really no single term that is capable of expressing everything that is included in this term.
Let me show you what I mean by pointing out a few passages in the Word of God.
Meekness, in the Scriptures, is, first of all, connected to lowliness of heart. We read in Matthew 11:28, 29, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden…. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.” Again, we read in Ephesians 4:1, 2: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness….” Meekness possesses a lowly, humble heart.
Meekness in the Bible is also very close to gentleness. We read in II Corinthians 10:1: “Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you.” Meekness and gentleness. Again in Titus 3:2, “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness.” So, again, meekness is expressed in gentleness.
Still more. Meekness in the Bible is described as being the opposite of wrath and anger and irritation. We read in James 1:19-21: “Be slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and [excess of malice], and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” There meekness is the contrast, it is the opposite of a sinful wrath. The explosion of anger before your spouse or toward your child is the absence of meekness.
Still more. Meekness is tied to what is a teachable heart. Isaiah 61:1, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek.” Psalm 25:9, “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.”
So, you see, meekness in the Scriptures is a very rich term. It is connected with lowliness. It is connected with gentleness. It is the opposite of anger and human irritation. And it implies that one has a teachable heart. Meekness, then, is the grace that gives us a true view of ourselves. And this true view shows itself in our attitude and conduct toward God and man.
We should remember that there is progression in the Beatitudes. The Lord, when He gives the Beatitudes, is not just throwing them on a heap, on a pile. No, He is arranging them, each one implies the next. He begins by saying that the members of His kingdom are poor in spirit. They recognize that they are nothing and have nothing and can do nothing and deserve nothing. They know that God gave them everything. Then He says that they are those who mourn. They have a deep sorrow over their sins.
And now He says that they are meek. Meekness is the result, it is the fruit, of being poor in spirit and of knowing what it is to mourn before God. It makes one receptive in his heart before God. In one word: meekness is the absence of pride. A meek heart is the antithesis, the opposite of pride. It is the opposite of stubbornness and fierceness and vengefulness. Meekness is the dethroning of sinful pride and making us now teachable of God, gentle toward one another, submissive to God, confident and strong in God and in His faithful love to me.
Not only does one not assert himself, but he also sees the sin of that. A meek person does not glory in himself. He is not always interested in himself. He is not watching always after his own interest. He is not always on the defensive. He is not always saying, “What about me?”
Beloved, by nature, we spend our whole life watching out for ourselves. We worry about ourselves and what others are going to say about us. We talk to ourselves. We say, “You’re having a hard time. Too bad people don’t understand you. How wonderful I am and if only people would give me a chance.” That is pride. The meek are self-emptied people. They are not defending the citadel of me. They are lowly before God. They are ready to leave everything in the hands of God, to leave themselves, their rights, their cause, their whole life, in the hand of God. Meek.
This meekness will be seen in the attitude that we carry. The fruit of meekness is, first of all, seen in an attitude toward God, an attitude of submission and quietness. How often do we not struggle with the sovereign ways and the sovereign will of God? I am not talking, now, of accepting our sinful ways or being indifferent. But I am referring to the fact that God sovereignly appoints my portion in this life. He arranges my life, personally and in my family, and economically, in all the details of my life. Very often we struggle with that. We find it very hard to be submissive to the way and to the will of God. That is our pride.
Meekness, now, is submission, submission to the great God of heaven. And, thus, meekness is strength! The meek person is strong because he knows that God is holding him up. We read in Psalm 147, “The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.” In meekness we are able to bear God’s chastenings in quietness and hope. We are able to do that with a meek and a quiet spirit. There is an example of this in the Bible. I bring to your memory the high priest called Aaron. Aaron’s two sons had been killed by God for offering strange incense in the tabernacle. They had worshiped God in a manner that He had not prescribed. And God consumed them in fire. God, then, told Moses to tell Aaron that Aaron could not mourn over his sons. He had to submit, in his grief, to the hand of God. And Aaron did. Now Aaron was far from perfect. The Bible makes that plain. The Scriptures tell us of all of his faults. Yet God gave to Aaron a meekness. He suffered quietly before God.
The same thing was true of Eli. Eli also is known for his faults and for his sins — his faults especially toward his two sons. Because of his laxity toward his sons, they had become vile in the sight of God and would come to a horrible end. Yet, when told by Samuel of God’s judgment on his house, Eli’s words were: “Let the Lord do as seemeth good to Him.” He submitted to God’s will. He was meek. He did not say, “It’s not fair. Look at what this is doing to me!” But he possessed a meek and a quiet spirit before God, which is of great price. He was ready to submit, ready to listen.
The second fruit of meekness is our attitude toward others. Meekness makes us the most approachable persons on earth. Not bristling in pride, not sharp, cruel, spiteful. It is the meek in Christ with whom you feel a great kinship. Meekness attracts others. Meekness is mildness of manner, gentleness, harmlessness. Remember what we read inMatthew 11:28. The Lord said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.” Why? “For I am meek and lowly in heart. You are safe with Me,” said Jesus. “Because I am meek, you may come to Me. I’m not dangerous. You may set your heart upon Me.”
Still more. In meekness, we will bear patiently the insults and the injuries that we receive at the hands of others. In meekness we will not become inflamed, vindictive. In meekness we will not assume a demeaning attitude toward those who differ with us. We will not show ourselves to have a harsh, censorious temperament. We will not enjoy finding fault in others. Meekness will be seen in gentleness, humility, and patience. It is the absence of retaliation. It is the absence of paying back. It is the absence of saying, “They’re gonna get theirs.” No, it is longsuffering and patient, especially when we suffer wrongfully. Then we will be meek. Listen to Galatians 6:1. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” The Word of God is saying that only a spirit of meekness qualifies you to deal with another who may be embittered and resentful, to deal with someone who has fallen away. You can deal with such a person only in the spirit of meekness. Meekness means that you are emptied of yourself. You are dependent upon and submissive to God. You are gentle and you are teachable. Blessed are the meek, said Jesus, for they shall inherit the earth.
The Lord Jesus, there, is taking His words from Psalm 37:11, where we read, “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” When He says that we shall inherit the earth, He does not mean that we will become real estate tycoons and have vast land holdings. That idea is spreading through Christianity today — the prosperity heresy — that trusting in Jesus and assuming all the spiritual attitudes will result in great earthly prosperity. That is a false teaching. That is not the teaching of the Bible. That is blasphemy. No, the Lord is not referring here to a physical promise. It is very plain, if you read all of Psalm 37, that the promise held out for those who trust in God is that they will be delivered from the enslaving of anxiety and desperation, and instead they wll be given grace to delight themselves in the Lord, even in the way of adversity.
But what does it mean, then, that the meek shall inherit the earth? It means two things. First of all, meekness gives us the enjoyment of our earthly position. Only in the way of meekness can we receive with thanksgiving what God has given to us in this earthly life. You see, meekness delivers us from a greedy and grasping disposition in which we are never satisfied with anything that we have. The promise, then, is contentment. A person who is not meek but is proud and self-assertive and boastful cannot be satisfied. They can never be satisfied. But a child of God who is meek may be satisfied in what he has. Meekness before God brings contentment. In Philippians 4:12 the apostle says, “I abound, I am full, I have all things” — because he knew meekness. Meekness opens the door to contentment. That is the first meaning here.
The second meaning is this. We will inherit the earth. The reference, then, is to the future earth, the new heavens and the new earth that Jesus shall establish when He returns yet once more. The proud? In that day the proud shall be cast down. The self-assertive? Those who stood on the necks of their fellow humans and saw their fellow humans only as a way to advance themselves? They shall be cast down. But the meek shall inherit the earth. They shall receive the final creation of God. They are the heirs of God. They are joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. They now dwell with God in Jesus Christ. And in the day of days, God will give them all that He has. God will not give them a resort on St. Thomas Island. He is not going to give them an apartment on the 96th floor of the John Hancock. All of these will crumble down. And they all come, right now, if you have them, with a heavy price of worry. But God shall give to the meek glory, a place to live with God and to enjoy Him forever, while all the proud and the self-seeking shall know only His displeasure and curse in hell.
Blessed are the meek!
But we ask how? Am I meek? We shall never make ourselves to be meek. Those efforts of men to prove that they are meek are the proudest works of men. We are not meek by nature, but proud, arrogant sons and daughters of Adam. God makes us meek. The Holy Spirit, only the Holy Spirit, grace, the cross of Jesus Christ, is the power to make us meek. That is the gospel. We come before Christ by grace for something we do not have, something God has made us to desire, that we might be meek before God and man, that our pride might be crucified and Christ might be exalted. Then, by His grace, as we stand in the shadow of the cross, He grants us also this blessing: that He makes us meek and lowly of heart, gentle, ready to be taught. We see our own pride.
Let us then bow and let us pray, Lord, give us grace to be done with ourselves, which is the cause of all of our trouble, our pride, and our arrogancy. Grant, O Lord, that in the shadow of the cross we might submit to Thee as the sovereign God, that we might learn to be gentle and patient unto all men and to live in the hope that ours is the kingdom of heaven — we shall inherit the earth, the new Jerusalem wherein we shall dwell forever with thee. Heavenly Father, make us to be meek. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.