Welcome to our continuing discussion on the Sermon on the Mount. This week, we discuss the third of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). I believe that you’ve been blessed and gain new insights on the beatitude from what we have discuss so far. Stay with me as we still have yet more to discuss on our topic in the weeks to come.
The have been considerable differences of opinion as to the precise significance of the word meek. Some regard its meaning as patience, a spirit of resignation; others as gentleness, a spirit of nonretaliation, bearing afflictions quietly.
Doubtless, there is a measure of truth in each of these definitions. Yet it appears to the writer that they hardly go deep enough, for they fail to take note of the order of this third Beatitude. Personally, we would define meekness as humility. “Blessed are the meek,” that is, the humble, the lowly. Let us see if other passages bear this out.
The first time the word ‘meek’ occurs in Scripture is in Numbers 12:3. Here the Spirit of God has pointed out a contrast from that which is recorded in the previous verses. There we read of Miriam and Aaron speaking against Moses: “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” Such language betrayed the pride and haughtiness of their hearts, their self-seeking and craving for honour. As the antithesis of this we read, “Now the man Moses was very meek.” This must mean that he was actuated by a spirit the very opposite of the spirit of his brother and sister.
Moses was humble, lowly, and self-renouncing. This is recorded for our admiration and instruction in Hebrews 11:24-26. Moses turned his back on worldly honours and earthly riches, deliberating choosing the life of a pilgrim rather than that of a courtier. He chose the wilderness in preference to the palace. The humbleness of Moses is seen again when Jehovah first appeared to him in Midian and commissioned him to lead His people out of Egypt. “Who am I,” he said, “that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exod. 3:11). What lowliness these words breathe! Yes, Moses was very meek.
Other passages of Scriptures bear out, and seem to necessitate, the definition suggested above. “The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach His way” (Psalm 25:9). What can this mean but that the humble and lowly-hearted are the ones whom God promises to counsel and instruct? “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass” (Matthew 21:5). Here is meekness or lowliness incarnate. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Is it not plain that this means that a spirit of humility is required in him who would be used of God in restoring an erring brother or sister? We are to learn of Christ, who was “meek and lowly in heart.” The latter term explains the former. Note that they are linked together again in Ephesians 4:2, where the order is “Lowliness and meekness.” Here the order is deliberately reversed from that in Matthew 11:29. This shows us that they are synonymous terms.
Having thus sought to establish that meekness, in the Scriptures, signified humility and lowliness, let us now note how this is further borne out by the context and then endeavour to determine the manner in which such meekness finds expression. It must be steadily kept in mind that in these Beatitudes our Lord is describing the orderly development of God’s work of grace as it is experientially realised in the soul. First, there is poverty of spirit: a sense of my insufficiency and nothingness. Next, there is mourning over my lost condition and sorrowing over the awfulness of my sins against God. Following this, in order of spiritual experience, is humbleness of soul.
The one in whom the Spirit of God has worked, producing a sense of nothingness and of need, is now brought into the dust before God. Speaking as one whom God used in the ministry of the Gospel, the Apostle Paul said, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5).
The weapons that the apostles used were the searching, condemning, humbling truths of Scripture. These, as applied effectually by the Spirit, were mighty to pulling down of strongholds, that is, the powerful prejudices and self-righteous defenses within which sinful men took refuge. The results are the same today: proud imaginations or reasoning’s, the enmity of the canal mind and the opposition of the newly regenerate mind concerning salvation is now brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
Today, many people still think that they gain their standing before God on the basis of personal merits. We wish to purchase our salvation by our good deeds; we are anxious to win heaven by our own doings. God’s way of salvation is too humbling to suit the carnal mind, for it removes all ground for boasting. It is therefore unacceptable to the proud heart of the unborn again person.
We want to have a hand in our salvation. To be told that God will receive nought from us, that salvation is solely a matter of divine mercy, that eternal life is only for those who come empty-handed to receive it solely as a matter of charity, is offensive to the self-righteous religionist. But not so to the one who is poor in spirit and who mourns over his/her vile and wretched state. The very word mercy is music to his/her ears. Eternal life as God’s free gift suits his poverty-stricken condition. Grace, the sovereign favour of God to the hell-deserving is just what he feels he/she must have! Such a one no longer has any thought of justifying himself in his own eyes; all his haughty objections against God’s benevolence are now silenced. He is glad to own himself a beggar and bow in the dust before God. Once, like Naaman, he rebelled against the humbling terms announced by God’s servant; but now, like Naaman at the end, he is glad to dismount from his chariot of pride and take his place in the dust before the Lord. It was when Naaman bowed before the humbling word of God’s servant that he was healed of his leprosy.
In conclusion, true meekness is not weakness. A striking proof of this is furnished in Acts 16:35-37. The apostles had been wrongfully beaten and cast into prison. On the next day the magistrate gave orders for their release, but Paul said to their agents, “Let them come themselves and fetch us out.” God-given meekness can stand up for God-given rights. When one of the officers smote our Lord, He answered, “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me? The spirit of meekness was perfectly exemplified only by the Lord Jesus Christ, who was “Meek and lowly in heart.”
By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea