“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,”
The Bible is strange. I think sometimes we forget just how weird it really is. For the past few weeks we have been looking at the beginning of Jesus’ teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, and if we have been paying attention we must admit that they are strange. The Beatitudes are Christ’s description of what a person or community looks like when they come under His kingship, and many pastors have summarized them as a description of the “Upside-Down Kingdom.” “Upside-down”, because nearly all of the beatitudes seem to be explaining the exact opposite blessings that we would expect: If you want to be welcomed into the riches of God’s Kingdom, you must first admit that you are poor (5:3); if you want to experience the joy and comfort of God, you must first experience sorrow and mourning (5:4); and if you want to inherit the earth, you must be gentle and meek. This is odd.
For us to make sense of this we will first need to see what meekness is, what meekness looks like, and how to become meek.
What Meekness Is
In this verse, Jesus is quoting directly from Ps. 37:11, “But the meek shall inherit the land (earth).” So, for us to understand what “meekness” is, let’s begin our search there. In John Piper’s study of this passage, he sees four identifiers that paint a portrait of those who are meek.
- They Trust and Delight in God
We see this immediately in verses 3 and 4, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The meek are those who see God as both trustworthy, and delightful. God is not a theory or concept to the meek – He is what they are ultimately trusting in to carry them through life. When you trust a chair to hold you up, you sit in it – you don’t just stare at it, you sit. The meek also don’t see God as a means to an end – He is not the butler that brings them what they really want, He is their delight. It is so easy to fool ourselves into thinking we love God, when we really what we love most is what we think God can get us: a good life, lots of friends, a good job, etc. Not so with those who are meek – their delight is in
- They Cast their Anxieties on God
We see this in verse 5a, “Commit your way to the Lord.” The Hebrew word for commit, literally is “to roll”. Biblical meekness is defined by a recognition that the problems of life are far too big for us to handle on our own, and we must roll them onto the Lord. All of life, our “way”, is fraught with endless opportunities to cripple us with anxiety: am I going to pass that test, does she like me back, am I going to be accepted into that college, is my family going to stay together, etc. Peter encourages us to, “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you,” (1 Pet. 5:7), we are to fling the weight of our worry onto God – why? Because He really, really cares for you. “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved,” (Ps. 55:22). I want you to think about what you are worried about most right now, and envision it like a huge backpack you are carrying, and just imagine Jesus walking up and saying, “Can I carry that for you?”
- They are Still and Wait on the Lord
We see this in verse 7a, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” When we really believe that we can count on God, and we delight in who He is, and we roll the burdens of our anxieties off our backs onto Christ’s – we suddenly have this remarkable ability to be quiet and wait for God. Our world is a busy, noisy, frantic world – and one of the best ways that Christians can be weird, in the best sense of the word, is to have a sense of quiet peace and confidence in God to show up.
- They Do Not Fret Over the Wicked
We see this in verse 7b and 8, “Fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” Biblical meekness is free from resorting to anger, bitterness, revenge, or a mean spirit when others sin against us. Because we ultimately trust and delight in God, then when others smear our good name, mock us, or oppose us, we are okay. When a sledgehammer hits a pile of pillows, what happens? Nothing – the pillows absorb the blow. But what happens if the sledgehammer hits a pane of glass? It shatters. It doesn’t have the flexibility to absorb the blow – so it splinters into a hundred little pieces. This is what happens to us if we are not meek – if we are trusting in ourselves, carrying all of our anxieties, rushing around from thing to thing, our stress level rising – and someone comes along and ruins our plan, or hurts us? We either lash back in anger, or we collapse into ourselves in a depression. Meekness is the ability to absorb whatever may come at us, trusting God, casting our fears and anxieties on Him, silently waiting for Him to deliver us, and not returning evil for evil.
So, what does it mean to be meek? Trusting and delighting in God, casting our anxieties on Him, waiting on the Lord, and not being consumed with the evil done to us. Or, more simply: freedom from self-obsession. Here are some diagnostic questions for you to examine whether or not you are meek:
- Are you stressed out/anxious/frustrated easily? Is it really hard for you to slow down and “be still” before God?
- Are you frustrated that God hasn’t given you a better life?
- Are you overly sensitive or concerned with what other people think about you? Do you get your feelings hurt really easily?
- Do hold onto grudges? Is it hard for you to forgive others?
- Do you fight and strive for the best seat, to be noticed, or to be seen as impressive?
What Meekness Looks Like
We just finished reading through the book of Numbers this week in our reading plan, and I was gripped by the story of Numbers 12. If you have been reading along, you can see that the overall story of Numbers is how quickly the Israelites begin to question God and his representative, Moses. In this story, Moses’ wife has recently died, so he gets remarried to a Cushite woman (most likely an Ethiopian, so she was probably black). This offends Moses’ family, and his older sister and brother (Miriam and Aaron) use it as an opportunity to try and completely overthrow Moses as Israel’s leader. They start complaining, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” (Num. 12:2). Essentially, everyone has been really frustrated at Moses for leading them into the wilderness, and now Miriam and Aaron stand up and say, “You know what? What makes Moses so special? Why should he be our leader, when we are just as qualified?” Imagine for a moment how painful this would have been for Moses? After years of struggling to try and lead these people, after seeing disappointment after disappointment, after pleading with God to forgive them and patiently teaching them God’s law again and again – only to have your very own siblings try and depose you? How would you respond to that? That would be devastating. Most of us would either snap and go ballistic on our siblings, or collapse in on ourselves and just give up.
But the next verse makes an interesting sidebar statement, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth,” (Num. 12:3). In the face of heartbreaking betrayal, we are told that Moses is remarkably meek – interesting. The rest of the chapter tells of how God descends on Moses, Aaron, and Miriam in a cloud and disciplines Aaron and Miriam for questioning Moses’ leadership, saying that unlike Aaron and Miriam, God speaks to Moses directly. And then He asks them why they were not afraid to speak against Moses (vs. 8). I love this because it so clearly shows us that Moses was not meek because he lacked power or authority – not by a long shot! He had so much authority that God is surprised that his siblings would dare level a charge against him without quaking in fear. Meekness is not about the absence of power, but about trusting in God to take care of us. Again, Moses shows us this. In His anger, God punishes Miriam, “When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow,” (Num. 12:10). Terrified, Aaron immediately turns to Moses and begs for his forgiveness and asks him to spare their sister. Moses could have just walked away and said, “This is God’s judgment – maybe you should think twice before questioning His servant.” Aaron wouldn’t have been able to argue with that. But Moses didn’t do that – instead he dropped to his knees and cried out, “O God, please heal her—please,” (Num. 12:13). And God heals her. Because Moses could absorb their attacks, rather than let it break him, he was then free to immediately forgive and heal them. That is Biblical meekness.
How to Become Meek
Moses is such a great example of meekness because he had an incredible amount of authority and power – he was God’s representative to the people. In other words, Moses wasn’t gentle and humble because he had to be. Sometimes we don’t lash back at someone who has hurt us because we know that if we pick a fight, we’ll get our butt’s whooped. If we talk back to our mother, someone will need to start digging our grave in the backyard. But this wasn’t why Moses was meek; this wasn’t why he forgave his brother and sister. Moses was able to be meek because he trusted in God to take care of his fears and anxieties, so when people sinned against him, he could absorb it, and wait for God. If you cling to your anxieties and trust yourself more than God, than you will become stressed out, touchy, and fragile.
But maybe this is still too difficult to wrap your head around, maybe you are saying, Okay, but how, how do I trust God that much? And the answer is simple: look to the One that Moses points to, Christ. Here is what Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” (Matt. 11:29). If it is shocking that Moses was meek, this is infinitely more so. Jesus is God! Why on earth would Jesus be meek and lowly? He is the most powerful human being ever – if anyone deserves to not be meek and humble, it is Jesus, right? But, in Jesus’ life we see Him using His power and authority to serve others. Why is this? Two reasons:
- Jesus is our model. Jesus is the perfect human being – he was without sin and perfectly fulfilled God’s law. So if we want a snapshot of what humanity is supposed to look like, it is Jesus. And Jesus shows us that true life is found not in being served, but in serving. He taught, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve,” (Matt. 20:27-28). Joy is not found in stepping on other people to get what we want, returning insult for insult, or furthering our own greatness – it is found in being freed from self-obsession, and loving God and serving others instead.
- Jesus is our savior. Jesus isn’t just our model. Before Jesus is a model for us to pattern our lives after, He is first our savior. Jesus completes the teaching with this, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” You see, Jesus’ meekness isn’t just a nice principle to look at – it is what led Jesus to the Cross. Jesus wasn’t crucified because he was weak – he was crucified because he was meek. Because He trusted in God. When Peter attacks the guards who are arresting Jesus, Jesus immediately rebukes him, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matt. 26:53-54). Jesus didn’t avail Himself to the power to strike back – why? Because He trusted His Father’s plan. This is what led Jesus to literally absorb the blows – the blows of the mocking guards, the blows of the scourging, the blows of the hammer driving 9-inch nails through his wrists, fastening him to a splintered cross – and ultimately, to absorb the wrath of God for our sins! For Jesus to absorb all of that, and still be able to say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34), is mind-boggling. It was His meekness that led His loving heart to be sacrificed for you and for me. This is a God we can trust our whole lives with.
And what do we get when we receive this immense gift from Christ? When we enter into a relationship with Jesus, it is like entering into a marriage. When people get married, there no longer is a division between possessions and money. It all becomes one and belongs to the both of them together. With Christ, we bring him our sin, but He brings us His inheritance (among many other blessings). Christ is King of the earth, so we now share in that inheritance, and one day when He returns, we will rule and reign with Him. We will be kings and queens over the whole earth! So you don’t have to be anxious or worried now – you have something far greater coming.