Good morning. I want you to imagine that you’re sitting in a corporate boardroom and you're surrounded by a number of people who really know how to wheel and deal, as we say. Sitting across the table from you to your right is Real Estate entrepreneur Donald Trump. And then sitting across the table to your left over here is American Idol judge Simon Cowell. Sitting to your immediate left is former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Sitting to your immediate right is former First Lady and present Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. And each of these person is a strong, seasoned, notorious negotiator, and you're all negotiating for the same piece of the pie. And suddenly you realize you’re kind of in over your head. You are in a place where maybe you don’t belong. And you think to yourself, how am I going to negotiate anything against these strong, powerful, assertive kinds of people? But you read your Bible that morning. In fact, you’ve been attending church at Immanuel Bible Church where we’ve been studying through the Beatitudes. And you read ahead for this week, and you came to Matthew 5:5 where it says, “Blessed are the meet, for they will inherit the earth.” Kind of a strange sounding beatitude, isn’t it? Like the others, it seems upside down, backwards, not exactly the way the world works. I mean, the meek will inherit the earth? The meek know the secret to having it all? Is that what Jesus is talking about?
Well, we’ve been talking about these Beatitudes. And we’ve been learning that they really are other-worldly. They do take the notions, the general notions of happiness, and Jesus turns them upside down. They are eight of them. We’ve looked at two of them already. The first was “Blessed are the poor in the spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The next week we looked at “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We learned in week 1 that we have to acknowledge and recognize our spiritual bankruptcy before God. “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling” is the idea. And that leads to an emotional response, a mourning over our sin, a genuine sorrow of heart that we have broken and grieved the heart of God, that we have broken His laws. And we are broken and mournful people.
And this third one is the natural overflow of the recognition of our spiritual poverty and that emotional response of mourning over our sins. And I probably wouldn’t have to problem with this particular beatitude, although this is the one where you kind of, you know, wonder, this might be the beatitude where I really believe that nothing that Jesus is talking about here can actually happen in the real world. Okay? This is the one. “Blessed are the meek.” If He would have said, “Blessed are the meek, for theirs are the kingdom of heaven,” I might have an easier time with this because we all know that the kingdom of heaven does not go to the pushy and the proud and the assertive and the overly aggressive. But He doesn’t link the meek the kingdom of heaven on earth. Rather, He links it to inheriting the earth, which, by the way, makes this particular beatitude immensely practical. As practical as the dirt on the soles of your shoes. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Well, one of the problems, as you might guess, that we have with this particular beatitude and with the notion of meekness is that too often we equate it with weakness. And let me just dispel that up front. The biblical ide of meekness does not equal weakness. But that’s what the world typically thinks or understands meekness to be. And it’s one of the reasons why we kind of shy away from this one. We don’t want to be meek and overly submissive, timid, cautious kinds of people. Well, maybe some people do. I don’t know. Maybe that’s the way God has wired you. In fact, I came across an organization that actually is organized for the purpose of attracting timid and overly submissive people. Their name is actually an acronym. They call themselves DOORMATS. It stands for Dependent Organization of Really Meek and Timid Souls. Spell it out. Crazy, isn’t it? I mean, who wants to be the president of the DOORMAT organization. And then I learned that their corporate icon or their logo…this is pretty crazy…is a yellow traffic light. That just kind of says it all, doesn’t it, for the world’s understanding of meekness and weakness and you’re just a doormat. Apparently this organization doesn’t want to attract the green light people in the world who say go, go, go; or the red light people in this world who say stop and no. No, they want yellow light people. People who are timid and cautious and kind of wring their hands. Is yellow the color of meekness? Is that was Jesus is talking about here? Is He saying that we somehow should be timid and cautious and overly submissive and weak and mousy-like? And if that’s the case, how could anybody be blessed by something like that? Aren’t you vulnerable to being a doormat and to somebody just running roughshod over you? Well, obviously, we need to deconstruct the world’s understanding of meekness, and we need a more biblical understanding of it.
And fortunately as we get into a study of the particular word that Jesus uses here, it does reveal to us something much different than what I just described. Meekness certainly is not weakness. Meekness, rather, is power or strength under God’s control. Let me show you what I’m talking about here. The Greek word praus, which is translated meek…mostly in the old King James Version. Some of our newer translations use different words like gentle or humble, even courteous or considerate. But in the old King James it was often translated meek. And in extra-biblical language this same word praus was used by doctors to describe a soothing medicine, by sailors to describe a gentle breeze, and by farmers to describe a broken colt. Now, think about all three of those usages. You have something very powerful, like a medicine or the wind or an animal like a horse. All of these things are very powerful in and of themselves, but they're controlled. They’re restrained in a way. A medicine, if it’s unrestrained, can lead to an overdose. A gentle breeze if unrestrained and if it kicks up, it can lead to a hurricane, a tornado, something even more destructive. An unbroken animal, a horse, can run roughshod over people. But every one of these powerful elements here can also be restrained and placed under control and used in a very, very effective way.
And so the biblical idea…and this may not be new to some of you. The application we get to is the real kicker in the message today. But the basic definition of meekness, the biblical definition, is power or strength under God’s control. Some of you have a very powerful personality. It needs to be brought under God’s control. We live in a power-brokering kind of city. What does meekness look like on display in Washington, D.C.? What does it look like at the Pentagon when the most powerful nation on this earth has some of the most powerful weaponry at its disposal? What does it look like in the job? What does it look like in your home, in your parenting, in your relationships? These are all things that we want to explore this morning.
A.W. Tozer, one of my favorite authors, says it this way. “The meek person is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority.” And that’s something we need to understand. “Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Sampson, but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life.” That’s why meekness naturally flows out of an attitude that says, “I’m bankrupt before God. I’m poor in spirit,” and the mourning that comes over us as a result of that. What naturally flows out of that is the honest, as Tozer says, the honest assessment of who God says I am. He says, “The meek person knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. This is his motto.” And this is the meek person.
Well, let’s explore a couple of example of a meek person in the scriptures, one in the Old Testament, and then we’ll come back to the New Testament. Let’s go to Numbers 12. Sometimes it’s just a better….rather than to talk about what it is, it’s good to see it on display. Ad you may be surprised to find that one of the persons through which meekness was on display in the Bible was none other than a guy named Moses. Now, if you have the idea that a meek person is sort of a Casper Milquetoast kind of guys…and by the way, Caster Milquetoast was a character in a popular cartoon that ran from, well, the late 1800s to about 1952. The cartoon was called “The Timid Soul.” And Casper Milquetoast was the lead character in “The Timid Soul.” And he’s become kind of iconic to describe the meek and mild, sort of, mousy, mealy-mouthed, sort of, you know, timid, over cautious, overly submissive kind of person. If that’s your view of meekness, then it sort of collides with what we find in Numbers 12:3, which describes Moses, the strong leader of the Israeli exodus, Moses as the meekest man on the earth at that time. Numbers 12:3 from the King James Version…and I love the language, the beautiful language of the old King James Version, and especially because in the 16th century they understood, you know, the biblical notion of meekness and probably wasn’t up against the cultural stuff that we understand today. So they use the word. And it says, “Now the man Moses was very meek above all the men who were upon the face of the earth.” You talking about the Moses I know? I mean, the Moses who stood before Pharaoh not once but nearly a dozen times and said, “Let my people go?” Assertive, strong, forceful Moses. Yeah, that Moses. The same Moses who went up to Mount Sinai to meet with God and was there for 40 days and 40 nights. And at the end of 40 days and 40 nights he brought down the Ten Commandments on those two tablets, two tablets of stone written with the finger of God. And when he got down to the bottom of the mountain, he found that his brother Aaron, who was also serving as the high priest, had led the people of God, who had grown impatient by then…led the people of God into sort of a worship orgy with a golden calf. And Moses took those tablets, and meek, milquetoast Moses…right, if that’s our understanding of it…and smashed them on two rocks like two pumpkins. How do we reconcile the world’s understanding of meekness and milquetoast and all that with what we find in Moses?
Well, there’s an interesting display of this meekness, this power. Moses was a powerful personality and powerful leader. But he knew how to restrain it and control it under the direction of the God that he served. And that little mention, that editorial comment about Moses in Numbers 12:3, in my Bible there are parenthesis around that verse as if to say that the writer is saying, “In the context of what’s happening here, I want you to know that Moses was meek man.” The newer translations describe him as humble. I don’t think that’s really broad enough really capture the word of meekness here. But what’s the context of Numbers 12:13. Look at it in verse 1. Miriam and Aaron…which by the way was Moses’s sister and brother. Miriam was a prophetess among the people of God. Aaron was the high priest. Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses. They rose up against Moses, God’s leader. Why? Because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. Anybody ever start picking on you because of your spouse? That’s not a very fun thing, you know. That’s when the mama bear or the papa bear comes out in you when somebody starts picking your spouse. And in this case, the Cushites from which Moses found his wife, the Cushites were the Ethiopians, okay. Now, we don’t know if the wife of Moses here is Zipporah. From other scripture Moses’s wife has a name; her name was Zipporah. We don’t know if this is Zipporah the Cushite or if Zipporah might have died and this is a second marriage for Moses. We don’t know. But some Bible commentators and scholars have the courage enough to bring out this aspect of the scene here.
Because he married a Cushite from the land of Ethiopia, many Bible scholars suggest that Moses’s wife might have been black. And if that’s the case, then what we have Miriam and Aaron here is the bubbling up of a racial prejudice that is just ugly and smells in the nostrils of God. But that really wasn’t their issue with Moses. They accused him for marrying this woman. But if you read on in verse 2, it says, “‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’ they [being Miriam and Aaron] asked. ‘Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’” You see, his Cushite wife was simply a smokescreen for the real issue. They were jealous of Moses’s leadership and his special relationship with God. And so they started accusing him via his Cushite wife. But really what they wanted was a little taste of the power that Moses had as the laeader of Israeli people and the leader of the exodus.
Well, we fast forward the story. The Lord heard all this. And He gathered Miriam and Aaron and Moses in a little meeting inside the tent of meeting. And in verses, oh about 6-8 the Lord says, “Listen to my words.” And He basically elevates Moses as His man. He says, “You know, there are other prophets out there that I have a relationship with. But Moses, he is special. I speak face to face with Moses, and there is nobody else like him.” And He basically puts Miriam and Aaron in their place. Moses didn’t have to do that. In fact, when I read this I ask the question, what would I do if I were in Moses’s shoes? What would you do if you were in Moses’s shoes? I would probably roar like a lion and try to put my brother and sister back in their place. Wouldn’t be exactly a display of meekness, but that’s not what Moses does here. Moses is quiet. And he just listens to God. In fact, he trusts his cause to the Lord Himself, who disciplines Miriam and Aaron and actually inflicts Miriam with leprosy of all things. And what do we find Moses doing as we read on? Verse 13 says, “Moses cried out to the Lord and said, “O God, please heal her.’” When was the last time you prayed for those who rose up against you? Hey, this is meekness on display. Moses was a powerful personality in a powerful position. And he could have wielded that power in any way, shape and form. But he chooses a gentle, meek and quiet approach that trusts God with the situation. It’s a pretty powerful example, isn’t it? Meekness on display here.
Well, there is another example. And for this one, let’s turn to the New Testament, chapter 11 of the book of Matthew. Matthew 11:28-30, a familiar passage of scripture to many of us. It includes a beautiful invitation that Jesus makes to all of us. “Come unto me,” He says, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He is speaking to a group of people who were weary (0:19:00.0) and burdened by a religious system that had heaped a list of do’s and don’ts upon them that…well, just sort of like dragging along a knapsack, you know, trying to earn their relationship to God. And He says, “Come on. Those of you who want rest, come to Me.” And then He says in verse 29, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” He invites us into a personal relationship with Him and into a disciple’s or learner’s relationship. And what are we to learn from Him?
Well, in the words that follow, these are one of maybe the only if not few occasions that Jesus Christ describes Himself, a little insight into how He sees Himself. He says, “Learn from me.” Now, watch this, “For I am,”—and this is from the NIV—“gentle and humble in heart. The King James Versions says, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” (0:20:00.1) Is that how you see Jesus? As meek and gentle and lowly Jesus? It’s how He describes himself. And the world may look at this with their understanding of meekness and say, “Yeah, that Jesus. He is just kind of a wimp. Just wimpy, wimpy Jesus. Meek and mild Jesus. Meek and milquetoast Jesus.” No, that’s not the understanding here. This is the ultimate picture of the greatest power in the universe who knows how to restrain His power. In fact, He left much of His glory back in heaven when He came to this earth, didn’t He? But He says, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” Now, I can think of many occasions where that description, you know, played itself out in the scriptures. You know, we think of the time when Jesus described Himself. He says, “I am the good shepherd.” And we like to think of Jesus as a gentle shepherd who leads us. Our minds flash back to Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He leads me beside gentle waters and into green pastures.” We love that picture of God. And it’s a legitimate picture. We love the gentle, meek, shepherd-like picture of Jesus.
And I remember one of my professors in seminary saying, “Yeah, but I also love the picture of Jesus stepping into the temple with a bullwhip and ransacking the temple and overturning the merchandise tables and cleansing the temple as He did, not once, but twice.” Read the gospels carefully. It appears that He did it at the beginning of His ministry and also at the end of His ministry. Now, if you’re picture of meekness is meek and mild and milquetoast, you’ve got to a conflict in Jesus’s personality here. And even then, if meekness is gentleness and restrained power, if it’s sort of like a governor on a rental truck…you ever driven a rental truck? And, you know, some of you guys are pretty aggressive. And you’re pushing on that accelerator and pushing on that…and there’s a governor on there that restrains how fast you can go. Meekness is other that quality, that character quality that restrains the overuse of your powerful personality or your powerful position and keeps a governor on it. Okay? Now, Jesus was the perfect Son of God and the sinless Son of God. He didn’t need a governor except for, you know His perfection. So how do we understand meekness in light of a time when Jesus comes into the temple and doesn’t show a whole lot of restraint? He seems to overturn the money tables. And I love that picture of the doves flying and the tables flying and the money clinking and clanking and rolling on the floor and the shocked faces. Did Jesus lose His meekness in that moment? That’s my question. I know the right theological answer, but how do I understand, “I am meek and lowly in heart,” with that display of righteous anger and a fit of rage?
Well, I wrestled with it some this week and tried to jot down these words. In Christianity, meekness should never be confused with the passive acceptance of evil from sinful people or Satan. And I believe that’s true. When Moses, who is described as the meekest man in the world at that time, came down from Mount Sinai and saw what the children of Israel were doing with the golden calf, that was not the time to be restrained. He didn’t lose his meekness, but it was not a time for the passive acceptance of evil. And when Jesus walked into the temple, although, yes, He was gentle and meek and lowly in heart and that’s an honest and truthful description of who He is, there was a time when he cast restraint aside. And He refused to passively accept the evil that was going on. You see, one of the practical questions I have this week is, how does a Christian who works at the Pentagon for the Department of Defense apply this beatitude, blessed are the meek. And there are times when there are righteous causes as in the case of Jesus in the temple or perhaps even in the case of what we might call a just war, where the most powerful nation on earth cast aside restraint. And the questions surrounding that are complex, and there is no way that we can address them all today. But you've got to take a beatitude like this and turn it on all its sides and ask all kinds of questions and say, how does it apply here? How does it apply there? How does it apply here? Because it seems so upside down and so other-worldly. And this is the beatitude that if anybody is gonna check out of the series and say what Jesus teaches here doesn’t work in real life, this is the one. Blessed are the meek? Even if we understand it as restrained power, what does that look like when I’ve got a powerful personality. I’m in a powerful position. I live in the most powerful country on this earth, and I have the most powerful weapons at my disposal. What does godly restraint of that power look like? Those are the questions we must ask.
The back side of this beatitude is equally as challenging. “The meek shall inherit the earth.” What is that all about? Let’s talk about that for a moment. In the beatitudes and in the Sermon on the Mount and really throughout the Gospels, you’ve got to come to grips with the kingdom aspects of Jesus’s teaching- the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God and what that is all about. I’ve said it in almost every message here in this series that there is a “now but not yet” aspect to the kingdom. There are aspects of the kingdom that are very much now. We are citizens of the kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ. But there are “not yet” aspects, future aspects, eschatological aspects, future aspects that when Jesus comes again and establishes His kingdom on earth, certainly the Bible teaches that the meek and only the meek will reign with Him and inherit the earth. But in the “now but not yet” aspect of the kingdom, there are some occasions where we can look at this world and say, you know, the meek are not the ones that are inheriting the earth right now. It seems that the earth belongs to the dictator and the tyrant who, through violence and justice, tries to dominate the world. It seems like it’s not the meek and gentle politician that gets elected. It’s the one who practices the politics of personal destruction. It doesn’t seem like it’s the meek employee in the corporation who rises to the top. It’s the pushy, aggressive, overly assertive guy who makes it to become CEO. So what’s that all about? Well, and again, there is a coming kingdom where Jesus will reign as king and where the meek will reign with him. But there are certainly many occasions…and we talked about some of them this week in our planning meeting of people right here at Immanuel Bible Church who work at the Pentagon or on Capitol Hill or in various places in this powerful city who have a quality of Christ-likeness about them that could be described as meek and gentle in their spirit, but God has used the to rise to very powerful positions. And the meek person is the person who understands when and how to wield that power and strength and authority and to do so in a Christ-like kind of way.
There will be a time, certainly, when the dictators and the tyrants and those who try to possess the earth by violence and injustice, their efforts will fail ultimately. And we’ve seen some of that even in our lifetime. We’ve seen where a wicked man like Saddam Hussein gets cut off or some other powerful dictator. And this is kind of what the psalmist David has in mind. Turn to Psalm 37 with me. And just keep in mind some of these “now but not yet” aspects of inheriting the earth. David says in Psalm 37:8, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath. Do not fret; it only leads to evil, for evil men will be cut off.” Yeah, ultimately all of them will, and we’ve even seen some in our lifetime. “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.” Verse 11, “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy a great price.” And I think David is speaking in a “now but not yet” kind of fashion there.
Well, let’s talk about some of the practical applications of meekness. And let’s return to the New Testament for that and go on a little bit of a survey through the New Testament and just land upon those places. Some of them familiar passages of scripture where the word “meekness” appears, or in some of our more modern translations the word “gentle” might appear. But I like the King James Version here for our purposes. And I just want us to think about, how do we take this beatitude and put it into practice? One of the things that we said at the beginning of this series is that the beatitudes are really the character of Christ. And here is one where we come right upon that, Jesus Himself describing Himself as meek. How do we clothe ourselves in this virtue, and what does it look like in a variety of places where you and I will travel starting tomorrow morning, perhaps even this afternoon?
First of all, on the job. What does meekness look like on the job? Ephesians 4:1-2, the apostle Paul says, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you.” He says, “I beg you that you walk worthy of the vocation to which you were called.” How do you do that? It goes on and says, “With all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love.” I wonder how it might transform the temperature in your office tomorrow if you went in and maybe chose to restrain that powerful personality of yours that you get to express through that powerful position that you have living in this powerful city. On the job.
How about in the home. 1 Peter 3:1-4. Peter is addressing wives primarily, but I want you to think about meekness in the context of your marriage relationship, in the context of your parenting. He says to wives, “Let your adorning…” And he tells wives, he says don’t be so concerned about the external adorning of the body, but the adornment of the heart. And he says, “Let your adorning be the hidden man of the heart and that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the side of God great price.” Oh, let’s be careful with this. This is not the passage of scripture that justifies that wives are to be doormats for their husbands. No, if you say that you don’t understand this text or any other text in scripture. And you don’t understand meekness. No, you may have a very powerful personality as a wife. And you’re in a powerful position although under your husband’s spiritual leadership. But Peter would say here that even more precious than the earrings and the jewelry that you wear is the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, the ability the restrain maybe that powerful personality that could possibly, ladies, run right over your husband.
Or put this the other way around, guys. You may be the head of your wife and the spiritual leader of the home, but are you exercising that authority in an attitude of meekness and gentleness and power and strength that is under control? Think about it in your parenting. Some of us with powerful personalities, I mean, we can part our kid’s hair in a word or two. And I know as a parent I need to be careful with that. I need to act gently towards my kids and speak gently towards them. So meekness on the job, meekness in the home. Lots of places we could apply this.
How about in your ministry? 2 Corinthians 10:1, “Now I, Paul, myself beg you, beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ,”…he must have read Matthew 11:28 and following…”who in presence am base among you, but being absent I am bold towards you.” Paul founded this church in Corinth, and it was a very dysfunctional church. Just read 1 and 2 Corinthians and you find out that they had a lot of problems there, a lot of misunderstandings. And Paul says, “You know, as I ministered to you, I did so with gentleness and meekness. I did so as best as I could, clothing myself in the character and the quality of Christ.”
Here is another one for your ministry. 1 Peter 3:15, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” We love to talk about sharing our faith and engaging the world and the culture with the gospel and having an answer ready for not only what we believe, but why we believe it. But sometimes the way in which we answer that question can push people away, isn’t it. Too aggressive, too pushy, too overly assertive with the gospel. Peter says here do all that with meekness and fear. Clothe yourself with a gentleness as you engage a friend or a neighbor or a coworker with the gospel.
And then finally, just generally speaking in our relationship, Colossians 3:12-13. Paul says, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved,”…and look at this list and think of them as your spiritual closet into which you reach and put on your spiritual clothes every morning. He says, “Put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind,” and here’s our word, “meekness,”…power and strength under God’s control; put it on…“long-suffering, forbearing one another and forgiving one another.” He says, “If any man has a quarrel against any…” Anybody have a quarrel going on in here? You have a strained relationship? He says, “Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Yeah, you’ve got to reach into that spiritual closet and clothe yourself with some things if you want to smooth over those relationships and give and receive forgiveness and Christ did. It may require some meekness and gentleness and an attitude that says, you know, “I’m gonna…through the resources of the Holy Spirit…even though I might have the power and the strength and the personality to get what I want and to insist upon my rights and to demand my way, I’m gonna chose meekness and gentleness and clothe myself with the character of Christ.” And you might even be surprised at how refreshing all of that is on the job, in your ministry, in your home, and how it just kind of transforms the temperature and transforms the experience of those relationships. Let’s bow together in prayer.
Father, thank You so much for teaching me this week from this incredible virtue, this Christ-like character called meekness. Father, You’re teaching me as You’re teaching others not to always insist and demand our own way, even though we may be in a position of power and strength to make it happen. Father, help us to be discerning in knowing when to restrain that power and when to choose not to be passively indifferent toward the evil around us. Most of all, Father, we want to be like Jesus. We sang about it a few minutes ago. “Be like Jesus, be like Jesus, meek and lowly, pure and holy, we want to be like Jesus.” We pray that you would shape us and mold us as the potter does the clay. Father, we need that across the board here this morning. Powerful people in a powerful city, powerful positions, powerful personalities that need a governor on it, the Christ-like restraint. So that in our parenting and in our marriages, in our places at work and as we engage the world around us in ministry, Father, that there is something of the aroma of Christ that follows us. And the Holy Spirit can use that to heal relationships and to win people to Christ. And we pray this in the name of Jesus our Lord, amen.