What Does it Mean to be Meek and Why They Are Blessed?
Meekness is a Virtue
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
In this third beatitude, Christ is showing believers the way to true blessedness or happiness. This beatitude brings us, in a natural progression, from being poor in spirit, and mourning and repenting of our sin, to namely, the virtue of meekness. The believer is ready to yield to God's will and be used for His glory.
Meekness Is Like a Colt, a Breeze, and a Soothing Medicine
What image does meekness conjure up in your mind? A mousey, dutiful wife at the hands of an overbearing husband? The prey of a bully? A weak wimp? Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the strongest people who have ever lived were meek.
Meek in the Greek is the word praus, meaning mildness or gentleness of spirit, soft. In the context of this verse, meekness is humility toward God and people. Some have described meekness as "having the right or the power to do something, but refraining for the benefit of someone else."
The word praus could be used to describe a gentle breeze, a soothing medicine, or a colt that has been broken in.
To elaborate, let's look at the colt analogy. A colt who is unbroken runs free and wild. He is out of control and cannot be of any use until he is broken in. When the master puts bit and bridle on him and breaks him in, he becomes a submissive, gentle, and self-controlled animal, ready to be of use to his master.
A gentle breeze is a wind under control. It is soft and gentle, but yet it pushes a windmill to create power.
A soothing medicine is strong because it works powerfully to heal the ailment or disease, but when its work is complete, there is healing and comfort.
Many have defined meek as strength under control. There were many in the Bible who were strong but under the control of or in submission to God. They allowed God to put the bit and bridle in their mouths and tame them to obedience. The bit and bridle are not comfortable at first, but after continued use, the horse learns that it his control and submission that earns the pleasure of his master. So it is with God.
Deeper Interpretation of Meekness
Charles Spurgeon offers penetrating clarity on meekness:
"With such a happy, contented spirit as that, those who are meek do not quarrel with God. They do not talk, as some foolish people do, of having been born under a wrong planet, and placed in circumstances unfavorable to their development. And even when they are smitten by God's rod, they do not rebel against him, and call him a hard Master; but they are either dumb with silence and open not their mouth because God hath done it, or if they do speak, it is to ask for grace that the trial they are enduring may be sanctified to them, or they may even rise so high in grace as to glory in infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon them."
Spurgeon's words echo Vines' interpretation,
"In its deeper use in Scripture, in which it has a fuller, deeper significance that in nonscriptural Greek writings, it consists not in a person's "outward behavior only; nor yet in his relations to his fellow-men; as little in his mere natural disposition, Rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul, and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is the temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting..."
As you will see, the following men in the Bible emulate meekness in this way.
Jesus calls us to his rest, and meekness is His method. The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort.”— A.W. Tozer, Pursuit of God
If anyone had reason to be bitter and retaliatory, it would be Joseph. He was thrown in a pit and sold to slave traders by his jealous and wicked brothers; he was sold to Potiphar who was a kind master and gave Joseph control over all his affairs, only to be thrown into prison by him over false allegations of rape by his lustful wife. In prison, he proved himself so trustworthy, the warden put him in charge of the prisoners. Two friends who were released promised to put in a good word for him with the king but failed to do so for another two years. Talk about ups and downs, highs and lows!
Joseph finally got a break and through a series of events, became second in command to Pharaoh of Egypt in charge of the food supply while the rest of the world was in a famine. When his brothers showed up seeking food, It was the perfect opportunity to get revenge for the suffering they caused him. But in submission and obedience to God, Joseph had the strength and character to offer grace and compassion and forgiveness to his brothers. The blessing of reconciliation was far more valuable and rewarding than retaliation.
Numbers 12:3 tells us "The man Moses was very meek, above all the men who were upon the face of the earth." Yet, he was a mighty and courageous leader. He willingly endured great hardship so that God would be glorified and his people would worship Him. Anyone who can stand up to the proud and imposing Pharaoh is not a wimp or weakling. Moses was strong because he allowed God to put bit and bridle on him, and lead him with strength to deliver the children of Israel.
But it didn't stop there. Until the end of his life, Moses led the children of Israel for forty long years, going in circles in an unforgiving desert because the people were constantly and consistently rebelling and complaining. They threatened Moses and blamed him and God for every trial that came along. The trials were the result of their stubborn refusal to trust and obey God through the voice of Moses. Moses had to be the meekest man on earth (prior to Christ) to continue to intercede for the wicked, faithless, and ungrateful people of God. That generation, and Moses himself, never entered the promised land. God did bless Moses with a view of it. But he died and the baton was passed on to Joshua.
The Apostle Paul
The world sees Paul as a proud, arrogant, even controlling man, always saying "Be like me; follow my example; believe what I know is the truth." But Paul lived a life of meekness. John MacArthur summed up Paul's meekness this way:
"In Philippians 3:3 Paul says, "[We] have no confidence in the flesh," but in Philippians 4:13 he says, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me." Paul was a meek man because he put no confidence in himself but had great confidence in Christ."
To fully grasp the meaning of Paul's "...no confidence in the flesh" statement, we need to read verses 4-11 (to read it in its entirety use the link). In a nutshell, Paul proceeds to prove to the Philippians that if anyone has reason to have confidence in himself it would be him. Then checked off his impressive list of credentials before his conversion to Christ. He had been a highly respected Jew with a distinguished pedigree, had the finest religious education, and an illustrious career as a Pharisee; a man of privilege and power. He wielded that power with tenacity as a persecutor of the Church.
Then he stunned the Philippians with his attitude of humility,
"But whatever gain I had, I counted as a loss for the sake of Christ. I indeed count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (vs. 7-8). In verse 9 he says he counts these things as rubbish compared to gaining Christ.
Over and over, Paul proved his attitude of meekness. He dedicated his life to serving Christ throughout the known world by preaching the good news of Jesus Christ and planting churches despite the persecution and horrific trials through the years. What an astonishing list of trials he faced:
- Was put in prison over and over
- Was flogged an uncounted number of times
- Faced death over and over
- Received 39 lashes from the Jews 5 times
- Was beaten with rods 3 times
- Was stoned one time
- Was shipwrecked 3 times
- Spent a day and night in the sea
- Was in continual danger from rivers and robbers
- Was in danger from his own countrymen, as well as the Gentiles
- Was in danger in the city, in the country, at sea, and from false brothers
- Was weary and in pain often, without sleep
- Was often hungry and thirsty, cold and naked
- And experienced daily anxiety about the health of all of the churches
This was only a partial list. Paul eventually was martyred for his faith. The point is, in meekness he gave up a life of power and privilege to love and serve God.
Jesus Christ is the greatest example of meekness. The world, in their ignorance, finds Jesus' meekness revolting because Jesus didn't resist his own arrest and crucifixion; He didn't contest the trumped-up charges against Himself. The world sees Him as being a weak man. Paul tells us quite the opposite in Philippians 2:6-8:
"...who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (ESV)
Jesus could have defended Himself to His accusers (or stopped the whole thing) when they threw false accusations against Him, but it was the Father's will that He remain silent and go to the cross. In Isaiah 53:7, the Prophet foretells Jesus remaining silent. Notice what He is compared to:
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
Christ is the Lamb of God. He relinquished Himself of His Divine prerogatives and humbled Himself to the point of going to the cross and dying in our place.
His meekness is an example to us of His submission to the Father's will for the benefit of mankind. That is strength (and love) my friends, not weakness.
Inheriting the Earth - the Reward of Meek Christian
The reward for the meek Christian is that he will inherit the earth. What does that mean? In the Greek language, "inherit" means to receive by lot, or to receive an allotted portion, or to possess an allotted portion. In the context of this beatitude on the virtue of meekness, John McArthur explains in more detail,
"The earth is the alotted portion of believers, who will reign with the Lord when He comes in His kingdom (Rev, 20:6)...As a recipient of God's promises, you should be thrilled knowing that you will inherit the earth and reign with Christ in His earthly kingdom...Rejoice in that assurance, and seek to be all He wants you to be until that great day."
Christ's earthly kingdom will be established when He returns, and His people will reign with Him.
I love the word "with" in this phrase. He will be physically present; we will see Him, touch Him, and hear Him. That is a reward no believer can resist. It behooves every believer to grow in their intimate relationship with God and to become (by obedience) what He desires us to be. I'd say that's a wonderful reward indeed.
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© 2010 Lori Colbo