Episode 5: What Does it Mean to Be Meek and Why are the Meek Blessed?! (Reading Genesis 5, Ezra 5, Matthew 5 and Acts 5)
Today our Bible readings in the Robert Murray M’Cheyne plan are Genesis 5, Ezra 5, Matthew 5 and Acts 5. Our focus passage is Matthew 5, and how could it not be? In this passage, we see the beginning of the most famous and well known sermon ever taught by anybody, the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus here lays down His ethic, His commands, His way of life and His motivations. When we think about the Great Commission of Matthew 28, we should remember that a large part of it – almost half! – is that we teach the world to observe and obey the teachings of Jesus. A good place to start with that (co)mission is here, in Matthew 5.
Our question of the day concerns what might be the most famous verse from the most famous sermon ever, verse 5. Even those who haven’t been to church in years are familiar with this verse where we are told that the meek (or gentle, in some translations) are blessed. What an interesting and almost counter-intuitive message! This teaching raises a couple of compelling question: what does it mean to be meek; and how, exactly, are the meek blessed?
The Greek word that is used here is praotēs, and the good news for us is that it is used so frequently in the Bible that we can get a very good idea of what it means.
First, Matthew 21:5 Tell Daughter Zion,
“Look, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” So meekness refers to the kind of King who would ride on a donkey. It has an element of humility to it.
Colossians 3:12 ” 12 Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, ” Here we see that meekness also has an element of gentleness to it – the kind of gentleness that fits in perfectly with compassion, kindness, humility and patience.
Titus 3:1-2 helps us understand meekness also, ” Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people. ” So meekness here is represented by a person who avoids arguments, quarrels and talking bad about other people. Sounds lovely, right!
Gotquestions helps us here too, “Meekness models the humility of Jesus Christ. As Philippians 2:6–8 says, “[Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Being “in the very nature God,” Jesus had the right to do whatever He wanted, but, for our sake, He submitted to “death on a cross.” That is the ultimate in meekness. “
Here’s some powerful wisdom from John Piper on meekness:
Now let’s stand back and see if we can see the portrait whole. Meekness begins when we put our trust in God. Then, because we trust him, we commit our way to him. We roll onto him our anxieties, or frustrations, our plans, our relationships, our jobs, our health. And then we wait patiently for the Lord. We trust his timing and his power and his grace to work things out in the best way for his glory and for our good.
The result of trusting God and the rolling of our anxieties onto God and waiting patiently for God is that we don’t give way to quick and fretful anger. But instead, like Moses we give place to wrath and hand our cause over to God and let him vindicate us if he chooses. And then, as James says, in this quiet confidence we are slow to speak and quick to listen. We become reasonable and open to correction. Meekness loves to learn. And it counts the blows of a friend as precious. And when it must say a critical word to a person caught in sin or error, it speaks from the deep conviction of its own fallibility and its own susceptibility to sin and its utter dependence on the grace of God….
What effect does Jesus want this promise to have on the disciples? I think the answer is that he wants the promise to give them strength to continue in their meekness. This is the way the promise works in verse 12: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” In other words, the promise of great reward gives the disciples strength to endure persecution with joy.
So I think the promise that the meek shall inherit the earth is intended by the Lord to give us the strength to endure in meekness when the natural inclination would be to defend ourselves or retaliate or give way to fretful anger….If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, sitting at his feet on the mount this morning, that is, if you trust him and commit your way to him and wait patiently for him, God has already begun to help you and will help you more. And the primary way that he will help you is to assure your heart that you are a fellow heir of Jesus Christ and that the world and everything in it is yours. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not freely give us all things with him? All things! No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”
John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (1980–1989) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).