1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12)
Today our focus will be on verse 5, “Blessed [happy] are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Blessed are the meek. We will need to spend some time today thinking about this word “meek.” What is meekness? It is probably not a word we use very often, but that is a very important question we’ll need to answer this morning. And we must answer that question before we get to other questions like: what does it look like to walk in meekness? And how do I get to a place of meekness? Once I understand what Christ expects, what He wants for me, how do I get there?
Let me begin by giving a brief definition of meekness just to get us off to a good start in our minds. Really this whole message will be given with the intent of helping us to really grasp its meaning, but let’s start with a definition.
Meekness is easiness of spirit. Meekness toward God, if we are meek toward God, then we will be easy in our spirit toward Him, or you could say we will have a quiet submission to all of His will. That means we live in complete submission to Him as He has revealed His will to us in His Word, and as it unfolds to us even circumstantially. It is like saying, “Okay God, you are big, great, sovereign, loving, merciful, just, righteous, and wise in all things. You are my king and I will bow down to you in all things, in all things that you tell me and in all things you bring to my life and my realm of living.” It’s acknowledging, “God, you are in control, and I am not.” Then taking it one step further and saying, “And I am really good with that.” Why? “Because I am lowly, poor in spirit, and sinful, and you are neither lowly nor sinful.” That is meekness toward God.
But we also need to understand meekness toward other people. We are to be meek before God in our relationship with Him, but also meek toward our fellow man, toward each other. Titus 3:2 says, “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Meekness is a quality that we are to have toward God and in our relationships with each other.
Meekness has to do with a taming of the soul, or spirit. Meekness has been a word used of taming wild animals, of domesticating that which had been wild.
God takes us through many things that help us to understand biblical truth at times. Our classroom is often life itself, we learn through life. As believers we are always in school, always being taught by God in an environment that is best suited for that teaching. That’s always happening. Some of those things are pleasant, and some not so much!
About fifteen years ago, my grandfather wanted to give us – particularly our boys – a gift. My grandfather was a real cowboy, the real thing. He grew up in the country doing things like farming, ranching, and horse training – old style horse training. When he was about eighty-five years old he decided that what our boys needed was a horse, because every boy needs a horse. My grandfather was serious about that, but he was also very cheap. Putting those things together, when he went looking for a horse he started by looking at the price, and to him it didn’t matter what the horse was like as long as it was cheap, because he believed he could take any horse and make it into what he wanted it to be. At this time our kids ranged in age from 2 to 11, and our youngest was not yet born.
My granddad found just the right horse, and he knew it was the right one because it only cost $150. It was a 4-year-old mare, a wild mustang that had been captured from the wild by the government on the California/Nevada border. She was brought to Texas and auctioned off to a man, and he could no longer afford to feed her. That was the reason he told us. So with that, my granddad snatched her up, and we picked her up and brought her home. When we got her home she had a halter on, and we tied her up to a pole like a telephone pole, a light pole. She quickly and very fearfully rebelled against being restrained, so she broke the halter, nearly bringing the light pole down, and soon after that went through two barbed wire fences and one hot wire fence to get away from us and try to regain her freedom. She was acting according to her nature. She was wild, and she was acting like a wild horse might act.
When my granddad left that day, he looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, as soon as I can get back over here I’ll get on her and tame her for you and the boys so they can ride her.” That’s what he said. Did I tell you he was eighty-five years old? If you knew granddad, you knew he meant that. He was an 85-year-old man, in an 85-year-old body, with the mind of a young, capable cowboy. I was concerned. I was concerned in two ways. First for my grandfather. I was no cowboy, but I was pretty sure it was not a good idea for him to mount that horse. Secondly, I was concerned for my boys because that horse was now in the pasture where they regularly played.
My solution? “I’ll gentle this horse before my granddad can get back, and before my boys gets hurt.” I didn’t know what I was doing, but I bought a full set of VHS tapes – this was in the 90’s – from a famous horse trainer. I began watching them and going out as often as I could to try to implement what I had learned. This was not a really big horse, but compared to me she was big. I had to look up to her. I would get in a round pen with her and think, “She could run right over me before I get out of this pen, and there would be nothing I could do to physically stop her, to restrain her.” She was a wild horse. But I followed the program from those VHS tapes and it was really amazing. This big, strong animal began to respond just like the trainer on the videos said she would. And after many hours this wild animal, with a wild spirit, she began to submit to me. I was amazed by that. She didn’t have to, but she did. She got to where instead of running from me she would willingly come to me. Even in an open pasture, outside of that small round pen, she would come to me, and when she got to me she would lower her head, which is a sign of submission.
You know what that is? That’s meekness, a picture of meekness. A powerful animal willingly submitting to me. Meekness is an easiness of spirit. Meekness is a willingness to submit to the will of another. It is a taming of the spirit. Going from a wild spirit – breaking halters, bringing down big poles, tearing through fences – to a gentle, tame spirit – lowering the head, responding to commands – as a transition to meekness.
Today I want us to focus on meekness in our relationship with God, and then Lord willing next week we will look at meekness in relation to our fellow man, meekness as we relate to each other.
We must first of all, as children in God’s kingdom, we must be meek in our relationship with God. Blessed are the meek, happy are the meek. Meekness to God is a quiet submission of the soul to His entire will. Let me repeat that: meekness to God is a quiet submission of the soul to His entire will.
As I say that, and as you hear that definition, you will notice that in this definition there is the absence of fighting against His will. There is an absence of striving against His will and His purposes.
What is God’s will? Or how do we know His will so that we can be sure we are not fighting or striving against it? We know His will through His Word and through His providence, or through the circumstances He sends our way. That’s how we know His will. So to be meek before God is to submit to His will, that is to first submit to His word, the Bible.
Are you meek before God? Well, are you, am I, quietly submitting to His word? That’s what we can ask ourselves. In our hearts are we bowing down to His every command?
Do we eagerly search His word for instruction so that we can say, “Yes! I will do that Lord, just as you say!” Jesus says, “Happy are the meek.”
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble [meek] his way. (Psalm 25:8-9)
God instructs the meek, those who are wanting to embrace His will and ways, who stand ready to submit to Him and do His will as He has revealed. It is like young Samuel as he laid in his bed and heard the voice of God.
And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:10)
Ready to hear, ready to respond, ready to submit to God’s will.
Or like Joshua, a commander of men, a bold, strong leader.
13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” (Joshua 5:13-14)
These are ears to hear, a heart ready to respond, a man ready to hear God’s Word so that he might obey it. Paul did similarly after being blinded on the road to Damascus and hearing the voice of the Lord – ready to serve, ready to do, ready to act.
Meekness is when we, upon hearing God’s Word, reading it, having been taught it, we embrace it as God’s will for us and submit whole-heartedly to it. We recognize that it comes to us from God, our Father, and we receive it. Our hearts are tame toward him, gentle toward Him. Happy are the meek.
We just get this so backwards sometimes, don’t we? We think happiness comes as we sneak for ourselves some pleasure outside of God’s written commands and instructions to us. We think, don’t we sometimes, that God is holding out on us, that He is withholding good? That’s what we think sometimes, otherwise we wouldn’t sin. He is not giving us what we think will make us happy, so we hope He will look the other way for a moment as we go after illicit pleasure, thinking it will deliver happiness. It’s as if we are saying, “I will control my own spirit, I will make my own way, I will do my own thing and break that halter, charging through barbed wire fences.” Eventually we make our way back with cuts and bruises. We often learn the hard way. And yet God has told us, straightforwardly told us through the apostle Paul…
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Happy are the meek. Not only will the meek submit from the heart to God’s written Word, His revealed Word, but also submit to His work of providence around us. This may be the more difficult one for some of us. By His providence I mean submitting under circumstances that God brings our way, both easy and difficult, things that He allows into our lives. This too is meekness toward God.
John Piper said, “We live with the cards we are dealt because we know who deals them.”
Meekness is not only to be a state of mind when all seems well around us, but also when life seems hard and when darkness surrounds us. Is God not also sovereign during hard times? Is God still on the throne when life seems hard? Is God loving and wise even when we are not pleased with our current circumstances?
It was in meekness that Job, after enduring great loss, loss beyond our comprehension, said…
21 “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:21-22)
This was a man who had lost his family, his health, his possessions, and he was meek. I don’t know about you, but I get all wound up over the silliest things. This guy lost almost everything. We get wound up over the smallest things. Maybe somebody coming to you or me and gently, appropriately rebuking us. And rebelling against that. We get all worked up over one unkind word said to us. Did God allow that? Well yeah, He could have stopped it! We get all excited because we want a 3-year-old car, and we have a 10-year-old car. We feel sick for a day. Where did that come from? Could God have stopped it? Yeah! Or because our children only obey 98% of the time, or mom and dad want me to come home an hour earlier than I want to. What is that? Could God have stopped that? Yeah. Why didn’t He? Because He had a purpose in it.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” That is a quieted, meek, submissive heart during a time of grief and confusion. Job did not allow what had happened in his life to throw off what He knew to be true about God, and God’s right to rule over him and his circumstances as King. Even in darkness, Job bowed low before God.
Or David in Psalm 56…
1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
3 When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
5 All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
7 For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!
8 You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
12 I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life. (Psalm 56)
David was honest about his troubles – they were real. He was open about his circumstances – they were hard. He was oppressed by his enemies, but in it all his trust remained steadfastly, firmly in his God. He understood God’s place and God’s rule over his circumstances and life, and so he could say, “I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” And, “This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise.” In meekness David’s spirit was quieted, calm, and assured – set upon God.
Even when we don’t know what will happen, what the next bend in the road may bring to us, in meekness we can still be assured that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Because He has it all covered, and since He does we can remain meek.
What is the alternative? The alternative is to go to war with God, go to war in our heart, to accuse Him of evil, of wrong. That is the alternative. To say, “God, I know better. You messed up!” Accusing Him of being someone other than who He is and attributing wrong to His actions. The absence of meekness toward God is to be proud and demanding, stiff-necked and stubborn toward Him. Do we think being that way will bring us happiness? Of course it won’t. And we know that in our sane moments, don’t we? Maybe we’re all in a sane moment right now. Going to battle with God won’t bring us happiness, we know that. The problem is when we act in times of insanity.
Don’t you love Jesus’ words to His disciples as He washed their feet? Peter said, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” And Jesus said, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” (John 13:6-7) I like that because so much is happening around us at any given moment, so much is happening that we cannot put it all together, line it all up and make sense of it. For me, during most of my life, most of the time I don’t understand most of what goes on circumstantially. We can constantly ask, “Why this, why that, why?” We can be consumed and eaten up asking, “Why?” Can’t we? If that wild Mustang had the mental capacity to, I bet she would have been consumed with asking, “Why is this crazy man making me go round and round in this pen until I can hardly breath? What is the point of going around one more time?” She might have wondered if she could.
We say, “Why this in my life, why that?” We don’t always know, but we do know that God is alive, active, and working in the circumstances – all of them. Yes, even in your life right now with whatever you’re dealing with. The question for us is, will we in meekness acknowledge that, and submit quietly to our Lord in those things no matter what? He can change them if that’s what’s best, if that will be what’s better for us. Blessed are the meek. Those who recognize God’s hand around them.
Mathew Henry said, “Meekness is the silent submission of the soul to the providence of God concerning us.”
As we go through this week, can we commit together to trust the Lord with a meek spirit? He has you covered, if you belong to Him. He is at work, and His plan is wise and good.
My grandfather never made it back to work with the horse he bought for us. He took a trip down to Houston, and while there he had an accident and went to be with the Lord. We gentled the mustang but never rode her. Our plans did not unfold as we thought or even had hoped that they would. But God faithfully taught us all through that story about meekness and submission, what it looks like and what it doesn’t look like.
Our place, our role in God’s kingdom is to be one of meekness. Meekness to God is a quiet submission of the soul to His entire will.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)