Blessed Are the Meek

We do not often speak of meekness. We might be hard pressed even to define it. Meekness is not weakness; it’s a measured strength, a control over wrath. It is related to humility. Sinclair Ferguson writes, “It is the humble strength that belongs to the man who has learned to submit to difficulties (difficult experiences and difficult people), knowing that in everything God is working for his good.”[1] In view here is a state of powerlessness or the inability to forward your own cause.[2] The meek possess a patient humility that manifests in a spirit of gentleness. Again, he writes,

There is probably no more beautiful quality in a Christian than meekness. It enhances manliness; it adorns femininity. It is a jewel polished by grace. But it is all too rare. Is that because so few of us know what it is to be poor in spirit and to mourn for our sins?[3]

Christians are called to live in the Spirit of Christ, quietly trusting the Lord to usher in his kingdom. Even under oppression, they must exhibit restraint as they look to their heavenly reward.

Oppression

The people of God are oppressed. This is a feature of life under Roman rule as well we Psalm 37, which forms the context of this beatitude.

Psalm 37:12, 14—12 The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him . . . 14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright.

Those in power now are the ambitious and forceful. This is what the world cultivates. You’re encouraged to be bold and to act out for your own benefit. You shouldn’t rest or be resigned to anything substandard life. Instead, you should take what is yours. Might makes right. This is the spirit of the autonomous man. You must act, because you are in control of your own situation. Only the strong survive, and if you are somehow lacking, it’s largely if not exclusively due to your own lack of action. This is the fruit of unbelief.

The Lord calls us to trust in him. Meekness is the fruit of a peaceful resting in him will act. Though we are humbled now, he will bring justice.

Psalm 37:9–11—9 For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. 10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. 11 But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.

The people of the kingdom are meek and humbled now, because they are oppressed by the wicked. They are unable to overthrow the forces of evil, yet they trust in Christ to bring the victory and advance his kingdom. They demonstrate a godly restraint.

Restraint

Jesus exhibits meekness and humility (Matt 11:29; 12:18–21; 21:5).

Matthew 11:29–30—29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 21:5—“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”

Compare Peter’s response to the men who came to arrest Jesus. He took a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, Malchus (John 18:10). The kingdom does not come by human strength. And it does not come through the weapons of this world. It comes in the strength of our savior and it comes in his time. Even at this hour, our Lord was restrained. He was the lamb led silently to the slaughter. He opened not his mouth. He would conquer through humility. Christians are called to live in the meekness of your savior. Paul ministered this way:

2 Corinthians 10:1—I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!

2 Timothy 2:24–25—24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. . . .

Though we are bold in Christ, we aren’t bullies, pushing people around. We are called to be kind and compassionate—speaking the truth in love. Are we ever justified in acting out against evil and injustice in this life? What about the American Revolution? What about slavery in America and continued racial unrest? What about the state-sponsored genocide we have seen in world history?

It is important for us to understand the spirituality of the church. The church’s power is ministerial and declarative. Yet, we must always speak the truth—especially to injustice. We are often called to act against injustice, acknowledging that Scripture calls us to obey our civil authorities insofar as they are not preventing us from obeying the Lord. This side of glory, the people of God will always be oppressed. And we must rest in the Lord to act—to bring in his kingdom of consummate justice and righteousness. Christ is the victor, and it is by grace that we receive his reward.

Reward

Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” If the present age endured forever, the worldly strong would continue to reign and rule. But the meek inherit the earth. It’s not wicked and arrogant tyrants. What does it mean to inherit the earth? It would be wise for us to consider John’s vision of the New Heavens and the New Earth in Revelation 21:1–3.

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

Those who will enter into this consummate glorious dwelling place are the meek. Even as we await this world to be transformed and overcome by God’s glory, we too must be transformed to inherit it. This involves the inner transformation of a regenerate heart and the transformation of the body in the glorious resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:50–52—50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Revelation 21:4—He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Notes

[1] Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount: Kingdom Life in a Fallen World,  21.

[2] John Nolland, The Gospel According to Matthew (NIGTC), 201.

[3] Ferguson, 23.

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