If you have a Bible with you, turn with me to Matthew's Gospel again and chapter 5, Matthew's Gospel chapter 5. We have been going through the Beatitudes, the opening words of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. We have dealt with the first and the second and now we're looking this morning at the third beatitude, that is found in verse 5 of chapter 5, but we'll read those verses, all of the verses of the Beatitudes.
"And seeing the multitudes," verse 1, "he went up into a mountain: and when he was sat down, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven".
We're looking at verse 5 of chapter 5: 'Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth'. We've looked at 'Blessed are the poor in spirit', 'Blessed are they that mourn', and now we're looking today at 'Blessed are the meek'.
We saw in the weeks previous, that all of these beatitudes are blessed paradoxes. Someone defined the word 'paradox' as 'truth standing on its head, shouting for attention'. In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ uses these descriptions of what a Christian ought to be, of what a subject of the kingdom, the way they ought to live, the way Christ's Holy Spirit ought to abide in their lives. If they are saved, if they are members of the kingdom, these attributes of the beatitudes must be in their lives. But they're paradoxes, they're paradoxical in the sense that they are the antithesis of everything that the world around us believes and propagates. We remember that in the first beatitude where the Lord Jesus said, 'Blessed are the poor' - the world does not say that, the world says, 'Blessed are the rich'. The world does not say, 'Blessed are they that mourn', but the world says, 'Blessed are they that are happy and joyous all the time'.
And as we look at the third beatitude, 'Blessed are the meek', we see again this paradox of Christ staring us in the face. That was the crux of the Lord's teachings, wasn't it? The Lord Jesus seems to turn everything on its head. What did He say? Not blessed are the first, but rather the last shall be first. He said that it's better to give than to receive. He propagated dying rather than living, losing rather than finding. He said that the least in the kingdom of heaven would be better than the greatest down here on earth. He propagated being poor rather than being rich, it was weakness that He preached about not strength, it was serving rather than ruling. And of course we know that what the Lord Jesus taught in this passage was the exact opposite that enters into the heart of every man that is born into our world. It goes against all of the flow of humanistic philosophy that our world believes in.
William Henley (sp?) put his beliefs in a verse like this:
'Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be,
For my unconquerable soul'.
Is that not the mind of most men today? 'We have an unconquerable soul. We are our own god, we are our own boss and we will do it our way. We will live on our own terms, we will have our own beatitudes - and whatever gods there may be, I will make sure that I am my own god'. That was the same philosophy as those who listened to the Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus' listeners had the same mindset. You see they knew how to be spiritually proud, they knew how to be self-sufficient in all ways, they knew how to be religious, they knew all the ways in which to be pious and to be seen as pious, they were good with form. They thought that they were the in-group, and the only group, that would inherit heaven and they would be the ones who would survive if all would diminish.
Do you remember a few weeks ago, we thought about the types of people that the Lord Jesus was speaking to in the Sermon of the Mount? Two of those that we mentioned were the Pharisees and the Zealots, there were also the Sadducees and the Essenes. But the Pharisees and the Zealots, what the Lord Jesus Christ said in verse 5 was specifically applicable to them: 'Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth'. You see the Pharisees believe - those who were in the Pharisaical school, that kept all the rules, who were Jews more than any other Jews - they were people who believed that God, by His Messiah, was going to supernaturally bring upon the earth the kingdom of God - the millennial reign of His Christ. They believed that. That it would not happen by military power, but rather God would raise up His Messiah and, by miraculous means, this Messiah would wipe away the Roman rule and empire from Judah and would take to Himself the throne in Jerusalem and would rule in a supernatural way. That is what they believed. Even the disciples believed that at one point. You remember in Acts chapter 1 and verse 6, they said to the Lord Jesus Christ: 'Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? Lord, are You going to bring a supernatural miracle that will bring Your kingdom upon the earth here and now?'. But of course they were blinded, as they were always blinded, as the Lord tried to minister to them - and as He said specifically and categorically on one occasion in John 18:36: 'My kingdom is not of this world, but My kingdom is in the hearts of men'. That wasn't good enough for the Pharisees, they wanted an earthly kingdom and they wanted it now, and they wanted the Messiah and it didn't matter whether it was the Lord Jesus or not, they just wanted a man to bring them it supernaturally.
Then there were the Zealots. They weren't prepared, like the Pharisees, to wait on the kingdom of God. They weren't prepared to wait on Messiah coming, but they by any cost and by any means couldn't wait - so they would take the kingdom by force, they would establish it by rebellion within the state, and bring the kingdom of God to view. Can you imagine that - in the view of this macho backdrop that the Lord Jesus Christ was speaking to, the Pharisees who wanted Him to wipe away with a word of His power, all of the Romans from Jerusalem, and then the Zealots who were willing to die for their cause, and die for the establishment of the kingdom of Messiah in His land - can you imagine what they would have thought when the Lord Jesus Christ stands on that mount and He says, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are they that mourn, blessed are the meek'? What would they have said in their mind? 'What kind of Messiah is this? What kind of deliverer is this? What kind of followers is this man going to attract and bring with Him? A bunch of sissies, a bunch of weaklings, meek people! They will never face Rome, they will never conquer it, they will never establish a kingdom for God and His Christ upon the earth!'. What must it have been for them? To hear these words, 'Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth' - and then to actually follow the Lord Jesus Christ along His life's path, to hear all His teachings, and then at the very end to see Christ bruised, beaten by one Roman - Pilate? To see the Messiah, the so-called Messiah, standing beside a criminal Barabbas. They were forced to say, 'That's not our Messiah, we will not have this man to rule over us', and they cried from the depths of their being 'Crucify Him! Crucify Him!'. Was that what Isaiah meant when he said there was no beauty in Him that we should desire Him? 'How could Messiah die on a cross, sure everyone who dies on a cross is cursed of God, how could we have a Messiah six feet under in a grave, that is powerless? This Christ, this Jesus, is a disappointment to us!'.
But as the Lord Jesus Christ said to the two on Emmaus: 'If you had known the Scripture, you would have known that this is the way it ought to be'. What is God's currency for using people? I think, as the Lord Jesus Christ has turned everything on its head and made a paradox of the world's truth, sometimes as the church of Jesus Christ we do the same with His truth. We turn it back the same way again as it was in the first place, but if we turn to 1 Corinthians quickly this morning, and chapter 1, 1 Corinthians chapter 1, we see God's currency of how He uses men and women. Paul put it like this, verse 26 and 27 of chapter 1: 'For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty'.
You see these Jews, these Pharisees, these Zealots, they didn't realize that God was choosing Christ - and He would not be a king in the earthly sense at that moment in time, but rather as it says in the book of Isaiah 40 to 66, that the Jews ignored, He would be Jehovah's servant. As Mark put it, He was coming into the world to serve not to be served. They missed the point entirely didn't they? It is the weak things - and praise God today that we can say it is the weak things! God would not have chosen us, God would not be using us, God would not be taking us to heaven, we would not be the ambassadors of the Gospel if He didn't choose the weak things of this world, isn't that right? We say it, but I wonder do we really believe it?
Sometimes we think God needs superstars, don't we? And when a film star gets converted, or a sports star, he's all around the country giving his testimony - and I'm not despising that - but we think that that means a lot. That God needs superstars, that God needs men that the world thinks are great to bring His Gospel but - praise God - God doesn't need that! But what God does need is meekness. For blessed are the meek, approved are the meek, accepted with God are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
I want us quickly to look at three things: what is meekness and what it is not. And then secondly: what meekness brings into our lives. And then thirdly: how do you know if you're meek?
First of all, what is meekness and what it is not. Now let me say this: meekness is not weakness, it is not weakness. It is not wishy-washiness, it is not to be indecisive, to be timid, to be unsure of yourself, it's not even to be polite or to be affable or naturally kind or nice. Many of you have pet dogs at home and they're kind and they're nice, but you wouldn't say that they're meek - it's just their character, that they're nice, but that is not meekness. It is not cowardice, it is not spinelessness, it is not a willingness to have peace at any price and cost, it's not lacking in confidence, it's not shyness, it's not the opposite of extrovertedness, it's not simply good manneredness, or proper social convention, and it is certainly not a lack of conviction. Some dictionaries define meekness as deficient in courage. Let me say categorically, no matter what it means in the English language today, it does not mean that in the word of God.
So what does it mean? Well, if you look at the word of God, and you look at the Greek word for meekness, it simply means 'to be gentle, to be humble, to be considerate, to be courteous'. In fact it's related to the word 'poor' in the first beatitude 'Blessed are the poor', but it's a little bit different in its emphasis. In classical Greek, in that language, it was used by three different types of people. First it was used by doctors, it was then used by sailors, and thirdly by farmers. The doctor used this word 'meek' to describe a soothing medicine that would take away pain. The sailor used the word 'meek' of a lovely cool breeze that brings freshness, that refreshes the sailors. And then thirdly, the farmer uses this word 'meek' of an ass that is broken and is able to be used, and useful, in the farm. Basically, to give you an A-B-C definition of the word 'meekness' it's simply this: it is power under control. Now get that, it is power under control. What do I mean by that? Well what do doctors use? They use medicine, but they use them, they don't abuse them. There is the abuse of drugs, isn't there? Drug abuse, it can wreck your body, it can wreck your mind, it can wreck your family, and if you have that power of medicine and if it is without control in your life it will destroy you.
That lovely cool breeze that the sailor experienced, but we know all too well, from America and from our television sets, that a hurricane can destroy a whole nation, a whole town, all your possessions can go up because of something that is out of control. A bucking bronco can be out of control, try and get on a horses back that's not broken - and the damage that it will do. But the meaning of meekness, the meaning of it is this: power under control.
What does it mean for the Christian? It means this, it means: self-emptying. It means self-humility, it means self-brokenness before God, it is the person who is dead to self. And John Wycliffe in his old translation, translated this beatitude: 'Blessed are mild men'.
Now to understand this beatitude, we must see it in the sequence of the beatitudes. You see this is like a chain, like a row of beads and each one is joined together, they need one another. You need to be poor in spirit, and what we saw was that the first beatitude, to be poor in spirit - what was it? It was the knowledge of sin. That you and I know that we are sinners, we know that we have done wrong in the eyes of God, it is an intellectual knowledge. What is the second beatitude? Blessed are they that mourn - that is when that intellectual knowledge takes the 16 inch journey to your heart and you begin to feel mournful over your sin, you begin to feel like a sinner. Now, the third beatitude, meekness, is simply this: it is willing to be seen as sinful, willing to be seen the way God sees you and the way other people see you, let me give you an illustration. All those that are married here today - I haven't been married long, but I know this much: that the wife can say all she likes about you, isn't that right? And she does at times, but well dare anyone else say the words that she says about you, isn't that right? It's the same with meekness. The word of God says that I am a sinner. I can get up in the prayer meeting, or in this pulpit, and preach that I am a sinner, I can call myself the chief of sinners - but if I got down off this pulpit, or down from the prayer meeting on a Friday night, and was standing at the door and someone came up to me and shook my hand and said, 'David you're an awful, damnable sinner' - they may get a black eye, or a broken nose, because we may know what we are intellectually, we may feel what we are emotionally, but we may not be willing to be classed it by other people. Friends, that is meekness in our sense, in our sinful sense that is what it means to be willing to be seen as God sees you. Bunyan put it like this 'He who is already down cannot fall'. It is the abdication of self off the throne of our life.
Let me give you some Scriptural examples - first of all, Abraham. Abraham, in Genesis chapter 12, was told by God that his seed - and remember Abram means 'father', and Abraham means 'father of many'. Now you can imagine what it was like in the town when this man who had no kids, his wife was barren, was called father - and then God came along to him and said, 'I want you to change your name now to father of many'. Can you imagine the laugh that there was? And even he laughed, and his wife laughed, when God said that he would bear a son, and his seed would be raised, and that seed would be the seed of many nations and specifically God's nation of Israel. Then Genesis 13, he and his nephew have gone into a new spot of land. He's standing there and he knows, probably, that Lot wants the best part of the land, I don't know, but he stands there - Abraham - as a meek man and he tells Lot: 'You pick whatever bit you want, and I'll take whatever's left'. Now if that was you or me, I suspect that I would be saying, 'Look at the last chapter there, I'm the one the covenant was given to, I'll take the best land because God's people are going to dwell there' - but not Abraham. Because Abraham, like those in Romans 12 and verse 10 that Paul was talking about, are giving preference to one another in honour.
Look at Joseph, Joseph goes through the journey and eventually he ends up in Egypt high over all - like Pharaoh, but he wasn't Pharaoh, but he was like him - and he's there ruling over the nation. And then his brothers that forsook him, that dumped him in a pit and sold him as a slave, they come begging for food because there's a famine in Israel. If that was you or I what would we do? We would say: 'Now let me tell you a story and then I'll tell you 'No!'. You left me in a pit, you told my father that I was dead, you sold me as a slave. I went into jail, I suffered many things, and you're here begging for bread from me! Get away!' - but Joseph was meek. And then we have David, and Saul is after David's blood, the nation wants David as their king, and Saul is after him, pursuing him - and one day David comes across Saul. He finds him lying asleep, it's his chance and you or I would be saying, 'I'll get him before he gets me'- but not David! He took a few of his possessions so that Saul would know that he was there and he didn't take his life, but David was meek. Moses, in Numbers chapter 12 and verse 3, is described as the meekest man that ever lived. Christ - look at our Lord Jesus! He was mocked, He was spat upon, and as He stood before His accusers He answered nothing back to them, He was betrayed by His friends and all He could do was answer and call Judas His friend. And as He hung upon that cross in Luke 23 and verse 34, He actually uttered the words: 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do'.
Now I'll be honest with you, this, for many years, has confused me and I'm only now beginning to understand it in measure - what true meekness is. Because immediately when I read about the Lord Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth, gentle Jesus meek and mild, that He was full of meekness - I ask myself, 'Well then what about Him when He went into the temple? When He drove them out with whips, what about then? Was that meekness? What about Him when He stood eyeball to eyeball to the Pharisees and called them foxes? When He said they were dead sepulchres, dead on the inside and white on the outside - what about that? What about when He turned to one of His disciples, Peter, and called him Satan? What about Moses when he came down with the ten commandments, in an anger at the orgy that was happening at the bottom of the mountain, he threw down the tablets. What about then? The meekest man in the world, why did he do that?'. Now this is important for our understanding of what true meekness is. Meekness says this: 'I will never defend myself, but I'll die defending God'. Have you got it? That's it in a nutshell. Never defending your reputation, yourself, what men say to you. But what do we do? We turn it upside down, and we would go to the four corners of the world to save our name or our reputation, but when Christ's name is taken in vain we say nothing. Isn't that why the Lord whipped them out of His temple? Isn't that why Moses threw the tablets down the mountain at their idolatry? Isn't that why the Lord Jesus Christ could stand, and John the Baptist, boldly and recount the sins of a nation before their very faces? Isn't that why he [John the Baptist] lost his head, because he counted himself as nothing? Meekness is power under control in such a way that you are silent when self is at stake - like Christ - but you're like a roaring lion, like Elijah on Mount Carmel, when God's name and reputation is at stake. That is what meekness is and what it is not.
But just for a few moments let us look, secondly, at what meekness brings. Meekness, it says, look at the verse, verse 5, those that are meek, 'Blessed are they for they shall inherit the earth'. Now this is emphatic, just like all the beatitudes so far, it's emphatic - it means only those that are meek will inherit the earth. This is the opposite to Darwin and all that he said, 'Survival of the fittest', this is 'Survival of the meekest!'. What is this? Twofold: in a spiritual sense it is having nothing, but possessing everything. Having nothing, but if I've Jesus - Jesus only! - that's all we need. But secondly what it also is, it is in a literal sense. For we have the Zealots and they said, 'We want a military Messiah'. Then you had the Pharisees, they said, 'We want a miraculous Messiah, that will bring the kingdom by miracles'. Then you had the Sadducees, 'We want a materialistic Messiah, for down here there's no afterlife, all that matters is what's here'. And then you have the Essenes, 'We want a monastic Messiah'. What did Jesus say? You're getting a meek Messiah, and it's only those that are meek that will inherit the kingdom. That is what meekness is, that is what meekness brings, it brings the inheritance of the whole earth.
Thirdly, how do you become meek? Let's look at this for just a moment. Psalm 37 and verse 1 says this: 'Fret not because of evildoers' - the whole Psalm is about that. How can the wicked be victorious? How can they prosper and the righteous are trodden in the dust by the wicked? That Psalm teaches that we are meek by our attitude to life. When we esteem others - and let these words sink in, because I believe they're forgotten, they may even be ripped out of our Bibles psychologically speaking - esteem others better than yourselves. Your attitude to life. Secondly meekness through your attitude to the word of God, James 1 verse 19, he exhorts us to receive the engrafted word with meekness. What does that mean? If God the Holy Spirit, through His word, tells you today that you're not meek - you accept it and you do something about it. That means not applying the word of God to the person beside you, or behind you, or someone you know in your family, or beside you at home who is like this. It's applying it to yourself, to your own soul, to your own life week after week, every time God speaks. Thirdly, it's your attitude to your brothers and sisters, preferring one another in honour. Fourthly, it's your attitude to those that you disagree with - 2 Timothy 2:24-25, Mr. Wan (sp?) translates it like this: 'The Lord's servant must not quarrel but be gentle to all, good, do not take offence, or show offence, one who can reduce his opponents by the mildness of his manner'. Is that what we are like? Fifthly, it's our attitude to the unsaved. For, in 1 Peter 3 and verse 15, we read that the hope that is within us, we've to give a reason for it always, but we are to present it in meekness.
Let me ask you in closing: how do you know that you're meek? Here's a few questions that you can regulate your meekness: Do you have self-control? Do you always obey the word of God? Do you make peace not war? How do you respond to criticism? Ultimately you can't be saved without meekness. Because Psalm 149 says: 'He will beautify the meek with salvation'.
Now in conclusion let's think about this: When you are meek you seek nothing for yourself, and when you are meek God gives you everything. You will inherit the earth - not the high flyers, not the tycoons - but the children of God will inherit, and meekness means to be finished with me for good. Finished with self.
Can I close the words of the Lord Jesus Christ? 'Come unto Me all ye who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest for your soul'.
Our Father, we acknowledge this morning, that He must increase - and even we would add to that, through the meekness that our Lord Jesus Christ showed - others must increase and we must decrease. Him exalting, self abasing, this is victory. Lord, it is this spirit that won the lost to Christ, through Christ. And it is only this spirit, by His Spirit in us, that will win the lost to Christ in our lives and in this place. Lord, help us to be meek - and if Thou dost show Thy grace toward us to make us meek, Thou art obliged to have us inherit the earth. Lord, help us to have the mind within us that was in our Lord Jesus Christ and to strive to be like Jesus. All we ask is to be like Him. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifth tape in his Beatitudes series, titled "Blessed Are The Meek" - Transcribed by Judith Watkins, Preach The Word.
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