“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NKJV)
This beatitude runs contrary to much of our American attitude, where we are encouraged to be aggressive and confident in our lives, striving for that which is bigger and better. When we look at those who are touted in the media, whether its sports, or politics, business, or entertainment we find countless stories of those who have boldly stepped out and accomplished great things. Among these are people who widely vary in what they believe (or don’t believe), including many Christians. Some of these people are totally dependent on themselves, while others realize that they have been enabled to accomplish these things.
Do any of these people qualify as meek? What was Jesus talking about when He said, “Blessed are the meek”? What makes a person meek? In order to consider what it is to be a meek person, let’s look at the concept of meekness itself. Looking to a New Testament word study dictionary I read, “Meekness, but not in a man’s outward behavior only, nor in his relations to his fellow man or his mere natural disposition. Rather, it is an inwrought grace of the soul, and the expressions are primarily toward God. It is that attitude of spirit we accept God’s dealings with us as good and do not dispute or resist. [Meekness] according to Aristotle, is the middle standing between two extremes, getting angry without reason and not getting angry at all. Therefore [meekness] is getting angry at the right time, in the right measure, and for the right reason. [Meekness] is not readily expressed in English (since the term “meekness” suggests weakness), but it is a condition of mind and heart which demonstrates gentleness, not in weakness, but in power. It is a balance born in strength of character.
While most English translations use the word “meek,” and recognizing the true core of meekness is a form of gentle power, we find a varied translation of this verse in the New American Standard where we read, “Blessed are the gentle.” In this sense we have the picture possibly of the gentle giant, who possesses great power, yet uses it with tender care stemming from a considerate and sensitive heart.
Later in Matthew, we find this same word used again. Here is used to speak of the God-man, Jesus Christ, who is the King of kings and Lord of lords entering Jerusalem according to prophecy which was being fulfilled. “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (Matthew 21:5, NASB95)
Jesus tenderly cared for those who were sick and struggling, and Jesus firmly dealt with those who were harsh and hard hearted. He knew when to reach out His hand to draw people in and when to hold up His hand to hold back opposition. Though He was fully God, as man He willingly submitted Himself to harsh treatment, scourging, and even being crucified in order to fulfill the will of the Father. Being meek or humble really does seem to embrace knowing how to walk rightly before men and how to stand strong as we submit fully to God and whatever He might bring our way.
The apostles repeatedly were persecuted and even imprisoned for the message they proclaimed. Yet we read throughout the New Testament that when they presented the gospel they did it with boldness, while humbly submitting themselves to God as sovereign over how man might respond. Paul prayed in Romans 15:29-32 that he might be delivered from these persecutors in the presentation of the gospel. In Ephesians 6:17-19 he asked for prayer that he might be bold in presenting this message, recognizing that he was ultimately in bondage to God. The apostle Peter wrote, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (1 Peter 3:15, NASB95)
James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:19–21, NASB95)
Clearly we see that this gentleness, meekness, or humility is different than that which the world might paint. It is one that recognizes that God is totally sovereign over the entirety of our lives as well as the entirety of creation. As such, everything we think, say, or do is to be done with this awareness and in subjection to His ultimate leading and hand in our lives. A biblically meek person is one who is not big in himself, but one who if he boasts does his boating in the Lord and not in his own arrogance (James 4:13-16).
The apostle Paul, recognizing his personal weakness, wrote, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10, NASB95)
Continuing in our beatitude for the day we read, “for they shall inherit the earth.” This is a quote of Psalm 37:11. I would encourage you to take some time and read the entire psalm, but for now I have included a brief portion which reads, “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.” (Psalm 37:8–13, ESV)
With Jesus quoting this psalm we clearly can see the end time promise that one day evil will be broken and finally defeated. Even in the hope of the millennial reign when Jesus returns with His saints to rule the earth in a time of peace and righteousness we see the great hope that we are given that our God wins. In fact, He has already won. Evil is allowed for a season while His church is being built and people are turning to Christ for salvation. But one day this door will be closed, the last person will be saved, evil will be put down, and the meek will indeed inherit the earth. And beyond that we have the ultimate promise that our God is preparing a new heaven and a new earth which will last forever and ever.
Knowing the ultimate outcome, we really have nothing to fear here and now. For even in death there is great victory, knowing that we step out of these bodies and into the presence of our Lord while we await the upcoming great and final victory awaiting us all. And in our present trials we are given many assurances in God’s Word that God will never leave us nor forsake us, and that he encloses us before and behind, making us able to stand under any trial which He allows into our lives.
Those who hope in God and not in themselves, find as their ultimate hope the promises of a great and eternal inheritance given to us in Christ. This is a certain fact which makes all that we struggle with here and now tolerable, finding our joy in God so that we might persevere.
Beatitude facet number 3: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”