Index by Subject

“Blessed Are the Meek”

In His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord provides a description of those who will be citizens in His kingdom. The sermon begins with a short section referred to as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). There are eight Beatitudes, each consisting of a desired characteristic and a promised blessing. Each Beatitude begins with the word “blessed,” which literally means “happy.” True happiness is found in acquiring and manifesting these qualities in our life.

The subject of this study is the third Beatitude, which reads, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

Meekness is not weakness. In fact, meekness is the ability to exercise great strength in the form of self-control. “Meek” is translated from the Greek word praus, which is best defined with the English word “gentle.” This word was originally applied to an animal that had been trained or a horse that had been broken. Thus, the meek man is one who has learned how to keep his strength under control. He is a disciple who has chosen to be tamed under the yoke of Christ.

Praus is further defined as “an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting” (Vine’s, 401). Meekness is a gentleness and humility that comes as a result of considering one’s own spiritual condition before God. It is an attitude that is shown first unto God, then unto others.

Examples of Meekness

Like many other characteristics that are enjoined upon us by the Scripture, meekness can be better understood by looking at the lives of those who manifested this quality.

1. Moses. “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3, King James Version). As the leader of God’s people, Moses was willing to take personal abuse and insult, even from his own brother and sister. On this occasion in the book of Numbers, his siblings had criticized him both for who he had married and for the idea that he shared a closer relationship to God and was thus better qualified to be the leader of God’s people. Moses did not respond to these personal attacks. It was God who responded in defense of Moses by striking Miriam with leprosy. Moses responded to Miriam’s insult by praying for God to heal her (Numbers 12:1-13).

Moses was meek and gentle, but he was not a weak man. When necessary, he proved to be extremely zealous for the Lord.

19 So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.

20 Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it. 

25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies),

26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the LORD’s side – come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.

27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’”

28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day.

 Exodus 32:19-20, 25-28

 

2. The Apostle Paul. Like Moses, Paul was willing to endure personal insult and injury for the cause of Christ. “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now” (1 Corinthians 4:12-13). However, when the cause of Christ was being compromised, or innocent souls were being victimized, Paul knew how to draw the sword of the Spirit and fight.

“And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them…” (Acts 15:1-2).

“And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Galatians 2:4-5).

“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed” (Galatians 2:11).

“If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus…” (1 Corinthians 15:32).

 

3. Jesus Christ. Jesus said of Himself, “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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). Indeed, Jesus was gently and meek in His dealings with mankind. His gentleness was a subject of Old Testament prophecy.

18 Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles.

19 He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.

20 A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory;

21 And in His name Gentiles will trust.  

Matthew 12:18-21

 

Jesus was willing to take injury and personal abuse, even to the point of allowing His own creation to put Him to death.

21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

22 “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”

23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;

24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.

First Peter 2:21-24

 

One has said that “meekness is the reception of injuries with a belief that God will vindicate us.” Jesus received an unimaginable amount of personal abuse while He was being crucified. Consider the following portion of Matthew’s account of the crucifixion:

39 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads

40 and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said,

42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.

43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

44 Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.

Matthew 27:39-44

 

Jesus endured this abuse, but never breathed a threat against those who were causing Him to suffer. In fact, the first words that Jesus spoke at His crucifixion were, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). As Peter said, Jesus did not threaten His murderers, but simply “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

Although Jesus was willing to take personal insult and injury, He would never allow God to be dishonored.

13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.

15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.

16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 

17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”  

John 2:13-17

 

Jesus was meek, but this was not because He was powerless. He was meek and gentle because He had His immense power under control. The guiding principle in His life upon this earth was not His pride, but His obedience to the Father’s will.

These three men help us to understand that meekness is the willingness to choose to endure personal insult and injury without retaliation. Read Paul’s instructions in Romans twelve with “meekness” in mind.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.

18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:14-21

 

In his comments on Matthew 5:5, Albert Barnes wrote, “Meekness produces peace. It is proof of true greatness of soul. It comes from a heart too great to be moved by little insults. It looks upon those who offer them with pity. He that is constantly ruffled; that suffers every little insult or injury to throw him off his guard and to raise a storm of passion within, is at the mercy of every mortal that chooses to disturb him.” Indeed, blessed are those who can train themselves to be meek.

The Need For Meekness

While the world may not find much use for meekness, the Scriptures tell us that this quality is needed in several important aspects of our lives.

1. In receiving the word of God. “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Remember, W.E. Vine said that meekness is “that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.” Without meekness, my reception of God’s word will be selective at best. The parts that I like will be accepted, while the portions of Scripture which challenge me to make undesirable changes will be dismissed. How many Christians do you and I know who are selective in their acceptance of God’s word? Meekness is the ingredient that is missing from their lives.

2. In defending the truth. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). The manner in which we defend our faith often says as much about our faith as the content of our answer. No “teaching” moment should be wasted as an opportunity for us to “flex” our spiritual muscles. The truth will cast down error, but that truth will never be “heard” if we handle ourselves in a caustic or arrogant manner.

3. In restoring the erring. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Sometimes, those who are in error will respond to correction by lashing out and making accusations against those who have come to help them. A soul is not won by proving that we can win an argument. Any “hot-head” can drive away an injured soul. It takes a mature, loving, gentle Christian to draw them back into the fold.

4. In dealing with our brethren. “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-14). We must be gentle in the way that we treat one another. God has seen fit to join His children together in one family and one body. In order for this body to function properly, each member must do its share (Ephesians 4:16) and every member must treat others with kindness, preference, and love.

5. In dealing with our fellowman. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). I cannot control others, but I can control myself. Meekness is a choice, and I can choose how to react to others. I am to be peaceable and gentle, showing humility to all men (Titus 3:2).

The Promised Blessing

Jesus promises that those who are meek shall “inherit the earth.” This blessing is perhaps the greatest contrast in all of the Beatitudes. We can see how those who mourn will be comforted, how those who hunger will be filled, and how those who are merciful will receive mercy, but how is it that the meek will stand to inherit anything of value?

To some, the phrase “inherit the earth” is confusing because it sounds as if our inheritance will be this physical earth. This cannot be, because we know that our inheritance is awaiting us in heaven (1 Peter 1:4).

This phrase is found more in Psalm 37 than any other place in the Bible. This Psalm contains a promise from God to those who are oppressed by evildoers in their midst (vs. 1-6). God promises that “evildoers shall be cut off,” while those who wait on the Lord shall “inherit the earth” and “shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (vs. 9-11). The righteous shall “inherit the land and dwell in it forever,” while the wicked are “cut off” (vs. 27-29). Those who “wait on the Lord” and “keep His way” will be exalted to “inherit the land” (v. 34).

The meek are contrasted with the self-trusting and the self-assertive. While it may seem that they are the ones who prosper in this life, often at the expense of those who are meek and lowly, in His time God will cut off the wicked and exalt the humble to a position of victory and peace. The salvation of the righteous is “from the Lord,” not from their own strength and wisdom. He shall “help them,” “deliver them,” and “save them” because they “trust in Him,” not in themselves (vs. 39-40).

Thus, to “inherit the earth” is gain victory. The meek are the ones who will remain in the Promised Land (the Kingdom) after God’s judgment has swept through and removed the wicked. In Darwin’s model of natural selection, the strong survive while the weak become extinct. In “Divine Selection,” the selfish and self-assertive are destroyed while the meek survive to enjoy blessings and peace.

Conclusion

Moses, Paul, and our Lord all show us that meekness is not weakness, nor is it indifference. Meekness is the ability to endure injury without retaliation. Those who are meek know the difference between a personal insult and an attack upon the holiness of God, and they also know the proper way to react to each situation. While those with this mindset do not seem to get far in this world, they will stand victorious in the world to come.

* Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version.