Blessed Are the Meek

      Imagine being a first century Jew, living under the heavy, oppressive boot of the Roman conquerors  and clinging to the incredible Messianic prophecies.  The Hebrew Scriptures include prophecies of someone coming to help humanity and of someone coming to establish an eternal Davidic kingdom.  Most Jews were looking for a political, military Messiah and not the Suffering Servant predicted in Isaiah chapters 40-60.  They wanted Rambo and felt like, at least when it came to the Roman occupation, they got Mr. Rogers.  Jesus did not meet the popular, but mistaken, Jewish expectations of a temporal, political kingdom.   In his most famous sermon, Jesus gave a list of people who were blessed in a special way.  His third beatitude was:   “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5) .  His original audience scratched their heads.  Sometimes we do as well.  Our culture teaches us “blessed are the successful, powerful, and beautiful.’  We might perceive meekness as weakness but it is not. 
     This beatitude is literally true.  Someday, at the return of Christ, there will be a great reset.  Both Isaiah 66 and Revelation 21 talk about God creating a new heavens and a new earth.  Then the meek will inherit the earth.  For the original Jewish audience this promise would bring to mind the Promised Land and eventually the whole earth.  A Christian today would also tend to think that in the here and now God is calling us into the fullness of our potential and our territory of influence, whatever that looks like.    
   The meek, what does that mean?  It’s not a word we use often or a value most Americans esteem.  When you look at meekness and how this concept is translated in the Christian Scriptures, you find meekness is like a cord with three strands of meaning coming together. 
     The first strand that makes up the meaning of meekness is strength under control or authority.  This term was used when speaking of a horse that was broken.  The powerful animal was now willing to submit itself to the authority of the master.  Both Moses and Jesus were called meek, meaning they exhibited servant leadership.  Moses was a spectacular leader but he viewed his core identity as simply a servant of the Lord.  He did not live for himself but for the glory of God.  Even Jesus, who is both fully divine and fully human, submitted Himself to the authority of his Father to fulfill His redemptive mission on earth.  Meekness is willing to accept a low position for the good of others and the purposes of God.  Philippians 2 talks about Jesus Christ temporarily stripping off the prerogatives and privileges of deity in order to become a man, live a sinless life, and offer that life as a sacrifice for us on the cross.  There is the powerful scene in the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is so distraught over facing the cross and the wrath of God that he sweats drops of blood and prays, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39).  Jesus, who had the power to abandon the mission at any time, chose not to because he was walking in meekness, power under authority.  We who claim to be Christians are called to place whatever power and influence we have under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 
     The second strand is gentleness.  As mentioned earlier, this message of gentleness shocked the original Jewish audience.  As you move through the sermon on the mount Jesus tells us to “turn the other cheek” and “go the second mile” and even “love our enemies.”  Jesus does not call his followers to violence but gentleness.  The practical power of gentleness is easily seen.  If you are a supervisor and are regularly harsh with your employees, they will leave.  If you are married and regularly critical of your spouse, they may leave physically or at least emotionally.  If you are a parent, devoid of gentleness, you will most likely create a rebellious child. 
     The third strand of meaning is humility.  We are told in the Scripture that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6) .  Simply put God favors the humble.  The Prophet Isaiah says,  “. . . declares the LORD . “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2b)   Years ago I read a story from the life of Ulrich Zwingli, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation.  He was struggling with his pride in his personal life.   He took a prayer walk up a nearby Swiss mountain.  At one point he noticed two mountain goats on the same narrow mountain trail headed towards one another.  When they met he wondered what would happen, there was no room to go around each other.  He thought they might fight and one or both would die.  But something surprising happened, the goat that was headed up the mountain laid down and the goat headed down the mountain stepped over him.  This lesson of the goats had a profound impact on the Reformer.  He learned the goat was able to go higher because he was willing to go lower. 
      Seek meekness; it is the surprising path to greatness. 
Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church