Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
What is Christ calling us to here? What is meekness? What does it look like? I wonder what comes to your mind when you hear the word meekness? Is a meek person someone who is soft-spoken, or maybe a person who has a limp handshake, or perhaps a person who is easily pushed over and does not seem to have much of a spine?
I think of a hymn for children written by Charles Wesley: “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…” When you put meek and mild together it gives the impression of being weak, limp, lacking strength. A mild curry is not very strong, and probably not worth having. For guys who like to watch football, this doesn’t seem like the kind of thing we’d want to go after.
But we have seen that these Beatitudes are fountains of blessing. Jesus is telling us that there are some things we should go after and get as much of them in our lives as we possibly can. One of them is meekness.
Meekness: Taming the Wild Stallion
When I began to seriously study this Beatitude, I asked the question: What do I think Jesus is referring to here? What is this meekness that I am to go after and get as much of it into my life as I possibly can? I want us to do a reset on the meaning of the word meek today, and to see that it is only possible thought the power of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew Henry wrote: “A Discourse on Meekness and Quietness of Spirit,” in which he points out that in Latin, a meek man was called mansuetus. There are two words here: manu which means “hand,” and assuetus which means “used to.” Meekness means being “used to the hand,” which Henry says alludes to the taming of creatures wild by nature.
The Bible compares our fallen human nature to the impulse of wild animals. God says that His own people are like a wild donkey and a restless camel (Jeremiah 2:23-24). Not a very flattering description.
Matthew Henry draws this conclusion:
Man’s corrupt nature has made him like a wild donkey… but the grace of meekness, when that gets dominion in the soul, alters the temper of it, brings it to hand, and submits it to management. 
Meekness is the means by which God tames the sinful soul by taming the temper, subduing the assertive self, calming the passions, managing the impulses of the heart, and bringing order out of chaos in the soul.
You go to work and one of the partners in the company you serve is self- opinionated and overbearing. He is always throwing his weight around. He is short tempered with the staff and demanding, always insisting on his own way.
The man is not happy. You can see that. There is turmoil and frustration going on inside of him. You can see it at the water cooler, where it spills out onto the people around him. If this man learns meekness, it will change his temper, bring it to hand.
Think about a horse that has not yet been broken: It bucks and it kicks, and when someone goes near to it, it resists the bit and the bridle. It’s not used to the hand. But when it gets used to the hand, the horse has a dignity and poise. The animal is at peace, and it is altogether different.
By nature we’re all like the unbroken horse. We resist God’s hand. We kick against him. As long as we are fighting God, we cannot experience peace within ourselves. As long as we’re at war in ourselves, the turmoil will spill over onto other people in our family and in our workplace.
Karen and I were in Iowa last weekend. One morning we were coming down a small, very crowded elevator in our hotel. The elevator stopped and the man who was waiting to get on saw that there was no room for him. He began to curse and swear as the doors closed.
Now maybe he was late for a plane, maybe everything had gone wrong that morning, but the turmoil was obvious. Who knows what burdens he was carrying, but it was beginning to spill out.
Without meekness we slide into an internal conflict of soul that manifests itself in anger, frustration, bitterness, resentment and turmoil. Meekness tames the temper, subdues the self, calms the passions and brings order out of chaos in the soul. Meekness calms, soothes and subdues.
When I saw that, I said to myself, “This is what Jesus says is supremely blessed. Now I see why I should get as much of meekness as I possibly can. This is exactly what I need, and without it, I’ll find myself in endless turmoil!” Thomas Watson puts it this way,
By nature, the heart is like a troubled sea, casting forth the foam of anger and wrath. Meekness calms the passions. It sits as moderator in the soul, quieting and giving check to its distempered motions… Meekness of spirit not only suits us for communion with God, but for conversation with men. 
If this is what meekness is, then I want to get as much of it as I can into this fractured soul.
C.H. Spurgeon  gives us five words to describe meekness: Meekness is humble, gentle, patient, forgiving and contented. And what that means is that meekness delivers us from pride, harshness, anger, vengeance and ambition. Jesus is calling us to something very wonderful here:
- Grow in meekness, and you will gain control over anger. Meekness will moderate your passions. It will subdue your impulsiveness.
- Meekness will change the way you speak. It will give you control over the harsh word and the sharp put down.
- Grow in meekness and you will discover contentment. You will be reconciled to the position you are in. Meekness will help you to accept the difficulties that you face and even to see the hand of God in them.
- Grow in meekness and you will enjoy peace. Meekness is being “used to the hand.” Another way to say this is: Meekness is about submission. Submission means you put your mission under (sub) the mission of someone else.
I take the dream of my life, the hope of my life, and I say “Because you are Lord, I put all this under you.” This is what a Christian does. Christ calls me to put all my hopes, dreams and plans under his mission.
That’s what meekness does. It submits to God. And Jesus says that people who do this are blessed. The meek place all things in God’s hands and find, to their surprise, that God places all things back into their hands. That’s why Jesus says, “The meek will inherit the earth.”
Submitting to God’s Word
Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
The evidence that a person really submits to God is that they do and believe what Jesus says: “Whoever hears my words and puts them into practice is like a man who builds his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).
A church where the Bible it taught clearly and valued highly is a wonderful place to be, because our lives are nourished by the Word. This is how Christians grow.
But a church where the Bible is taught clearly is also a dangerous place to be, because all of us are responsible for what we hear—nobody more so than the one who speaks. Do you receive God’s Word with meekness? Am I just talking about the Word of God, or am I doing it?
The self-willed person hears what God says in the Bible, but reserves the right to disagree: “God may say that, but I don’t believe it. That may be what God says, but it’s not what I want, and it’s my life.” Or worse, “This is what I want, so it must be what God says… I’m going to do it anyway.”
Meekness is the ability to flex according to the shaping influence of God’s Word. You become like soft wax, so that God’s Word may make an imprint on your life.
Submitting to God’s Will
There are times in the life of every believer when God puts you in a place you would not choose to be. It may come through difficult circumstances at work, in the family, difficulties in church, or in regards to your health.
When God brings you to a place you would not choose, unbelief rises up from the flesh that always resists God: “This must mean that God does not love me.” Resentment grows and envy settles in: “Why does she have that blessing and it was not given to me?”
What does meekness look like when God puts you in a place that you would not have chosen for yourself? Come with me to a garden. It’s late and it’s dark. A few men are asleep in the garden. Further on, there is another man. His whole body is draped over a stone.
You walk closer and you see that he is sweating profusely. He is in an agony of soul. Then he says: “Father, if it is possible, let this cup be taken from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done” (Matthew 26:39).
Frame that picture. That’s meekness—Jesus submitting himself to the will of the Father at unimaginable cost! And this is what Jesus is calling us to do: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Have you become “used to the hand” of God upon your life? Or are you like the wild donkey, kicking against the call and the claim of Jesus Christ, at war with yourself, and all the while your conflict is spilling over into the lives of other people?
Submitting to God’s People
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)
Paul is describing what it looks like when God’s people are filled with the Holy Spirit: They sing to each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. They’re always giving thanks. There’s one more evidence of people being filled with the Holy Spirit—they submit to one another.
If you’re not a member of a local church, to whom do you submit to? This is a serious question: How can you do what God asks you to do in Ephesians 5, if you are not a committed member of a local church?
Meekness grows through the discipline of committed relationships in the body of Christ, God’s gift to the believer. Autonomous, self-directed Christians miss out on the blessing of meekness.
If the pattern of your life is to walk away every time a person upsets you, you cannot learn meekness. Meekness can only happen when you are upset, and you submit yourself to God in the middle of it.
There is an important distinction to be made between submission to God’s Word, submission to God’s will, and submission to God’s people. Submission to God’s Word and submission to God’s will are unconditional, but our submission to one other is not.
The apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men,” and there may be times when we say that too. But remember that the apostles said this when they were forbidden from preaching the Gospel.
The normal pattern of healthy Christian relationships is that we submit to one other in the body of Christ. Meekness is formed out of the difficulty of doing this: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
That means I must listen to what others are saying and to what others think, and I must listen to it and give weight to it, even when I feel that I may be right.
Let me give you four snapshots of meekness in action, so that we can connect the dots of what this looks like in practice, and see how difficult it can be, even among the Lord’s own people.
When you are opposed
Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
Why does the Bible say this? Think about what he had to endure. God calls this guy out of retirement to lead the people of Israel who had been slaves for 400 years. What must the pressures have been like leading God’s people?
By God’s grace, Moses led them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. He brought them to Sinai where God made a covenant with them. You’d think God’s people would be grateful to Moses, but they grumbled: “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children?” (Exodus 17:3). Can you imagine believing people thinking like this about Moses?
By nature, my flesh would have said, “You’ve never seen such blessing, and all I hear is you moaning and complaining about what you don’t like.”
But Moses was not like that, so here’s what he did: He prayed for those who said the most ungrateful things about him. He even said to God that he would rather his own name was blotted out of God’s book, in order that they not be blotted out.
Far from meekness being a brand of weakness, it should be obvious by now that meekness is beyond us, and is only possible through the Spirit of Christ.
When you are provoked
Shimei…threw stones at David…And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man!” (2 Samuel 16:5-7)
What a wretched man Shimei must have been. Maybe as you hear this story, you will think of someone who is a pain in the neck to you.
Shimei belonged to the house of Saul. He was Saul’s man and he had nothing good to say about David, even though Saul was long since dead, and David had been anointed as king over Israel. David was Israel’s greatest king, but Shimei didn’t have a good word to say about him.
Abishai, who was one of David’s loyal men, didn’t think the king should have to put up with this: “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head” (16:9).
But David showed meekness towards Shimei: “Leave him alone,” he said, “and let him curse” (16:11). And that’s what Shimei proceeded to do. Now I want you to get this picture,
So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust. And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan. (2 Samuel 16:13-14)
Shimei showed extreme, unjustifiable provocation towards the King of Israel, and David put up with it. It would have been so easy for David to get rid of Shimei. But he puts up with him—amazing! That’s meekness.
How easily God could crush sinners, and kick them into hell. But he moderates his anger.
When you are disappointed
Sometimes we’re disappointed because our expectations are unreasonably high. But surely, after all the ministry Paul had poured into the lives of so many believers, it was reasonable for him to expect this: When he was placed on trial in a court of law, someone would come and stand with him.
But nobody did… He says, “At my first defense, no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.” How would you feel if that happened to you?
Listen to the meekness in this… “May it not be charged against them” (2 Timothy 4:16). He prays for the blessing of people who let him down.
When you are injured
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)
Christ could have said with absolute justice: “You wait!” But his justice is tempered with great mercy, and instead he says: “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). That’s meekness.
How did he do that? “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:23-24).
Meekness is seen in bearing wounds, forgiving injuries, and returning good for evil. Matthew Henry says,
If this be Christianity, the Lord help us! How little there is of this among those who claim the name Christian… We are called Christians… we name the name of the meek and lowly Jesus, but how few are actuated by his spirit, or conformed to His example. 
We live in a land of lawsuits, where there has been such a loss of civility in public discourse and conversation. We live in a world of attack ads and attack websites. What happens in the world creeps into the church.
It is much easier to be like Shimei than to be like David. But David has the Spirit of Christ. We desperately need to rediscover the meekness to which Jesus calls us here. How can we do that? That’s where we are going next week… Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle (meek) and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Bind yourself to me. Walk with me. I am meek. So, learn meekness from me, and here’s what will happen: “You will find rest for your soul!”
There’s a hymn that I have often used as a prayer in my own life. It was written for a congregation, but I’ve found it helpful to make it personal,
Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive my foolish ways.
Restore me in my rightful mind; In purer life your service find,
in deeper reverence praise…
Drop your still dews of quietness, till all my strivings cease.
Take from my soul the strain and stress, and let my ordered life confess, the beauty of thy peace…
 Matthew Henry, “Discourse on Meekness & Quietness of Spirit,” ch. 1: Nature of Meekness, Monergism, 2012.
 Thomas Watson, “The Beatitudes,” p. 106, Banner of Truth, 1971.
 C. H. Spurgeon, from the sermon “The Third Beatitude,” Dec. 11, 1873.
 Thomas Watson, “The Beatitudes,” p. 115, Banner of Truth, 1971.
 Matthew Henry, “Discourse on Meekness & Quietness of Spirit,” ch. 3: Lack of Meekness, Monergism, 2012.
© Colin S. Smith
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