Two weeks ago we talked about “blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” - and we mentioned in our overview message, that the beatitudes kind of build off of each other… so you have to be poor in Spirit to fully understanding why we would mourn, and you certainly would have to be poor in Spirit before you could ever be considered meek which is our topic of discussion tonight.
First… There are a couple of general thoughts on the beatitudes that I want to cover before I get into the specific one today.
We are going to read a scripture in a few minutes that refers to Jesus as the “root of David.” - and you may wonder, what is that all about?
Well Jesus, through Joseph and debatably even through Mary, is a descendant of King David… and a Prophet named Nathan once prophesied to David that someone would come from his seed, a King, that was going to reign forever. and of course we know, that is Jesus. He was referred at times as “The Son of David.”
- what does that have to do with the beatitudes?
Well, first of all, the beatitude that we are going to look at today, which is “blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” is a quote of King David… which we will get into in a moment, but King David is the first one to tell us that the meek inherit the earth.
Now, there are all sorts of ministry type of things that people do, it doesn’t have to be teaching or writing… the stories of King David and his leadership are incredible from start to finish... From the time he defeated Goliath to his reign as King.
But it is interesting to note, that David began his written ministry, with these words:
“blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked.”
David begins everything, by talking about a type of character that would consider you blessed.
And of course, the second David… the son of David, begins his first sermon by saying “blessed are the poor in Spirit.”
Jesus was a student of the scriptures. He loved the scriptures, he knew them all… he often quoted the strangest passages that you would never understand why he would choose that passage in that moment… but yet it always ties together beautifully.
And when he says “the meek shall inherit the earth” he is quoting the first David.
So lets look at meek.
Now, let me say this before we get much further. This is a very difficult word to understand. The Greek word here is the word “prause” (pra-ouse) - we find another form of that word in Galatians 5 when Paul gives us “The fruit of the Spirit” he uses the word “praotēs” (pra-o-tace), and William Barclay, in his commentary, wrote on this passage in the Fruit of the Spirit, saying that praotēs (pra-o-tace) is the most untranslatable words of all of the fruits of the spirit. A lot of translations translate it as “meekness,” and others go with the more known, “gentleness.”
we went really deep into this word in that message, we talked a lot about Moses who the bible says was “the meekest person who ever lived” and of course we talked about Jesus. And I am not going to talk about Moses today… I am going to start with Jesus, and then we will work our way to you and me.
Some of this may be familiar if you studied the Fruit of the Spirit with us, but the focus today will be more so the context of Jesus words here, in the beatitudes, and what all of it really means for our lives.
If you brought your bibles, you can turn them to Revelation 5:1-10.
“Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
Okay, so the first thought here may be, we are talking about the beatitudes. We are talking about how Jesus came to this group of diverse people, and he is telling them that if you want to be first you have to be last…
he is telling them that the poor ones and the ones whose hearts are broken are the ones that are blessed… what does this passage in Revelation, about the end of the world, have anything whatsoever to do with the beatitudes?
So there is this scroll. Its like a sealed book and nobody can get it open.
Because nobody is worthy.
Romans 3:10 says there is non righteous, not even one. It is written in the Psalms (Psalm 13:1-3) that there is none who does good… not even one.
and the sooner you understand this principle the better off you will be.
Nobody in heaven or on earth can open that scroll. There is only one who can open it.
So we have this image in Revelation… John is writing it about this view that he has into heaven… into the future, and he is weeping because he realized, “nobody is good.” nobody has what it takes to open this scroll.
So he weeps.
Just like we talked about last week… I hope you are seeing how this all goes together.
he weeps on behalf of our fallen world that was not able to produce one righteous person. One person worthy of this task…
But then an elder says to him…
Behold, there is one who can open the scroll.
He is the LION of the tribe of Judah, and he is standing right over there.
Notice the imagery. Notice the wording. Notice the way that this story is being told.
So John, he looks over to see this lion. But what does he see?
He doesn’t see a lion… does he?
He sees a lamb.
and we are not talking about a lamb that still has all its functions, that is healthy and thriving and cute looking.
This is not "Mary had a little lamb" - which by the way, last night as I was studying this I realized how funny these lyrics are:
Mary had a little lamb.
His fleece was white was snow.
I felt like I had been kept out of Christianity's best kept secret in this nursery rhyme.
I got on google and and researched its origins because it obviously is a reference to Jesus and his mother... and apparently the theological connections that I made are merely coincidence.... And it really is just about a girl who wanted to take her lamb to school.
But lots of pastors have done sermons on it. It was entertaining to read. Now you can add this sermon to that list and add me to the list of pastors who Christianize everything.
End side note.
So John, expecting to see a lion, instead sees a lamb.
this lamb is standing there as if it had been slain.
This lamb had just had a very bad day.
and IT IS this slaughtered lamb....
that everyone began bowing to, saying “worthy are you who opened the scroll.”
They are singing to the lamb! and they begin explaining why he is worthy.
Because he was slain.
Because his blood was ransomed.
and by this lamb a Kingdom has come.
But it didn’t come because the lion did what lions normally do, and dominate everything.
It came because the lion, fully capable of dominating any situation in every way, instead, made himself a lamb.
Something that was vulnerable.
Something that would not defend itself if it were attacked.
and that, I believe, is the greatest imagery we get in the bible for “the meekness of Jesus.”
There are all sorts of human interactions that Jesus found himself in, in which he took that same low road… in which he acted meekly. But if I had to explain meekness solely by using the life and death of Jesus and in only a couple of words, it would be those words:
The Lion & The Lamb.
The word in the Greek, “praotēs (pra-o-tace), which we translate as gentleness or meekness, comes from the concept of a wild animal that has tamed. Like a horse. When we did our study on the fruit of the Spirit I showed you a picture of my then three year old daughter riding a horse that is probably 50 times her size and weight… a horse that could easily have crushed her if it wanted but it had been trained to restrict its power. So instead it gracefully walked in circles with her on its back. and she rode around totally enthralled not concerned with the power that this creature possesses...
as if SHE had control.
But the thing that is so fascinating about animals like that, when they are tamed, is this… and you have to understand this if you are going to understand this concept. When an animal has been tamed like that, it is not like it is a psychotic rat in a cage dying to get out but is restrained... And so because of its restraints, it doesn't.
No, its instincts are nurturing. Its instincts are loving. Maybe it didn't start that way, but it is now programmed in such a way where it restricts its power and cares for its rider... Or whatever the circumstance may be.
Because just like the other beatitudes, if we go into this thinking, “I am meek if I can just restrain my strength. I can control my power and I can choose to be a certain way…” then you are still living your life in such a way where you are doing something to earn your blessing.
And again, that would put us right back where we started… right back at the law.
There is a much bigger picture than just that… remember this is the most untranslatable of words. Anybody who tells you they understand this perfect is full of it. There is so much to it.
however, in understanding the context of the Greek word that is used here in Matthew, that is where the word comes from.
It is not a weak person.
It is a person who doesn’t use what they do have, be it strength, or ability, or creativity… they don’t leverage their assets in situations where it will get them more at the expense of someone else getting less…
they don’t use those things to get ahead or use those things against people...
....and in fact they often are the ones who end up on the outs… because an evil empire like the Roman government comes in… and entities like that have no problem using their strength to get what they want.
See something was going on in that day that you have to understand if you are going to get the significance of what Jesus is saying here.
Rome had essentially taken over the world. Everything in Eastern civilization, anything that we would now call Europe and Asia, all the land across the pond, they had taken over basically all of it. The Roman armies would go into a place and they would declare that Caesar is Lord, and then they would make everyone in the towns they were taking over make the same confession… that Caesar is Lord. and then they would take their land… they would tax them at incredibly high tax rates, and essentially everybody to one degree or another became a slave to Rome.
take for instance the Jews who were hearing this sermon.
They, for generation after generation had their own laws in place to make sure that they kept their land… because the land in a family was their greatest asset!!!
everybody was given a portion when Israel came into the promised land… it was divided amongst them all.
and so when families began losing their land to one family members bad stewardship or a poor business move, suddenly the next generation in that family had children who were being born into poverty… and instantly we had children starting their lives off in unjust ways… starting off with the deck stacked against them.
so they had something called the year of jubilee every 49 years which was a time that all land was returned to its original owners. This would sound insane to someone today... It probably was just as crazy to them all those years ago. But on Yom Kippur of the 49th year... Or, in more spiritual words: on Yom Kippur in the seventh sabbath year... A trumpet would sound and they would declare Liberty. Everything that had fallen off balance over the last 50 years was leveled.
Because the Jewish culture had all sorts of systems for fighting injustice.
It was incredibly radical and it would take longer than we have to explain it all… but it is incredible.
I believe it is one of the most powerful messages of justice in the entire bible.
It is So incredible that a lot of people wonder if anybody really ever followed through with it. But everyone in that culture AT LEAST understood the principle behind it.
But now we have Rome, coming in from the outside, and basically taking whatever they want.
Doing whatever they want.
Because for every generation until recently, for the Jewish people that Jesus was talking to here, there were systems in place that ensured the earth was divided up appropriately among them.
And suddenly, one of the biggest concerns for them became the very one that Jesus addresses here.
Who inherits the earth?
Because from their perspective, it was looking like Rome would inherit the earth. It looks like the ones who come in with weapons, and who take things by violence, they are the ones who it seems like is getting the earth. The year of jubilee would have meant nothing to a Roman. Hundreds of years in the same family meant nothing to Rome.
A Jewish child being born into injustice meant nothing to a Roman.
What is yours is now theirs, and there is nothing you can do about it.
So to this conquered group of people, many of whom had nothing left, hearing this would have been huge for them. Who inherits the earth?
The meek inherit the earth.
Now, when Jesus says this, he was hitting on one of those hot buttons in that culture… but he did not just pull the concept out of nowhere.
He is quoting Psalm 37:11. And we are going to read that now, and everything leading up to verse 11. This is a Psalm of David:
1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
2 For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
Now, by now you have heard me say this like a thousand times so you know, the New Testament was written in Greek. The old testament was written in Hebrew. We already covered the Greek... and in Hebrew, the word “meek” has a different meaning, but with a similar connotation.
Nothing about a tamed animal in Hebrew.." To my knowledge.
The word meek is the Hebrew word “`anav” and it is a form of the word anawin (ann-a-weem) and the thing that is particularly fascinating about the word anawin (ann-a-weem) is:
The anawin (ann-a-weem) were actually a group of people. It was a word used to describe a group of people who were oppressed in a very strange and unjust way. They lacked social status, they lacked money. They absolutely lacked power… they quite frankly, were people who had no voice.
Because one way or another it was taken from them.
So here at the mountain we have this group of people, many of whom, because of the Roman empire, they and their families had become like the anawin.
No voice. No way to get what was rightfully theirs, back.
These are People who knew something about the way the world had been divided up in the past...
people who knew the way things were going now… but also, like we talked about on Sunday, these were also people who knew the scriptures.
So for Jesus to quote from the last part of the section we just read..., the listeners would have immediately gone the words of David. and as we just read a moment ago, before David gives us this quotable verse that Jesus uses in the beatitudes, he first takes ten verses to describe the very things that the people in that day were going through.
David starts by saying “fret not!”
Do not be afraid. Don’t worry about this.
There are people in this world who are going to abuse you. They are going to take advantage of you. They are going to use their power to overpower you.
There are so many injustices that happen in society and correct me if I am wrong… but I can’t think of any injustices that are about anything other than a misuse of power to some degree.
Perhaps you can point some out to me if you think of any... But most things in the nature of injustice rise and fall on either someone doing something to get ahead, or someone ignoring something to keep themselves ahead.
But what David is saying here is so significant.
He is saying, that yes, the world is totally broken...
But this world is also dying. The world itself as it is right now, will one day be over and God will establish a new Kingdom that is still to come, right in place of the old one. Right here on this earth.
and there are things in life that are eternal, and there are things that are fading... There are things that will not survive when Jesus comes back in all of his glory and establishes a new earth.
Wickedness will not endure forever. It will be cut off.
Evildoers will be cut off… the wicked will be no more.
They are not going to survive what is coming.
But you will.
verse 7 is very telling:
7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Don’t get all worked up when people prosper by looking out for themselves. Because they have figured out a system that works in this world… and maybe you haven’t… but maybe you are better for it.
Because they have a system figured out, that gives them what they want. They have the worlds goods… but you can’t take anything when you go.
and none of those things are going to survive.
Injustice won’t survive.
Selfishness won’t survive.
Their armies and their weapons and their violence will not survive.
The people who are building armies and taking over the earth and walking over all sorts of “entire groups of people” so that they can feel more powerful…….. will… not… survive.
Because in the scope of eternity that is all that the Romans were, and that is all those types of people are now.
Blips. Vapors. Here today. Gone tomorrow.
Rome doesn’t control everything anymore. and the ones who were a part of those armies have been dead for 2,000 years.
They are forgotten.
All that they achieved was a momentary feeling of power and whether they held it or not during their time on our earth, it has been taken from them now and they will never see it again.
But the meek will inherit the earth.
The ones who could have fought back, but they didn’t.
There are things that will last forever and there are things that will die.
Injustice will one day seise to be.
While righteousness will shine forever.
We have said this many times throughout the series already, but the sermon on the mount is all about a Kingdom. Really, it is all about two kingdoms.
The Red Letter City now.
and the Red Letter City that is to come.
The Kingdom of heaven that has invaded earth, here and now, that we are all a part of here, and now… that we are the salt and light of, here and now… the message bearers of the hope of the world, here and now…
and then there is another message in there, about a Kingdom that is to come.
And we don’t want to get to get so caught up on the Kingdom that is coming in the end, when there is a new heaven and a new earth, that we miss the moments that are right in front of us here on earth.
Its very easy to work your whole life for a result and miss the entire journey. Miss things like mourning. and mercy. and being poor in Spirit.
But we mustn't ignore the future either, because it is still our blessed hope.
Guys, living the beatitudes means living Kingdom minded lives knowing that some of the blessings are yours, now. and others are still to come.
This particular promise is a big one. But it is a promise of something that is to come.
Inherit is to come. You don’t have it yet.
It is future tense.
To inherit something, someone has to die.
A person can do nothing to get an inheritance. Nothing about what they receive is up to them. Thus even more grounds for our need to be poor in Spirit.
Do you know that the word poor used in the beatitudes, when Jesus says “poor in Spirit” in the first beatitude - it is not just poor, as if you have no money, or things are really tight.
It is actually poor as in a beggar.
As in someone who everything in their life is provided to them by the generosity of others. As in someone who literally can not survive without intervention.
Now think about this third beatitude. The meek shall inherit.
A person who gets an inheritance does nothing for it.
After they receive it, they must now become a steward of it, or else they will end up right where they started… but an inheritance is one of the very very very few financial occurrences that could literally change your entire life in the blink of an eye.
You could go from having nothing, to having everything, in one moment.
but the person dying has to deem you worthy of their estate.
The person dying has to deem you qualified to take care of what is being left.
The entire decision is on the person who is leaving this earth and is leaving what is theirs in it, to you.
And Jesus, the slain lamb… the only one who can open the scroll, God himself... has said that the ones who get the earth are the meek.
The ones who are okay living on the bottom even though some of them probably could be on the top if they wanted.
and really What it all comes down to is pride and humility.
Humility... or humbleness means that you recognize WHERE your strength comes from. You realize that you have all the power in the world because you have the God of the universe on your side and fighting your battles for you…
but you also understand that the along with that power comes the responsibility to both live and act like Jesus does.
Let me give you an example of not doing this.
In Luke 9:51-56, Jesus and his disciples went into a Samaritan village and when they got there, nobody received him. He sent messengers ahead to let them know he was coming so that they could prepare, and nobody in this little village cared… so then James and John asked Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
and the bible says that he turned and rebuked them.
Because they had the power… but they didn’t look like their Rabbi in that moment. Jesus would never have done anything like that.
He took the rejection from that town and he moved on. And as he was moving on, he had to step back into that rejection when the disciples didn’t want to let it go quietly.
He rebuked them and moved on.
Its not about being weak, its about being LAST.
Its not about being passive. You have to hear this…
Its about standing up at the right time while remaining seated.
and I know you are wondering, how do you do that?
and I wish it were simple… but its not.
R.T. Kendall says of the beatitudes… that meekness is the crown jewel of them all,
but there is a complicated issue to that and its this: If you have achieved this… if you have achieved being meek, you made it.
You are there.
But if you think you made it, then you haven’t achieved it yet.
The reason I am wording things in sort of weird, paradox like ways today is because this is a paradox. It is absent of all sound reasoning to our human, Greek oriented minds, and yet it produces something in you that actually works.
Really, all of the beatitudes, are probably the biggest paradox in the whole bible.
what if we put it this way?
A meek person has the ability to fight an injustice without starting a war.
Again, in our broken world, that seems like a paradox.
But The idea is that You do not reject the notion that something must be done to right the wrongs in our world."... but a “meek” person can solve a problem without creating another one for someone else.
Kingdom people are not passive people, they are broken people... who are not at war with this world but are here to bring the love and peace of Jesus to it.
you are not looking for a fight and you are certainly not looking out for your best interest.
Jesus tells us in another place in the sermon on the mount... A little beatitudes application: “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matt:5:39-40)
and people criticize the literal reading of this passage saying this is pacifism but I don’t call it pacifism I call it brokenness.
By now, you know your own brokenness. You know what your sin cost. You know what it means to be poor in Spirit. And when you think about what your sin cost, and the brokenness in your life, and someone else does something evil to you… at some point you need to just realize that it is still just brokenness.
Its their brokenness. And it looks just like yours.
And when you look someone else in the eye who has done something wrong to you, you should know, that if you somehow got a glimpse into the darkest places of their heart, it would be shattered into a million pieces just like yours is.
Our war is not with people, our war is for people.
and we stand for people. But we don’t stand against them.
and the meek understand that.
And to most of the world they probably look like pansies… but to me, they look like followers of Jesus.
They look like the lion, who made himself a lamb and told the broken world that was sick of being walked on…
to stay the way you are,
Which is an obvious venture from "change everything now. No, to these people, in this situation, he tells them that everything bad that has happened is for your benefit.
because in the end, its all going to be yours:
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”