While Matthew 5:5 is probably the most famous beatitude, not many people understand what it means. Jesus does not explain what he means by “meek”, but he quotes Psalm 37 which gives us a very big clue.
- The Sermon on the Mount is a very important body of teaching given by Jesus at a time when he was very popular.
- Jesus intends to show his disciples the issues they will face if they want to be children of God.
- Jesus contrasts his teaching with the teaching of the Pharisees.
- Luke 6 is the same sermon given in shorter version. We can use Luke to understand Matthew and vice versa.
- Jesus speaks cryptically. He makes concise provocative statements that we must think about to understand.
- Jesus makes strong categorical, black and white statements that ultimately reflect the end of a process of struggle, growth and maturity.
- In the beatitudes, Jesus confronts us with fundamental convictions of saving faith.
Each beatitude has 4 features:
- A beatitude tells us WHO is blessed.
- A beatitude tells us WHY such a person is blessed.
- A beatitude tells us ONLY these people are blessed.
- There is something surprising or ironic about these people being blessed.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:5
- Matthew wrote biblical Greek using the word πραΰς (Strongs 4239). This Greek word has been chosen to translate the Hebrew word (Strong’s H6035) used in the Old Testament passage Jesus quotes.
- To understand Jesus, we need to understand the Hebrew word in the Old Testament.
1Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. 2And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. 3Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. 4And suddenly the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. 5And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. 6And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 7Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” – Numbers 12:1-8
- For more on Numbers 12, see Dealing with Resentment.
- Miriam and Aaron are jealous because Moses has a unique authority in Israel and a unique relationship with the LORD.
- God gave something to Moses that He did not give to Moses’ siblings, and they don’t like it.
- The word we’re interested in is “meek” in 12:3.
- Miriam and Aaron are grasping for a role and an honor that God has not given them.
- By contrast, Moses did not seek his role and initially refused it (Exodus 3:1-12; Exodus 4:10-14).
- Mose is not presumptuous. He is content with what God has chosen to give him and is not demanding more.
1Of David. Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!
2For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
3Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
6He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
7Be 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!
8Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
10In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.
12The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him,
13but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.
14The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright;
15their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.
16Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked.
17For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.
18The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever;
19they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance.
20But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
21The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives;
22for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off.
23The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;
24though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.
25I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
26He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing.
27Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever.
28For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.
30The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.
31The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.
32The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.
33The LORD will not abandon him to his power or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.
34Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
35I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found.
37Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.
38But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
39The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. – Psalm 37
- In Hebrew, this psalm is an acrostic. The first pair of lines starts with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The next pair start with the next letter and so on through the alphabet.
- This psalm encourages those who trust in God not to worry about the evil people who seem to be getting ahead. Don’t be angry or wrathful toward them. Instead trust and wait in the Lord.
- In this psalm, the wicked prosper because they carry out wicked schemes (e.g. Psa 37:7; Psa 37:12; Psa 37:14; Psa 37:21).
- By contrast, the righteous in this psalm trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for him (e.g. Psa 37:5; Psa 37:7; Psa 37:9; Psa 37:11; Psa 37:22; Psa 37:34; Psa 37:40).
- This contrast between the wicked and the righteous is a frequent theme in the Old Testament. The “wicked” aggressively and presumptuously fight for what they want. In contrast, the “righteous” trusts God and waits on God.
- This picture of the wicked versus the righteous is what informs the meaning of this Greek word “meek.”
- Being meek is not deciding to be passive. Being meek is deciding not to take a certain road because taking that road would be to abandon what God says is right.
Inherit the earth
- This word translated “earth” (Strong’s G1093) can also mean “land.” Is Jesus saying they will inherit the whole earth? Or that they will inherit the land of Israel?
- Many Old Testament passages speak of the children of Abraham inheriting or possessing the land.
- Early passages look forward to the day when Joshua takes them into the promised land (e.g Genesis 15:7).
- Once the children of Israel are in the land, many passages speak of what they need to do to stay in the land (e.g Psalm 25:12-13).
- After the exile, many passages look to the day when they will posses the land again (e.g. Jeremiah 30:3; Isaiah 60:21).
- Psalm 37 makes frequent mention of the righteous inheriting the land.
- Even though King David wrote Psalm 37 when the children of Israel were living in the land, the psalm is looking to a future time when the wicked will be cut off and the righteous will dwell securely in the land (e.g. Psa 37:9-11; Psa 37:22; Psa 37:27-29; Psa 37:34).
- The day that brings the children of Israel their ultimate blessing also brings blessing to all the nations of the earth.
- In the beatitudes, Jesus is speaking of the promises associated with the coming kingdom of God.
I define saving faith as having these 4 aspects or core convictions.
- Saving faith involves a genuine desire for holiness in and of itself.
- Saving faith includes a genuine understanding that left to myself I am totally incapable of obtaining holiness.
- Saving includes a genuine understanding that God owes me nothing and I am totally unworthy of any gift from God.
- Saving faith is a firm trust that God — through the work of Jesus Christ — both intends to and will in fact bring me into holiness in the age to come.
Like the other beatitudes, waiting on God one of the core convictions of having saving faith. Those who are meek accept their spiritual poverty. They do not arrogantly demand God save them. They do not grab for the blessings of God without trusting Him. They recognize that they can do nothing to require God to grant them mercy.
The fortunate ones are those who humbly wait on God and do not presumptuously and disobediently grab for what they want. This may seem surprising because in the short run they seem to be losing to those who ignore God and take what they want. But these humble trusting ones are the only ones who are truly fortunate because as the psalm says they will have a place in God’s kingdom when the Messiah establishes the kingdom of God on earth.