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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Blessed are the Meek
Text:Matthew 5:5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Humility
 
Preached:2020
Added:2020-07-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 131:1,2,3                                                                           

Ps 25:3,4                                                                                                        

Reading – Psalm 37

Ps 37:1,2,5,15

Sermon – Matthew 5:5

Ps 138:1,3

Hy 65:1,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, whenever there’s a plane crash, investigators will try to find out the cause behind it. They’ll piece together the wreckage, sift through the ashes, and look at the plane’s data recorders, in order to pinpoint: Where was the fatal flaw? What human error or what mechanical failure made things end so badly?

The same thing can be done in our lives. And when we look carefully, we find that there’s one fatal flaw that we have, a weakness that has often led to great disaster. And that is the sin of pride. It is actually the root cause of all other sins: the sin of forgetting that God is Creator and we’re only his creatures. From the very first chapter of this world, pride has been the sin of raising ourselves above him.

In our life, pride can be so natural, and so destructive. But it also means when we resist pride, we are ready to draw near to God. Think of the summary of God’s law in Micah, “He has showed you, O man, what is good and what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8). This is what God wants. If we realize the God we serve, realize who we are in ourselves, and realize what we have in Christ—then we must be humble, before God, and before other people.

The same truth is heard in the third beatitude of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Here Jesus encourages us to live in humility, and He promises great blessing when we do. I preach God’s Word to you from Matthew 5:5 on this theme,

            Blessed are the meek:

                        1) the meek are not…

                        2) but the meek are…

                        3) and the meek inherit…

 

1) the meek are not… When was the last time you asked God to make you meek? Or parents, how much do you encourage this trait in your children: meekness? It’s not a quality of character than many of us aspire to.

And this is because there is a deep misunderstanding of meekness. Many think it’s being so passive that people walk all over you. Meekness means that you’re flabby and spineless and lacking in strength, and you probably have low self-esteem.

On the other hand, those who get attention in our culture and those who progress are the ones with great self-confidence, those who assert themselves. But if you’re a meek pushover, you won’t get very far. I remember a T-shirt I once saw: “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing.”

So when Jesus says “Blessed are the meek,” it’s hard to connect with this. Can we relate to this particular beatitude? First of all, there probably is a bit of difficulty around the word “meek.” Words pick up a certain flavour and connotation, and meekness has come to mean something like timid and submissive. So we’re going to need to explore what it actually means, when we get to our second point.

But for now, let’s underline how Jesus’ words here in Matthew are very much like what the rest of Scripture says. Meekness is good, it is commendable in the children of God. Says Paul in Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Col 3:12). Or James writes in his letter, “Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas 1:21).

So we should know that it is a good thing. Meekness is not the same as weakness! There’s more to say though, about why people reject any idea of being meek, or whatever else you might call it. It’s because there is that strong undercurrent of pride in our hearts—that stubborn attitude which lives within each of us, and which shapes much of what we do.

Just what is pride? We could say it’s being overconfident. Full of yourself. Self-righteous and self-important. If we were given a couple moments, we could probably think of one or two people in our life who are marked by his character trait: they are proud. They tend to boast about all their good accomplishments. They would rather be talking than listening. They have a critical spirit toward other people, because nobody is quite as good as them.

We can think of some proud people, but perhaps it’s not really a sin that affects us. Our nose isn’t always up in the air, is it? We don’t always insist on being first. But pride is not just the specialty of a few. We all know about it, because we all live proudly. Pride, according to Scripture, always comes down to this: it is the sin of forgetting that God is Creator, and that we are only creatures.

As we said, that’s been the way of the human heart from the beginning: we raise ourselves above the LORD. In fact, every time we sin, there’s a display of pride, because we are trying to find our own way, not God’s way: “I’m not going to listen to God at this moment, but I’m going to make this choice according to my insights. I know what God says, but here I’m going to follow my feelings and my desires.” Sin is proudly saying that we know better than God. Even if we don’t say it out loud, that’s what it amounts to: we’re so sure of ourselves that we forget the Lord.

This is why in the Scriptures, the proud are often synonymous with the wicked. You can put an equals sign between them. A proud person ignores God, and he tramples on other people, as he seeks first his own goals and does his own will—and isn’t that us?

Earlier we read from Psalm 37. Throughout it there is a contrast between the wicked and the righteous, between the proud and the humble. We’ll look at verse 11 shortly, but you can underline it already now: “But the meek shall inherit the earth.” In Matthew 5:5 Jesus is clearly echoing Old Testament truth: God blesses the meek! 

And in verse 11, notice the word “but.” There is a contrast, because while the meek and lowly inherit the earth and “delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (v 11), those who do evil are “cut off” and perish (v 9). To be sure, in Psalm 37 the wicked people seem to have all the fun. They thrive and prosper, all their wicked plans succeed, and they walk all over the righteous. These are proud people, doing as they please.

Again, we may think that’s not us. “I’m not proud—in fact, humility is one of my best traits!” Yet look carefully. What is our opinion of ourselves? How much confidence do we place in our abilities, in our possessions, in the life we’ve made for ourselves here on earth? We’ve got a lot of good things going for us, so are we still able to live in genuine dependence on the Lord? Where we rest in God alone? If we don’t, we have pride in our heart.

You can see pride too, in our attitude toward other people. It’s a part-time job for us, making judgments about those around us. And usually we reach the conclusion that they’re not quite as good as us. They’re bad parents. They dress weird. They smell funny. They don’t speak well. They’re boring and stiff. This is pride: “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbour, him I will destroy,” says God in Psalm 101:5, “the one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, him I will not endure.”

When Jesus spoke about meekness in Matthew 5, He was aware of those in Israel who were displaying a particular breed of pride—religious pride. There were many who counted themselves righteous because of their diligent religious practices: they tithed everything, fasted often, worshiped regularly, and kept themselves clean. If you can do all that, you’ve probably secured God’s favour for yourself.

And we know something about religious pride too. We keep the rules. We belong to the right church. We think that we have the right views on the important topics. Now, it is good and necessary to strive for faithfulness to God’s Word. But there can be a lurking pride, when we rest in what we have done as church, where we have a confidence in where we belong as members, and when we have great pleasure in being right and showing that others are wrong. These are not the meek. The meek are not weak, and the meek are not proud! But,

 

2) the meek are… By now we know that there’s far more to meekness than being passive. In the original Greek, the word translated as “meek” is a word that is often used to describe a domesticated animal. Think of a loyal dog that is trained to obey your words of command, or a horse which has been broken in and become obedient to the reins. The meek quietly submit themselves to God and show humility toward all people.

By nature, of course, we all want to be “off the leash” and do whatever we want. We think finding our own way is the key to happiness, but Scripture shows that this kind of freedom is only going to kill us.

Yet by his Holy Spirit, God can help us to be meek, where we submit to him in faith and obedience. Christ is saying, “You are blessed when you have your passions and desires well under control. Blessed is the person who doesn’t give in to every impulse—who doesn’t say whatever comes to her mind, who doesn’t need to click on every link, or watch every show, or eat anything that looks good—but blessed is the one who manages his desires and emotions, who has them under control for God.” Beloved, this calls us to the work of mastering ourselves, so that we can submit ourselves wholly to God.

Turn again to Psalm 37. Recall that this Psalm is painting a contrast between the wicked and the righteous, the proud and the meek. There’s lots about the proud here, but see also how David describes the meek.

According to this Psalm, the meek person is the one who “trusts in the Lord and does good” (v 3). The meek child of God is the one who “delights himself in the Lord” (v 4). When we are meek, we “commit our way to the LORD” (v 5), we “rest in the LORD and wait patiently for him” (v 7). Such is the person who shall inherit the earth!

If pride is exalting ourselves against God and over other people, then meekness is being willing to submit to God and to other people. First, let’s say a bit more about meekness toward God. This is where it begins, of course, when you place yourself under God’s sovereignty. There is not a moment in the day that is not under his control. There is not one outcome that’s not already decided by him.

We can make plans. We want to upgrade our car or our home. We want to get married. We want this kind of career, this many children, improve ourselves in all these ways. But then we remember who is God and Creator. It’s not us, but it’s the LORD. Meekness is saying, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

Submitting to God doesn’t mean having a defeated spirit, because we conclude that nothing is ever going to change and we can’t do anything about it anyway. Submission means that you can be well-satisfied with your place in life, for it’s been lovingly assigned to you by God. For our part, that is making the decision—every day again—to acknowledge God’s wise commands. Unlike any human, He makes no mistake. He is always seeking our good. And so we trust in him. We rest in him. We commit our way to God and seek his favour.

We see this kind of meekness in a few people in the Bible. Think of Job, who said on the same day that he lost all his earthly possessions and all children, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). Or think of Mary in Luke 1:38, when she said to God’s angel, “Let it be to me according to your word.” These saints rested in the LORD and waited patiently for him.

The same spirit comes out in a meekness toward other people. Being meek means that we’re willing to submit to other people. It means that we’ll be patient in receiving injuries, that we would rather forgive twenty insults than take revenge for one.

Think again of how David counsels the righteous in Psalm 37. The children of God can get upset when they see the wicked prosper. The children of God can begin to fret and worry, and even to take matters into their own hands. But God says to us, “Do not fret because of evildoers” (v 1). And again He says, “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath” (v 8). Don’t take all these wrongs and offenses onto yourself, but humbly remember that God is God and Judge, not you

This is difficult. We’ve been raised in a society that tells us to stand up for our rights. Don’t let people walk all over you. Don’t be a doormat. Don’t be meek! But Jesus teaches us that this is not the way to live. All this is just pride by another name.

If we’re not meek, then we’ll be constantly annoyed and ruffled by other people. Then every little insult, every slight and injury, raises a storm within us. Surely we have to react, maybe even get revenge. If we don’t live in meekness, we’re at the mercy of every person who bothers or disturbs us.

How much better to live in gentle submission: Blessed are the meek! When God has taught us meekness, we can bear insults without being angered. Through the Spirit’s gift of gentleness, we can return a soft answer to someone’s wrath. The meek can be cool when others are hot. The meek are self-controlled—or better, they are God-controlled.

This is not to say that it’s a sin to be angry, or it’s a sin to react strongly to something. But so often our responses are tainted by self-interest. Think of when we parents get mad at our children, or when we become mad at work. We begin to fume and rage because our children’s behaviour is becoming inconvenient to us, or because our co-worker’s actions are reflecting badly on us. But the person who is meek feels anger for the right reason, in the right manner, at the right moment, and for the right length of time.

Indeed, a meek person acts in gentleness, even when he has it in his power to act with severity. Think of a king who could take vengeance on a rebellious people. It’s in his power to pay them back, yet he treats them with kindness. That is meekness. It’s not weakness, but it is the gentleness of strength.

And if there’s any doubt about this being the right way to live, consider that Christ was the very model of this kind of meekness. Think of what He said in Matthew 11:29-30, “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.” When He says, “I am gentle,” it is the same Greek word as is translated “meek” in our text.

This was the pattern of his life. Jesus’ whole focus was on submitting to the will of his Father. He would not act according to his own understanding, but He would follow the perfect wisdom of God. He was a faithful Son. “Learn from me, for I am meek.”

Consider too, how Jesus responded to people around him. He took a lot of abuse from the wicked, but did not react with hostility. When He was insulted, He opened not his mouth. When He was injured, He didn’t seek revenge, but actually protected his enemies. When He faced trouble, He didn’t press for his rights or trample other people. He was gentle and meek.

And now listen again to what Jesus says, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart.” Follow his example of true meekness, for He is our faithful teacher for learning the way of submission to God and others. It’s like how Philippians 2 says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

Again, this isn’t easy. Our selfishness is a permanent resident within our heart, and pride contaminates so much of what we do and think and say. But meekness can transform our relationships. Think of a marriage where a husband and wife are willing to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ, instead of bickering over their rights. Think of a church where the members accept each other, and are patient with each other, and show grace to those who are different, or even a bit difficult. Think of a family where there is a forgiveness of past wrongs, and a gentleness with the weak. In every relationship, the path of meekness is the path to blessing.

 

3) the meek inherit… Let’s take a moment to review the promise in the first two beatitudes. The poor in spirit will receive the kingdom of heaven. Those who mourn will receive comfort. And now: The meek shall inherit the earth.

Again, this isn’t what we expect. The world tells us that nice guys finish last. Those who are humble will only get passed over for promotions and lose their place in the queue. But the Bible reveals that only the humble can know the blessings of God. As Proverbs says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

That truth is put a different way in our beatitude, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” As we said, Jesus here echoes Psalm 37, “The meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (v 11). Remember how David was struggling with what he saw around him: the wicked prospering, the evil having all the fun, the proud laying claim to the land. It sure looked like the meek would get nothing.

But God always has good things in store for his people: “they will inherit the earth.” In our understanding, the only time we inherit something is when someone dies. We take possession of a thing when it has been left to us in a will. But in Scripture, to “inherit” means we receive something which has been promised us by God.

The Israelites looked forward to their inheritance for a long time. Centuries before, God had promised the land to Abraham and his family. For his descendants, this was their hope, year after year. But getting there meant waiting and waiting, and then it meant traveling through the wilderness from Egypt to Canaan, and even then it took forty years! But the great joy of the book of Joshua is that finally they’ve entered their inheritance. They’ve received the land, for God has kept his word, and it is theirs for good!

That marvelous and prosperous land became a symbol for all of God’s good promises. The land stood for his covenant mercies toward them. It was the physical proof of God’s care and God’s nearness. It was their inheritance by grace.

And in the same way, God promises to us immense blessing. Through Christ, we get to draw near to God, and we get to walk with God, and call on God as Father. Through Christ, we are given the enjoyment of God himself.

In this life, we probably won’t become rich. Jesus is not promising that the meek will own great property and many lands. But we will have a peace which the world cannot take away. We have a power which the wicked cannot break.

And ultimately, we’ll get even more. The meek shall inherit the very kingdom of God! We’ll be given dominion over a new heaven and new earth, that “heavenly country” spoken of in Hebrews 11, the glorious city. That will be ours for good—for ever! The meek will be received into God’s presence we will share in all his blessings forever. As David says in Psalm 37, “There is a future for the man of peace” (v 37). That is our future! Those who spend their lives waiting on God will be ready for his kingdom when it comes.

So let us live God’s way. Let us live Christ’s way, following our Saviour who was gentle and lowly in heart.

For all the proud shall be cut off, but the meek shall inherit the earth.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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