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Author:Rev. John van Popta
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Congregation:Fellowship Canadian Reformed Church
 Burlington, Ontario
Preached At:
Title:The Meek Inherit the Earth
Text:Matthew 5:5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading - Psalm 37; Luke 12:13-21

Text - Matthew 5:5

Psalm 37:1,4
Psalm 25:1,3,4
Psalm 37:5, 9, 16
Hymn 19:1,2,3
Hymn 19:4,5,6
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. John van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ

In our text this morning the Lord Jesus Christ said that the meek, — meek people, — will inherit the earth. He said: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

This morning I proclaim the Word of God to you as we find it in our text with this theme:

The Lord Jesus teaches his disciples that meek people will inherit the earth.

1. What kind of inheritance?

2. What kind of meekness?

This promise of Jesus Christ has an Old Testament background. We can see that especially in our reading this morning. In Psalm 37:11 it says: "The meek shall possess the land." Psalm 37 speaks about possessing land 5 times. In verse 9, we read: "Those who wait for the LORD shall possess the land." Verse 22 says: "Those blessed by the LORD shall possess the land." Verse 29: "The righteous shall possess the land." We are told in verse 34: "Those who keep to the LORD's ways shall possess the land." And then verse 11, which the Lord quoted: "The meek shall possess the land." Or as he said it in his Sermon on the Mount: "The meek shall inherit the earth."

Does this speak to you? Does the promise of land speak to you? This promise might mean more to some of you than it does to others. If you live in an apartment, or some rental unit in the city the promise of land may certainly speak to you. The promise of some turf -a piece of land - to call your own. That means a lot, doesn't it?

On the other hand, if you live out in the country, on a farm or an acreage, or even if you own your own place in the city and you've got some grass, bushes, flowers and trees, then maybe the promise of land doesn't speak to you as loudly. After all, you already own a piece of the earth. Does this promise of our Lord speak to you? It should speak to all of us. For the Lord is speaking of more than a building lot. More than an acreage. We should understand what the Lord is promising. The Lord says that meek people will be blessed. They will inherit the earth itself. The whole world will be theirs.

We should understand something about land. About what the Bible says about land, about earth. There is a certain principle about land that we must understand. Land was one of the principle blessings in the covenant. God had promised land to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He had promised land to the people of Israel. He brought them out of slavery into a land flowing with milk and honey. If they continued to serve him, they would live in peace and prosperity in the land with the Lord their God gave them. We hear that in the 5th commandment every Sunday morning. Honour your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God gives you. Honour all those in authority. Show meekness, so that you may live long in your inheritance. Those who do not will lose their inheritance. Those who are grasping will lose it all. The principle is that those who grasp for land lose their possessions. Those who clutch for land lose their place on the earth. Those who are proud and lifted up will lose it all.

We also read that parable about the rich farmer in Luke 12. He is a hard working farmer. This rich farmer had a huge harvest. A bumper crop. HE plans, anticipates and channels his business in pragmatic ways. His harvest was so big he did not have the barns to store it. So, he built bigger barns to store his bumper crop. He grabbed and horded it all for himself. He did not share any with the poor. His barns are full but his heart is empty. Rich in material blessings. Spiritually bankrupt. He thinks that everything is HIS. "My goods, my barns, my crops" — even “My soul”! His life is closed. He thinks he deserves more holidays — and easy retirement.

Much the same as today. You need to take care of your own future. Sock away your cash. Don’t share it. There is no one who is going to take care of you tomorrow. It is a little seductive. Of course, responsible planning is part of Christian living, but we must always acknowledge that God is the one who cares for us and can demand our soul at any moment.

He sat back, satisfied with himself, and said: "Hey, I'm set for years." But the Lord God called him a fool. On the night he was finished gathering in his harvest and putting it in his big barns, he lost his place on the earth. He died. “Fool, God requires your soul.” He failed to reckon with the Lord. He failed to take into account the call of the Lord. Proudly he attempted to pile up his possessions. Those who grab and seize lose everything.

On the other hand, those who patiently wait upon the Lord and stand before him with empty hands looking to him in faith, receive everything. They receive land, a place on earth to call their own. Think of Abraham. When he and Lot needed to divide the land, he let the younger choose first, and when Lot chooses the best land he accepts that without murmuring or complaint. Or Moses, described as the meekest man on earth. He is not ready to set himself forward. He had great possibilities. All the wealth and wisdom of Egypt were his. But he humbled himself before God and did his will. Or David. He knew he was going to be king: chosen by God and anointed, but he would not raise his hand against mad king Saul. Or Jeremiah. Called to speak the truth, an unpopular message, while other prophets were preaching soothing words. Peace! Peace! When there was no peace. He felt all kinds of bitterness, loneliness, persecution. But he went on delivering the message. Think of Stephen. Think of Paul.

Blessed are the meek. Who ever heard of that? In his Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus said unexpected things. He turns things around. We have seen that in the past month. Poor people get a kingdom. Mourners get comfort. And now: Meek people, not self-asserters and grasping wheeler-dealers, but meek people are going to get the earth.

The history recorded in the Bible shows us that those who grasp for land, for earthly things, lose out. We see that with Adam already. God made a beautiful garden for Adam and Eve to live in — the Garden of Eden. God said: "Here, Adam, Eve: here's some land, a garden. It's yours. Till it. Keep it. It's yours. You may eat of every tree in the garden, except for one tree: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Leave that one alone." But what did they do? They reached out and stole from God. Adam and Eve grasped, they clutched for more earthly things. And they lost out. God sent them out of the garden and barred the way back.

We see the same principle at work at the tower of Babel. God had told mankind to spread out upon the earth, to develop it and to be a steward over it. But man did not listen. He had his own ideas about the earth and how to deal with it. The people said: "Let's build a city with a big tower. Let's make a name for ourselves." They were clutching at earthly things paying no heed to the fact that the earth is God's. Instead of spreading out and working the earth as stewards under God, they tried to show that the earth was theirs by building a big city and a big tower. They lost out. God divided them and conquered them. God confused their language and dispersed them across the earth.

Then, in Genesis 12, God called a man named Abram from the land of Ur. God said: “Follow me.” “I'm going to show you the land I'm going to give to your descendants." He promised Abram that he would be the father of many people. The nation Israel would come from Abram. God was going to give the land of Canaan to Israel, Abram's children. In faith, Abram followed. He lived in the land of Canaan as a sojourner. He did not receive the land. But he believed the promise of God. His son Isaac and his grandson Jacob also lived in the land of Canaan. But they never got to own it. However, they continued believing that God would give the land to their descendents. It was not until about 400 years later, under the leadership of Moses and Joshua, that the children of Abraham finally received the Promised Land. By faith, they crossed the Red Sea and the Jordan River. By faith, they destroyed the walls of Jericho. By faith, they conquered the land. They could only enter by faith. They could only remain in the land by faith.

But that is when the problems began. As soon as the people forgot about God, the owner of the land — as soon as they forgot that their existence in the land was due only to the grace of God — as soon as they began to think that they owned the land and had a right to it — they lost out. They ended up under the dominion of hostile neighbours. Or, worse yet, they ended up out of the land in exile. First in Assyria. Then in Babylon. They lost the land. They lost their place upon the earth.

Man's problem, his fault, is that he always grasps and reaches for what is not his. His crime is that he steals from God. He feels high and mighty, and thinks he can take what he wants. But that is exactly how and why he loses out. The graspers, the clutchers, get kicked out of the land. Man is, by nature, vain, selfish and arrogant. He grasps and clutches trying to build his own empire.

But the Lord says that meek people will inherit.

2. But what kind of meekness? Some translations say the gentle will inherit. But meekness should not be confused with weakness. The Lord is not saying that the weak and downtrodden automatically will get blessing from God. The meek are not simply submissive because they lack the resources to be anything else. We should not think that meek people are weak in character. They are not the wallflowers and the frightened. They are not the fearful compromisers. Meekness is not spinelessness. It is not the characteristic of the person who bows before every breeze. No, rather it is submissiveness under provocation. It is the willingness to suffer injury, rather than to inflict it.

Meekness is quite compatible with great strength and ability as men measure strength. But whatever strength or weakness the meek person has is accompanied by humility and a genuine dependence upon God. True meekness is a quality of the spiritually strong. — a quality of those who could assert themselves but do not. The strong ones in the church who will be blessed, are those though they are strong choose not to dominate. Self-assertion and having ones own way is not a Christian virtue. Rather the Christian is busy in lowly service. The meek refuse to engage in the conduct that merely advances one’s personal goals.

But we must also see that Christianity is not a crutch for the sick and weak. It is not a fence for the dizzy. It is not a substitute for those who miss out on something else. This blessing of the Lord Jesus is not a word of praise for people without stuffing or spine. The Lord is not saying, “Only the wimps will come out on top.” No, the Lord is saying those who put others first in their lives will be blessed with the blessings of the covenant. It is not those who claim their rights who are among the meek. No, the meek are concerned about their duties.

Meek people do not pay undue attention to themselves but rather they do their duty before God and fulfill their task on earth. As the Lord will say later in the Sermon on the Mount. Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added. Do your duty, and God will care for the rest.

And we should notice something else here. The meek inherit. They do not earn. It is given as a gift. The graspers, they think that they earn what they have. But think that they own their possessions, but actually, their possessions own them. They are like that rich fool. He thought that he owned his possessions, that he controlled them. But his possessions owned him — they controlled him. “Survivor, the Weakest Link, the Incredible Race.” Hit shows, but not about meekness and gentleness. A culture of self-assertion, of one-upmanship.

Peter in his first epistle writes in 3:4 — Wives should have that jewel of a gentle, — a meek — and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. Wives in their marriages must display that meekness. That denial of self-assertiveness. And this goes against everything that the world teaches us today. Rather, women are told to assert themselves. But Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit says, “No!” Meekness in marriage is a jewel, precious in God’s sight.

Paul tells the church, — also husbands — That the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness — again that same word, meekness translated here as gentleness —, self control, against such things there is no law. He goes on to write, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” That is if the Spirit of God has given you new life, then you need to walk in newness of life. You need to display these things in your life. Not just wives, but all of us. And one of those things is meekness, — gentleness — that gentleness of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 11: 29 the Lord Jesus says: Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle.... Exactly the same word is used here as in our text. I am gentle (meek) and humble in heart (Mt 11:29). He showed his strength in that when he was mocked and reviled he did not retaliate. He sought no vindication. When his friends betrayed him and fled, he uttered no reproach. When Peter denied him, he restored him to office and fellowship. When Judas betrayed him with a kiss, he called him friend.

But he was no weak man. When he saw oppression, he was like a lion. When the children were prevented by the disciples from coming, he was angry. He drove out the money changers. Called Peter Satan. The gentle one has a gentle spirit because he trusts in God. He entrusts himself, his life, to God. But this meek person has great strength. He extends love to his enemies rather than retaliation. He stands up fearlessly for the defense of others. He was a man who was completely different: the eternal Son of God who came to earth as the man Jesus. He was meek. He was humble. He had nothing. He willingly embraced poverty. He, the eternal Son of God who had it all, gave it up in order to become poor. When he was born, there was no place for him. As an infant, his parents had to flee from the Promised Land.

In his public ministry, he had no place to call home. He had less than the foxes and the birds of the air. At least the foxes had holes to crawl into. The birds have nests to which they can return in the evening. Jesus Christ had no place of his own to lay his head. But he willingly embraced homelessness and landlessness.

The Lord Jesus is the best example of gentleness, of meekness. Particularly at his trial. Not weakness, for he stands before the Sanhedrin, and Herod, and Pilate in all his dignity. But he does not lay great claims for himself. When the disciples want to defend the Lord he says he could call legions of angels from heaven but he does not. When the mob arrests him, he surrenders and they all fall back — twice — but yet he goes willingly. His power displayed, but his meekness supreme. In his trial, great poise. A poise born of not having to assert himself in order to be strong. When they hurled his insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). That is not weakness. That is meekness.

He even gave up his place upon the face of the earth. And his clothes were stolen. He literally yielded the space he occupied. As he hung on the cross, he was suspended above the earth. There was no place, no room, on earth for him. Why did Jesus Christ do this? Why did he yield his space? He became the homeless one so that he could give us a home. He lost his place upon the earth to give us a place. There was no room left for him so that we could receive room.

Jesus died for man's sin of clutching and stealing. But he arose from the dead. He ascended to heaven. As a reward for his perfect work, God the Father gave everything to his Son. Jesus Christ is now King of everything - heaven and earth. From that place of power and authority, Christ gives his people room. He gives a wide place, a pleasant place. An inheritance preserved in heaven for us.

And sometimes in this life, we feel that there is not much for us. Sometimes God’s people struggle for the basics of life. Sometimes all their earthly possessions are confiscated because of their faith. They even may loose their lives. And so, we must acknowledge that everything we have is a gift of Jesus Christ. We do not have rights and claims to the blessings God gives. But we do know that we will and do receive not only the spiritual gifts of Christ but also the material gifts, blessings in this life. Food, clothing, hearth and home.

And the Apostle Paul teaches us to have the same mind as Jesus Christ had. That mind and attitude of meekness, of gentleness and humility. In Philippians 2, Paul writes that we are to have this mind among ourselves — that attitude of Jesus Christ, which is ours in him. We are to take the attitude of the Lord who emptied himself of his glory and his right and became a servant for our sake. He humbled himself to death, even the death on a cross. So that we might receive all things from him who is now highly exalted.

God’s people receive everything in faith and with thanks. Christ gives believers room. He gives them a place, land to stand upon. He gives them a place today already upon which they can live to the praise and glory of his name. He gives them room to worship him and to serve him.

But from the land, the piece of earth, which believers have in Christ today from that place we look forward to an even better country, that is, a heavenly one. We are seeking a homeland. The new earth upon which righteousness will dwell for all eternity. Hebrews 11 speaks to us of those who died in faith. They acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles. They desired a better country, the heavenly one. Therefore, God was not ashamed of them, for he prepared for them, the meek, the gentle, a city. The New Jerusalem.

How can you receive that better country, the new earth? There is only one way. By faith in Jesus Christ and as a free gift — in meekness. In humility — not by grasping and self-assertion. He who is harsh and mean, he who lacks gentleness with others, with his wife or children: watch out. He who is grasping seeking first his own causes: watch out. He who is vengeful, one of whom it is known that it is better not to cross for anger will come forth: watch out He who is uncontrolled and full of anger because of all the fools in his life: watch out. If that describes you then there is no inheritance for you. If lack of meekness is excused with, “well that’s just I!” … Look out!

The meek will inherit the earth. Through faith in Jesus Christ, the one who died as the homeless one but who arose victorious from the grave. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. He is now the Lord and King of all. And the father has given all things to him. Everything is his. But he will share his inheritance with his people. Go to him with your empty hands. Those who grab and clutch, who try to fill their own hands by their own strength, will be sent away with empty hands. Those who meekly, who humbly go to Christ in faith with empty hands will receive everything.

Meekness is a true view of oneself. We are to leave everything—ourselves, our rights, our cause, our future—in the hands of God. And this is especially so if we feel that we are suffering unjustly. Remember that the Lord says: Vengeance is mine, I shall repay. We have nothing to do here.

And then we see that meekness, gentleness is a gift of the Holy Spirit for which we may and can pray. We must cast ourselves on God in prayer, seeking this gift of grace. Instill in us that spirit of meekness. Second, we must yoke ourselves to Jesus. His yoke is easy, his burden light. He is gentle and humble in heart. If we yoke ourselves to him, we will learn meekness. And third, we must see here the progression of the beatitudes. This is a three-step ladder to meekness. The first is poverty of spirit. This is true knowledge of self. There is nothing that commends us to God. We fall short. We need God. Next, we progress to mourning. We lament our spiritual poverty. And then we see that these are negative states. And out of this comes meekness. Meekness grows out of spiritual poverty and mourning over sin. All gifts of the Holy Spirit. Thus, for the Christian there is no excuse for not being meek. The one who is outside: he cannot help himself. Human pride reigns supreme. But if we claim to have the Holy Spirit, and every Christian makes that claim, there is no excuse, for meekness is produced by the Holy Spirit.

And we might say now: “yes, I see that now, but how do I know it.” “When am I truly meek?” “When can I know that of myself?” Someone wrote of this beatitude: The test of a meek person is this: Not that we can say, “Yes, we are poor sinners. Wretched man that I am.” Rather the test is this: What do we do when someone else calls us “vile sinners.”

Meekness is not politeness and the display of good social manners. Civility is not good enough. We, each one of us, need to demonstrate true Christian meekness. And do not seek it in others. Rather strive to this in your own life. Each one of us.

For then the spirit of Christ will be seen. Seen also in this congregation. Let us then humble ourselves. Let us confess our shame. Not only the smallness of our stature, and the imperfection of our lives, and the pride of our souls. Let us be finished with our old selves which is the cause of all our troubles, so that he who has bought us with his blood might possess us fully and so bring forth out of us gentleness: the fruit of the spirit.


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