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Blessed are the meek
For they shall inherit the earth

(Matthew 5:5 NKJV) "Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth."

Meekness is as popular as celibacy. It's all very good for someone else but we can't possibly live up to it. You have probably met some anti-Christian cynic who sneers at you "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the dirt; Christians are a joke...." you walk away desperately trying to be meek and somewhat proud that you did not punch him on the nose. The fact that he was a karate expert had nothing to do with your reaction - it was entirely spiritual. Meekness is hard stuff, and at first glance extremely unwise - after all who wants to be walked on all the time. " Not me!" said the doormat.

Despite all this flippancy, we do like meekness in others. Its nice to work with someone who isn't pushy and domineering. It's great to be married to a partner who gives way a little and who understands your need to be just a little different, who can leave off having their own way so you can grow in God. Meekness in parents is particularly important, confident children have meek parents. Parents who are not meek produce resentment, anger and rebellion in their progeny. So being meek is good, society works better, everyone is happier and more creative - why isn't it more popular? I think it is popular and the current thirst for "non-judgemental attitudes", "non-violence" and "tolerance" is partly a search for meekness after a century of war and an aggressive mind-set.

The popularity of non-violent figures such as Gandhi and St. Francis of Assisi and the renewed interest in monasticism is a hearkening to meek people. They are being listened to at last. But we are very scared of meekness for ourselves. We are afraid of exploitation and attack. We are scared that meekness will leave us too vulnerable and that we will lose something. So before I preach the virtues of meekness I think I had better help you with your fears.

I have entitled this chapter "the winners" because that is what Jesus calls meek people - winners. The people who will inherit this earth - the here and now, are meek people. An example of this is Isaac, one of my very favorite Old Testament figures. All we see of him is absolute meekness, a trusting "Yes, Father..." a quiet going along with God. Isaac was the man who would meditate in the fields in the late afternoon. Who lived quietly with his one great love - Rebekah, dug wells and increased greatly in the earth.

(Genesis 26:12-14 NKJV) " Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the LORD blessed him. {13} The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; {14} for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him."

The envy of the Philistines resulted in them blocking up his wells of water, not just once or twice but many times. But Isaac never sent out an army - though he easily could have. The next two verses show Isaac's great strength.

(Genesis 26:15-16 NKJV) Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father's servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth. {16} And Abimelech said to Isaac, "Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we."

Isaac had taken the great wealth of Abraham - of which he was the only heir and multiplied it. He was a mighty prince in the land and could easily have dealt with the Philistines who were depriving him of his rights to a basic necessity of life. If ever there was an excuse for war against those unbelieving Philistines this was it! But what did he do?

(Genesis 26:17-21 NKJV) Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. {18} And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them. {19} Also Isaac's servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there. {20} But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen, saying, "The water is ours." So he called the name of the well Esek, because they quarreled with him. {21} Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah.

Then he finally digs a well that is not argued over and rejoices...

(Genesis 26:22 NKJV) And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, "For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land."

But all this meekness and moving on - what was the wisdom of it? Why not just fight and win? Well Isaac's uncontentiousness made a path for peace and prosperity to travel to him along. Let's hear the finish of the story...

(Genesis 26:23-33 NKJV) Then he went up from there to Beersheba. {24} And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham's sake." {25} So he built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac's servants dug a well. {26} Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath, one of his friends, and Phichol the commander of his army. {27} And Isaac said to them, "Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?" {28} But they said, "We have certainly seen that the LORD is with you. So we said, 'Let there now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you, {29} 'that you will do us no harm, since we have not touched you, and since we have done nothing to you but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the LORD.'" {30} So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. {31} Then they arose early in the morning and swore an oath with one another; and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace. {32} It came to pass the same day that Isaac's servants came and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, "We have found water." {33} So he called it Shebah. Therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.

Isaac's meekness eventually led even the Philistines to fear him, to tremble before him and recognize him as "the blessed of the Lord". Meekness led to victory and prosperity. Read Genesis chapters 22-26 for some fascinating insights into Isaac, the model of meekness. Well and good for Isaac and the Philistines you say, but you don't know the Philistines I am surrounded with.

No, but the Lord does and He has commanded you to be meek. There you are in your family, faced with an unruly wilful 14 year old who will run you over as soon as look at you. You think that this your child is the perfect model for Atilla the Hun and you are profoundly amazed that you managed to produce such progeny. How will meekness work there? Well the most effective worker with teenagers I have ever met is also the meekest man I have ever met. Teenagers are so desperately unsure of themselves on the inside that they become absolutely obnoxious on the outside.

Meekness says "You are not in danger, I will not bully you in any way, your inner self is safe with me. I expect you to obey the rules and you know what they are - let's respect one another." It says this "subconsciously", these are the vibes the teenager picks up - and they respond nine times out of ten . Some of the best workers with really tough street kids are really meek friars and monks. They get results. Meekness works. Well I hope you fear meekness a little less by now, so lets move on to see what meekness really is and how to put it into practice.

The definition I like best is "A quiet and expectant bearing of destiny that is grounded in God." (Kittel). Isaac knew he had a destiny, knew for certain that the Almighty was with him and would contend for him. So with that certainty of destiny he could move quietly, confidently and non-assertively through life. God would take care of his rights. And God did take care of his rights.

Jesus is our supreme example. As he goes into Jerusalem on a donkey to claim His royal inheritance. every inch of His path was a movement toward destiny. This is what Scripture says:

(Matthew 21:4-5 NKJV) All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: {5} "Tell the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.'"

The word "lowly" is the same Greek word (praus) as "meek". Jesus also says ...

(Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV) "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. {29} "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. {30} "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Because His mission is a mission of lowliness, not of pomp and grandeur, He can invite all and promise rest to all. His meekness means that God is no bully. We are safe with God.

We have a meek God and it is safe to be with Him. He will not turn on us or bully us. God is every bit a gentleman, but He is not tame. A sinner has everything to fear from God. God has absolute might and strength. He is absolutely fair. He tells you the rules and expects you to obey them. And if you break them you will receive the promised punishment. He is fair like that. God is no push-over. He is very strong and very gentle. The Bible has a curious Hebrew word "erek aphayim" , it literally means "long-nosed", to the Jew this meant that God did not change his facial expression toward them easily. God wasn't like some people who are kind one minute and nasty the next. With God you can be sure that He won't explode for a very long time. His kindness takes a long time to change into anger - but it can and does happen.

This patience of God is called makrothumia in the Greek of the New Testament and it is translated "long-suffering love" it is this long-suffering love of God that gives sinners the chance to repent. (Romans 2:4) God has the patience of a gentleman but He has His lines firmly drawn and the person who persists in sin will feel his anger.

God is meek but He is also strong, fair and just. Being meek does not mean we have to abandon our standards. It is no virtue to throw away the truth. We keep our standards but we enforce them with love, patience and understanding.

Do you know who was called "the meekest man on the face of the whole earth" ...guess? Well it was Moses - the man of the ten commandments and the law. The man that has so often been misrepresented as hard and uncompromising was in fact very, very, gentle and lowly. He loved his people dearly and served them and his God totally.

(Numbers 12:2-8 NKJV) So they said, "Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?" And the LORD heard it. {3} (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.) {4} Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, "Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!" So the three came out. {5} Then the LORD came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. {6} Then He said, "Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. {7} Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. {8} I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?"

Moses was so meek and humble (praus) that he did not defend himself when others were grumbling against him. In fact he never ever defended himself - though people often criticized him and his leadership. Each time he waited for the Lord to come to his defense instead. Meekness means a vast reluctance to leap to one's own defense. Meekness is acutely aware of the terrible tearing apart of people that can come from quarrels. Meekness knows that vicious arguments in so called "self-defense" are just not worth it. It is better to be torn apart than to tear apart. In this way meekness is very far-sighted and takes the long view.

Meekness looks down the track to when the squabble is over and gone - to all the hurt people and all the battered Christians and all those stumbled in their faith that will result. Meekness then says "No, this is not worth it, I will hold my peace." Meekness looks even further and knows that God understands and knows their suffering and He can repair their life and fix their reputation. And even if He does not, even if they suffer unfairly for many years, that they will still have their dignity, they will still have acted rightly. Ultimately meekness will be rewarded. God remembers the meek with a reward that is eternal and far, far, outweighs any temporary, light affliction they feel here on earth.

Well what about the "imprecatory psalms" , you say, the one's where David wants all his enemies obliterated, where he calls down curses on them in pain and anger. Verses like:

(Psalms 35:4-8 NKJV) Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor Who seek after my life; Let those be turned back and brought to confusion Who plot my hurt. {5} Let them be like chaff before the wind, And let the angel of the LORD chase them. {6} Let their way be dark and slippery, And let the angel of the LORD pursue them. {7} For without cause they have hidden their net for me in a pit, Which they have dug without cause for my life. {8} Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly, And let his net that he has hidden catch himself; Into that very destruction let him fall.

Verses like this do not seem meek and safe at all! They are not comfortable verses on the lips of any Christian. But in fact they are very meek indeed. David was constantly surrounded by people wanting to kill him out of envy, jealousy or fear. From Saul to Absalom there was a long list of people seeking David's life "without cause". David could easily have launched a civil war against Saul and won, but he refused to but spent years fleeing him in the wilderness instead until eventually the Lord used the Philistines to dispose of Saul and Jonathan and the kingdom became David's - peacefully.

David cried out to the Lord for deliverance from his mortal enemies - but note this well, he did not take any violent action himself against any of those who sought to kill him, even though he most certainly was a better fighter. He could have easily won, and he was in the absolute right. But David was a man "according to God's own heart" and was meek, not lashing out when threatened but waiting for the deliverance of God. His psalms reflect his very deep and real distress and his need of a solution. They certainly show that he did not like his treacherous enemies, but he breathed out his dislike of them to God and did not take his defense into his own hands.

David did not willingly enter into contention or spoil for a fight. He was meek. When Absalom tried to usurp him he left Jerusalem barefoot, humble, mourning. The death of his treacherous son in the ensuing battle brought him sorrow. His ability to reconcile with his enemies was legendary. He truly loved people. He was meek.

Meek people can defend their nation and their God. David certainly did. But out of love. If someone threatens your family, your nation or the honor of God you can stand and "fight". But if you are meek you will do so only at the very command of God. Threats to family or nation are easily worked out. But oh, all the innocent Christian blood that has been spilt "for the honor of God". Let us be very careful before we swing into action ! That person you see as so very, very wrong may be a brother or sister in Christ. They may be part of the family you are pledged to love and protect when you join the body of Christ.

In AIDS and other auto-immune diseases the defense mechanisms of the body turn against it and destroy it laying it wide open to infection and death. Sometimes the church seems to catch an "auto-immune disease" of contentiousness. Some issue sets off an explosion of arguments sometimes lasting for decades. The inevitable result is a severely weakened church. When the battered, bleeding Christians limp back to their churches they are so tired that the body of Christ is soon ravaged by every foul disease in the spiritual world. Some commentators have noted that the "Battle for the Bible" controversy took a powerful, healthy evangelical movement in the US and reduced it to tatters. Let us use our defenses against real enemies, against false gospels and deceptive heresies and gross immorality and the dark occult forces of this world. Let us leave one another alone.

Easier said than done I'm afraid. Let's take an issue that I think is starting to divide churches and Christian more and more - the Creation/Evolution controversy. Every Christian believes that God created the heavens and the earth. Some believe he did it in six literal twenty-four hour days, some believe he used evolution, some - like me believe the earth is old but that evolution is bunk, God created but over a very long time period. Whatever you believe there are people out there wanting to have a bunfight with you. Some of them can get very nasty indeed.

Suppose you believe that evolution is the worst idea ever thought up by mankind and is leading our society into moral decay and corruption. Are you duty bound to fight? Yes and no. Yes, you must follow Scriptures, your conscience and the Holy Spirit. But... First you should check the Bible to see if you are being biblical in your content. OK, you do that and still believe that evolution is of the Devil.

The next thing is to check your methods of argument with Scripture and to understand who your enemies really are. "We do not fight against flesh and blood but against spiritual powers of wickedness in heavenly realms.." Its not your brothers and sisters in Christ that are the enemy but the Devil and his lies. So you will be gracious to your brothers and sisters in Christ, you will present them with the facts without argument or rancour and you will leave it up to them to judge whether or not you are right and convincing. At no point will you launch a personal attack against another Christian. Paul never did. Jesus never did. No apostle ever did. You won't. If they don't buy what you have to say -tough. You will have to live with misunderstanding and you will have to live with not everyone accepting your message. But you will never ever resort to personal attack.

And if some ministry does not subscribe to 6-day Creation you will not condemn it from your pulpit, rather you will take it to God in prayer. You will leave it to him. There are godly people on all eighteen sides of this question. And there are some very contentious and aggressive folk on all twenty-two other sides of the question. Its complex, and I don't think that the six-day Creationists are worse than anyone else. There are many other people with causes, many of whom are attacking various portions of the body of Christ. Public personal attack against believers is not the Lord's way. Private rebuke, prayer, counsel, Scripture ,sweet reason and the power of your godly life may win the day. If these don't - there is nothing in the will of God that will.

We need a Christian commitment to non-violence. I deeply regret my fundamentalist years of bitterly attacking the charismatic movement. I was wrong, not in just what I said but how I said it. I wish I had never persecuted the church of God. I wish very deeply I had listened to their testimonies without bias and genuinely sought some of the blessings that they had to bring. But my mind was made up. One the basis of one verse of Scripture (1 Cor 12:13), wrongly interpreted by me, I had them boxed as being in error. It was not their reasons but their lives that won me round. I share this because when I look back over my Christian life it is the angry, violent "in defense of the faith" moments that I most deeply regret. I wish someone had explained Christian non-violence and meekness to me 18 years ago. I wish that along with not smoking , not drinking and not going to R-rated movies someone had said - and no religious wars either!

Christian meekness, not bullying, not self-defending, not violent in any way could be a really beautiful healing thing. We could even learn from one another. We might honor one another as brothers and sisters of the living God and lift one another up as precious and lovely. We would trust one another for "they would not hurt or harm on my holy mountain". We would be safe in the church.

Pastors would stand tall in the love of their congregation knowing no Christian sharpshooters were lurking in the pews. They would feel the honor given to them by their congregation. They would serve as lowly servants of God. They would never use the pulpit for attack. The church would be safe to be in. Yet everyone would know God's presence and the firm hand of the Holy Spirit's holy standards. Meekness would exalt the church. I can see a vision of an enthusiasm for meekness spreading through the body of Christ. A practical, Spirit-filled lowliness infecting hearts and minds and transforming churches. And such churches would be so lovely they would have to grow. People would flock to be part of them, to know their healing gentle touch. Like children flock to a kind face the world would flock to the door of such churches. And the meek would inherit the earth.

 

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