This week’s scripture reading, Matthew 5:1-12,
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed [are] they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed [are] they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed [are] the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you,] and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
What is the meaning of the meek shall inherit the earth and what does Jesus mean by meek? Well, when Jesus was referring to blessed are the meek, he was using the term to describe one who is gentle in spirit, humble, mild mannered. It is not a common word in scripture, used only four times in the New Testament, three times by Jesus and once by Peter. What is a meek person? It is a dispositional trait of character that not only Jesus personified himself but desires to see in others. This caring and compassionate nature of Jesus toward people was expressed by him as he encouraged people to come to him in Matt. 11:29, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light. * (yoke – used for joining animals together)
In addition, Jesus referenced a prophetic verse from the Old Testament to describe himself on how he would come into Jerusalem in Matt. 21:5, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. Here he is portrayed as the King of Israel and yet with a meek spirit. * (ass – domestic animal)
Further to this, the apostle Peter described many important things that are valued by God, contrasting between mere physical appearances versus a more noble inward disposition as noted in 1 Pet. 3:4b, …a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. In the world today, meek can often be wrongly used and interpreted to mean someone who is weak, overly tame or timid but this was clearly not the case with Jesus since his style of preaching and teaching was one always marked with boldness in conveying a message to the people.
There were also notable people throughout biblical history who were often described as being meek such as Moses in Num. 12:3, (Now the man Moses [was] very meek, above all the men which [were] upon the face of the earth.) God used the meek spirit of Moses though to develop one of the most notable leaders in scripture to bring the Israelites out of Egypt from the tyranny of Pharaoh.
Further on in history, during the reign of King David, he wrote many Psalms contrasting evil people with the meek people of God as noted in Ps. 37:10-11, For yet a little while, and the wicked [shall] not [be:] yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it [shall] not [be. ]But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. In a Psalm of praise for the Israelite people, King David also expressed reference to meekness in Ps. 149:4, For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.
Meekness in Prophecy
Perhaps one of the most noteworthy scriptures giving merit to meekness was by the prophet Isaiah while speaking of the long awaited Messiah in Is. 61:1, The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound. This was a profound prophecy that came to be as Jesus taught in the synagogue in Nazareth some seven hundred years later and stood up to read to the people on the Sabbath day. The same section from Isaiah was read by Jesus and continued on in Luke 4:20-22, And he closed the book, and he gave [it] again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?
References such as these help to further corroborate the use of the term meek in scripture and as noted in a previous study it is often helpful to look at the opposite of blessed are the meek to understand the contrasting context. For example, it is noted in Ps. 138:6, Though the LORD [be] high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. Recall from previous studies how poor in spirit was the opposite of proud or haughty people. Similarly, meekness is the opposite of a person who is overbearing or overly assertive. Quite the opposite of attributes that are often prized and admired in today’s world.
At times while reading scripture, it is missed when individuals recorded in the New Testament are actually quoting scripture from the Old Testament. This is important to note since it confirms the existence, accuracy and validity of scripture throughout the Bible. In this particular passage from this week’s scripture reading on blessed are the meek, Jesus is actually quoting almost verbatim from Ps. 37:11, But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
For Israelites, this would have had tremendous implications to hear a man speak so eloquently of ancient scriptures, hence the comments raised by the religious rulers in John 7:15, And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? He was in no way speaking mere gibberish to the people of that day and the Jews knew perfectly well the scriptural references he was giving despite their growing contempt for him.
To close off this Bible Study, the second part of this blessed phrase, “shall inherit the earth” is no doubt filled with many interpretations throughout the ages. Since Jesus referenced earlier the kingdom of heaven, in all likelihood the reference is made to the new heaven and the new earth from Rev. 21:1, And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. This reference is quite befitting within the context of the blessed phrases shared thus far, “poor in spirit”, “mourn” and now “meek” since the new heaven and new earth will indeed be the most blessed experience for people of faith as noted in Rev. 21:4, And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Hopefully, this Bible Study has helped to shed light on the usage of the word meek since it is truly a character trait worthy of both the Lord Jesus Christ and for people of faith.
Bible Study Questions
- How would you describe someone of meek character from a biblical sense with key words from this study?
- How does this compare with how the world describes a meek person today?
- Why do you think the character of meekness is favourably viewed from God’s perspective?
- When Jesus read from the prophetic book of Isaiah and proclaimed the fulfillment of the scripture why do you think the people were so astonished at his sayings?
- Can you recall the Psalm that matches this specific phrase blessed are the meek from this study?
- The last three blessed characteristics give hope for people to inherit the kingdom of heaven, to be comforted and to inherit the earth. How would you describe this to someone curious about the teaching from Jesus?
- Is there something you could do now to become more meek in spirit like Jesus?
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