Jesus said to His disciples, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) The Psalmist wrote, “But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Psalms 37:11)
It seems to me that there have always been those who have some confusion about what meekness means. Some of the words used to define it are ‘easy, gentle, humble, and submissive.’ I think the best definition I have observed is, “Meekness is strength under control.”
The word meekness evokes differing ideas as evidenced by the writings of those who have explained it.
Albert Barnes in his ‘Notes on the New Testament explains, “Meekness is patience in the reception of injuries.”
Adam Clarke, in his commentary on the New Testament, says, “Meekness implies, “a quiet, gentle spirit, in opposition. We have a compound word… which once fully expressed the meaning of the original, viz. gentleman; but it has now almost wholly lost its original signification.”
In his commentary on the New Testament, William Burkitt wrote, “Meekness either respects God or our neighbor. As it respects God, it implies flexibleness to his commanding will, and submissiveness to his providential pleasure…as it respects our neighbor, it consists of forgiving injuries, bearing reproaches, and recompensing good for evil.
The reward and blessing insured to this grace and duty is, the inheritance of the earth, where heaven is not excluded, but included; yet the earth is mentioned, to show that men should be no losers by their meekness, as to their outward estates; for Almighty God will make good to them what they lose for peace sake. O happy temper of mind, that at once secures heaven and earth to boot! Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth in this life, and heaven in the next.
I hope you can see the scope of thought revealed in these comments. I would not, nor could I, define meekness better than the above.
In my article, I have chosen to present an example that interestingly explains what meekness is from a passage in Psalms 37:1-11.
- Meekness is resisting a tendency to be angry or envious because of evildoers and workers of iniquity who seem to prosper, even though they show no regard or respect for right-living. “Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb.” (Vv. 1,2) Christ-followers must not allow themselves to fall into the trap of envy and resentment when comparing their circumstances with those of evildoers. The Psalmist reminds us to remember that the end of such people is not good.
- It is manifested by one’s trust in the Lord. “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.” (v.3) This entails living (dwelling) and feeding on God’s faithful supply of our needs. As Mr. Burkitt wrote, ‘it implies flexibleness to his commanding will and submissiveness to his providential pleasure.’ That is, acknowledging that God knows best and that He will not lead us into temptation but will guide us according to His providential pleasure.
- It is expressed when we delight in (relish our relationship with) the Lord who provides our needs. “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (v.4) This we can do in our private lives and devotions, as well as public and corporate worship. As the Psalmist also wrote in another place, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalms 19:14) Whether private or public, it is always good and right to delight (rejoice in) the Lord!
- Meekness commits to the way of righteousness and justice. “Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday.” (Vv.5,6) Many profess faith in God’s plan of redemption, that they have embraced God’s promises of forgiveness and eternal life but fail to finish the transaction by making a commitment. Only when commitment is made will faith be complete. The meek submit and commit not only to the profession of faith but also to practice what they preach.
- The meek rest and wait patiently for the Lord’s vindication of His people against evildoers. “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret – it only causes harm. For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait on the LORD they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Vv. 7-10)
True rest can be realized only when we forego fretting, cease from anger, and forsake wrath. I once had two neighbors who were quarreling over a property line. Their quarrel became so heated that one killed the other. Meekness on the part of these men could have prevented death, grief, and one of the wives being left a widow. The Psalmist got it right; fretting, anger, and wrath can only cause harm.
- The meek are promised a blessed inheritance by both the Lord and the Psalmist. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)“But the meek shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (V.11)
Our Savior used it in this sense…not that the meek should own great property or have many lands, but that they should possess peculiar blessings. One of those blessings was that they ‘delight themselves in the abundance of peace. Moreover, since believers are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” according to Romans 8.17, it is not a stretch to suggest that this has some reference to the heavenly kingdom both now and in the future.
Finally, I will conclude with this definition from The Bible Dictionary: “Meekness is not merely a natural virtue, but a Christian “grace“; it is one of the “fruits of the Spirit.”
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