I Finally Understand Meekness!
It happened again.
It was the start of a great sermon, but I got distracted. Not by the man yawning, making his moustache curl up into a curious shape while endlessly tapping on his phone, and not by the pattern of light splayed across the walls. I got distracted by a side reference the pastor made. It was such a simple mention, and then he went on a different trajectory; but there I was – stuck in Scripture and having another sermon being preached to me by the Holy Spirit. It’s not a bad place to be, and I’m told by reliable sources that the pastor’s sermon was good, too.
Here’s what happened.
The sermon series was on the Beatitudes, an incredible amount of teaching that Jesus did on the north side of the Sea of Galilee on the Mount of… yep… Beatitudes. The mount is a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, named after this famous teaching that begins with blessings and expands into teaching and illustrations on godly living. On this particular Sunday, the pastor was preaching on Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” The next sentence out of his mouth was what threw me out of his sermon and into something else, “Jesus was referencing Psalm 37 in this one statement.”
I’m eternally interested in scripture defining scripture. I’d never heard Matthew 5:5 referenced back to another piece of scripture in the Old Testament before. In fact, I’ve often struggled with this verse because I only heard it explained based on modern cultural interpretations of meekness, usually in contrast to American values. Pastors and teachers would always find scriptural examples to support their interpretations, but they were finding examples that supported their modern understanding of meekness, often coming close to its rhyming counterpart, “weakness”; a way of living that looks weak on the surface, but pleases God. Another word for meekness is “submissive”. I, myself, have had trouble defining meekness in a way that I felt satisfied its significance in the Beatitudes. The closest I could get was, “humility”, but there are tons of verses about humility. Why choose another word if it ultimately meant humility? I couldn’t reconcile that “humility” or “submissiveness” was the culminating teaching on meekness knowing all the strength and courage that God gives us for living godly lives. All I could reconcile was that God’s ways are not our ways and trust him in that. So imagine my delight in hearing that there as an entire Psalm to unpack this statement that I knew should be profound, but I could never understand it as profound!
The pastor continued with his New Testament examples of meekness while I flew to the Old Testament and read through Psalm 37 a few times and sat in the profoundness of it all.
Psalm 37 is a directive to a person pursuing godly living in contrast to wickedness. Most of it is in command form (do this, act this way) and promise (God will, God knows). Twice, though, it names the type of a person it is written for. In Psalm 37:11, the same statement is made, “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” In verse 29 it reads, “the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.” Because the inheritance is the same for the meek and the righteous, I read Psalm 37 as describing them as one and the same.
So, what does meekness look like, according to Psalm 37 rather than my own modern culturally informed understanding? Remember, scripture is supracultural – it stands outside and above culture, entirely relevant all the time. Cultural values shift and change, but God’s word is steadfast and trustworthy. Just think about how many vastly different cultures still find the Bible relevant! It’s not just an American concept! This is why we should let scripture inform worldview and not allow our culture to inform our understanding of scripture.
The meek, to be blunt, are freakin’ awesome people! They are pleased with who they are, have incredible confidence in God, sought after for wisdom and peace, and live with power and strength and generosity. That is not exactly how I have pictured it. I pictured someone exercising great discipline to stay quiet and put. Quiet. Put. Those two words are very hard for me to swallow with my personality, thus the great discipline needed to stay quiet and put. It seems odd that God designed me one way but wants me to act another. I love God, and if that’s what he wants… It’s not!!! Psalm 37 paints an entirely different picture of meekness and righteousness that anybody can be true to God’s design of them and live a life of meekness.
Let’s eradicate our former picture of meekness and let scripture inform this true picture of meekness. Open your Bible to Psalm 37 and read it through. Or click here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2037&version=NIV
Right now. I’ll wait… It doesn’t have to be the NIV translation. In fact, read a few different versions.
Done? Read it again, if you want to… I don’t mind waiting some more…
Ready to compare notes? This is what I found as the defining characteristics and lifestyle of the meek, as well as God’s promises for the meek (I’ll start with the verse number for reference and then summarize):
- 3: Trust in the Lord and do good. Enjoy safe pasture.
- 4: Delight in the Lord and cultivate faithfulness. The Lord gives you the delight of your heart.
- 5: Commit your way to the Lord and trust in him. The Lord will make your righteousness and justice shine bright.
- 7: Rest in the Lord and wait patiently. Do not fret.
- 8: Cease from anger and forsake wrath.
- 11: Enjoy great peace.
- 16: Better the little you have than the wealth of the wicked.
- 17: The Lord upholds you.
- 18: Live blameless days. The Lord knows your days. Your inheritance endures forever.
- 21: Be gracious and give.
- 23: If the Lord delights in your ways, your steps will be firm.
- 24: You are held by the Lord, even when falling.
- 25: You are not forsaken or have the need to beg.
- 26: You are generous and give freely. Your children will be blessed.
- 27: Turn from evil and do good.
- 28: The Lord loves the just and does not forsake his faithful ones. You are protected forever.
- 30: You utter wisdom and justice.
- 31: Keep the law of God in your heart and your feet will not slip.
- 34: Wait for the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land.
- 37: There is a future for the man of peace, the upright, and the blameless.
- 39: The Lord is your strength in times of trouble.
- 40: The Lord helps and delivers you. Take refuge in the Lord.
This is not a list describing the perfect person. This list describes the awesome person – the meek. This is a person who loves God and his life bears evidence of God loving him. I know it’s not a perfect person because of verse 24, “though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” This is a person living life with God which affects how he lives with others.
There are some repetitive themes that help more tighten up the picture of the meek for me:
- Trust God.
- Delight in the keeping of God’s ways.
- Be blameless and receive help from God (that is, don’t keep your falling secret. Confess it and receive forgiveness and guidance from God).
- Be gracious and giving to others.
- Wait. Trust God in both.
- Speak wisdom.
- Pursue peace.
To live a life like this is not to stay quiet and keep put. I can see godly submissiveness in this Psalm, but not the “shut up and do as your told” type that my culture tells me to fear or buck. This is a submission born out of receiving an abundance from the Lord that informs my radical trust of his ways.
I’m still staring at Psalm 37 trying to word a concise definition of meekness, while my brain is still trying to wrap around it all. The meek are pleased with who they are because of what they have received from God. Because of their incredible confidence in God, they are able to rest or wait or act as God directs them. Their life with God produces fruit of wisdom and peace and generosity because they experience his power and strength and help. Psalm 37 promises that wickedness will perish and vanish. It is not the thing that outlasts everything else. Praise God! The meek and the righteous, though, will inherit the land, dwell in it forever, and enjoy great peace.
- Posted by hellobabs
- On August 10, 2022
- 1 Comment