verse III – the beatitudes – matthew 5:1-12
As we meander through the Sermon on the Mount, we must ask ourselves some serious questions: How can I turn the other cheek? How can I pray for my enemy? How can I keep myself from lustful thoughts? How can I not worry? How can I pray when it seems to not be working?
All of these are serious questions. The answer lay in the Beatitudes. As I’ve written previously, Yeshua/Jesus, as the multitudes begin to follow Him, describes in great detail the price of following Him, the cost of discipleship, in order that serious consideration be given to what it means to be a follower of the Messiah. As the great Christian theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” To follow Messiah is to be diminished, to be in last place; to not be exalted in the flesh, but to be lifted up in the spirit.
The Beatitudes describe the inner condition of a disciple, a learner of Messiah – the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount describes what that inner reality looks like in everyday life.
Have you ever wondered how a follower of Messiah can be slapped and not return the favor sevenfold? Have you ever wondered how followers of Messiah around the world can endure persecution and torture, and not renounce their faith in Him? The answer, again, is in the Beatitudes. The answer is actually being a follower of Messiah, yielding our life to His will as revealed in His Word, and as much as depends on us, walking it out in our daily lives faithfully.
As noted previously, it is important to recognize the sequence of the Beatitudes, as one prompts the next – each one working together in us from the recognition of our poverty, our brokenness, of spirit that causes us to mourn our condition, to the promise of comfort in that condition. It is also a mourning for others, their condition, in the hope that they will turn to Messiah and be comforted as well. And as we are being comforted by the Holy Spirit, meekness will become a work of the Spirit in us, mirroring the meekness of Yeshua, as He said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29). What does it mean to be meek?
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Godly meekness then is not natural to the human condition – it is not one’s ability to be polite, or to be weak in character; but rather: God’s righteousness in place of self-righteousness; humility displacing arrogance; gentleness replacing smugness; sweetness for defensiveness; and the grace to be self-effacing. It is unpretentious, when pretentiousness would seem fitting. Meekness is able to endure criticism, whether deserved or undeserved, without sulking or offering a defense. It is, the opposite of who we naturally are in most cases.
Meekness, however, is not an indication of weakness, rather a strength enduing well past natural endurance. It is strength found in submitting our trials and circumstances to the will of God who is working for our good. It is a reliance on grace received, and the extending of grace in gentleness to the human other. Dr. Alison Bucklin explains, “Meekness is strength tamed through self-knowledge and submission to God. And it is not a natural quality. A person who finds it natural or easy to submit will not have the strength to stand up for God’s truth, to persevere against opposition, to fight the good fight or finish the race.”
Meekness, therefore, is the opposite of what is expected in this world. How many meek politicians do we know? Today we are encouraged to state, openly, our personal virtues – to vocalize our self-affirmations for public consumption.
Meekness is illusive and when we recognize it in ourselves it slips away, as it is a grace of God that allows us to live in this world without being defeated by it. It is walked out in daily life by keeping Yeshua before us, and subjecting the ego to His authority. People are too often attempting to “find themselves” without addressing the fundamental sense of deficiency that looms over them.
If anyone had cause for boasting it most certainly was Yeshua, the Son of God, Savior of humanity, healer of the sick, victor over the devil, death and the grave – but He made Himself, as Paul wrote, “of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7). He had not appearance that we would desire Him. He stripped Himself of glory, and died in apparent weakness on a cross. Yeshua had nothing to prove and in this, we find the liberty of meekness.
Still, the meek shall inherit the earth – they shall receive a reward – a reward of the whole world, as co-heirs with Messiah. Many times in the New Covenant Scriptures, we are promised an inheritance, a gift from God the Father, as an example, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom.”
Still, meekness is not without pain.
Meekness is painful, because it flies in the face of self-preservation; but it demonstrates that the Holy Spirit has come alongside of us to comfort us, even when we are being buffeted by circumstances around us.
It is cultivated and developed in our lives as the Lord leads, but in this we find the difficulty. As the Lord leads us over the mountains and through the valleys, along the ebb and flow of life, we experience the breaking of our pride, our self-sufficiency, as the Good Shepherd humbles us by rod and staff (Ps. 23). We realize that we are not always the victor in our trials, at least not as we would recognize victory. It is a process of grooming: shearing, trimming and worming. Until at last we resemble more of Him and less of ourselves (Ro. 8:28-29).
This humbling by the Lord is revealed by the Hebrew word for meek, עָנָו, meaning “poor, afflicted, humble and meek.” As the Lord directs it, this is part of our spiritual growth and maturity. Meekness is easy to give lip service to, but so difficult to live. As theologian John Stott said, “I am quite happy to recite the Gospel Confession in church and call myself a miserable sinner, but let somebody else come up to me after church and call me a miserable sinner, I want to punch him on the nose.”
Thanks be to God, that our growth in meekness runs parallel to our maturity in faith and growth in Messiah – our Good Shepherd.
As poverty of spirit, mourning for our condition and that of humanity, ushered us into a condition of meekness in Messiah, meekness then catapults us to a hunger and thirst for righteousness that will be satisfied. Israel stood at the base of Mt. Sinai impoverished in spirit, mourning their circumstance and anxious to hear God. Yet, as we know, the hunger and thirst for fleshly satisfaction all too often overruled their appetite for heavenly manna. More on this soon.
Shalom. Be well.