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Blessed Are the Meek

January 29, 2014

I have kicked around the idea of publishing this post for some time, unsure if it would be worthwhile, as others have covered the subject much more adequately than I could.  But perhaps what I have to say will come from a slightly different angle, and will be profitable to someone who may read it.  I know at times I have been unmoved by reading the thoughts of many on a subject only to stumble upon that one particular interpretation that has something poignant to say to me.  Such is the way our Lord works.


If I am to be obedient to God, it is imperative that I clearly understand what it is He asks of me.   That requires knowing the Biblical meaning of the words the Bible uses.  One of the words I have struggled with over the years is meek.  Accordingly, I am going to revisit it.


When one wants to find the meaning of a word, the obvious thing to do is consult a dictionary.  Going to the easiest two dictionaries to access from my laptop I found that describes meekness ashumbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others; overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame.  It considers the connotations of gentle and kind obsolete.  Merriam-Webster defines meek as having or showing a quiet and gentle nature; not wanting to fight or argue with other people;mild—enduring injury with patience and without resentment; submissive—deficient in spirit and courage; moderate—not violent or strong.  


Whoa!  Most of that is not me, and although I have often heard Jesus portrayed as a wuss, that certainly doesn’t fit my understanding of my Lord and Saviour.  I could perhaps go with humbly patient and the obsolete definition in or the quiet and gentle nature and mild parts of Merriam-Webster’s definition, but the rest of it?  Not a chance!


So I have a problem.  Either I am wrong about how I see Jesus and understand meekness, or the modern day (an most widely understood) definitions hold an immensely different meaning from the spiritual connotation that is referenced in the Bible.  It seems to me it is obviously the latter.  Lacking a satisfactory definition of meek, I will try to come up with one that corresponds to how the Bible uses it, or at least as I understand it to be used.


The third beatitude is almost certainly an allusion to Psalm 37:11.  Considering that Psalm, I note a parallel between verses 9 and 11.  If it is those who wait for the Lord who will inherit the land (verse 9) and the meek who will inherit the land (verse 11), by simple corollary those who wait upon the Lord are the meek.  It would seem to me that the immediately proceeding verses describe some of the characteristics of the meek:  those who commit their way to Him, trust in Him, are still before Him, wait patiently for Him, do not fret over the evil who prosper, refrain from anger and forsake wrath.


According to my Bible Study App, the earliest use of meek in the ESV Bible is in Numbers 12.  (Some translations prefer humble, a term slightly more palatable to many.)  Miriam and Aaron severely criticize Moses, and verse 3 describes him as the meekest man on the face of the earth.  The text makes no mention of Moses defending himself in the face of criticism (which would fit the first definition).  He let God defend him.  So it would seem that this is another characteristic of the meek:  willingness to withstand criticism without getting defensive or retaliating.


The word meek (or humble) appears in Psalms several times, often describing how the meek will be blessed, but I find little there to expand my definition.  The same is true of Isaiah.  Colossians 3:12 advises me I am to put on meekness, and James 1:21 tells me I am to receive the implanted word with meekness.  James 3:13 speaks of the meekness of wisdom.  In the King James Bible meekness appears on Paul’s list of fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23).


Peter suggests that meekness will put those who revile us to shame (1 Peter 3:15-16).  It is hard to reconcile the picture of Peter we find in the Gospel—a burly, rough, impetuous, impulsive man of action—with preaching meekness.  Meek is certainly not the first word that comes to mind when I think of “The Rock”.  But sometimes, as I have read and certainly personally experienced, our deepest wounds surround our greatest gifts.


Looking at what I have so far pulled together, it is too spare for my liking.  So at this point I’m going to go out on a limb and add meat to the bones from my own understanding, trusting with all my heart that God will guide me.  I in no way suggest my definition will be comprehensive, embodying every complexion of meekness, for as Hamlet observed, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”


Meekness is first and foremost a deep appreciation of who one is before God, an unquestionable confidence that He is for you and not against you.  Recognizing the limits of his knowledge and the fallibility of his thinking, the meek person loves to learn anything of value.  If he hears anything contrary to his own view, he considers its merits carefully, not rejecting it until he has weighed it carefully.  He is open to reason, listening respectfully to the evidence given by others in support of their opinions, and willingly defending his own with reasoned arguments.  He faithfully strives to be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks him for a reason for the hope that is in him, doing so with gentleness and respect.  He always wants to uncover any errors in his thinking and discard them. He cares about truth, and may become passionate and forceful in argument.  Knowing iron sharpens iron, he takes debate seriously.  But he is humble before others, always open to correction, always submitting to a higher standard of truth.  He is always aware that all he is begins and ends with God.


I’m going to get a little help from A.W. Tozer here:


The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto.


I have heard meekness defined as strength under control.  That seems to fit, adding another turnabout to Jesus’ “upside-down kingdom” list—the last is first, giving is receiving, dying is living, losing is finding, walking by faith is truly seeing, the least is the greatest, being a slave is freedom, taking on His yoke is rest, yielding is conquering, serving is reigning, meekness is strength.


In a world that exalts the conquering hero—the bumptious self-made man who lives life on his own terms, challenging and crushing anyone who comes against his interests, refusing to bow to anyone—meekness is weakness, a character trait sought after only by fools.  But the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  (1 Corinthians 1:24)


Blessed are the meek, for as The Message renders it, they will find themselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

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