H. P. Wotton
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5. 5;
Meekness is not an easily defined quality. Recourse to a reliable dictionary, however, defined the adjective meek as meaning ‘mild, gentle, submissive, forbearing’. Further recourse to Cruden’s Concordance revealed meek to mean ‘gentle, kind, not easily provoked, ready to yield rather than to cause trouble; but not used in the Bible in the bad sense of tamely submissive and servile’.
From these descriptions we may gather a fairly clear picture of what meekness is. It is, however, easy to be taken in by what appears to be meekness when it has not the quality required by this beatitude. For instance, a quiet, inoffensive man may appear to be meek when these qualities proceed not from his faith in Jesus, but from his own naturally quiet disposition,which has no more moral quality in it than the quietness of a sheep.
Meekness does not draw attention to itself. He who has yielded himself to Christ will realize that yielding is his reasonable service, and he will be conscious of imperfection in his submission rather than of the submission itself. He would in all things be like the meek and lowly Jesus, but he knows that no spiritual grace is from himself, but from the living fountain that flows to him from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
II. The fruit of the Spirit is meekness
Fruit necessarily supposes the existence of a tree or of a plant, and fruit-bearing in the Christian sense means that by faith we abide in the Vine, to which at conversion we were united. Jesus said, ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. . . Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me’. (John 15. 1, 2, 4).
Trees bear one kind of fruit. We would be surprised if we saw apples growing on pear trees, or vice versa. But the true Vine is a tree of many branches and various kinds of fruit. They have different names, but are collectively known as the fruit of the Spirit. One of these is meekness, for we read in Galatians 5,22,23 that ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance’.
If we look at these fruits carefully, we will see that they are closely related. We see meekness expressed in gentleness and longsuffering; and if we refer to the love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, we will see that meekness is an ingredient of love, for what is said of love is true also of meekness; it suffers long and is kind, does not seek its own, is not puffed up, and is not easily provoked. We may then be sure that if we have true saving faith, we have in some measure the other fruits of the Spirit also, including meekness.
III. ‘The man Moses was very meek.’ (Num. 12. 3).
God made the lion and the lamb. The former speaks to us of boldness, and the latter of gentleness. We do not, however, expect to see these two qualities in the same personality, though sometimes they are. Men like Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte and William the Conqueror were obviously bold, but we would have to stretch imagination a long way to think of them as meek.
God had a work for Moses to do that required great boldness. He was to lead the Hebrews out of their Egyptian bondage, and then on to the land God had promised them. This meant that he would need the boldness of a lion when he appeared before Pharoah as a messenger of God and as the people’s representative. And this he had to do time after time, each time coming to Pharoah with the threat of the plague God would bring upon the Egyptians if Pharoah still refused to let His people go.
But the meekness required by Moses to be the leader of God’s people was in all probability greater than his boldness. How provocative the Israelites were towards him! He had only to go up to the mount of God to receive instructions as to how he and God’s people should behave, when they made a golden calf and began to worship it instead of the Lord God of Israel. They continually provoked this great leader to many things, all the way from Egypt to the promised land, so that had he not possessed great meekness, instead of praying for them, he would, perhaps, have called down the wrath of God upon them.
IV. Meekness to be put on
The people at Colosse to whom the apostle wrote may have been acquainted before their conversion with play-acting and the stage. If so, they would know that the actor during the playing of his part would for the time being put off the old character of himself and put on the character he was impersonating. The converts at Colosse would then understand the apostle more clearly when he told them that they had ‘put off the old man with his deeds; and had put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him’. (Colossians 3. 9,10). This new man has in him the graces of the Spirit, for when the believer puts on the new man he
puts on with it every grace that is essential to the being of this new creature in Christ, including the grace of meekness we are now considering.
These exhortations of the apostle cannot apply to the unbeliever, for to put off the old man he would have to annihilate himself, having no new man to take its place. But the believer is born into God’s kingdom. He is a new man in an old obsolete world, in which he is not likely to meet with this royal grace of meekness; for it is to be found only in the sons and daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
V. The meekness of Christ
Jesus said. ‘Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls’. (Matthew 11. 29). We do well to consider the meekness of Christ, for it is perfect. We see it in His obedience to His Father. Co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He humbled himself to become man; and in doing so accepted the limitations to which man is subject – those of finite knowledge, space and time, and of things necessary for life on the earth, such as food and clothing for the upkeep and protection of the body.
He who in the glory and majesty of His godhead was subject to none other than himself, meekly proved His obedience by learning of His Father, for He came into the world not to think His own thoughts, speak His own words, or do His own works, but to think the thoughts, speak the words, and do the works of His Father.
In His submission to the work of prayer, we see His meekness, for prayer supposes need, and as God He needed nothing. Prayer supposes lack of power, and as God He was all-powerful. The all-sufficient God submitted to the suffering of need; and the omnipotent God became dependent man, subject to the higher power, and at last He ‘became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross’. (Philippians 2. 8).
VI. The meek inherit the earth even now
Temporal possessions may be a real blessing, but when they are allowed to enter the sanctuary of the heart they lose their value. Instead of being the blessing they are meant to be, they become a curse. The metal used to make the golden calf was precious indeed as it was God’s gift to His people, but when it was used for an evil purpose, it came right off the gold standard, for an idol is a worthless thing.
When earthly possessions, then, are allowed to enter the heart, the seat of government where the Lord Jesus ought to be, we no longer possess them. They possess us. When, however, we keep the world out of the sanctuary, it becomes ours because we have conquered it, and ‘who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God’, who yields his life in faith and meekness to Him to be his Lord and Saviour?
Truly, then, is it written of those who are His that ‘all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s’. (1 Corinthians 3. 21 to 23).