Happy to Be Blessed: “Meekness–>Earthly Inheritance”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.
After many years of marriage, Tom finally got tired of how his wife, Liz, had been ignoring him, so eventually he confronted her with what he perceived to be the problem.
“Come on Liz, admit it,” he ranted, “You only married me because my granddad left me $6 million, didn’t you?”
“You really are silly, Tom,” retorted Liz, “I couldn’t care less who left it to you.”
In our series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come to the third one: Blessed are the meek, for they inherit something far greater than $6 mil from Someone with far more resources than anyone’s granddad. I was driven to this passage by the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed, shared, and talked about. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.
Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-5 ….—-
1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (NIV)
These blessings state a TRUTH that demands a RESPONSE. They present the beautiful structure of the character of Christ. I have introduced you to the idea of the “indicative-imperative” clause. The Beatitudes exemplify this kind of clause. Jesus indicates a truth and then commands a compliant response. First, they describe something of Jesus Himself; and then as His disciples, His followers, His Church (the Body of Christ), they describe something, in perhaps a more longed-for dream than an actual reality yet, of us. That’s the Truth.
Then they demand a Response to that stated Truth.
So, let’s unpack this phrase so we might claim a better understanding of what it describes, and what it demands.
First, look at the result of “meekness”: “inherit the earth”? Whew! Is that like the poor guy who inherits his rich uncle’s used pencil eraser collection? Who would want this?
I saw a cartoon the other day of a big group of people lined up at the Pearly Gates and St. Peter on the phone to God saying, “It’s the Meek. They’re asking for an upgrade to Saturn…”
With a little research, and Old Testament word study, we discover that the word used for “earth” in Hebrew, and here in Matthew’s Greek New Testament, is the same word that is often used for “land”. It turns out that the phrase “inherit the earth/land” is used over 40 times from Genesis through the prophets. It’s used 8 times in the book of Psalms, and 5 of those times are in Psalm 37. This is a Psalm filled with God’s blessings for those who live connected to His ways.
“Inherit the earth”, we discover, is biblical code-language for “enter the PROMISED LAND.”
The “Promised Land” is a theme that goes all the way back to Abraham, in early Genesis. Abraham was called by God out of Ur of the Chaldees to go where God would lead him, and to stop where God told him to stop. This would be the Land that God Promised to Abraham and his heirs. God’s Chosen people would inherit the Promised Land.
But the idea of gaining the world, or as much of it as we can, is as old as time itself; and as universal a goal as there is. The builders of the Tower of Babel were reaching to heaven, but they were really declaring themselves the owners of all they could see (Genesis 11). We gain by accumulation or through accomplishment or by expanding our borders. And when these things become the defining pursuits of a person, or of a people, they also become our defining character and push us toward greediness and arrogance.
This is the theme of Psalm 37, where ruthless ambition to gain more and more is contrasted against those who commit their ways to the Lord and trust in Him. Four times (verses 9, 11, 22, and 34) the Psalmist says that the earth will not be earned, but rather it will be inherited, and the ones that will gain the earth by inheritance? Psalm 37 says they will be the meek!
How does one “earn” the “Promised Land”? It cannot be won, it is given, by humble meekness.
Now, put this in the context of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and this list of Beatitudes.
The first Beatitude is about being “POOR in spirit”, acknowledging our spiritual bankruptcy. We cannot deserve God’s favor. Our sin-bound humanity requires a Savior, one who can cancel/forgive our debt.
The second Beatitude is about “MOURNING” our sinful tendency, receiving God’s comfort of grace. The truth is that when we understand that we ARE poor in spirit; we are commanded to MOURN that poverty! And then we will MOURN the death of God’s only begotten Son, who dies on the cross to pay for our sin!
Then the third Beatitude continues this theme of gaining God’s mercy, not by our own prowess, but by HUMILITY!
In the American West, maybe in all of the Western World, being meek might be thought of as being week. But, is “mild-mannered” the same as being afraid to move on what is right? Don’t tell that to Clark Kent.
No. MEEKNESS is not the same as WEAKNESS.
In II Corinthians 10, Paul says that “Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. But, (quoting from Jeremiah 9:24) ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”
Do you see how Jesus is reinforcing this same topic over and over?
The truth, He states, is that we are Poor in spirit, and when we understand that our spirit is empty of life all on its own, that’s when we are invited into the Kingdom of Heaven.
The truth, Jesus says, is that when we Mourn our spiritual reality, that’s when He comforts us with His perfect mercy.
The truth, Jesus declares, is that when we Mourn our spiritual Poverty, we will display Meekness, thus giving us the inheritance of His ultimate Promised Land – not the earthly Israel, but the Heavenly Kingdom!
And, just like the reward for the behavior, the Meekness that puts us in that spot of inheritance cannot be gained by simply trying harder to be humble!
Humility is the Fruit of the Spirit that as soon as you think you’ve got it, you’ve just lost it! When I lived in Tacoma I was a part of a Pastor’s Prayer Group that met together once every month (Eric Peterson, the pastor out at Colbert was in this group). I clearly remember one time when one of the pastors told us about a former colleague of his, a Pastor Galen Doughty, whom he said was the most humble man he had ever met. And I sat in that room there and thought, “Well, you’ve met ME! What about ME?!” And as soon as I thought it, I realized that I couldn’t possibly by the humblest person he knew! (And then I met Galen, formerly of Manito Church here in Spokane, and he was right!)
We receive meekness as a GIFT from God.
One of the things we’ve learned about the word Jesus uses for “blessed”, Makarios, is that it always refers to one whose life is connected to God through faith (in Jesus Christ), and whose faith is filled with Holy Spirit abundance.
In this third Makarios, Jesus says that the meek INHERIT the Promised Land. The root of the word “in-her-it” is “heir”. This blessing involves being heirs of God’s grace. An heir is one who is in the bloodline, a child, a son or daughter.
Are you a child of God? John 1 tells us that the Word that was with God and that was, in fact, God, since the beginning of time, became flesh and lives among us. And anyone who receives Him and believes in him gains the authority to be called heirs of God, children of God.
Have you received Christ? Do you believe in His authority to grant you God’s forgiveness?
On this Trinity Sunday, as we acknowledge our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we also, in a minute, will be honoring our graduates and thanking those who have played roles as their teachers. But, grads and mentors, know you did not get here on your own. Without Christ we are nothing – but with Him we are princes and princesses in His Kingdom!
Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.
Jones, Ken; “Blessed Are the Meek”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 17-18.
“Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.