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Blessed Are the Gentle

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:5


We have begun and are enjoying a journey through our Lord's most famous and most lengthy recorded sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. And today we come to the third of the great beatitudes. This week I was looking around a little bit on the internet, and of course the internet is filled with things that are both very helpful and things that are not. One of the things that are very common on the internet are seminars. Seminars or webinars are various classes designed to help improve your personal life as well as to improve your business success as well. One of the most common of those seminars that you will find on those kinds of sites, are seminars—are you ready for this—in assertiveness training. I didn't realize that was a problem, but apparently it is, and here's what one company's course on assertiveness says about their course. Listen to this. "Assertiveness skills contribute to an employee's ability to succeed in attaining personal and career goals (now listen) The goal of our assertiveness training is this: to enable participants to learn to express their rights, requests, opinions, and feelings honestly, directly, and appropriately, without violating the rights and self-esteem of others." Now, is it just me, or as I read that description, am I thinking they are creating and solving a problem that doesn't exist? I don't know about you, but the people in my life have no problem expressing their rights and opinions. In fact, the home in which I grew up, (there were ten of us kids) and I think there were probably fifteen opinions among us. This is not a problem. And the truth is, self-assertiveness is exactly the opposite of what we are to be as Christians. In fact, it's this very issue that Jesus takes up in the third of the eight beatitudes that we're studying together.

We have just begun studying the Sermon on the Mount together, and as I've noted to you, Jesus begins with eight qualities that define the character of those who are truly His spiritual subjects, those who are in His spiritual kingdom. If you want to know if you belong to Jesus Christ; if you want to know if you're truly a Christian, then hold the mirror of these eight beatitudes up to your soul, and see if you see the reflection. Because this is how true believers are. They describe true Christians. And all of them describe all true Christians. It's not okay to have one or two and say, well I'm a little weak on the others. No, true believers are described this way and are described by all of these things. He begins the first beatitude; He ends the last beatitude by saying those who have these qualities belong to the kingdom of heaven; or the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Luke tells us that at the same time Jesus spoke these eight beatitudes or blessings; at the very same time, He spoke eight corresponding woes on the opposite qualities. So what you have here then, is in the beatitudes you have a description of the true Christian, those who really belong to Jesus' spiritual kingdom. In their opposites, you have a description of those who still belong to Satan's kingdom, and Jesus pronounces woes on them. And by the way, there's no other choice. This is an A and B answer. There's no C, D, and E. Either you belong to Jesus' spiritual kingdom, or you still belong to Satan's kingdom, and these eight qualities describe those who are in, and their opposites describe those who are not.

So, Jesus begins with these beatitudes. We call them that because of the Latin translation of the word blessed. And notice He begins each of the eight with the word blessed. As we noted, that word does not mean happy. Instead, Jesus is using an Old Testament concept. In the Hebrew Old Testament, there are two different words for blessed. In Matthew 5 and in Luke 6, the two passages where the Sermon on the Mount is recorded, the beatitudes are recorded, Jesus uses the equivalent, the Greek equivalent of one of those Hebrew words from the Septuagint. Specifically, He uses the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word eshere. Now eshere does not describe God's blessing on an individual. Sometimes you'll read God blessed Abraham. That's not this word. Nor does this word describe an emotional state of happiness. Rather, this word eshere that Jesus is basing the beatitudes on, describes a person who is in an objective condition of spiritual well-being. Jesus declares, in these beatitudes, that these people who are described and characterized by these qualities, are experiencing today a state of spiritual health and well-being. It's a way of saying they're in My kingdom. They're right with God. They're true Christians. They enjoy a condition of true spiritual health.

Now, we've examined the first two of these beatitudes. Verse 3 is the first one, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This beatitude tells us this: every true Christian has an awareness of his own personal spiritual poverty before God–his spiritual bankruptcy. In fact, the word was often used to describe beggars. Every true Christian sees that he has nothing to offer God. God wants nothing he has, and all he can do is come before God and beg. And he does beg. The poverty of spirit–a person who's truly poor in spirit begs for God to extend him grace. That's what this first beatitude teaches us. And Jesus says that person is blessed because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. He truly belongs to Jesus' spiritual kingdom. Listen, nobody gets into Jesus' spiritual kingdom until they come to the place where they realize nothing they are and nothing they have contributes one bit to their acceptance before God; that all they can do is beg.

There's a second beatitude that we've examined together in verse 4. "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted." Every true Christian, then, mourns that spiritual poverty. Every true Christian mourns over his own personal sin, and as we saw from other places in Scripture last week, he also mourns over the sin around him—the sin in the fallen world around him. It grieves his heart—both his own sin as well as the sin around him. Instead of laughing at sin as Jesus says unbelievers do, he mourns it in his heart and soul. And he's blessed Jesus says, for he shall be comforted. Not only does he enjoy the past comfort of salvation; he's in the kingdom. Not only does he enjoy the present comfort of ongoing forgiveness of sins as he lives in this world, but (and this is where I think Jesus was really headed) he enjoys the future comfort of an eternal joy and comfort in the presence of God. This is what John the Apostle was describing when in the end of Revelation he says, God will wipe away all tears. They shall be comforted.

Today we come to the third beatitude. Look at it with me in Matthew 5:5. "Blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth." Now this beatitude is taken from Psalm 37:11, which we'll look at in a little bit, but it says this: "The humble will inherit the land." Now to learn what our Lord really meant in this beatitude, we're going to, again, take it apart in its two halves. We're going to look at this beatitude by asking and answering two questions, dealing with each half of it. The first question is this. What does it mean? What is the meaning of gentle? Jesus says those who are gentle enjoy an objective state of spiritual prosperity, spiritual health. So what does it mean? They're in His spiritual kingdom. So it's important for us to know what this actually means. The gentle. By the way, most English translations use the word meek instead of the word gentle, as the New American Standard does here.

But let's, first, before we look at what this word means, let's, again, kind of clear the deck, and clear the foundation so we can build. Let's remind ourselves of what this doesn't mean. Because there're a lot of bad ideas about the beatitudes floating around. What is gentleness or meekness not? First of all, it is not cowardice or lack of conviction. Often when we hear the word meek we sort of get this picture of somebody like that. But our Lord is described as meek and He was anything but a coward and lacking in conviction. He went to the cross for what He believed. It also is not a willingness to have peace at any cost. There are some people who sort of take the Rodney King approach to theology and life. Let's just all get along, and whatever it costs, whatever that means, let's just get along. That's not what this means either. Nor does it means indecisiveness—a lack of confidence or a weakness of character. Understand meekness is not weakness. Because the meek person can be gentle but at the same time he can be bold as a lion in the cause of God or in defending others. Moses is the perfect example. No man can be a wimp and lead two million Israelites for 40 years in the desert. It's not weakness. Nor is it shyness—a sort of introverted personality, a weak personality. And it's certainly not mere human niceness. Lloyd-Jones writes "there are people who seem to be born naturally nice." That's not what the Lord means when He says blessed are the meek. That is something purely biological—the kind of thing you get in animals. One dog is nicer than another. One cat is nicer than another. That is not meekness. I might add that all dogs are nicer than cats, but that's a different story. I just offended half the congregation. I'm sorry.

So, if it's none of those things, what exactly is this quality that our Lord pronounces as blessed, as having, enjoying spiritual health? Well, we could move to the first English translation, John Wycliffe, the first to translate the Bible into the English language, translated this beatitude like this. "Blessed be mild men". And if you look up the word mild as I did this week in the Oxford Shorter English Dictionary, it's a great word, mild. But it's not a word we use and we certainly don't use it in the appropriate sense. So that doesn't work for today. So what does the Greek word mean? Well, notice first of all, if you look at verse 5, and notice next to the word gentle there's a little number there. It's footnoted in the margin. In the margin the translators of the New American Standard suggest two other possible translations for this Greek word. Notice, then, there are three possibilities. There's the word gentle, they chose and put in the text. There's the word humble, and there's the word meek. Now why are there so many options for this one word? It's because this word really includes all of those concepts. In fact, the Greek word is practically impossible to translate with a single English word. Here are a couple of definitions. Let me start with the most favored Greek lexicon of biblical Greek. Here's how it defines this word. "Not being overly impressed by a sense of one's self importance, but gentle, humble, and meek." There are our three words again. "Not being overly impressed by a sense of one's self importance, but gentle, humble, and meek"—and they add considerate. Here's another version of defining this word, from another biblical scholar. He writes "this describes those who do not assert themselves over others in order to further their own agendas in their own strength." Let me read that again. "Those who do not assert themselves over others in order to further their own agendas in their own strength"

Now that's important because what I want you to see is that the third beatitude really sits on the foundation and grows out of the foundation of the first, as all the beatitudes do. So look at the first beatitude. There you have an intellectual awareness of our spiritual poverty. Blessed are the poor in spirit. The second beatitude takes it a step further. It is not only an intellectual awareness of our spiritual poverty, but an emotional response to our spiritual poverty. We mourn over that poverty—over that sin in our lives. The third beatitude takes it yet a step further. It speaks of the relational effects of our spiritual poverty. When you really understand that you're a beggar in spirit. When you really mourn your sin, that will bear itself out in your relationships. This word is really a relational word. Another way we can continue to sort of frame up an understanding of this word is to look at it opposites. The quality of meekness or gentleness is the opposite of two qualities. It is the opposite of being self-assertive. The meek person doesn't demand or insist upon his rights. And secondly, it's the opposite of being angry when those rights are violated. That's when we get angry isn't it? We get angry because some right we have has been crossed. Therefore we respond in anger and in harshness. In fact, both the Greek philosopher Aristotle, as well as the Greek historian Herodotus said that this Greek word, translated gentle in this third beatitude, was primarily the opposite—are you ready for this—of anger. In fact, I have on my shelf a set of ten massive volumes called Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament where every word in the New Testament is thoroughly defined. Page after page, how it's used in various ways. They define this word this way. "The quiet and friendly composure which does not become angry or embittered toward unpleasant people or unpleasant circumstances." That helps us understand why this word is used to describe a wild animal that has been tamed and domesticated—is now completely under control.

So put that together. What you have then, is a person who is poor in spirit. That has to do with how we think about ourselves. Therefore we mourn. That has to do with how we respond emotionally to the truth about ourselves. Gentle primarily has to do with how we act toward others because of how we think about ourselves. But it's not just an outward behavior. It's an internal quality reflected out in our behavior. Jesus doesn't say blessed are those who show gentleness. He says "Blessed are the gentle". because a person treats others with gentleness because he is gentle and meek. Now, the Greek philosophers were somewhat ambivalent on this issue, but largely they thought it was a valuable quality. But when they dealt with it, it was always a natural quality, or something you could create yourself—a man-made quality. But the biblical quality is not like that. In fact, Paul tells us in Galatians 5, it is only possible through the fruit the Spirit produces in our lives. It's not a natural quality. We're not born with it. And we can't develop it on our own. Instead, and this is absolutely crucial to understand, this quality of meekness grows out of a renewed nature. God has to make you a new person and give you a new heart for you to manifest this quality. And that's why it's such a great test of whether or not you're in Jesus' spiritual kingdom. Because you can't conjure this up on your own. You can't be this apart from the work of the Spirit. And if the Spirit's present, He will produce this. So if you're a Christian you will see and manifest this quality in your life.

But let's get even more specific about what it means to be gentle. Let me give you sort of an outlined definition of what it means to be meek or gentle. This Greek word demonstrates itself in two kinds of relationships. First of all in our relationship to God, and secondly in our relationship to others. So let's take each of those individually. First of all, what does this look like? What does meekness or gentleness look like in our relationship to God? Well, toward God, this quality expresses itself primarily in submission. Submission, first of all, to His will in our circumstances. It is a calm acceptance of our circumstances as from God for our good, and therefore we refuse to complain. We refuse to argue with God. We refuse to become embittered with God because of the circumstances he brings into our lives. Martin Vincent in his Word Studies says this. "As toward God, meekness accepts His dealings without murmur or resistance, as absolutely good and wise." If you are a meek person, if you are a gentle person toward God, you submit to His will in your life, to His providence in your circumstances. Let me give you an example of this. You remember the story of Eli, the Old Testament, the first part of 1 Samuel? He doesn't correct his sons. His sons end up being utterly rebellious, and Samuel, Eli's young protégé, God speaks to him and says I'm going to destroy Eli's sons. You remember the story? And Eli's aware that somehow God has spoken to Samuel, and says look, tell me everything. Tell me what God said to you. And in 1 Samuel 3:18, this is what we read. "So Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him." And here was Eli's response. And while Eli sinned in not rebuking his sons, Eli manifests this response of submission to the will of God in his response to this word. Imagine if you had just been told God was going to destroy your children because of their rebellion against Him. That's what's just happened. Listen to Eli. 1 Samuel 3:18. "It is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him". That's the response of a meek heart before God. You see this as well back in Psalm 37. This is the Psalm on which this beatitude is based. In fact, let me encourage you this week, read this Psalm, meditate on it, because it's really the outgrowth of a meek heart. But notice verse Psalm 37:7: David writes to those who are in difficult situations. "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carried out wicked schemes" In other words, you're the brunt of those schemes. You're being attacked. You're being wronged. And what's the normal human reaction? Look at verse 8 "Cease from anger and forsake wrath; and Do not fret." That's how we naturally respond. That's how the unbeliever responds. He can't help himself. David says, don't do that. It leads only to evil doing, for evil doers will be cut off. If that's how you respond, you're going to be cut off from God's people. In other words, you're are going to be destined to be destroyed. You're not one of God's true people.

But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. But (here it is) the meek will inherit the land of the earth, and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity

So, you find yourself in difficult circumstances. You rest in God. You wait patiently on Him. You cease from anger and wrath in response to what's happened. So, toward God, this quality expresses itself in submission to His will in your circumstances. It also expresses itself in submission to His word. It occurs in a very unlikely place. Look over at James chapter 1. There's a paragraph that begins in James 1:19 that's all about the Scripture and our response to it. It's a test of whether or not we have real saving faith. But in the middle of this paragraph, verse 19, he says

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear (that is to hear the Scripture) slow to speak (that is to argue with the Scriptures) and slow to anger; (sometimes when the Scripture confronts our sin we get what? Angry. Don't respond like that) for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in (and there's our word) meekness receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls

Don't get angry. Don't argue with God. But receive His word with a submissive heart. So, to be meek is to submit to God's word and God's will in your circumstances.

What about toward others though. Let's look at the others relationship. How does this express itself toward the people around us? It expresses itself in a humble, gracious, and gentle spirit, and here's the key, even when we are wronged. That's the circumstance in which this word kicks in. Again, Martin Vincent in his Word Studies writes. "As toward man, it accepts opposition, insult, and provocation as God's permitted ministers chastening us. Hmm. So, gentleness then, is to temper all of our relationships. With other Christians, Ephesians 4:2, Paul says: In the church we are to respond to each other "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love" In Colossians 3:12 he says "as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, and (guess what) gentleness, or meekness." It even should be how we respond to other Christians who've sinned and need to be confronted with their sin. Galatians 6:1 says "Brethren, even if someone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness;"

We're to respond this way to all unbelievers. By the way, this is why we have to be so careful in trying to make political statements as a church. Because unbelievers become the enemy, and therefore we become antagonistic, angry. Paul says, instead, in Titus 3, you're to respond to all unbelievers with gentleness. This, by the way, is how Moses responded to the attack against his authority from his own siblings, Miriam and Aaron. You remember in Numbers 12, they questioned his authority? And right in the middle of that passage is that famous verse that says this. "Now the man Moses was very meek, more than any man who was on the face of the earth."

He was gentle. So he didn't get angry. He didn't blow up because his rights were violated. How dare you, who do you think you are Miriam? God made me the leader." He lets God deal with it, and God does.

Let me show you some other examples. Turn back to Genesis. Let me show you what this quality looks like in real life. Genesis 13. Here, it's Abraham. Genesis 13:5. "Now Lot, (Abram's nephew) who went with him also had flocks and herds and tents. And the land couldn't sustain them while dwelling together, (because they had so much)" So, verse 7 "there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock." So, verse 8 Abram said to Lot: Who do you think you are, nephew? What's wrong with you? Get in line. No, look at how he responds "Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers." So here's how it's going to work. I'm going to choose the piece of land I want, and you get what's left. No, look at how gentleness responds. Now, you choose the left; I'll go to the right. You choose the right; I'll go to the left. You choose what you want, then I'll get what's left. That's that humble, gentle, gracious spirit. This is what it looks like in real life.

Let's look at another example. Go over to Genesis 26. This is from the life of Isaac. This time it's over wells. Verse 18. "Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham," So now, understand, these are probably his wells by right. ". . .and he gave them the same names which his father had given them." These are his wells. My daddy dug these wells. "But when Isaac's servants dug in the valley and found there a well of flowing water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac, saying, The water is ours". Wait a minute. You can't have that. This belongs to us. "So he named the well Contention, because they contended with him." And he said, wait a minute, listen guys. This was my daddy's well. This belongs to me and my family, so take a hike. Get on from here. No, what does he do. "they dug another well, (verse 21) and they quarreled over it too," It's like these guys are following Isaac around saying mine, mine, mine. So what did he do then, verse 22. "He moved away from there and dug another well, and (finally) they didn't quarrel over it (so he says)At last the Lord has made room for us and we'll be fruitful in the land". Listen folks, that is a meek and humble spirit. That's what it looks like in real life.

Let me show you one other example. Turn over to 2 Samuel 16:5 It's from the life of David.

When King David came to Bahurim, behold there came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came out (now watch this, he came out) cursing continually as he came. (now get the circumstance, verse 6) He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men who were at his right hand and at his left.

So here's David. He's surrounded by those who are his underlings, and he is being seriously disrespected. He's being cursed. He's having little stones thrown at him. And here's what he said, verse 7.

Shimei said when he cursed, get out, get out you man of bloodshed, and you worthless fellow. (So not only is he accusing him of something, he's using names, he's calling him names. And then he says, verse 8) The Lord has returned upon you all the bloodshed of the house of Saul. (In other words, you know what you're getting from Absalom? Exactly what you deserve. Wow.)

So how would you have responded? If you had been King David surrounded by all your warriors and there's some little pipsqueak over there on the side cursing you, throwing stones at you, and saying, what you're getting that's caused you to flee for your life is what you deserve. Watch how David responds. First, see how not to respond, verse 9. "Then Abishai, the son of Zeruiah said to the King, Why should this dead dog curse my Lord the king? Let me go over now and cut off his head." But for the record, that's the opposite of meekness.

But the king said (here's David's response) What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah (now, he's not talking to the man who's cursing him. He's talking to the guy who's trying to defend his honor) if he curses, and if the Lord has told him, Curse David, then who shall say, Why have you done so? Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, behold my son who came from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him. Perhaps the Lord will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day."

You see what David does? He says, listen, God is sovereign. He's in control of this circumstance and this person. I don't have to blow up and get angry. I don't have to defend my honor and my reputation and my rights. God is more than able to do that. This is the response of a meek heart.

Of course our Lord perfectly displayed this didn't He? In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul refers to the gentleness of Christ, using this word. You want to see what that looked like? Go over to Peter. I Peter 2. Here's what it looked like in the life of Jesus. He talks to servants in verse 18 about being submissive even to those who were unreasonable, because, verse 19

this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God if a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For it's no credit to you if you sin and are harshly treated, and then endure it with patience. But if you do what is right and suffer for it, you patiently endure it, then this finds favor with God.

And then he uses the example of Christ, verse 21. this is exactly what Christ did, he says. He left you an example to follow. He didn't do anything wrong. Verse 22.

He committed no sin nor was any deceit found in His mouth, and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering he uttered no threats, but He kept entrusting Himself to Him to judges righteously.

And He went on to bear our sins in His own body on the tree. You know what Peter's saying? Peter's saying, Jesus exhibited perfect gentleness with those who were killing Him. In the middle of it he says, Father forgive them.

You know what I love, though, about this quality. It's the quality Jesus shows toward each of us. You remember that famous passage in Matthew 11 where Jesus says "Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from me (and then He says this) for I am gentle" I am gentle. This is how I respond to you. I respond to you, Jesus says, not like you deserve; not with an outburst of anger. How often do we sin and deserve for God to respond to us in anger? But He doesn't do that. Instead, he responds to us with humble, gentle graciousness.

So the person who is meek remains calm and under control regardless of how much someone else is provoking him. When I was growing up our family had Boxer Bulldogs. They are by nature very strong defensive animals. They are fighters. But I remember on one occasion, my Boxer Bulldog had a litter of puppies, and I remember watching this one particular puppy absolutely terrorize his mother. He bit and clawed and scratched and nipped, but in spite of all of the strength that animal had, it just sat there and took it. And responded only with gentleness. That's how we're supposed to be with people, even when they nip and scratch and bite. We're always supposed to treat them with gentleness. The person who is meek does not insist upon his rights. He does not respond to offenses with sinful anger. He does not harbor bitterness. He does not seek revenge. He does not treat others with harshness. He doesn't hold on to every personal insult or personal injury. The opposite of being gentle or meek is to refuse to submit to God's will in your circumstances, to argue with God, to become embittered at God, to be angry with God because of what you're facing. It's to refuse to submit to His word, and live life the way you want to live it. It is to respond to others by being angry, and aggressive, and assertive, always demanding your own way, always defending your own rights, and responding with anger whenever those rights are crossed. Let me ask you this morning, are you gentle? Are you meek? How do you respond to God when your circumstances get hard and difficult? Do you really believe that God is sovereign over everything that happens in your life, and that He is at the same time both wise and good? Do you calmly accept your circumstances in life as from God for your good? And how do you respond to people when they wrong you, or you think they've wronged you? Are you known for showing a gracious gentle humble spirit in those occasions? Is that how the people who know you best think of you, in your home, at work, here in the church? That's what it means to be gentle.

Let's briefly consider a second question.. We've looked at the meaning of what is gentle. Let's briefly consider the second half of Jesus' statement here in verse 5. What is Jesus' promise to the gentle? As with the other beatitudes, Jesus makes those who are gentle a promise. He says

"blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth" So why is it Jesus pronounces those who are gentle or meek to be eshere—to be blessed, to be spiritually prosperous, For, because, here's why. Here's why they are in a condition of spiritual prosperity. They, and again the pronoun in this one is emphatic in the Greek text. They and they alone shall. This is looking forward. This is a future blessing that Jesus is promising. They shall inherit, or come to possess the earth. That's a shock. If you'd never read that, that'd be an absolute shock to you. Because that isn't the way things normally work in the world. John Stott writes this. "one would have expected the opposite. One would thing that meek people would get nowhere, because everybody ignores them or else rides roughshod over them and tramples them underfoot. It's the tough, the overbearing who succeed in the struggle for existence. Weaklings go to the wall, or in the language of Darwinian evolutionary theory, it's the survival of the fittest." But Jesus says, no, it's going to be the meek who inherit the earth. Now what does Jesus mean by the earth? Well, there are two possibilities. One is that the word translated earth can also mean the land. So He could refer to the physical land of Israel. The meek are going to continue to get to live in Israel. That's a possibility, but not likely. The second is far more likely because it better fits the context. And that is, Jesus is referring here to the future earth—the New Earth on which all who are truly part of His spiritual kingdom will live. It really fits the context, the context of the beatitudes. Because the promises in the first beatitudes are about the spiritual kingdom of heaven. So it's logical to assume that the promise in the third is about that same kingdom. Also, inheriting a place on a future recreated earth bests fits the context of Psalm 37 from which Jesus draws this. Because if you read that Psalm, and I encourage you to do that. If I had time, I'd take you back there and show you, but over and over again, some five or six times in Psalm 37, the Psalmist contrasts those who will be cut off, meaning they will be destroyed, they will be separated from God's presence, talking about eternal destruction versus those who will dwell in the land. A reference not only to the land of Israel, but to dwelling in the future in a literal place where God will rule, talking about the future New Heavens and New Earth. So what Jesus is saying here is this. Listen carefully. The meek already belong to Jesus' spiritual kingdom. But they will also inherit a place someday in Jesus' literal physical kingdom in the New Heavens and the New Earth. What a promise. They're really His. They really belong to Him, and they'll be with Him forever, those who are meek.

Now, don't forget, the opposite is true. Because Jesus pronounced at the same time a series of woes on those who manifest the opposite of these qualities. Luke records four of those woes. He doesn't record this beatitude or it's opposite. But based on the pattern of the others, we can kind of reconstruct it. It probably went something like this. Woe to those who refuse to submit to God and who are always defending their personal rights in anger, for they will not inherit the New Heavens and the New Earth, but instead they will inherit eternal hell. That's exactly what Paul says in Galatians 5. I'm not making this up, because in Galatians 5, Paul says those who manifest outbursts of anger defending their rights, he says they will not inherit the kingdom of God. So don't kid yourself. If your life is one outburst of anger after another, defending your rights—if there's an unrepentant pattern, there's an undiminishing pattern of that sin in your life, then you are not in Jesus' spiritual kingdom, no matter how many prayers you prayed, how many cards you signed, how many times you've been dipped in the water, you are not in His spiritual kingdom and you will spend eternity separate from that kingdom.

So this beatitude, like the first two is absolutely crucial, because meekness always marks the person who truly belongs to Jesus' spiritual kingdom. I'm not saying that we can't sin in that way. I'm saying, there's not an unbroken unrepentant pattern of that sin in our lives. And there's a diminishing pattern of that sin if we're truly His. So how can you know if you're meek? I love the way Lloyd-Jones explains. Listen to this. "The man who is truly meek is the man who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do." The truly meek person isn't saying I'm not getting what I deserve. I deserve—you fill in the blank. The truly meek person is amazed that God treats him as well as He treats him, and that people treat him as well as He treats him. Why? Because he knows he's a beggar in spirit. He knows he has nothing to commend him to God or to man.

Now there are several specific ways to use this beatitude, very quickly. What do you do with it? First of all, it's a test, like the other beatitudes. It's a test of whether or not you're in Jesus' spiritual kingdom. If you have come to realize you are poor in spirit, and if you mourn over your sin, then this will be true. As a pattern of life you will not become angry or bitter at God for your difficult circumstances, because you will know you don't deserve anything good, and whatever you get will be grace. If you have in the same way realized you're a beggar in spirit, if you mourn over your own sin, then as a pattern of life you will not be angry or bitter at the people who wrong you, because you will know they are simply acting like you would act apart from divine grace. If you're poor in spirit, if you mourn your sin, you will display gentleness and meekness toward God and man. It's a test. I didn't make this up. Jesus says, here's the test. If you're in my kingdom, this is what you look like, and if it's opposite, then you're not in My kingdom, you're in Satan's kingdom.

There's another practical use of this beatitude, and that is those of us who are already in Jesus' spiritual kingdom—we need to cultivate and grow in this quality. It's present, but it needs to grow. We need to cultivate it. How do we get to gentleness? Well, Galatians 5 says it's the Spirit's work. Only the Spirit can produce this in us. But what can we do to cultivate the Spirit's growth of that in our lives. Well, you can start by asking God to do it. Ask the Spirit of God to increase gentleness in you. You can rehearse your own spiritual poverty because that leads you to being gentle and meek. You can truly mourn over your own sin. You can contemplate how Jesus lived out this quality in His life. But there's another way as well. How were the Israelites to whom David wrote Psalm 37 supposed to grow in their meekness? Read Psalm 37, because in that Psalm again and again, they're told, if they will develop a deep trust in God's sovereignty in their lives, it will allow them to respond to the people who wronged them in the right way. If you want to cultivate meekness in your own heart, develop a growing awareness of, and trust in God's sovereign power.

There's one other way this beatitude comes home to us, and that is, it reminds us again of why we all so desperately need Jesus Christ and the gospel. Because folks, this is God's standard. You want to earn your way to heaven? Here it is. You can't do it and neither can I. Our only hope is that there's One who did and Who offers through His death forgiveness for those who haven't. If you will repent of your sin and believe in Jesus Christ, He'll do that today. He'll forgive your sin, He'll give you a new heart and enable you to manifest this quality toward Him and toward the people around you. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the meek.

Let's pray together. Father, we thank You for this amazing saying of our Lord's. Thank you for it's profundity, for it's depth. Thank you for it's clarity and how it holds the mirror up to our souls. Father, help us to be honest as we look in the mirror and see our reflection, and measure it against those whom Jesus says are truly a part of His spiritual kingdom. Father I pray for those of us who can thank You, because while it's not all that we want it to be in our lives, we see the reflection of gentleness. We see the reflection of meekness in responding to You and to others, however imperfectly, however poorly. Lord help us to grow in this quality. May we manifest it more and more toward You and Your word and your will in our circumstances as well as toward others when they wrong us. Father I pray for the person here today who can't see this quality in his life or her life. Father, don't let them excuse themselves. Don't let them give themselves the benefit of the doubt. But Father, help them to see that someday they will stand before You, and that You don't grade on a curve. Father, may they come to Christ today, and know His forgiveness because He lived what we should have lived, and He died for our failure to live it. We pray it in Jesus' name, Amen


Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:4

Blessed Are the Gentle

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:5

Blessed Are the Hungry & Thirsty

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:6

More from this Series

The Sermon on the Mount


The Setting For the Sermon on the Mount

Tom Pennington Matthew 4:23-25

The Beatitudes: an Introduction

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:1-12

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:3

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:4

Blessed Are the Gentle

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:5

Blessed Are the Hungry & Thirsty

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:6

Blessed are the Merciful

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:7

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:8

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:9

Benefitting From the Beatitudes

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:3-12

Blessed Are the Persecuted!

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:10-12

The Power of Your Influence - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:13-16

The Power of Your Influence - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:13-16

The Power of Your Influence - Part 3

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:13-16

The Power of Your Influence - Part 4

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:13-16

What Your View of Scripture Says About You - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:17-20

What Your View of Scripture Says About You - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:17-20

What Your View of Scripture Says About You - Part 3

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:17-20

What Your View of Scripture Says About You - Part 4

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:17-20

What Your View of Scripture Says About You - Part 5

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:17-20

The Heart of Anger - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:21-26

The Heart of Anger - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:21-26

The Heart of Anger - Part 3

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:21-26

Dealing With Lust - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:27-30

Dealing With Lust - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:27-30

Dealing With Lust - Part 3

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:27-30

What Jesus Really Said About Divorce - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:31-32

What Jesus Really Said About Divorce - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:31-32

What Jesus Really Said About Divorce - Part 3

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:31-32

Radical Truthfulness - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:33-37

Radical Truthfulness - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:33-37

An Eye for an Eye - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:38-42

An Eye for an Eye - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:38-42

An Eye for an Eye - Part 3

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:38-42

An Eye for an Eye - Part 4

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:38-42

Do You Only Love Those Who Love You? - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:43-48

Do You Only Love Those Who Love You? - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:43-48

The Deadly Danger of Hypocrisy

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:1

For His Eyes Only: Giving to the Glory of God - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:2-4

For His Eyes Only: Giving to the Glory of God - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:2-4

Praying for the Wrong Reasons

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:5-8

The Lord's Prayer - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:9-15

The Lord's Prayer - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:9-15

The Lord's Prayer - Part 3

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:9-15

Hallowed Be Your Name!

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:9

Your Kingdom Come!

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:10

Your Will Be Done

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:10

Give Us Our Daily Bread

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:11

Forgive Us Our Debts

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:12

Lead Us Not Into Temptation - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:13

Lead Us Not Into Temptation - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:13

The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:13

Forgiveness: A Spiritual Diagnostic

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:14-15

The Practice of Biblical Fasting

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:16-18

The Deadly Dangers of Materialism - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:19-24

The Deadly Dangers of Materialism - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:19-24

The Deadly Dangers of Materialism - Part 3

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:19-24

Mastering Materialism - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:25-34

Mastering Materialism - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:25-34

Mastering Materialism - Part 3

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:25-34

Mastering Materialism - Part 4

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:25-34

Mastering Materialism - Part 5

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:25-34

Mastering Materialism - Part 6

Tom Pennington Matthew 6:25-34

Responding to the Sins of Others - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:1-6

Responding to the Sins of Others - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:1-6

Responding to the Sins of Others - Part 3

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:1-6

The Guarantee of Answered Prayer - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:7-11

The Guarantee of Answered Prayer - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:7-11

A Fresh Look at the Golden Rule

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:12

Two Gates, One Decision - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:13-14

Two Gates, One Decision - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:13-14

Wolves in the Pulpit - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:15-20

Wolves in the Pulpit - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:15-20

Wolves in the Pulpit - Part 3

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:15-20

The Deadly Danger of Self-Deception - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:21-23

The Deadly Danger of Self-Deception - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:21-23

The Deadly Danger of Self-Deception - Part 3

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:21-23

The Parable of the Two Builders - Part 1

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:24-27

The Parable of the Two Builders - Part 2

Tom Pennington Matthew 7:24-27

A Virtual Tour of the Sermon on the Mount

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:3-7:27