Beatitudes, part 3: Blessed are the Meek
The Beatitudes celebrate as virtues that which we would not necessarily consider virtues. The poor in spirit inherit heaven. The mourning will be comforted.
The meek shall inherit the earth (Mt 5:5).
What is “meek?” It is the Greek word πραυσ, which gives us a sense of humility, teachability, and gentleness. According to the NET Bible:
Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend them against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time. (Isa 41:17, Lu 18:1-8)
The NET Bible tells us what πραυσ is not:
Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will. (Ga 5:23)
Some may consider this uncritical obedience to a tyrant, but that isn’t it at all. It’s better to think of this as surrender to a perfectly good higher power — and the one who so surrenders already accepts that God is perfectly good.
The existence of God is self-evident from nature (see Rom 1), but the goodness of God is not. God’s eternal power and divine nature are clearly perceived in that which is made; however, it takes a special revelation (the Bible) to reveal the perfect goodness of God. This means that the meek person that has surrendered his will to God’s own has already done the investigation necessary to conclude that God is worth surrendering to.
This Beatitude also calls to mind many verses of inheritance (Ps 37:9, 11, 22, 29, 34; Is 60:21), but none are as obviously tied to this verse as Psalm 25. Let’s take a snip:
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. (Ps 25:8-13)
Notice the theme of surrendering, in humility, to one who is perfectly good and will unerringly guide the sinner on the correct path. This is the sort of person who will inherit the earth, the one who recognizes his separation from God and then depends on God for his righteousness rather than his own empty works.
Beatitudes, part 2: Blessed are Those Who Mourn
The theme of the Beatitudes is to show a felt need, then demonstrate how that need will see fulfillment in the kingdom of heaven. The poor in spirit are blessed because they have no religion or spirituality to lean on, so (like the materially poor) they must lean more fully on Jesus to satisfy the righteous requirement of the law. Therefore, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The second Beatitude promises comfort to those who mourn.
The Beatitudes identify several needs as virtues that ordinarily one wouldn’t think of as a virtue. First the poor, now the mourners. Next we’ll bless the meek and then the hungry!
So what’s up with prosperity preachers? Are they not reading this section? These guys say that you can have your best life right now. Yet Jesus says to those of us in the present that you are blessed if you’re poor, in mourning, meek, and hungry — if you’re not having your best life now.
Suffering and trials will come. If we lean on God in those trials and become closer to him, then we do well. If we grow distant, if we let the trials create a rift between ourselves and our God, it is to our severe detriment. God will deliver those who mourn:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. (Is 61:1-3)
He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. (Is 25:8)
Jesus once said that he is the Great Physician, come to heal the sick. The well don’t need a doctor, right? Conversely, those who do not weep have no need of someone to wipe their tears away.