“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”
In the days of our Lord Jesus, the land once promised to Abraham (Genesis
12:1; 15:18-21; 17:3-8) was under the control of the mighty Roman legions. The
people of Israel were vassals, subject to the will of their Roman conquerors.
God had seemingly forgotten his people, gone back on his promises. The blessings
of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were withdrawn.
Now came he who claimed to be descended from David’s royal family and the long awaited Messiah. He called for his followers to be meek. If they were, he said, God would bless them and they would inherit what they had lost. What kind of strange words were these? All through the land, there were those who insisted that men must rise to arms and drive out the hated Romans by force. David’s lost kingdom would rise again only by power and might. Theirs was a call to courage and determination, not to meekness. What was Jesus saying and how shall we apply these strange words to our own lives?
Blessed are the meek
“Come to me,” urged Jesus, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-30).
In this instructive paragraph, Jesus modified the word meek with the word humble and the phrase in heart. The Greek word for meek refers not to being timid, mild and docile, as we tend to think about it. It points rather to an attitude of the inner person, the heart. The meek disciple is not the ‘weak’ disciple. He is rather the disciple who humbly submits his life to the leading and guiding of his true king. He seeks only to serve his king with all the strength of his mind, body and spirit. This was how Jesus approached the work his Father had given to him. As the meek and humble son, he taught, healed and fed thousands. As the meek and humble son, he submitted himself to the control of his enemies and offered his life as the sacrifice for all men’s sins.
Now this victorious king calls upon us, his subjects, willingly to yoke ourselves to him. In so doing we learn from him how to be meek and humble in heart. In learning that we will also find rest for our souls. What is the meaning of this blessing?
The Apostle Paul taught that being united with Christ Jesus by faith brings encouragement, comfort and the constant fellowship of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus, we experience the tender mercies and compassion of God. We are assured that our many sins are forgiven and that we will reign with him forever. We begin to see ourselves as new creatures being recreated into the very image of God. In the power of this relationship, we make it our purpose and ambition ever to do his will. We learn to think as he thought. We learn also to live as he lived. We approach all of our human relationships with the mind of Christ, humbly considering others better than ourselves and seeking their interests as well as our own. We learn to set aside selfish ambition and vain conceit. Without complaining or arguing, we learn to go about the tasks assigned to us by our Lord (Philippians 2:1-11).
For they shall inherit the earth
This way of life is the narrow path that leads to the discovery of a new land. Jesus promised, “you will find rest for your souls.” With this phrase, we are abruptly taken back into the troubled history of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Children of Israel. From the very time of their release from slavery in Egypt under Moses, they rebelled against their God. At Meribah and Massah (Exodus 17:7) they quarreled with Moses and doubted God’s love and care. For forty years, they continued to test and try God’s patience. Finally, in his anger he said, “They shall never enter my rest” (Psalm 95). He swore this oath: “Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give to your forefathers, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly” (Deuteronomy 1:34-36). Not even Moses was allowed in the land; only his assistant Joshua who also believed many years earlier in the Lord’s promises to give them the land promised to their father Abraham (Numbers 13-14).
So, to this very day God’s chosen people have no rest. Even though the Jews of our day have laid claim to the ancient land of Abraham, fighting, quarreling and death persist. And the same is true for us gentiles. Unity, harmony, concord, wholeness and all the other things implied by the Biblical word ‘peace’ elude us all. That which has been implied by the seventh day, the Sabbath, since the creation of the earth remains out of our reach.
On the seventh day, God rested from all his labors. He now remains forever in that eternal day of perfected peace and rest. His day has no beginning and no ending (Genesis 2:1-3). We long to enter into God’s rest, but we cannot. We spend our lives searching for it. Week after week goes by without it. We work night and day to accomplish it. We spend all the resources of our nations to realize it. But we still do not have it. We still have no rest. Ours is a troubled land and the whole earth is filled with sorrow, suffering and death.
“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11). But what more can we do? What further effort is required? Once again, Jesus instructs us. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” And again, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
So, we who are so burdened and weary come to Jesus. He lifts the burdens of our rebellion from us. In him, we are no longer banished from the land. He, the new Joshua (Matthew 1:21), renews to us his promise of the land. According to our Joshua’s promise, the day is coming when he will return to make all things new (Revelation 21:1-7). In our Joshua, we look forward “to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).
Copyright © 2001 CrossTies Lutheran Ministry Resources, Inc.
All Rights Reserved