Summary: Many people confuse meekness for weakness. But true meekness is strong, a gentleness of spirit and humility that comes from confidence in God.
Matt 5.5 "Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth."
As we go through these beatitudes we’re discovering that Jesus turns conventional wisdom on its head and presents those things the world despises as the way of the Kingdom.
And this morning we’ve come to a beatitude that isn’t really understood well at all.
Meek rhymes with weak and that’s often how we think of it. It’s a word we often associate with someone who is timid, weak or passive.
But, actually, the Greek word for meek is same one we often use for gentleness, so we find it is one of the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5 says, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal 5.22-23).
Another thing we find is that Scripture contrasts the meek not with the strong but with the wicked. In fact, this beatitude is very similar to Psalm 37, which says, "A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace" (Ps 37.10-11).
We can see how true meekness is removed from our common conception from the stories of three famous identities.
A STORY OF THREE KINGS
The first one was a young man, tall, lean and handsome, with the ruggedness that comes from growing up on a farm. He lived in something of a rural backwater, so you wouldn’t have picked him for fame, but still, in his neck of the woods his father was a well known and respected community leader and the family did well. But even though the girls swooned over him and his family had some influence he was a very modest bloke, so none of this really went to his head.
One day he was out looking for some livestock that had escaped, and along the way he decided to ask someone in a nearby town who might know where the animals were. But he got the surprise of his life when he was told, "Everyone’s looking to you - you’re going to lead the nation," and then he was invited as the guest of honour, with the best seat and food in the house.
What’s an unassuming, humble guy say to that. "Hey, I’m a nobody from a nobody family in a nowhere town. I think you’ve got the wrong guy."
And he got an even bigger shock when this guy privately took him aside and poured a jar of olive oil over his head! The prophet Samuel said to him, "Saul, God’s anointed you to be king over Israel"
A couple of days later its time for the coronation. It’s a simple affair because this is the first time Israel’s had a king. But even with very little pomp and circumstance involved, what does Saul do? He goes and hides out in the baggage. There’s no way he wants to be in the spotlight, he’s too humble for that. They almost have to drag him in and crown him by force!
At this point, don’t you think Saul seems a picture of what it means to be meek. He’s unassuming, humble, avoids the limelight. Up to this point he hasn’t even told his own family what’s going on.
But once he’s crowned, things start to go horribly wrong. As king his job is to rally the troops and chase off the Philistines who have been occupying the land for years. So far so good, but Samuel had said to wait for him to make an important sacrifice and find out his orders from God. A few days into the battle and the men were deserting, Samuel hadn’t shown up and Saul was starting to panic. So he made the sacrifice himself. It was an arrogant and disobedient move as only the priest was meant to sacrifice. It cost Saul his dynasty.
Some time later God commanded Saul to deal with their age old enemies the Amalekites. The Israelites were to leave no one and nothing alive. Men, women, children and livestock were to be killed. Sounds pretty brutal doesn’t it? We’re really not comfortable with that sort of thing nowadays, especially in the light of God’s call to grace and forgiveness. But it was the law of the jungle back then, kill or be killed. Only Saul didn’t. He kept the king and the best of the livestock alive, ostensibly to make a sacrifice to God. But when Samuel pressed him, Saul admitted he’d done it because the men were pressuring him and he was afraid. He’d given in to the fear of people and as a result God completely rejected him as king.
Meek, humble Saul who thought he was a nobody, had become king and all that meekness was seen to be hollow. In fact, it was not meekness at all - it was fear. And as time went on and Saul saw a threat to his kingdom rising he tried harder and harder to hold onto what he thought was his. And in the end he lost it all, including his life.