The Sermon on the Mount
by E.H. Jack Sequeira
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
If you keep on looking at these beatitudes, the first thing you will notice is that these beatitudes follow a logical sequence. Christ began with, Blessed are the poor in spirit, and those who are poor in spirit will always be mourning about their condition, the condition of the world, and so on. Now He goes on to number three: Blessed are the meek. And the first question we must ask is, What does that word mean?
The Greek word can mean several things. It can mean gentle, it can mean humble, it can mean considerate, it can mean courteous. All these are connotations of that one word. If you notice your New English Bible, it translates it, Blessed are those of a gentle spirit. And that is mainly the direction that Jesus had in mind.
Meekness denotes a humble, gentle attitude towards others. And this is determined by a true evaluation of yourself. You cannot be meek towards others if you are not poor in spirit. Meekness is the result, is a by-product, of being poor in spirit. Those who are poor in spirit will have a true view of oneself and this will be expressed in terms of our relationships.
Keep in mind to whom Christ is talking. He was talking to an audience who were all Jews, and they were all victims of Judaism. What Christ was teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, you will discover, is in complete contradiction to what the scribes and Pharisees were teaching. They were not meek. They looked down upon those who were having a hard time the sinners and publicans. Why? Because they had a high opinion of themselves. You remember the prayer: I thank God I am not like that publican, I do this and that? What Christ is saying here is in complete contradiction to what the Pharisees were teaching. We need to keep this in mind because we as a people have often had the problem of Judaism. Self-righteousness does not leave any room for consideration, or gentleness towards others. Especially because those who are self-righteous and have success are normally people with very strong wills. And they have no sympathy for those who have weak wills. But the gospel is not for the strong-willed or the weak-willed it is for those who realize their true condition and are meek.
The next thing I want to show you is that meekness is an essential quality for true Christianity because that is what Christ is describing. Christ is describing true Christianity in contrast to Judaism which, of course, was a human kind of religion that was full of hypocrisy.
The first text I want to give you is from the Old Testament. Zephaniah is a little book in the minor prophets, after Habakkuk. Chapter 2:3 is a text that in the Septuagint uses the same word for meekness that Christ used.
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lords anger.
The self-righteous dont seek the Lord for His righteousness. They seek Him to show how good they are.
A person who is meek realizes that he is poor in spirit and he is totally dependent upon God. And God will hide you in the day of trouble and that is good news.
Now well go to the New Testament and start with 2 Timothy. Second Timothy was one of the last letters that Paul ever wrote. Here is the great man of God in prison, ready for execution. He is ready to die, he has done his job, he has finished his course, and is writing to Timothy. There is no complaining about how he is suffering in that dungeon. There was no angel food cake for him; that is what they give them in prison here. I know because I ate with the prisoners and that is what we had for dessert. It is bad being in prison in America! But Paul was in a stinking dungeon, full of fleas, no proper light, and he says to Timothy in Chapter 2:25 that meekness is a quality for the Christian to learn:
Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth....
When we teach people who dont agree with us, we must teach them in meekness. We must not look down upon them and say, We have the truth you dont. You are Philistines. You will not help them. In meekness, says Paul to Timothy, please teach, instruct, those who oppose the truth. We need to have meekness if we are to be teachable and to teach.
Turn over to James 1 and you will notice that meekness is one of the qualities for salvation. If you dont have meekness you will not be willing to say, Not I. And if you dont say Not I, you wont say the other half: but Christ. James 1:21:
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Let the word of God become part of you, but you can only do it by meekness.
Meekness is an essential requirement for Christ to be your righteousness. That is why it is one of the requirements of the Beatitudes. One more text from 1 Peter 3:4. Here you will notice that meekness is one of the characteristics of a Christian and this is the context that Christ is using. He says, Here is the characteristic of a true Christian compared with the false religion of Judaism. A true Christian should be meek. Blessed are the meek, He says.
Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in Gods sight.
I want you to get the context. I know it is addressed to women but it also applies to men. He is talking of two kinds of adornment. The outward adornment and the inward adornment. Please remember that whatever adornment you talk about, the purpose of adornment is to draw attention to to yourself. But there is a good way of drawing attention and there is a wrong way. And in verse 4 he is saying the right way.
People need to see in us the adornment, the beauty of Christ. So we need to be attractive, but we need to be attractive in a way that will turn the eyes of the people to Christ the characteristics of Christ.
I want to go to some examples of some great men of the Bible. First of all I want to go to Abraham because he is the father of the faithful. Read Genesis 13:7-12. Notice how considerate Abraham was toward his nephew, Lot:
And quarreling arose between Abrams herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.
So Abram said to Lot, Lets not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Lets part company. If you go to the left, Ill go to the right; if you go to the right, Ill go to the left.
Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.
They were returning from Egypt and God had blessed them with tremendous wealth. In those days, wealth was based on the number of cattle you had.
We had a watchman at our college in Ethiopia and he was just retiring and we were having a farewell party and he was late because his wife was having another baby [even though he was about to retire]. And so one of the missionary ladies asked, What number is this? And he said I dont know. He couldnt remember. But he said, If you ask me how many cows I have, I can tell you that. Because in Africa wealth is the same thing; especially with certain tribes, cattle is the symbol of wealth. The Masai, the people who drink blood, believe that all the cattle in the world belong to them. If they were to come to America and steal your cattle, they are not stealing because they believe that it belongs to them. That is one of the problems we are facing there because they say, No, we are not stealing; God has given them to the Masai people.
Abraham and Lot were both very rich and there was not enough room for both groups of their cattle to eat on the same land. There was fighting between the herdsmen. Remember, this is the land that God gave to Abraham. What did Abraham do? He said, Look Lot, we should not fight because we are brethren. We are one in Christ, but I realize that the land we are dwelling in is not enough for both of us so why dont we separate. I am going to give you the first choice.
He could have said, Look, this land was given to me Ill choose my part and you can have the rest. But he did not do that. He was old and the land belonged to him, but he was meek. He considered Lot more than himself. Unfortunately, Lot did not do the same thing. He chose all the fertile land of the Jordan valley and gave Abraham the desert and mountains. (And there was no irrigation in those days). But Abraham did not complain he dwelt there. And the wonderful thing is that God came to him after they had separated and said Look north, south, east, and west [and he couldnt do that without looking at Lots land] this land, all of it is for you. Blessed are the meek, they will inherit the earth. God said, This is yours because you are meek. So Abraham is a good example.
Then I want to turn to Moses and read how it took Moses 40 years to learn meekness. I hope it doesnt take us that long. Notice what the Bible says about Moses after he was humbled by God. Numbers 12:3. Here is the greatest leader and see what the Bible says about him:
Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.
No wonder he was highly regarded by God he was very meek.
Another example is David. In 2 Samuel 16:5-7, 9-11, you have the incident of one of Sauls men coming and cursing David. He was cursing him, throwing stones at David, even though David was anointed by God to be the king. And Davids men said, Look, shall we go and wipe that fellow out, let him realize whos got the power? And David said, No, let him curse. He would not take revenge at that time.
As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Sauls family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. He pelted David and all the kings officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on Davids right and left. As he cursed, Shimei said, Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel! The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood!
Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.
But the king said, What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, Curse David, who can ask, Why do you do this?
David then said to Abishai and all his officials, My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to.
Also Jonathan was meek no jealousy of David. These are some examples. Jeremiah is also a good example. Jeremiah 26:12-14, you will see that Jeremiah was a very meek man. I sympathize with Jeremiah he was the only prophet left in Israel.
Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right.
The rest the cream of the crop were all taken to Babylon. And once he complained (to God), You have given me to look after the sour grapes. He had some hard messages to give and they were not appreciated. They mocked him, they ridiculed him, they rejected him, and yet he was faithful because he was meek.
Going to the New Testament we have some. Acts 7:60, remember, what Stephen said when they were stoning him:
Then he fell on his knees and cried out, Lord, do not hold this sin against them. When he had said this, he fell asleep.
That is the kind of spirit that these men had. Paul was the same. Look at 2 Timothy 4:16; you will notice that Paul says:
At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.
Now that I am taken prisoner, they have all forsaken me, they have not stood by me. But, please, God I hope it doesnt affect their eternal destiny.
But the best example is Christ. If anyone deserves to say, I am the sovereign God, it was Christ. But you know what the Bible says about Him. Turn to Isaiah 53:7. He was a man of sorrows. Can you imagine the temptation Christ had when He realized Who He was?
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
He did not fight for His rights. Now look at Matthew 11:28-30. Here is Christ; if there is anyone we need to follow as an example, it is Christ. But, please remember, we dont follow Him as our example to be saved. He is our Saviour, but He is also an example to those who believe.
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 [He is using Himself as an example], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
The meek person does not find rest in himself, he finds rest in God. Christ found rest in His Father. I depend on my Father. John 6:57:
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.
I live because of the Father. Then He says,
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Why is my yoke easy? Because He does all the work. All he wants for us to do is abide in Him. And He does all the pulling. He says in John 15:4-5:
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Without me, you can do nothing. So Jesus said,
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
I want to say something about this word meek. It does not mean weakness, or to be timid. Let me give you an example. The martyrs were meek but they were not weak. They stood up to lions, everything. Remember that meekness is not weakness or timidity. It is a true evaluation of yourself. It is applying poor in spirit to ourselves. And, therefore, having consideration for others.
The time when we need to be meek is when we have a discipline committee. We must not say that meekness and weakness are the same thing.
You must be clear that meekness is not a natural quality. It is not something you inherit. It is not a natural disposition of the human nature. Yes, timidity can be, and weakness can be, but not meekness. On the contrary. Our nature is self-centered, therefore it cannot be meek. So the question is, How do we obtain meekness? Do we pay money for it? How do we obtain it? There are two steps:
Then he said to them all: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
If any man follow me, let him deny himself, and that means being poor in spirit saying Not I, but Christ.
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
That is the counsel and then he explains: he divides what the flesh can do and what the Spirit does. And you will notice that the flesh cannot produce meekness. Now in verses 22-23, you only realize this when you walk in the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
In other words, the law is in harmony with this.
So, we have to lose all confidence in self and we have to allow the Holy Spirit to produce meekness. Paul says that if you walk in the Spirit, one of the fruits that you will produce is gentleness, consideration.
When Stephen said, Lord, do not hold this sin against them, when they were stoning him to death how could he do it? He knew that God could bring fire but meekness of the Spirit controlled him. He was really showing the fruits of the Spirit. And Jesus said in John 15:4-8:
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Fathers glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
And one of those fruits is meekness.
I want to close with the second half of Matthew 5:5. Weve been dealing with Blessed are the meek. Please remember, the word blessed means happy, fortunate. What will happen to those that are meek? They shall inherit the earth. Past, present, or future tense? Future. In the meantime, the meek may be trod under, may be mistreated, may be unappreciated (like Jeremiah), they may not be looked upon as great people in the world. Because the world has no room for meek people. So you may not be appreciated, you may be trampled, mocked, mistreated, but remember that you shall inherit the earth. The blessings for being meek is future. You inherit the earth made new.
The second thing that I want to bring out is that, in the New Earth, everybody will be meek. A meek person, remember, is one who has consideration for others. In this world, everyone is living for himself. In the New Earth, everybody all of them will be living for each other. That means all of them will be living for you. Which is better? You living for yourself or all of them living for you? So you can see the New Earth will be a happy place because everybody will be living for others. That is what Heaven will be like. There will be no jealousy, there will be no fighting, and there will be no promotional programs or visitations; we wont need that.
The Communist philosophy is trying to do this. The principle that Karl Marx came out with is each according to his ability, each according to his need. In simple English this means, those who have must live for others. Have they succeeded? No. In a sinful world, production comes through incentives sometimes even in the church, unfortunately. But in Gods Kingdom, production comes because the love of God is in us, constrains us, and we have a drive that God puts in us to live for others. And so Paul says to the Philippians for me to live is Christ. He lived for others. The question doesnt come, Am I going to be paid overtime? Once I had a call from the Theology Department they wanted me to teach a class at the college and they gave me two choices. One was The Sermon on the Mount. They didnt know I was using it at prayer meeting and so I said I would be happy to teach that. And they said, We have something unfortunate to tell you we cant pay you any extra because the policy wont allow it. But we can do something we can pay the church. I said, Good, we need some money. (So we will use it for a worthy cause.)
I could say, If you dont pay me I am not interested. But to get the opportunity to preach the gospel to those kids is a privilege. The greatest joy, and I did not produce it in myself it is God Who works and wills in me all He is asking is for us to make ourselves available to Him. To be poor in spirit and to be used by God.
But just imagine what the New Earth and Heaven will be like. In Heaven we will have some problems. This may come as a shock to you but we will be judging those thousand years and we will be judging people who we love and who are not there. So there will be weeping, but in the New Earth He will wipe out all memory of sin, Hell wipe out all memory of the lost and all we will have is each other to live for. And everybody will live for each other. In the New Earth, there is no more crying, there is no more sorrow each one will be living for others. That is what Heaven is like.
It is possible to have it in the church its possible to have a taste of it. And it is my prayer that as we look at the Sermon on the Mount, we will reflect the true Christianity that the Sermon on the Mount is describing and not Judaism, which is hypocrisy and which is outward.
As we go through the Sermon on the Mount you will see the difference between Judaism and true Christianity. Judaism is in the letter, Christianity is in the spirit. Do you know the difference? The letter means rules dos and donts that we have follow. Have you seen the Review and Herald where there was a section of letters from missing members? Many of them left this church because they were tired of dos and donts. But the spirit means that we want to do it from the inside; there is a drive inside so we want to do this. We want to witness the gospel; we dont have to be pushed. We want to go Ingathering (the flesh may not); at least, we want to help others.
It is my prayer that this transformation will take place. Because when God has a people who are meek, Christianity becomes attractive. And that is what the world needs to see. At the moment, the world does not have a high opinion of the Christian church. Unfortunately, not only here but even in the Third World. The missionaries in the Third World were linked with the Colonialists; they were linked hand in hand. So a lot of African intellectuals will say to the missionaries, When your pioneers came here they gave us the Bible and took our land. Now we have taken our land back, you can have your Bible back. Its a tragedy! Its unfortunate that we linked ourselves with politics. When I say we, I mean the Christian church. It has done damage. But I am praying that Christianity will become very attractive and our church will become very attractive so that sinners and publicans and all the rascals can come here and find acceptance.
I think of a young man who was my schoolmate at Newbold. His father was the President of the Norwegian Mission. He came to this country and was sick of dos and donts and so he went to Notre Dame University and got linked with hippies. They left their hair without washing it and combing and they liked to be objectionable to society. And he supposedly was taking drugs and things and then became very lonely. He found no peace and no hope. So he came to Andrews University one day to Church and sat at the back of the Pioneer Church. And a young couple from the seminary was sitting next to him and the lady opened her bag and took out a comb and said, Maybe youd like to use this before you come in. And he walked out and didnt come back. He said, (later) I was hungry for acceptance; I [already] knew the doctrine.
And there was a song service that evening and (my wife and I were there on furlough) he went. And I said to Jean that he looked very familiar like someone I knew at Newbold. She didnt think it could be he. So I edged my way over and he was staring at me. I asked him if he was my classmate and he said, Yes. And I grabbed him and took him home for supper. He told me what happened that morning and I said, I dont care how filthy you look or how unkempt your hair is Im even jealous because you have a full head of hair! You are welcome to this home. I spoke to one of the professors who took him under his wing there (at Andrews).
There are people who are coming (to our church) who want to be accepted. No matter what they look like, lets accept them because they are children of God. Christ died for them. And if God has accepted them in Christ, who are we to reject them? The change will come. But we need to be meek. True meekness will produce a loving church. You cannot produce a caring church by promotional programs. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It comes only to those who are poor in spirit, and who are mourning, and who are meek. May God bless us that we may reach this state.