I once heard about a minister who described sermons as meals. He said, “Not all are memorable, but most are nourishing.” So, we need a constant feeding of God’s thoughts into our minds to stay spiritually nourished and healthy. This is one of those types of things – messages – as are all in this series. This is the ninth in the series, and the eighth spiritual gift – fruit of the Spirit – Meekness.
The word here in Galatians 5 is praotes. I’m not sure I’m pronouncing that right, but p-r-o-a-t-e-s in the Greek. And because of varying translations today, it gets a bit sticky. So let’s see if we can make it clear. It’s translated gentleness in the ESV and meekness in the King James Bible. In the King James, gentleness is a different word – chrestotes. And Louw & Nida describes chrestotes this way: Gentleness of attitude and behavior in contrast with harshness in one’s dealings with others. Gentleness, meekness, mildness – those are ways it’s translated. So that’s how we explained the word translated gentleness in the King James when we came to it as one of the fruits.
But what is meekness? Well, the Strong’s Greek Dictionary provides some good information for us. It shows where the kind of meekness Paul is talking about comes from. Here’s what they have to say: “Meekness towards God is the disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good and, therefore, without disputing or resisting” – so, even when bad things happen. And there is the core of the meaning – accepting God’s will in our lives with agreeableness or acceptance. Continuing: “In the Old Testament, the meek are those who wholly rely on God, rather than their own strength, to defend themselves 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. Gentleness or meekness is the opposite of 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 the work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will.”
So, I thought that was a great explanation. And to emphasize it, meekness is an attitude about God being for us. And that causes us to be gentle toward others who are against us.
Let’s look at some of the implications of this. First of all, it starts with an attitude toward God. It starts with becoming meek before God, and then that seeps out of us to be gentle towards others. When we know that God knows best, and that we are blind and beggars – paupers – in spiritual things – poor in spirit – it changes how we relate to other people. We start walking more softly and making less internal demands of others – or external ones, for that matter. We listen more, instead of proliferating our own opinions, and we gentle persuade, instead of harshly opposing other people.
Let’s look at some other places this word is translated as meekness. In 2 Timothy 2:25 and 26 – and I’m reading the King James Bible, because that’s where the word is used and translated meekness.
2 Timothy 2:25-26 – In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves – Paul talking here to Timothy and telling him how to minister to people. In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves. If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. There’s a good example of what it means to be meek in today’s world.
Galatians 6:1 – Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. Not to take a high note toward people, but to be low and gentle with them, and conciliatory, and empathetic, and understanding how it feels. …considering yourself, lest you also be tempted – not looking down on others for the sins they commit.
Titus 3:2 – To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men. So there’s that connection there again.
1 Peter 3:15 – Peter says:
1 Peter 3:15 – But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear – or, that’s translated respect too – so, meekness and respect.
I heard someone say once – they were asked why they kept the Sabbath – and they said, “We keep the same day Jesus kept.” Well, that’s going to put people on the defensive immediately, isn’t it? Not a meek answer, not respectful. The way I try to explain it – now that I’ve learned better – is to say that I see the Sabbath as a gift God has given, and anytime God gives me a gift, I’m happy to have it. So that doesn’t cause them to feel defensive.
So, it’s interesting that this word contains the understanding that we must be submissive to God, and yet, when it’s used by Bible writers, they use it to show how to behave toward others. Once we’re on the same level as the other people – sinners, for example – something that we learn about from God – that we’re sinners like everyone else – then it becomes possible to listen to them, and to learn from them, and to hear them, and consider their point of view, and also to consider that we might be as weak as they are. Once we have that empathic view, and we con consider ourselves on the same level with other people, and understand the experience they have – which is that of being a sinner – once that happens, real communication begins. If you’re talking about drawing close to someone, or having them draw close to you, that happens through communication. So, the other person knows they’re being respected. They’re being heard. They don’t need to be defensive. They can listen without defense. So, that opens a door between people to pass the gospel, in some cases.
There are a number of examples in the Bible about meekness. I’m going to talk about three of the most well-known, because they’re, I think, the three best. We know that Moses was, from his infancy, selected by God to lead Israel out of Egypt. How else could a baby, put in a reed boat and hidden in the reeds in the Nile, become a prince of Egypt? Well, that had to be God’s doing. There is scant history and tradition, but it tells us that he was a mighty warrior in Egypt when we grew up and a general over their army. And because of that, more than likely, highly educated in the Egyptian way – a man of renown and respect and much honor in Egypt among the Egyptians. Yet, when we saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, his fiery temper got the better of him, and he killed the Egyptian, contrary to their law, and he ran for his life and became what? Founder of another nation? A mighty warrior for justice? Well, actually, he chose to be a herder – no meddling in the affairs of state among tribes encountered, no designs on political power. He seemed to crave anonymity instead of renown. So, how long did he do that? Well, for forty years. If you do anything for forty years, you’ll probably do it the rest of your life, in most cases. So, he didn’t seem to think he deserved more or that God wasn’t fair. He just disappeared. He probably would have been a herder for the rest of his life, but his curiosity got the better of him He just had to see why that bush was on fire. Once Moses followed God, and began to speak for and lead Israel, life got a lot more difficult for him. He did what God said, but he heard a never-ending bitter blog from the people, blaming him for all the challenges God led them through and ignoring all the blessings God had given them. They blamed God, but they also blamed Moses. He got a lot of the heat for it. More than once, he was criticized behind his back for things God did. It’s true that he struck the rock twice and said, “Must we” – that’s he and Aaron – “bring water out of this rock?” Not a good thing to say. He was obviously angry. But notice that he wasn’t angry at all the things they’d said about him. He was defending God. They were criticizing God. And he set them straight, but not in the best way. Actually, he was like a lamb when it came to being criticized himself. I think he probably, honestly, didn’t feel like he deserved anything. But when Israel blamed God, he became like a lion.
So, meekness is not weakness. It’s the ability to suffer knowing that God is allowing it. We know this because there are quite a number of times when Moses asked God to ease off on him and stop the people from complaining. He said these things when he was at his wits end. But when the people attacked God, it was a different story. We can remember the time his siblings, Aaron and Miriam, gossiped about him because he had married a Midianite woman. They were prejudiced. There was no record of any response from him about it, unfair though it was. So, why do you suppose that was? Well, we see in the story that God took action when they accused Moses in this case. They were tribal leaders and needed to set a solid front and example for the people. So, they were called on the carpet and Miriam was given leprosy. Do you remember what happened after that? Did Moses say, “Well, it serves you right,” or, “I’m the man. Don’t forget it?” No. Moses prayed for her and she was healed. That’s meekness. Moses did not have to defend himself. He knew that that was God’s responsibility and he mildly was letting God do that. And he knew that, if God hadn’t defended him, that would have been in his best interest too.” But he knew that God had his back, even when things were hard.
I’m going to read you a few sections here from…let’s start in Numbers 20, and verse 10. This is the rock incident.
Number 20:10-12 – Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”
He’d been leading them for forty years, and now he was not going to get to take them in, because they set a bad example. So, this man, Moses, who never defended himself, but who was a lion in defense of God – although, in this case, God was letting him know He didn’t need to be defended – let his temper get the better of him. And, like Aaron and Miriam, who set a bad example for the people, when he grew frustrated with the people, and showed his frustration, he had to suffer the consequences for his actions, as did they.
So, did he complain that God was not fair? Did he rebel? No, he simply accepted God’s decision and continued serving God and Israel. Like we read earlier, he knew that God’s decisions about his life were, in the end, the best thing for him, even if they were hard. And when he was criticized by Israel, did he defend himself? No.
That might have been a pretty bad mistake and he might have been pretty embarrassed about it before God, but notice what happened, in spite of this error in Deuteronomy 34:1:
Deuteronomy 34:1-12 – Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. So they’re on the east side of Jordan, looking over to Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the Valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. And the LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Bethpeor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Now some might be tempted to say, “Yeah, well, in the end, after they mistreated him, then they wept for him.” But you have to understand that all those people that mistreated him were already dead. That’s why they spent forty years in the wilderness – to get rid of all the gripers. And what was left was their children. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended – after thirty days. And Joshua, the son of Num, was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the LORD commanded Moses. And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses – until Christ came, there’s never a prophet as great as Moses was – whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
So, Moses trusted in God, even when God was punishing him. In spite of his mistakes, God did not forget the good things he had done, in spite of his error. And because of his trust in God, and his submission to God’s will in his life, God said this of him: Numbers 12:3:
Number 12:3 – Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. That’s a pretty good thing He said about him, I would say.
Okay, that’s one example – Moses, the most meek man in the world, who was a lion for God, but didn’t defend himself – trusted in God to take care of him. Meek toward God and meek toward people.
The second example I want to review is a story in 2 Samuel 16 about David. David and his men – his mighty men – after he had become king – were traveling. And a man, Shimei, came out and began cursing at them and throwing stones at them. He said:
2 Samuel 16:7-9 – Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! God has avenged on you all the blood you spilled…. God has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. So, after a bit of that, Abishai – one of the mighty men of David – came to him and said, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord, the king? Let me go over and take off his head.”
V-11 – And David said to him and the rest of his entourage, “My own son seeks my life. How much more now this Benjamite? Leave him alone and let him curse….” And the essence of what he said after that was, “I deserve it.”
V-13 – So they went on their way. Shimei continuing to curse, throwing rocks and flinging dust at them. How insulting.
So, here is an example of a lack of defensiveness. David believed that God was allowing it. So, it was his job to endure it. This is meekness toward God first, and then to others. God said that David was a man after His own heart. So, when Christ came – who is actually the best example of meekness on earth, we can understand why He said that. Peter explains it to us in 1 Peter 2:21:
1 Peter 2:21 – For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges rightly. That is the picture of meekness. In that way, David was after God’s own heart, even though he made many mistakes in his life.
Okay, so there’s three good examples of what it looks like in actual practice. Let’s notice something that Jesus said about meekness. He said:
Matthew 5:5 – Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
True to His word, God is going to reward those who trust Him. The meek shall inherit the earth and a lot, lot more. When we are with Christ on the earth as immortal beings, helping Him restore His government, and rebuild faith in the survivors, it’s going to take meekness to deal with all the traumatized, angry, depressed people. It’s in this vein that Paul, in Galatians 5, tells us and the church in Galatia, to deal with the brothers in the spirit of meekness. Meekness is a church-building tool – a relationship-building tool. When we’re mild and gentle with others, it will help the congregation to be spiritually united and strong – if we exhibit meekness. If anyone has a problem being meek – this is something to think about…. I was talking to a man just the other day who said his anger was getting in the way of him having a good relationship with his wife. So, if anybody is having a problem being meek, the key to change is become more trusting of God and more meek before Him – to realize all the things that happen to us – good and bad – are allowed by God for our benefit.
One way to grow in meekness toward God is to go back and survey your life. Look for the things that God has allowed in your life, both good and bad, to see how that has helped you become stronger. And all of those things – trials and blessings – were in your best interest. Spiritual renewal comes from looking back at what God has done with us in our lives. So do that! Of course, if you don’t do that, you can’t expect any benefit. But, if you’re willing to do that, then you’re willing to grow spiritually and God will bless you with it. If we do that, it helps us to understand God’s hand in our lives is for our good. We don’t need to defend ourselves by attacking others. We can relax and be meek. God has us covered.
Do forget to check our Website, liferesource.org. There’s a lot about meekness there.