And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed [are] they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed [are] they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed [are] the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you,] and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.Matt. 5:1-12
When Jesus was referring to blessed are the meek, he was using the term to describe one who is gentle in spirit, humble, and mild mannered. It is not a common word in scripture, it is only used four times in the New Testament, three times by Jesus and once by Peter. It is a trait related to one’s character that not only Jesus personified himself but desired to see in others. The caring and compassionate nature of Jesus toward people was expressed by him as he encouraged people to come to him, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.” [Matt. 11:29]
Another notable reference to the meek spirit of Jesus is referenced from a prophetic verse in the Old Testament. In this case, it helps to describe him centuries before events occurred with his prophesied entrance into Jerusalem, “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” [Matt. 21:5] Here Jesus is portrayed as the King of Israel and yet with a meek spirit riding into the central city of Jerusalem upon the back of a donkey. That is truly illustrative of meekness and humility for the King of kings!
Further to this, the apostle Peter also described many important things that are valued by God by contrasting them between mere physical appearances versus a more noble inward disposition. In this way, he illustrated how meekness has value with God, “…a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” [1 Pet. 3:4b] In the world today, meek can often be wrongly used and interpreted to mean someone who is weak, overly tame or timid but this was clearly not the case with Jesus since his style of preaching and teaching was one always marked with forthright boldness in conveying a message to the people.
There were also notable individuals throughout biblical history who were often described as being meek such as Moses, (“Now the man Moses [was] very meek, above all the men which [were] upon the face of the earth.)” [Num. 12:3] But God used the meek spirit of Moses to develop one of the most incredible leaders in scripture in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt from the tyranny of Pharaoh. His leadership and bravery in the presence of Pharaoh led to the demise and humiliation of the leader of Egypt.
Further on in history during his remarkable reign, King David wrote many Psalms contrasting evil people with the meek people of God, “For yet a little while, and the wicked [shall] not [be:] yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it [shall] not [be.] But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” [Ps. 37:10-11] In a Psalm of praise for the Israelite people, King David also expressed reference to meekness by associating it even with salvation that comes from God, “For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.” [Ps. 149:4]
Meekness in Prophecy
Perhaps one of the most noteworthy scriptures giving further merit to a meek spirit was written by the prophet Isaiah about the long awaited Messiah, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound.” [Is. 61:1] This profound prophecy came true some seven hundred years later as Jesus taught in the synagogue reading scripture to the people on the Sabbath day in Nazareth.
The same section from Isaiah that was read by Jesus continues on with a bold claim to its fulfillment, “And he closed the book, and he gave [it] again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? ” [Luke 4:20-22] This was indeed a notable transition point in the ministry of Jesus as he presented himself to the world as the coming Messiah.
References such as these help to illustrate the use of the meaning of the word meek in scripture. As noted in a previous study it is often helpful to look at the opposite of blessed are the meek to better understand the contrasting context. For example, “Though the LORD [be] high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.” [Ps. 138:6] Recall from previous studies how poor in spirit was the opposite of proud or haughty people. Similarly, meekness is the opposite of a person who is overbearing or overly assertive. Quite the opposite of attributes that are often praised and admired in today’s world.
At times while reading scripture, it is often missed when individuals speaking in the New Testament are actually quoting scripture from the Old Testament. This is important to note since it confirms the existence, accuracy and validity of scripture throughout the Bible. In this particular passage from this week’s scripture reading on blessed are the meek, Jesus is actually quoting almost verbatim from the book of Psalms, “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” [Ps. 37:11]
For Israelites, this would have had tremendous implications to hear a man speak so eloquently of ancient scriptures, hence the comments raised by the religious rulers, “And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? ” [John 7:15] He was in no way speaking mere gibberish to the people of that day and the Jews knew perfectly well the scriptural references he was giving despite their growing contempt for him.
To close off this Bible Study, the second part of this blessed phrase, “…shall inherit the earth” no doubt comes with many interpretations throughout the ages. Since Jesus referenced earlier the kingdom of heaven, in all likelihood the reference is made to the new heaven and the new earth, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” [Rev. 21:1] This reference is quite befitting within the context of the blessed phrases shared thus far, “poor in spirit”, “mourn” and now “meek” since the new heaven and new earth will indeed be the most blessed experience for people of faith, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” [Rev. 21:4]
Hopefully, this Bible Study has helped to shed light on the use of the word meek in scripture since it is truly a character trait worthy of both the Lord Jesus Christ and for all people of faith.
Bible Study Questions
- How would you describe someone of meek character from a biblical sense with key words from this study?
- How does this compare with how the world describes a meek person today?
- Why do you think the character of meekness is favourably viewed from God’s perspective?
- When Jesus read from the prophetic book of Isaiah and proclaimed the fulfillment of the scripture why do you think the people were so astonished at his sayings?
- Can you recall the Psalm that matches this specific phrase, blessed are the meek, from this study?
- The last three blessed characteristics give hope for people to inherit the kingdom of heaven, to be comforted and to inherit the earth. How would you describe this to someone curious about the teaching from Jesus?
- Is there something you could do now to become more meek in spirit like Jesus?
WORD GUIDE – * (yoke – used for joining animals together) * (ass – domestic animal)