Crowds upon crowds of people had come from all over the nation of Israel and the surrounding countries to see Jesus, the popular young preacher who performed amazing miracles and taught about God in a radical new way. The book of Matthew recorded the teaching given by Christ through this time in the Sermon on the Mount. In the first verses of the Sermon, Jesus explained who the blessed are in the Kingdom of Heaven as they make their way on earth. First He explained the blessings for the poor in spirit and those who mourn. Then He said: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
A lot of times when people use the word “meek,” they are describing someone who is weak and sickly. That isn’t quite what it really means, at least in Scripture. A meek person is not someone who is timid and unsure. They aren’t a pushover that everyone else can order around. In fact that is the opposite of what it means. Meekness is great power under the control of someone who is strong enough to master it.
Think of a large, muscular horse that can kick down doors and throw off anyone who tries to ride it. Then imagine that same powerful horse standing with a rider on its back, in total control of itself and responsive to whatever its Master says. The horse is strong enough to put its power under the guidance of the Master, and that Master can do great things with it. He can ride into battle knowing that his horse will not run away in fear or flinch when the fighting comes.
When we put our faith in Jesus, we are given new life and new strength. Meekness is when we actively put those gifts in the hands of God to serve Him. We offer our strength to Jesus, our Master, so that He can use us for His Kingdom.
The meek receive huge blessings from God. They will inherit the earth! Sometimes in this world it seems like the selfish and arrogant are the ones who win. Think about the people who use their talent and strength to take what they can. They often make more money and have more power. But God says that in the end, it pays to be meek. The Lord sees every humble act of quiet obedience, and He promises to reward it lavishly. The meek will not demand the things of this world through sin, but they will inherit the whole earth through His love.
It takes a lot of faith to trust that in the end, meekness wins. In this age of the world, it seems like the opposite is true. But as depth of love for Jesus grows, so does the longing to be freed from the drives of this world. As vision for the goodness of His Kingdom expands, the need to find identity and hope in the things that will pass away diminishes. A great mark of a life maturing in faith is the power to be meek.
The next thing Jesus said was, “‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.’” Imagine what it is like to feel really, really hungry. You can’t think of anything else, and you’ll do almost anything to fill your stomach. That is the kind of hunger the Lord is talking about here.
We already know that none of us can be righteous on our own. We need the righteousness of Christ! So how do we pursue that? Well, Jesus has already told us. A righteous person is someone who is poor in spirit. They are humble, and so they mourn for their sin. They are also meek, so even their strengths are humbly submitted to God, longing for Jesus to be glorified. These are beautiful marks of righteousness, for they are the way to depend on the Lord wholeheartedly. Being righteous is not about following rules. Being perfect with the rules will not satisfy our hunger. Jesus Himself is the only thing that can satisfy it. And the amazing thing is that God promises we will be filled!
As a follower of Jesus grows in their hunger for righteousness, things will begin to transform in their hearts. The desire to honor the Lord becomes a deep need. It is their first want. They long to have patterns and habits of life that are in obedience to God’s will at all times. They learn to listen to the Lord, quieting themselves so they can hear Him and respond. The testimony of the saints across hundreds and even thousands of years is that this becomes their great source of joy and hope. They actually feel delighted by it the way most of us feel delighted by chocolate or by a compliment or by falling in love.
Often we tend to treat God’s ways as a burden, as something we have to do. We treat sin like it is something wonderful that we have to sacrifice. We resent not being able to do what we want as if God is withholding something from us that we deserve. Or we just do it anyhow and expect God to show us grace. But someone that hungers and thirsts for righteousness scorns sin as a waste of time. They look at it cold in the face and take note of all the pain and destruction it actually causes ourselves and others. They love the goodness of God so much that they are running after it, headlong and full of triumphant happiness that they have found the way to please God. That is their first happiness.
For most of us, even the best of Christians, the hunger and thirst for righteousness is something that ebbs and flows. We will go through periods of rich spiritual depths where we experience the love of the Lord. And then we will feel dry, temptations will come and we will feel weak against them. We will give in to sin. And because we long to honor God, we feel terrible about it. That is when remembering the amazing grace of Christ is most important. That is a good time to read verses like Psalm 51 that talk about how much God loves a repentant heart. Repentance is part of righteousness. A hunger and thirst for righteousness is something we can ask for. Jesus will keep filling us with it in greater measure as we come to the One who is our righteousness.
The next blessing Jesus gave was this: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” What does the word “mercy” mean? Is it the same thing as grace? What is the difference? Well, grace is when someone gives love to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Mercy is when love is given to someone who is helpless and in need. Grace is when we give love to someone who has proven they are unworthy of it. God shows us His grace every day by showering us with His lavish love. We offer mercy when we give our love to those who are suffering and in trouble. Every human on earth constantly receives God’s mercy. Without Him, we would be without everything we need…the sun, the rotating earth that gives us day and night, the air we breath, the food we eat…we would be impoverished to the point of death if God didn’t constantly provide these things to us at all times. We are also desperately in need of a Savior! Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s goodness. God was merciful and gracious to us when He sent his Son.
When we are truly poor in spirit and recognize how sinful we are, the heart becomes extremely grateful to Jesus for the mercy and forgiveness He has shown us. That process softens the heart to be willing to show the same mercy to others. The wonderful mercy of Christ that we receive will flow out from us like a fresh, gentle stream! And as it does, we move into the blessing that Christ promised: we receive greater measures of His mercy.