Blessed Are the Meek
A YouTube Video Premiere worship service led by Jerry Pillay based on Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Blessed are the Meek
Song: “May the Mind of Christ, My Savior”
Text: Kate B. Wilkinson, 1925
Music: A. Cyril Barham-Gould, 1925
Led by Caroline Robinson at the Cathedral of St. Philip (Episcopal) in Atlanta, Georgia
Call to Worship and God’s Greeting
Philippians 2:1-11 and Revelation 1
Led by Hannah Barker Nickolay and Jackson Nickolay
Song: “Tremble Before the Lord”
Text and Music: Psalm 114, Greg Scheer © 2013 Greg Scheer
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Prayer of Confession and Assurance of Pardon
Led by Princeton Theological Seminary faculty, staff, and students
Song: “The Kingdom of Heaven”
Text and Music: based on Matthew 5:3-12; Greg Scheer © 2020 Greg Scheer
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by Greg Scheer and Forrest Wakeman
Prayer for Illumination, Scripture Passage, Sermon, and Prayer of Application
Song: “At the Name of Jesus”
Text: Caroline M. Noel, 1870, PD
Music: KING’S WESTON, Ralph Vaughan Williams from Enlarged Songs of Praise, 1931, reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press
All rights reserved. OneLicense.net A-703303.
Led by Jack Mitchener and the choir of the Cathedral of St. Philip (Episcopal) in Atlanta, Georgia
Led by Nina Ciesielski in German
Princeton Theological Seminary Faculty, Staff, and Students
Song: “Hallelujah, Salvation, and Glory”
Text: from Revelation 19, A. Jeffrey LaValley © 1984 Candied Jam Music/Savgos Music
Music: A. Jeffrey La Valley Music © 1984 Candied Jamm Music/Savgos Music
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by Princeton Theological Seminary Choir
Led by Jerry Pillay
Sermon by Jerry Pillay
Come, let us pray: Almighty God, in whom we live and move and have our being, grant us open minds and hearts to receive your Word. Allow your Holy Spirit to teach us your will, and give us the joy to worship you alone. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Let us listen to the Word of God as it is recorded for us in Matthew 5:1–12 (NIV). This is the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount:
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’”
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Life is often riddled with contrasts, confusions, and contradictions. You try to wrap your thoughts around something which by sheer logic and real-life experiences does not make sense. Perhaps the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 reflect this at its best. For example, in verse five, we read, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” “Meek” generally describes the quality of being quiet, gentle, righteous, humble, and obedient. It is usually a quality in a person who is willing to accept and submit without resistance to the will and desire of someone else. So the thought of this kind of people inheriting the earth does not make sense. We know that by all worldly standards, the powerful, greedy, forceful plunderers are the ones that inherit the land. They fight their way up the social ladder, bargain and barter their way to the top, climb over others in merciless ways to achieve fortune and fame. Status and power are the hallmarks of success and arrival, definitely not gentleness and meekness. Such characteristics would see many others jump the line and get in before the meek. Yet Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
In order to understand what Jesus is saying, we need to dig a little deeper and place the Sermon on the Mount in context. We are told that Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and Jesus began to teach them as one with authority. Although his words are directed to the disciples, they are intended for the crowd, for all who would believe and choose to follow him. In this discourse, Jesus makes clear what life in the kingdom is all about. It is a call to all those who believe to live the Jesus way.
The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most misunderstood messages that Jesus ever gave. There is a school of thought that says it is God's plan of salvation, that if we ever hope to go to heaven, we must obey these rules. Another group calls it a charter for world peace, and a third group says that this sermon does not apply to today, but to some future, perhaps during the tribulation or the millennial kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount outlines the paradoxical values of the kingdom of heaven. It draws into sharp contrast the distinctions and differences of the ideals of God's kingdom against that of the world. What God desires is different from what the world stipulates and believes. It speaks to the present as much as it does to the future. The Beatitudes tell us what our attitudes should be like in this present climate and world. Blessed, happy, content are the meek and gentle, for they will inherit the earth. This is a validation that is not that it is not the rich, the powerful, and the famous that would stand by the end of the day, but the meek, the ones who put their trust and hope in God, the ones that are willing to go by a different route, the ones that are willing to step aside for God, those willing to lose and let go of what the world offers to instill the glory and reign of God.
Two priests were having a conversation one day, and the young priest said to the senior priest, “So, are you winning your battles with God these days?” To which the senior priest responded, “No, my son. I am losing, as I submit to the will of God, and that is the way it should be.” “Blessed are the meek” reverses the conventional values of society and commends those whom the world in general would dismiss as losers and wimps, the little and insignificant ones. The word makarios, blessed, does not mean that a person feels happy, but that they are happy in a situation, no matter the situation. The word “blessed” is a commendation and sense of congratulations to a person rather than an indication that the meek are blessed by God. “Blessed by God” is a different Greek word: eulogetos, and not makarios. Perhaps the Australian idiom “Good on ya” is a close description, or the Welsh one “White is the world,” which is an evocative idiom for those for whom everything is good.
Beatitudes are descriptions and commendations of the good life, but more than this, it is the kind of life Jesus lived and desires for believers. It is a life that stands in contrast, difference, and distinction to the worldly characteristics, trends, and norms. It is a life of holiness and righteousness. It is a life in which character and conduct flow. It is a life exemplifying the kingdom ideals. Blessed are the ones that live this kind of life that God desires, a life that turns the values of this world upside down and inside out.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” This preposterous and nonsensical statement by earthly standards makes sense when we gain a picture of God's reign, rule, and presence. It tells us that might is not always right. The real recipients of the earth are those who bask in the glory of God, who see beyond what the world offers to gaze on the holiness of the Creator and exclaim as Isaiah did in chapter six, when he said, “Woe is me for I am unclean, and I live among the people who are unclean.”
The Beatitudes must be understood in the call to righteousness and right living. It is not a call away from the earth because the earth belongs to the Lord and everything in it. Instead, it is a call to imprint, impress, and live the ideals of God's reign on earth. Therefore, the meek will inherit the earth not because they have an inherent right, but because despite all temptations and struggles they choose to live in obedience and faithfulness to God.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” So what does it take for the meek to be blessed, happy, and to inherit the Earth? Firstly, faithful worship. The Greek understanding of “meek” connotes a total lack of self-pride to the point of a lack of self-concern. The poor and oppressed are often labeled as such in the Hebrew word anav, and now they are totally dependent on God. The meekness is not found in their succumbing to the circumstances, but in their ability to carry the burden. They submit to God in hope and anticipation.
In the dark days of apartheid in South Africa, I used to go into the townships and I was profoundly moved by people singing and dancing in the midst of poverty and oppression. I asked, How can this be? I learned that the meek remain faithful in worship to God in spite of their circumstances. Moses is described as meek, and he remained faithful to God in his call to Pharaoh to let God's people go from bondage in Egypt. Noah was a laughingstock in town, building an ark in the middle of a desert. But he submitted to God's will. Job was infested with boils and sores, but he remained unmovable in his trust in God. The meek submit to God in hope and joyful worship in spite of their circumstances. The disciplined strength will see them inherit the land. That is why they are happy and blessed, not because of what they have and don't have, but because they remain faithful in their worship and in trust in God. Can you say the same in your situations?
Secondly, the meek show us spiritual transformation. Meekness in the Bible is a sign of spiritual transformation. The meek know how to submit to God in truth and obedience. But let's be clear: to be meek does not mean to be weak. Jesus was meek, but certainly not weak. As the suffering servant, he went to the cross to fulfill the father's purpose of salvation to the world. The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2:1–11 that Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death on a cross. Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
So the reward for the meek is majesty. God will exalt them though they be despised, forsaken, forgotten, subject to suffering and ridicule. Yet it is they and especially they who will inherit the earth. While the meek surrender to God, it does not mean that they must be a doormat for everyone to walk on. Meekness is not a submissive or pacifying state. Submission to God calls for courage, conviction, and strength to affirm righteousness and justice in the world. Jesus was meek, but he was no pushover. When he saw the Father's house turned into a den of thieves, his anger turned him into action, and he set the record straight. The meek may be submissive, but they are also assertive of God's will and ways. The meek know what radical discipleship is all about.
Thirdly, some biblical scholars prefer to call the Sermon on the Mount “The Discourse on Discipleship.” It points believers to a radically new lifestyle and conscious distinction from the norms of the rest of society. It provides an alternative society, perhaps even a Christian counterculture, if you wish. In a world of greed and plundering in which the rich get richer and the poor poorer, with some overnourished and others malnourished, where women and children abused where we struggle with climate change, devastating pandemics like COVID-19, and secularization to name just a few, we need radical disciples who are willing to surrender to God's will and remain faithful to God no matter what. We need disciples who are bent on denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following Christ. We need disciples who are ready, as difficult as it may be, to walk and live the Jesus way, to be daring and different from what the world dictates. Yet to follow Jesus is no easy task. Jesus makes this abundantly clear to us and to his disciples in Matthew 7, when he says they will be flogged and persecuted for his name’s sake. Herein is found the quality of meekness, a setting aside of one's own desires and wants to live, do, and fulfill God's will on earth. Herein is found the promise of Jesus: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Radical discipleship calls for prophetic engagement of standing up for and working toward righteousness, justice, and peace. Radical discipleship means resisting empire, sin, evil, and injustice in the world. Radical discipleship is a demonstration of God's love to change and transform the world so that it becomes the theater of God's glory. Radical discipleship calls for the healing and reconciliation of a broken and suffering world. You would think that a disciple would have to be a very powerful person to accomplish these things, right? Yes, the strange irony: The disciple is called to embrace the qualities of love, humility, and meekness. This is God's way to change the world.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Sounds strange and nonsensical, right? Not so, because God's way is different, solid, and eternal. The Sermon on the Mount is a call to a different way of life and living. It is God's way and will. It is not just for the future, but for the present. The meek are faithful worshipers, spiritually transformed people, and radical disciples. Does this describe you? “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Let us pray.
Almighty God, we thank you for your word to us today. We thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, who exemplified the values of your kingdom in his life and living on Earth. Grant us the conviction and courage to follow his example in a world filled with injustices, sin, and sufferings. Give us the joy of submitting to you in meekness and humility, and equally the ability to stand up for truth, defend the poor and oppressed, live justly and righteously, and to walk faithfully and obediently in your loving will and purpose so that your reign may come in and through us on earth. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Let us now receive the blessings: The grace and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.