Sunday, July 20, 2014

MEEKNESS IS NOT WEAKNESS BUT GREATNESS – PART I of 3



"Late twentieth-century Western culture does not hold meekness to be a virtue, in contrast to the ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman world, which placed a high premium on it. This dramatic shift in values is problematic for contemporary biblical translation. Most modern versions replace the noun 'meekness' by 'gentleness' or 'humility' largely as a result of the pejorative overtones of weakness and effeminacy now associated with meekness. These connotations were not always predominant in the word, for ancient Near-Eastern kings were not reluctant to describe themselves as meek in the same context in which they described themselves as mighty kings. What has prompted the discrepancy between the biblical and contemporary attitudes toward this virtue?
"There are two essential components for this quality to come into play in the Bible: a conflict in which an individual is unable to control or influence circumstances. Typical human responses in such circumstances include frustration, bitterness, or anger, but the one who is guided by God's Spirit accepts God's ability to direct events (Gal 5:23; Eph 4:2; Col 3:12; 1 Tim 6:11; Titus 3:2; James 1:21; 3:13). 
"Meekness is therefore an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are wisely seen by the individual as only part of a larger picture. Meekness is not a resignation to fate, a passive and reluctant submission to events, for there is little virtue in such a response. Nevertheless, since the two responses, resignation and meekness, are externally often indistinguishable, it is easy to see how what was once perceived as a virtue has become a defect in contemporary society. The patient and hopeful endurance of undesirable circumstances identifies the person as externally vulnerable and weak but inwardly resilient and strong. Meekness does not identify the weak but more precisely the strong who have been placed in a position of weakness where they persevere without giving up. The use of the Greek word when applied to animals makes this clear, for it means "tame" when applied to wild animals. In other words, such animals have not lost their strength but have learned to control the destructive instincts that prevent them from living in harmony with others.
"Therefore, it is quite appropriate for all people, from the poor to ancient Near-Eastern kings, to describe their submission to God by the term "meek" (Moses in Num 12:3). On the other hand, this quality by definition cannot be predicated of God, and therefore constitutes one of the attributes of creatures that they do not share with their Creator. Nevertheless, in the incarnation Jesus is freely described as meek, a concomitant of his submission to suffering and to the will of the Father (Matt 11:29; 21:5; 2 Cor 10:1). The single most frequently attested context in which the meek are mentioned in the Bible is one in which they are vindicated and rewarded for their patient endurance (Psalm 22:26; 25:9; 37: 11;76:9; 147:6; 149:4; Isa 11:4; 29:19; 61:1; Zeph 2:3; Matt 5:5)."
~ Samuel A. Meier
How contrary this conduct is from what we see in the world! This world values assertiveness, even aggression, and boldness. They write books like, “How To Win Through Intimidation”; they have seminars by which participants are trained to believe that “they are winners who will overcome any obstacle by sheer will and power” and climb the ranks of success, trampling on any one who gets in their way! They believe that they are the captain of their own fate and gods of their own worlds. They hold to the ego-centric belief that “Its All About Me!”.
As we have just heard from Samuel Meier, meekness is not weakness, but strength being reined in; its being tame and not wildly out of control. We would see one facet of meekness as being temperance, a nature of steady, consistent mildness that is not given to rashness or outbursts of violent emotions.
We're going to examine this subject of meekness in three parts. First we shall consider what the Old Testament has to say about meekness and then next week we will turn to the New Testament where we shall also focus on the Person of JESUS CHRIST as the paramount example of meekness, itself being a modus operandi of sorts of the King as well as His kingdom.

I believe that in our age and culture of self-gratification and seeking for one's own goals and ambitions, the virtue of meekness is greatly needed. Even among Christians who struggle with this notion of “dying to self” have need of meekness. Even I myself, as a Christian of nearly 34 years now find that I am in need of greater meekness - so, a timely message to be sure!


OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES AND REFERENCES TO MEEKNESS -
Where is meekness first mentioned in the Bible? One of the biblical rules of study is something called 'The Law of First Mention' and this refers to the first place in Scripture where something is mentioned and that this first reference is in some way significant.
For example 'love' as a word is first mentioned in connection with Abraham where God commanded him to take his son, Isaac, whom he loves to the place that God would show him and there offer him as a sacrifice (GEN. 22:2). Why is that significant? Because it mirrors perfectly JOHN 3:16 where the LORD GOD offered up His own Son that He loves, for a world that He loves and desires to redeem!
First place where 'meekness' is mentioned is in the book of Numbers, referring to Moses:


NUMBERS 12:1-8
And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.
2 And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it.
3 (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
4 And the Lord spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out.
5 And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.
6 And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.
7 My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.
8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?



The LORD becomes angry with and rebukes Aaron and Miriam for their words, and judges Miriam with leprosy! He defends Moses and declares how he bears the authority of no mere prophet who receives dreams and visions, but one with whom the LORD speaks “mouth to mouth” and one who can actually behold “the similitude of the LORD”! These are some of the aspects of meekness: faithfulness, not defending one's own honor or reputation and allowing the LORD to defend; meekness doesn't get offended or retaliate. Meekness is willing to forgive those that offend us: Moses was asked by Aaron to pray to the LORD on her behalf and he does (NUMBERS 12:13).
** It should be noted that Moses revealed to Israel that the LORD God would raise up a Prophet “like unto himself” (DEUT. 18:15), and this is of course in reference to the LORD Jesus Christ in Whom we have the paramount example of meekness, bar none. We will look into in the upcoming segment of this article . . .



Another couple examples of meekness in the Old Testament: King David of the Psalms and the prophet Jeremiah:



David at this point in time had already assumed the Kingdom of Israel according to the will of God (but was suffering hardships as a result of his sin with Bathsheeba – his own house was in disarray and his son Absalom was challenging him for the throne); King Saul had been slain in battle previously (mortally wounded by the enemy, then slain by his own hand, with a little assistance from his shield bearer) and one of his offspring has come to insult the reigning king:



2 SAM. 16:5-12
5 And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came.
6 And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.
7 And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial:
8 The Lord hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man.
9 Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head.
10 And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?
11 And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him.
12 It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.



Again, like with Moses, we see no retaliation from David against his enemies. No answer to the false accusation that David murdered his predecessor (though as we know, David was guilty of 'murdering' Uriah, husband of Bathsheeba); only a trust in the LORD that He would “requite me good for his cursing this day.” Such meekness forgives personal wrongs while looking to the LORD Who will judge and to the day of Judgment when all such wrongs will be dealt with.
An interesting side note from the New Testament: Peter asked the LORD how often he should forgive his brother, providing an answer already of “seven times”; probably feeling pretty good about such a generous number and perhaps hoping for commendation from the LORD for it. The LORD's answer no doubt shocked him! Not until 7 times but 70 x 7! (MATT. 18:21-22)
Where have we heard this multiplication before? In Daniel Chapter 9 we read about “the seventy weeks that are determined upon Israel” (verse 24), and at the conclusion of those 70 'weeks' (shabuwahs in the Hebrew, meaning weeks of days, or weeks, or months or years; in this case its years or 70 x 7 = 490 years). It's the last week, or as prophecy experts call it the 70th week of Daniel that the LORD Jesus returns to establish His reign and judge the people.
And then immediately after the LORD's response to Peter, we see Him giving a parable about a returning Lord, who proceeds to judge his stewards.
King David relented then of any revenge upon the Benjamite that cursed him, surrendering justice to the greater King of Israel when He arrives! That is meekness!
Then we have Jeremiah -
JEREMIAH 26:8-15
8 Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die.
9 Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
10 When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king's house unto the house of the Lord, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the Lord's house.
11 Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.
12 Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard.
13 Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.
14 As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.
15 But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.


We see the same attitude, the same heart of meekness in the prophet with no intent of retaliation against their threats. Some might see vs. 15 as a threat, but really its a warning borne out of compassion, the prophet not wanting to see them with more innocent blood on their hands and incurring an even more severe judgment!
Some more about meekness from the Old Testament Scriptures:
ISAIAH 29:18-19
18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.
19 The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.


Again, another passage speaking of the ministry of the LORD in healing during His earthly ministry and healing the sick, but this shall be realized on the grandest scale when once He returns (on “that Day”) to take up the throne of His father David and establishes the kingdom. Here the blind can do nothing to bring sight to themselves nor can the deaf help themselves to hear, neither can the meek do anything to increase their joy or the poor, but their joy shall be increased at the arrival of “the Holy One of Israel”. That is the legacy of the meek – not the proud of this world – the increase of joy when the Messiah returns!
Here's one reference from the book of Zephaniah:
ZEPH. 2:1-3
Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired [Israel];
2 Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger come upon you.
3 Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger.


The meek will not be judged and condemned by the LORD, but hidden “in the Day of the LORD's anger.” Those who are meek are not prone to a life of sin and rebellion, are not self-willed and obstinate – they are tender towards and obedient to the will of the LORD, seeking to please Him and not concerned with pleasing any one else (GAL. 1:10): even if by refusing to please and obey others, they incur their wrath. Meekness is not weakness but a strong determination to please the LORD regardless of personal endangerment (Consider Stephen's conduct before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7; regardless of their power to hurt and destroy, he remains faithful and pleasing to the LORD).

Here we will end part One of this three part series; we shall continue with Part II next time! In the meanwhile, if you would like to view this video on which this teaching was based you can do so here, courtesy of The HOUSE of TRUTH Fellowship, where I attend service.

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