Lesson # 5
God's Plan for a Transformed Heart and Life:
Blessed are the Meek
Give us the courage to trust You in all things, to meekly submit ourselves to the will of the Father in order for the works of God to work through us. We know, Lord, that in humility of spirit and in the obedience of faith You can use us to further the Kingdom of Heaven on earth by the witness of a life transformer by Your light. We place ourselves in Your hands, Lord, to use us according to Your divine will. We humbly pray in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:29-30
Now, Moses himself was by far the meekest on the face of the earth.
The first step on the stairway to eternal life in "poverty of spirit" acknowledges God's sovereignty over your life, and your complete dependence on Him places you in child-like faith before the throne of God. Face to face with a pure and holy God, you mourn your sins and the sins of the world. The first step identifies your relationship to God and the second refines you with the purifying fire of repentance. It is the third step, "blessed are the meek" which renews you and places you as a useful tool in the hands of the Master of the universe.
Matthew 5:5: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
The Greek word praus, [pronounced prah-ooce'], means mild, humble, or meek. The word praus only appears four times in the New Testament: three times in Matthew [5:5; 11:29; 21:5] and once in 1 Peter 3:4. In both Matthew 11:29 and 21:5 Jesus Himself is called "meek" just like the prophet Moses before Him [see Numbers 12:3]. In addition to the passage in Matthew 5:5: Blessed are the meek, this Greek word for "meek" is used in:
|Matthew 11:29||Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.|
|Matthew 21:5||Say to daughter Zion, Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.|
|1 Peter 3:4||but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle [meek] and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.|
This is another Greek word which Christians gave a uniquely Christian character, with "meekness" becoming the symbol of a higher Christian virtue as illustrated in these three verses. The pre-Christian Greek culture meaning of this word expressed an outward conduct that related to only men, and not necessarily in a positive light (see Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament volume I, page 37). To the pagan Greeks this word often implied condescension, but to the Christian this word implies submission of the human will to the will of God.
Christians gave the word a quality expressing an inward virtue that is related primarily to God. Christian "meekness" is based on humility which is expressed in the New Testament as the supernatural quality that is the outgrowth of a renewed nature. This renewal can only come when we surrender our lives to God and seek His divine will in our lives. However, this submission is not an indication of weakness. For the Christian, submission to God's control results in strength "strength that is not our own but the strength that comes from God's will working through our lives. The Bible is full of stories of God intervening in the lives of men and women who call on Him for His help and of stories of men and women willing to help others, but there are very few examples of God intervening in the lives of those who prefer their own plan and destiny except in cases where His intervention is judgment to bring about redemption.
In the Old Testament book of Genesis God preserved the "promised seed" of Genesis 3:15 by selecting Abraham and his wife Sarah to be the parents of the family from which King David, Mary of Nazareth, and Jesus the Messiah would come. Yahweh made a 3-fold Covenant with Abraham promising him land, descendants, and a world wide blessing. At first the question of her fertility had probably not concerned Sarah. She was beautiful; a woman desired by kings (Genesis 12:15; 20:2) and promised by God to the mother of a nation. However, as the years passed she began to be concerned that God's plan needed a little help and so in her desire for a child and in her pride she offered her husband her Egyptian slave girl, given to her by the Pharaoh of Egypt. If her husband impregnated her slave girl the child born of the union could be her child (Genesis 16:1-2). This was a common custom practiced in Mesopotamia, the Levant, and in Egypt at this time. Unfortunately, this was not God's plan. In Sarah's unwillingness to submit herself to God's plan her infertility continued and the child born of this union would become a source of tension and unrest within the family as Sarah continued to age.
Please read Genesis 18: 1-15: The Theophany at Mamre
Question: Who is it who comes to visit Abraham and Sarah at Mamre? What is their appearance? See Genesis 18:1-2
Answer: It is Yahweh accompanied by two others; all have the appearance of men.
Question: What is the purpose of Yahweh's visit to Abraham and his wife?
Answer: The principle purpose for the visitation to Abraham at Mamre is to announce that at this time next year the child that was promised in Genesis 17:15-16 will be born to Sarah. The text notes that Yahweh is accompanied by two "messengers". What makes this passage so unique is the use of the singular and plural in addressing the three visitors. In this passage Abraham addresses the 3 "men" in the singular and yet they reply in the plural. For example:
In these 3 men, whom Abraham addresses in the singular, many of the Fathers of the Church saw a foreshadowing of the mystery of the Trinity. The representation of the Trinity as three angels sitting around a table with the Oak of Mamre, a foreshadowing of the cross, in the background is seen frequently in Eastern Rite Catholic iconography.
There is a humorous exchange between God and Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18:12-15. Upon hearing the announcement of the birth of a son in a year's time Sarah laughs to herself, repeating her husband's laughter in Genesis 17:17. When Yahweh asks Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh? she tries to deny laughing because she is afraid. But He is the God who knows everything from our most intimate thoughts to the hidden motives behind our actions. In this passage Yahweh is not only reading Sarah's thoughts, He is interpreting her statements by restating her thoughts in His exchange with Abraham. First He restates Sarah's thoughts in verse 12: Now that I am past the age of childbearing and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again? In verse 13 God restates her thought as: Am I really going to have a child now that I am old? Notice that Yahweh interprets Sarah's thoughts about her husband's age and reshapes it into a statement about her age which is the physical hindrance to the birth of a child (in fact, it is Sarah infertility that is the problem). Finally, God goes beyond her actual thoughts to the intent of those thoughts in His rhetorical question: Is anything impossible for Yahweh? Yahweh has overcome the physical impossibility of the fulfillment of the promise through Sarah.
Question: But why did Sarah laugh? Does God rebuke her for laughing?
Answer: God does not rebuke her. Can her laughter indicate that she has suddenly realized that the "joke" is on her? In her old age she had given up trying to conceive a child. She had finally yielded herself to God and the result amazed her. In her old age she would bear the promised heir! What was impossible for woman was possible for God when that woman yielded in meekness to the will of God.
Question: What was Yahweh's reply to Sarah's denial?
Answer: Yahweh's reply to Sarah's denial is: Oh, yes you did! If Sarah had any doubts about the identity of their visitor she is now convinced. With Abraham and Sarah God has a holy couple who will become the parents of a holy people, a holy people who will be called to be the Old Covenant Church, Israel. It will be the mission of these holy descendants (through Sarah's son Isaac) to become witness to the world of the One True God and through whom God will fulfill His plan to bring forth the Messiah.
Another saint who needed to learn that meekness leads to strength was Simon Peter. St. Peter had physical courage, leadership, and faith but he did not have humility. His denial of Christ three times after Jesus' arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane was not a crisis in faith but it was a crisis of expectation "the expectation of Peter's plan verses God's plan. Jesus had been preparing His disciples and Apostles for His Passion and death. The first prediction of His death was given shortly after Peter is chosen as His Vicar of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth in Matthew 16:21-23. The last prediction of His Passion was given before leaving the Upper Room the night of the Last Supper in Matthew 26:31-35.
Question: What was Peter's response to the revelation of God's plan in these two passages?
Answer: In the first revelation of God's plan Peter rejects Jesus' warning and is rebuked. In the last revelation Peter professes his devotion to Jesus and his willingness to die for Him.
Question: Does he make good on his boast? See Matthew 26:69-75
Answer: No, he denies Jesus 3 times and wept bitterly in his humiliated state.
His failure results in Peter being stripped of all those attributes that made him a leader. In denying his Master 3 times he was stripped of his courage, his self-confidence, and his self-worth and was left humbled and broken. But he emerged from his covenant ordeal strengthened in his faith and humbled "in his repentance meekly submitting his life entirely to God. His lesson in humility made him a far better leader of the New Covenant people. The pain of his failure would give him a servant's heart and a genuine compassion for the sinners he would lead to Christ. This remarkable change is evident as he takes up his leadership role on the birth of the Church at the second great Pentecost which is related in Acts chapter 2. So transformed was Peter into the humble servant of Christ that he did not fail his final test in his willingness to die for his Savior a little less than 2 decades later, as related in the History of the Church by the 4th century Bishop Eusebius when Peter's meekness was transformed into real strength and courage in submitting himself to the will of God in martyrdom (Eusebius, Church History, XXV 1-8; XXX.2).
There is also a very moving story of Peter's martyrdom told in the 2nd century apocryphal Acts of Peter. In fleeing Rome along the Via Appia, during Emperor Nero's persecution of Christians, Peter and his wife came face to face with Jesus Christ. Shocked to see his Savior on the way to Rome, Peter asked Jesus: Domine, quo vadis? [Lord, where are you going?]. According to the ancient account, Jesus stopped, looked intently at Peter and responded: I am going to Rome to be crucified. It was when Jesus made this statement that Peter understood it was time for the prophecy to be fulfilled that Jesus had made to him after the Resurrection, nearly forty years earlier. On the shores of the Sea of Galilee Jesus told Peter: Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.' He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him [Peter], Follow me.'" (John 21:18-19).
Peter immediately took his wife by the hand and returned to Rome. His wife was martyred first (Eusebius, Church History XXX.2). St. Clement, disciple of Peter and 4th Bishop of Rome after Peter, records her: They say, accordingly, that when the blessed Peter saw his own wife led out to die, he rejoiced because of her summons and her return home, and called to her very encouragingly and comfortingly, addressing her by name, and saying, Oh thou, remember the Lord.' Such was the marriage of the blessed, and their perfect disposition toward those dearest to them (St. Clement, Stromata, VII.II).
When he was taken by the Romans soldiers to face his crucifixion, St. Peter, Vicar of the King of Kings, requested that he be crucified upside down since he was not worthy to be crucified as his Master had died. Yes, the big fisherman had learned meekness and total submission to the will of his Lord and God. The result of His submission was the courage to embrace death in the name of His Savior [also see Origen's account of the martyrdom of St. Peter, (Origin, d. circa AD230), as quoted by Bishop Eusebius in History of the Church, Book III, chapter I]. Also see The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Jerome, (d. AD420), pg. 363; Tertullian, (d. circa AD220), in De Paraescript. Haeret., chapter 36;and The Acts of Peter].
We could have no better example of Christian meekness than the example set for us by the very first Christian "the very first human person to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God.
Question: Who was that person, clothed in grace and humility who submitted in perfect obedience to the will of God?
Answer: Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of God the Son. From the first moment of the angel Gabriel's announcement that of all women born, she had been chosen to bear the "promised seed" [Luke 126-38], to Simeon's prophecy of her suffering [Luke 2:33-35], to witnessing her Son's Passion on the Cross [John 19:26], Mary submitted herself completely to God's plan for her life. The Fathers of the Church saw her as the model Christian. St. Irenaeus praises her above all women when he writes: Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. [ ]. The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III.22.4). Comparing her humility and obedience with Eve's rebellion and disobedience, St. Jerome writes of her: Death through Eve, life through Mary (St. Jerome as quoted in the Catechism #494). In the Old Covenant, the holy Ark of the Covenant was God's presence with His Covenant people. In Mary's "yes" in meekly submitting herself to God's plan, she became the Ark of the New Covenant. Her womb became the first Eucharistic tabernacle, and her travels to visit Elizabeth her cousin and her journey to Bethlehem, became the first Eucharistic processions.
Pope Benedict XVI expressed this dimension of Mary's meekness in her submission to God his homily on June 1, 2005: In a certain way, we can say that her journey was "and we are pleased to highlight this in the Year of the Eucharist "the first Eucharistic procession of history. Living tabernacle of God-made-flesh, Mary is the Ark of the Covenant in whom the Lord has visited and redeemed His people. Jesus' presence fills her with the Holy Spirit .Is not this too the joy of the Church, that incessantly welcomes Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and carries Him to the world with the testimony of assiduous charity permeated by faith and hope? Yes, to welcome Christ and to take Him to others is the true joy of Christians! Dear brothers and sisters let us carry on and imitate Mary, a deeply Eucharistic soul, and all our lives will become a Magnificat (Pope Benedict XVI, June 1, 2005).
God always seems to weave the unexpected into His plan. In His plan it isn't the proud or the strong that conquer and claim the reward of kneeling before the King of Kings "it's the meek and the humble who are the victors and their victory comes upon their surrender to the will of the Most High God.
Question: Who was it, other than St. Joseph that God first chose to give the privilege of bowing down in adoration to His Son? Was that first delegation composed of kings or priests?
Answer: No, shepherds "the dregs of Jewish society who lived in a state of such ritual impurity that their testimony wasn't even accepted in a Jewish Law court. It is the meek and lowly that God exalts because they know they need God. In the case of the Shepherds of Bethlehem, the meek were kneeling before the one only the meek are privileged to see "the meek were kneeling before the Christ.
And in yielding in meekness to the plan of God working in our lives we are promised
FOR THEY WILL INHERIT THE LAND
God's servants shall dwell in the land and possess it; it shall be the heritage of their descendants; those who love God's name shall dwell there. Psalm 69:36b-37
Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matthew 25:34b
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. 1 Peter 1:3-5
The first beatitude places us before the throne of God. The second purifies us and the third places us in the hands of the Master as we submit in meekness and humility to His will and His plan for our lives. There are two ways to interpret the promise associated with this blessing. Bible scholars both ancient and modern have seen in this blessing an allusion to Christ's victory in breaking of the power of Satan over the earth. The first beatitudes to Adam and Eve were the blessings of fertility and dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28). In our original parent's Fall from grace, Satan began to usurp and pervert these blessings. The blessing of sexual union between a man and a woman was given as a gift by God to be applied only in the context of covenantal marriage. In marriage a man and a woman are given the extraordinary possibility to become co-creators with God in the birth of the next generation. Abuse of this blessing has led to sin and suffering. Satan also usurped man's dominion over the earth. In Jesus' defeat of sin and death on the Cross, Satan's control over the earth and his power to dominate the earth has been thwarted. No longer does Satan have the power to dominate us because we have been reborn through our baptism into the family of God. We belong to the God who created and dominates the earth, and as His children and his heirs we inherit the earth. CCC # 299: for God willed creation as a gift addressed to man, an inheritance destined for and entrusted to him.
Some scholars look to a connection between the promise of the meek inheriting the land and Psalm 37:11, which in most English translations seems to be a repeat of this promise, But the meek [anawim = economically poor and disadvantaged] shall inherit the earth (land) (Psalm 37:11). The Hebrew word which is usually translated as "meek" in the Psalm passage, however, does not have the same force and character as the Greek word, praus. The Hebrew word is anawim. In his book The Beatitudes, Soundings in Christian Tradition, Dr. Tudwell points out (page 31) that the Hebrew word anawim is not primarily used in a moral context [as the Greek word praus, is used in a moral context in its Christian interpretation. In Jewish society the anawim were the economically poor who lacked political power and social influence; the disadvantaged for whom those blessed with wealth and positions of civil and religious authority were responsible. The anawim are the "poor" Jesus addressed in His Sermon on the Plain in Luke chapter 6. It is for this reason that I do not see a strong connection between this promise which addresses the "meek" who yield themselves to God's will and the disadvantaged "poor", anawim , of Psalm 37:11 who are promised social justice in the next life.
The third step on the road to salvation and the third promise:
Blessed are the meek: yielding our will to God's will for
our lives = renewal à inherit "the
Land", the Church =
Questions for group discussion:
As mentioned there is another theological and scriptural way to view the promise of "inheriting the land" made to the "blessed meek" who yield their lives as tools in the hands of the Master. In relating this passage to the Old Testament "the land" is probably a more accurate translation than "the earth", and the New American Bible translation reflects this interpretation [the same Hebrew word is translated as both "land" and "earth"]. In the Old Testament references to "the land" refer to the Promised land of Israel [Numbers 20:12 ] which became a Biblical "type" for heaven, as the inspired writer of Hebrews relates in Hebrews 11:9-10 speaking of Abraham's obedient journey from Ur of the Chaldees [Genesis 11:28; 15:7] to Canaan [Genesis 12:4-5]: By faith he sojourned in the Promised Land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God. Also see Revelation 21:10-11.
In Biblical interpretation it is always helpful to start with the literal interpretation as understood by the original recipients of the Biblical teaching.
Question: How did the disciples and Apostles understand this promise of "the land" to the "blessed meek"? How was this prophecy fulfilled? See 2 Samuel 7:12-17; 23:5; 1 Chronicles 17:16-27; 2 Chronicles 13:5; Sirach 45:25; 47:16; Psalms 89:29; Acts 1:6; Hebrews 12:28; James 2:5; 2 Peter 1:11; Revelation 15:3; 17:14; 19:16.
Answer: The 1st century Jews and Israelites were looking for the restoration of "the land" of Israel as promised by the Old Testament prophets as it would be established in the Messiah's kingdom on earth and the home of the faithful Covenant people "the New Covenant people as prophesized in Jeremiah 31:31-34. As a Biblical "type" of God's kingdom this promise can not only be seen as the promise of heaven "a promise already given in the first beatitude, but it can also be seen as a promise of the inheritance of the earth through the "new Israel" which the Messiah is prophesized to establish "the promised 5th everlasting kingdom of Daniel chapters 2 and 7. This is what most 1st century Jews and Israelites had been praying for. The new Israel of the Davidic King Jesus Christ is the Catholic Church founded by the 12 spiritual fathers, the Apostles.
Question: How is it that the promise and the prophecy of Daniel chapters 2 and 7 have been fulfilled?
Answer: The promise of this beatitude and the Old Testament prophecy is fulfilled in the Universal Church as the "new Israel", the earthly home of the Covenant people until they leave this exile for their home in heaven. We, as the New Covenant Children of God are the inheritors of this "land", the "new Israel" of the Universal/ Catholic Church [catholic means universal], a world-wide kingdom that carries the world-wide blessing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with power and dominion over the earth "to bind and loose" [Matthew 16:19; 18:18; John 20:22-23], and the invitation of His gift of salvation to every nation on the face of the earth! [For additional passages affirming the Church's dominion over the earth also see Matthew 28:18-20 & Luke 10:16].
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.