Las week, I only made it through verses 3 & 4, so this week I’ll wrap up the first section of the Beatitudes and go through verses 5 & 6. So, let’s jump right in.
Who are the meek? This isn’t a word used often in modern English. Discussing this passage with my study group, we could only come up with that Christmas song where they call Jesus meek and mild. The Greek word is praus, which can mean – humble, gentle, considerate, courteous, long suffering, and free from malice. Barclay calls meek being ‘angry at the right time and never at the wrong time’, and according to Aristotle, meekness is being ‘angry on the right occasion, for the right people, for the right amount, and for the right length of time’.
Maybe because they are homonyms, but I think most people just go straight to associating meekness with weakness. I think quite probably gets in there a good bit to. Other Biblical references include Moses being called meek in Numbers, and both James and Peter writing about meekness as a way to act and receive the Word.
How we see who the meek are in this verse is influenced by how we understand the blessing. The reward for being meek is inheriting the earth. The word translated can mean either earth (as in the physical aspect) or land. This has a pretty clear meaning to Israel, but what about today? Similar to those who mourn, you can double dip into eschatological meanings here. For Jews, it is the Messianic Kingdom, for Christians it is the second coming – think inheriting the new Earth. Considering the likelihood that the mourning is the broken world with the blessing being the new Earth, I view the meek as the longsuffering and humble. Combining the two verses, and we should read each in light of the other, that means we mourning the brokenness of the world, but in humility of our own sin, and of course we may live our whole lives in the world, not seeing the restoration, making us long suffering. The blessing for this combined affliction is the same, we will be comforted when we inherit (as heirs to the Kingdom) the new Earth after the second coming, resurrection, final judgement, and restoration of all things.
This is another phrase that is hard to understand in modern American life, hunger for me means something drastically different than to the original hearer/reader (or the majority of Christians over the past 2000 years, or any number of hundreds of millions elsewhere in the world today). I’ll eat breakfast around 6:00, then get to work and get moving and around 11:00 someone will mention lunch, and I’ll think, ‘man, I haven’t eaten since breakfast, I’m starving.’ Compare this to even my grandparents who were growing up before ‘three meals a day’ was even a concept. Or to the original hearer/reader, where there were likely days when on food was consumed. That is real hunger.
Likewise, thirst is a difficult concept. For one, there is no running water, indoor plumbing, etc. You have to go to a well. Now, I live in what was formally a malarial swamp (if you’ve ever wondered why the CDC is in Atlanta…), but the context hear is a desert. The well can run dry and it may not rain for months. I have some neighbors that moved here from LA about a year ago and one of the things they said they enjoyed here was listening to thunderstorms. They tell me that it may rain once, and then not again for a month or so, and that is pretty much the expected outcome. So, this concept is a bit lost on me, as even in our level 3 drought years, we still receive about 30 inches or so of rain. However, I do know you can last weeks without food, but only days without water.
This is a long intro to two commonly used words, but it is helpful for context. The picture here is someone who hasn’t eaten in a week and had no water in a day or two. It is someone who will soon die if they do not find food and water. This is the level to which we should seek righteousness. This is a theme throughout Christ’s ministry, later He will tell us to ‘First, seek the Kingdom and its righteousness”. So we know that He isn’t talking, if you have time, or when it is convenient for you, but seek it as if it is the drop of water that will keep you alive.
Finally, what is the blessing? They will receive it. The BEC translates the promise as, they will be filled. This takes us back to the point from last week about being poor in spirit. We need to empty ourselves to be filled. Those who seek Christ and His righteousness will find it, and He will give it to them. They will be covered in Christ’s righteousness, and it is through Christ that we will one day enter the Kingdom or inherit the new Earth.
That wraps up the section of the Beatitudes about how we relate to God, next week I’ll move into the section about how we relate to each other.
Commentaries used in this series:
Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Bible Commentary)
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 : Christian Counter-Culture)
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
Matthew (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
The Expositor’s Bible commentary : Matthew, Mark, Luke, with the New international version of the Holy Bible (Expositor’s Bible commentary, Vol.8)
Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)
New Bible Commentary