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LESSON 4 - THE MEEK (MATTHEW 5:5)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: This week our study is the third Beatitude which says
"Blessed are the meek...."  When you were a kid, did you ever say
"I hope I can be meek when I grow up!"  Parents tell their children
to be honest, hard-working and brave.  Have you ever heard a father
tell his child (especially a son) "I want you to learn to be more
meek?"  It looks like our Father in heaven has that message for us,
so let's find out what He has in mind!

I. MEEKNESS ANYONE?

     A. Turn with me to Matthew 5:5. Read. If I asked you to think
     of a celebrity who was strong and brave, who would come to
     mind? (Arnold Schwarzenegger?)

     B. What if I asked you to think of a celebrity who is meek?
     Anyone come to mind? (Mr. Bean?)

          1. Would you say that Arnold was meek?

          2. Would you want to be more like Mr. Bean (or whoever
          you identified as being meek) or more like Mr.
          Schwarzenegger?

     C. Think of Bible characters for a minute. Would you say that
     Pilate (who presided over Jesus' trial) was meek?

          1. How about Eli when it came to raising and disciplining
          his sons?

     D. Are we using the right definition of meek? I think we need
     to explore what God means when He says, "Blessed are the
     meek...."

II. DOES MEEK = WEAK?

     A. Turn with me to Psalm 37:11. Read. Was Jesus telling the
     people something new when He said (Matthew 5:5) "the meek ...
     will inherit the earth?" (What do you know? It turns out Jesus
     is just repeating the words He inspired the Psalmist to say!)

          1. If we are having trouble telling what Jesus meant in
          the few words of the Beatitudes, perhaps we can figure
          out what He meant when He inspired the Psalmist in Psalm
          37. Let's read the context. Read Psalm 37:1-11.

          2. Have you ever watched an artist paint a picture? The
          artist puts a little paint here, then a little paint
          there. He draws lines in different places. Various colors
          the artist puts in different places on the canvas. If you
          keep watching, you see how he connects the colors and
          strokes together to create a picture.

               a. Do you think that the Psalmist is painting a
               picture of the meek in vv. 1-10 of chapter 37?

     B. If you say, "yes," (and even if you are not sure), let's
     explore this idea. What do the first three verses tell us
     about the meek? [List on blackboard.] (They do not envy the
     wages of wickedness or worry about evil men. Instead, they
     focus on God, trust in Him and do His will.)

          1. Read verses 4-6 again. What do you think it means to
          "delight yourself in the Lord?"

          2. Do the meek have desires? How are they met? (God
          provides them.)

          3. Read verses 7-10 again. What does it mean to "fret?"
          Notice that v.1 tells us not to "fret because of evil
          men," v.7 tells us not to "fret when [evil] men succeed
          in their ways," and v.8 tells us not to get angry and "do
          not fret."  We have lots of warning about fretting in
          these verses!

               a. Do you fret?  What do you worry about?

               b. Do "evil" men (or women) succeed at your place of
               work?

          4. Does God's advice that we should not fret about the
          success of the wicked have anything to do with His advice
          (v.4) to delight in God because He will give us the
          desires of our hearts? (Isn't God really saying, "Trust
          Me. I will take care of you?")

               a. What kinds of things does v.11 indicate we can
               trust God to give us? ("Inherit the land" sounds
               like possessions, "things." "Great peace" sounds
               like a serene mental attitude.)

          5. Now tell me what kind of person God is calling "meek"
          in v.11 when He says they will "inherit the land and
          enjoy great peace?" (These are people who might be
          tempted to be worried and upset because of the success of
          the wicked.  They might be tempted to be envious. But God
          says, "Look to Me, trust Me, obey Me and I will give you
          "stuff" and peace!  Those who respond, "Yes Lord, we will
          look to You and trust You," are the meek.)

     C. Turn with me now to Zephaniah 3. Zephaniah 3 contains
     another description of the meek. Read v.8 . What would you
     guess is happening here? (Sounds like the Second Coming.)

          1. What do you think God means when He says He is going
          to "stand up to testify?" (He is going to make a
          statement.)

          2. Read on: vv.9-12. When v.9 speaks of serving God
          "shoulder to shoulder," what do you think that means? (It
          sounds like a cooperative effort. The people are pulling
          together. Working in harmony.)

          3. If you are right that this is the Second Coming and
          the judgment, what do these verses say about those that
          are lost? What are the characteristics of the lost?
          (Verse 11: "those who rejoice in their pride" and the
          "haughty.")

          4. Who gets saved? (Verse 12: "the meek and humble, who
          trust in the name of the Lord.")

               a. Is God "painting" another picture of the meek in
               these verses in Zephaniah 3?

               b. Describe the picture of the meek that you see in
               this "painting?" [List on blackboard.] (Not happy
               to be proud. Not haughty. They trust in the Lord.)

                    (1) "Haughty" is an interesting word. What do
                    you think it means? (That I am better than
                    you. A haughty person acts like others are
                    inferior.)

                    (2) Who would a proud person trust? (Himself.)

                    (3) Looking at our list, would you say that a
                    "meek" person realizes his need of God, trusts
                    God and is willing to doing what God requests?
                    (Yes!)

     D. Another text on the meek is found in Matthew 11:28-30.
     Read. The word translated "gentle" in v.29 is the Greek word
     that the KJV translates "meek."

          1. What is the sin problem addressed in these verses?
          (That we are weary and burdened.)

               a. Can you relate to being weary?  How about
               burdened?

          2. What does God say He will do? (Give us rest.)

               a. How does He say that He gives us rest? (He gives
               us a yoke!)

               b. How is a yoke rest? Sounds like work to me! (A
               yoke is a "work-sharing" device.)

          3. What, specifically, is this yoke? (Verse 29 makes it
          appear that when you take on this yoke you "learn from
          Me."  You learn about Jesus.)

               a. What do we learn? (That He is gentle ("meek") and
               humble.)

               b. What happens if we learn this? (We have rest for
               our souls.)

          4. Look at where we have gone in these verses.  We go
          from being "weary and burdened" (v.28) to having rested
          souls (v.29).

               a. How did we get there? (By learning to be like
               Jesus: gentle and humble.)

               b. If we learn to be gentle and humble from Jesus,
               is that how He "work-shares" with us?  Is that His
               formula for carrying part of our burden? (I think
               so.)

          5. Does "meekness" give our souls a rest?

               a. If you say, "yes," tell me why? (To trust God may
               seem to be a "yoke."  But it turns out to be a lot
               easier than trying to do things ourselves. So
               meekness is, in part, simply trusting God.)

III. INHERITING THE EARTH?

     A. Last week when we studied "Blessed are those who mourn, for
     they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4) it made sense, right? It
     was logical that those who mourned would want to be comforted.

          1. Considering what we have learned about the meek, is
          there any logic in the meek inheriting the earth? (These
          are people who have an attitude of trusting God for
          protection and possessions. It is natural they would
          possess the whole earth!)

IV. THE PROGRESSION

     A.  Our lesson suggests there is a relationship between the
     three Beatitudes that we have studied. Arthur Pink in his
     book, An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, p.22 says, "It
     is to be kept ... in mind that in those Beatitudes our Lord is
     describing the orderly development of God's work of grace...."
     Let's see if we can find a progression.

          1. What kind of people did we decide were described in
          Matthew 5:3 as "poor in spirit?" What does "poor in
          spirit" mean? (They realize their spiritual poverty.  The
          closer they come to knowing God and understanding His
          character, the more clearly they see their own
          shortcomings.)

          2. When we discussed those who "mourn" last week, what
          did we decide, spiritually speaking, that they were
          mourning about? (They were sobered about the sin in their
          life. They took sin seriously. They were saddened by
          their sins.)

          3. Does being "poor in spirit" and "mourning over sin"
          create meekness in a person? (You bet! If you realize
          your shortcomings, and are unhappy about them, that is
          the very person who is predisposed to trust in God!)

     B. How do you account for the fact that "meekness" (gentleness
     - NIV) is a fruit of the Spirit when you have been telling me
     about this "progression?"

          1. If meekness is a gift of the Holy Spirit, how can you
          say that you move from being "poor in spirit" to
          "mourning" to being "meek?"

               a. This sounds like work, not a gift! (Salvation is
               free, but no one said you did not have to pay
               attention to your life.  You ask the Holy Spirit to
               come into your life and change you bit by bit. The
               result is that you will trust God more and more.)
 

V. TESTING OUR THEORY

     A. So far I think we have defined a "meek" person as someone
     who trusts in God and is content with what God has (or will)
     provide. Let's test that theory.  The precise Greek word
     translated "meek" in Matthew 5:5 appears only three other
     times in the Bible. (Variations appear in other places.) Those
     texts are Matthew 11:29 (which we have already discussed);
     Matthew 21:5 and 1 Peter 3:4. Let's look at these last two.

     B. Read Matthew 21:5.  Anyone know what is going on here? (If
     necessary, read Matthew 21:1-9.)

          1. Is Jesus being weak here? (No. He is staking his claim
          to be the king.)

          2. Is Jesus being strong here? (No. He is not leading a
          military column. What He is specifically doing is
          fulfilling prophecy.)

          3. Does that make Him "meek" under our definition? (Yes.
          He is making a claim that could get Him killed, because
          the Bible called for Him to do it.  However, He is not
          assembling an army to either defend Himself or install
          Himself as the king. Instead, He is trusting completely
          to His Father.)

     C. Read 1 Peter 3:3-4. Read.

          1. Can someone who carefully styles her hair trust God?
          (Yes.)

          2. Can someone who wears fine clothes trust God? (Yes.)

          3. Can someone who wears gold jewelry trust God? (Yes.)

          4. So why does Peter suggest that we should "lead" with
          our gentle (meek) and quiet spirit instead of hair,
          clothes and jewels? (Paul is not condemning a fine
          appearance.  The problem is that we can "trust" in our
          looks, our fine clothes or our jewels.  Have you seen
          this kind of person Peter is describing?  Do they
          generally trust "stuff?" Peter says "What makes you
          worthwhile (beautiful) is your trust in God.  "Lead with
          your relationship to God, instead of your possessions.)

               a. Does this "fit" our definition of meek? (Yes!)

               b. Does being "weak" fit our (new) definition of
               meek? (Absolutely not!)

VI. NEXT WEEK: "THOSE WHO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS."
Matthew 5:6. Study!