Meekness is not weakness. It is strength under control. And it also an attribute that God regards very highly. So let's join Stephen in this message as shows us how to be more like Moses and less like the rest of Israel.
“MEEKNESS . . . SYNONYM FOR MOSES”
There is a passage, in scripture, that we have overlooked in our study of Moses before we entered the study of the Ten Commandments. A message that I didn’t think I’d have a chance to deliver to you but I will tonight. I hope you have study notes. If you don’t, raise your hand. I think we have plenty available. I think it will be helpful, we have a lot of scripture to look at.
I’ll never forget an event that occurred when I was fifteen or sixteen years of age. I was downtown Norfolk on the street with my father. We were passing out invitations to the serviceman’s center. That was in the day when servicemen wore their blues and their whites and their hats. And we would go out and pass out these invitations to come to the center. Of course the streets were not a very safe place even then. And I’ll never forget walking up to a particular gentleman, who wasn’t wearing a uniform but, we extended an invitation. I was a little bit in the background and my father handed him an invitation to come to the serviceman’s center. And, in the quickness that was so quick it took me by surprise, this gentleman took his hand and he slapped my father as hard as he could. I was sort of taken back and I watched and, of course, I just about pulled out the pom-poms and I was going to say, “Hey, you can deck this guy, Dad. Take it to him. Teach him a lesson. Put him on the pavement.” And I’ll never forget just standing there and, in the briefness of just a second or two, I began to watch my father because he wasn’t responding. And this fellow was just looking at him, waiting to see what he would do. My father then looked at him and, in a very quiet tone, said, “Do you feel better now?”
I’ll NEVER forget that as long as I live. Because that was the most tremendous illustration of what I want to look at tonight. It is the quality that should be in all of our lives as we mature in the Holy Spirit. It is called meekness. Now, in the scripture, there are only two men who are called meek. One is Moses and the other one is Jesus Christ. And whenever you see that in the scriptures, in such rare form, it waves a flag and it calls out, “Stop right here and find out what’s happening.” Why is this so rare? In fact, what is this that we are to have in our lives?
Before we get to Moses’ story, let’s take a biblical perspective on this characteristic called meekness. Take your Bibles and turn to Galatians, chapter 5. We have so much scripture to look at, I’ll read it as soon as I find it and you follow along as quickly as you can. You may beat me there. Galatians, chapter 5, verse 22, gives us the first clue as to what this is. “But the fruit of the Spirit” - that is, the quality of those who are submitted to the Spirit of God, are these qualities - “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness” - that’s the word “prautes,” which may be meekness in your translation. In other words, we discover, right from the outset of our study tonight, that meekness is a fruit of the Spirit. It cannot be engineered by the flesh. It cannot be made up. It can only come to the individual who has yielded to the Spirit of God in their life. And it’s interesting, in our culture today, we hear of people who are supposedly meek who may not know Jesus Christ. Mahatma Gandhi is an illustration of someone who is supposedly a very meek man. Perhaps you have heard or read of that Tibetan monk, one who obviously does not know Christ, who won, just a month or so ago, the Nobel Peace Prize. His name is Dalai Lama. Maybe you’ve seen him on the news. And they are exonerating this individual as being a very meek and gentle man. And yet, I propose to you tonight that, meekness cannot come to someone who does not know Jesus Christ. There may be some characteristic, there may be some gentleness but, there will be, ultimately, some ulterior motive, either consciously or unconsciously. Perhaps an individual does this and then, it’s their way of proving, by way of innate pride, that they are better than another. Perhaps it is a way of salvation, as in the life of this monk, who is supposedly the reincarnated of Buddha himself. But it is the individual who knows Christ, who is submitted to the Spirit of God, who can actually have this fruit. Meekness.
Turn to Colossians. Keep heading to the right. Colossians, chapter 3, verse 12, makes it even clearer. And he makes it very clear, verse 12, “And so, as those who have been chosen of God,” - who is he referring to? He is referring to the believer. “Those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility,” - and there’s the word, meekness or - “gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” The words “put on,” literally mean “to clothe yourself.” And this is not a gift. There are gifts of the Spirit, the gift of helps(?), the gift of administration, the gift of teaching, the gift of mercy, the gift of hospitality. He’s not talking about gifts disposed by the Holy Spirit at conversion. He’s talking about fruit, which means that this is something that must be developed. There is the clothing. There is the discipline. There is the activity. I want this in my life. And, when I yield to the Spirit of God, it can be a garment that clothes my character, my attitude. So meekness is not a gift, it is a habit.
But, I want you to notice, it is not only a fruit but, it is also a virtue. Turn back to the book of Psalms. Psalm, chapter 25. Psalm, chapter 25, verse 9, what a virtuous thing to have. We read here that God - “leads the” - meek or - “humble”. It’s the same word in the Septuagint or the Greek translation of the Old Testament, same Greek word here - “He leads the” - meek - in justice” - note this - “and He teaches the” - meek - “His way.” The qualification for entering the classroom to be taught by the Holy Spirit is what? Meekness. It’s a virtue.
Before I define that, let’s look at one other passage. I Peter, chapter 3, verse 4. “Let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle” - or a meek - “and quiet spirit,” - note this, you ought to underline it in your text - “which is precious in the sight of God.” Imagine that. Having a quality about our lives that God considers precious.
What exactly could be the definition then of meekness from these passages? I’ve given it to you. We could define it this way: “meekness” is “a gentle disposition resulting from submission to the Holy Spirit.”
Now, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the illustrations of meekness that we have in scripture. We’ll find the first in Numbers, chapter 12. Numbers, chapter 12. Let’s start with verse 1. An incredible passage of scripture that reveals why Moses was considered meek. And we’ll be able to draw some clues as a result of this passage. Chapter 12, verse 1, “Then Miriam and Aaron” - that’s the sister and brother of Moses - “spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); and they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?’” - you ought to circle the word “only,” that’s the problem, it’s not the Cushite woman - “‘Has He not spoken through us as well?’ And the Lord heard it.” Look at verse 4, “And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and Aaron and to Miriam, ‘You three come out to the tent of meeting.’ So the three of them came out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward, He said, ‘Hear now My words; if there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; with him I speak mouth to mouth,’” - or face to face - “Even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the” - glorious - “‘form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?’ So the anger of the Lord burned against them and He departed. But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous. Then Aaron said to Moses, ‘Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned.’” Now right about there, I’d draw a pause and, if I were Moses, say, “On your knees. You have spoken against me and I have never tried to vindicate or to answer back or to defend.” And, by the way, those are three qualities of a meek person. He is a person who does not vindicate himself. He is a person who does not defend himself. And he is an individual who does not reject one’s opponent, as we’ll look at in a minute. But Moses does something that is almost incredible to believe. Verse 13, “And Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘O God, heal her, I pray!’” Isn’t it interesting, there in that scene, if we could observe it, that Moses doesn’t say, “Lick my feet and kiss my hand and do obeisance. God has spoken for me.” No. None of that at a great opportunity to reject his opponent, who had spoken out against him because they wanted more authority and power. Moses never vindicates, never defends. And now, at the end, he does not seek revenge. How could he respond this way? Let’s go back to verse 3. “(Now the man Moses was very” - meek, or - “humble” - same word, meek - “more than any man who was on the face of the earth.)” And do you notice that that is a parenthesis? That comes along just as an aside. It helps us understand how he can respond in a way that we find almost too incredible to believe. Never vindicating. Never defending.
There’s another illustration of meekness. Let’s go to Matthew, chapter 11. Matthew, chapter 11, look at verse 25. “At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.’” - and boy, is that ever a foundation for someone to be filled with pride. And yet, Jesus Christ, who obviously was more meek than even Moses, said these next words to the nation, Israel. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” We ought to stop there because we can’t appreciate His words unless we understand a little bit of this passage. The two words you ought to underline are “weary,” and “heavy-laden.” And, in your notes, I would suggest this, “weary” has the idea of someone working to the point of utter exhaustion. Now this is all used figuratively. He is speaking of the nation who is trying, collectively by the rules and the regulations of the Pharisees and the scribes, to somehow please God. And they are working and working hard and they are weary, they are utterly exhausted because they don’t sense that they are pleasing Him. And they’re not. And the word “heavy-laden,” speaks of one who has a burden dumped on them. It is the burden of ALL of the regulations. They had one for every day of the year. They would mark out how far you could walk on the Sabbath and it was only so many feet. You couldn’t look into a mirror. You couldn’t cook. You could do ALL of these things and ALL of them had become a pursuit of God’s acceptance and righteousness. And it wasn’t working and so they were burdened and heavy-laden and weary. So He says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” - spiritual rest. Then He says, “Take My yoke upon you”. The yoke would be that which was part of the harness to direct an animal. And that animal would be under the authority of the one holding the reigns. That individual would be under the sway of its master. He is saying, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me,” - the word “learn” is the same word we get disciple from. “Become My disciple, learn from Me,” - “for I am gentle” - that’s the word meek, “I am meek” - “and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke” - My teaching is not burdened down with legalism, it is not filled with laws that you may do to obtain acceptance, it - “is easy, and My load is light.”
So, from these two illustrations, we learn that meekness does not defend oneself, it does not vindicate one’s character, it does not reject one’s opponent. But meekness is compassionate, it is patient, it is strength, as someone has defined it, under control.
Now let’s get as practical as we possibly can and trace this word through several passages of scripture and take a meekness test tonight and see how well we do. Of the times used in scripture, we can create several questions. The first would be this, let’s call this the biblical tests for meekness. The first is, how do I respond to opposition? Turn to II Timothy, chapter 2. II Timothy, chapter 2, let’s start with verse 22. “Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with” - meekness - “correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth”. Isn’t that interesting, you find someone who is in opposition to you, probably someone who denies Jesus Christ, but perhaps even that person who has a different point of view, how do we respond? Do we start a quarrel? Are we great for the soapbox debate? OR, do we, with meekness, share with them our point of view? How do I respond with people that I disagree with? That is a test of meekness because I think that all of us have a tendency to dig in, especially as this passage indicates. Do you notice that the one who is meek is, literally, the one who is right? Look at verse 25 again, “with” - meekness - “correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth”. YOU”RE RIGHT! THEY’RE WRONG! And that’s the great opportunity to really take it to them. But, he says, “Do you respond in gentle patience to those who oppose you?”
Secondly, how do I respond to an unbelieving spouse? Head right to I Peter. I Peter, chapter 3, look at verses 1 to 4. “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word” - underline that powerful thought - “they may be won” - implied to Christ - “without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” Evidently, in this early church, there were many women who were following Jesus Christ, they were more responsive to the claims of Christ. And there were many husbands who had not yet followed Him. And they were having tremendous friction and difficulty at home. And so he provides, in effect, a formula, a way, a pattern of life to win them to Christ. Obviously this is not a hundred percent because God’s sovereignty is involved and not, ultimately, the responsibility of the wife. But, he is saying, “Wives, if you want to win your husbands, here is the way. Let them” - “observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” - verse 3 - “. . . not your adornment . . .” - just - “external”- adornment - “braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses” - don’t try to impress them physically, with how you look, you won’t win them to Christ that way - “but let it be” - verse 4 - “the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a” - meek - “and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” In other words, you’re not going to win your husband necessarily by never missing a service in church. You are not going to impress your husband, or win him to Christ, by becoming involved in all kinds of church activities. You are not going to win him to Christ by putting notes in his sock drawer; like, “God loves sinners.” That isn’t it. You will win him to Christ, or you will impress on them what they are missing, when they see your meek spirit.
And all us guys say, “Amen. Sock it to the wives.” But then you just notice, down in the chapter there, the third question, how do I respond to unbelievers in general? I Peter, chapter 3, verse 10. “Let him who means to love life and see good days refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile. And let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. And who is there to harm you if your prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give and account for the hope that is in you” - that’s great. If anybody comes along and asks you why you believe in Jesus Christ, whip that portable soapbox out and preach him three points, get red in the face, dig in. Oh, the last phrase, do it with - “gentleness and reverence”. It doesn’t sound much like a sermon to me. Yet, when those that would oppose you, those that would afflict you, those that would persecute you and they ask you for an answer, they give you just the slightest crack in the door; take it, bang, drive it home. He says, “Respond in such a way, yes with the truth, you give them the answer but let it be with a meek spirit.” Not, “Oh, have I got the answer for your life. We can straighten the mess out, if you’ll just listen.” No. With meekness and gentleness.
Fourth, how do I respond when confronted by the truth? Turn to James, just back a few pages, chapter 1, verse 19. You want another quality of meekness, here it is. “This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in” - meekness - “receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” How do you and I respond when confronted by the truth of scripture? Verse 22, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.” He is speaking to the believer. He is saying, “When you come to scripture, how do you respond when you are confronted with truth?” He is suggesting, we are to respond in humility or the word “prautes,” - “in” - meekness, we - “receive the” - truth. So it isn’t just how we respond to people that we know are wrong; how do we respond when we know WE are wrong? Ouch! So then we can say this, teachability is a symptom of meekness.
Now fifthly, and this has three points to it, I’m trying to bury you in this outline, how do I respond in different situations; such as, when a brother falls in sin. Did you know the word occurs there? Turn back to Galatians. Galatians, chapter 6, verse 1. “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass,” - a sin; man, if there is a scandal breaking out and he’s gotten caught - “you who are spiritual,” - straighten him out, no - “restore such a one in a spirit of” - meekness. That is, if we go back to our definition, a patient, gentle disposition. Not, “I can’t believe you did that! How will your family be affected? Don’t you know that you are veering off the path? I’m going to pray that God will get a hold of your life, lest He destroy your flesh, so that you may be saved, yet as by fire.” He’s saying, “Bind up that brokenness,” - the medical term “restore,” - “and do it just as patiently as the doctor binds your broken limb, in meekness.” Why? Why should we be so meek about that? Note the last part of the phrase, “each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” We get obnoxious when someone falls into sin and cluck our tongue and say, “Yes, I suspected. I knew, if you got behind the closed doors over there, you’d find something.” You see, when we respond in that way, we are not revealing the true spirit of meekness. And we’ve forgotten that we are made of flesh too. So how do we respond to a brother or a sister when they fall into sin? It should be in meekness.
Secondly, when I meet with a church family, this is great. Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 1 to 3. He’s talking to the church, exhorting them toward unity. He says, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,” - beg, or - “entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and” - meekness, or - “gentleness, with patience,” - there’s the word, gentleness - “showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” There could be the implication, and we find in other passages that there was trouble in the church, that he is begging them, even though there is a faction that knows they’re right and there may be one that knows they’re wrong, or perhaps there are disagreements or there are differences of opinion, when you meet together as a body, something that should be clothing your meeting, enveloping your structure is this attitude of meekness. It is patience toward the person next to you, the person behind you and in front of you. He says, “I beg you, for the sake of unity, let your church, let this church right here, be an illustration of everything else that follows in this chapter. That is, the unity of the body, verse 4, “one Spirit;” verse 5, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father”. And he is saying, “I want your fellowship to be ONE, unified because it illustrates all this other stuff.” When we meet as a body, when there is the potential for disagreement, and mind you, as we continue to grow and we add more family members, it’s kind of like a family, when it’s just you and your wife, there’s only one person to argue with, when you have a child, that makes two, two children, that makes three, and the more you have, the more opportunities there are to get into some big “hoe-downs,” as this church grows and there comes into this fellowship more and more people from various backgrounds, with varying opinions about a variety of different things, how do we respond? It should be with a patient disposition toward people in this room.
Thirdly, how do I respond when I rub shoulders with an antagonistic world? Head a few pages to the right to the book of Titus, chapter 3, verse 1. I’m going to hurry before Brant falls asleep. (laughter) Titus, chapter 3, verse 1. He says, “Remind them to be subject” - that is, remind the believers to be subject - “to the rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” The word “gentle,” is the word “meekness.” Now who is he saying we’re to respond this way to, the believers? No. To an antagonistic world. Because there comes, in your life and in mine, the attitude that we’d like to take other people by the throat. I would like to take, sometimes, this country by the throat; the Supreme Court by the nap of the neck; crooked politicians, I’d like to shake them; people who reject Jesus Christ and make life difficult, there is the political arena where they bring into voting all of these issues that hurt the family. It makes me mad. And yet, when the blood boils, when it’s time to respond or when there’s an opportunity for them to see something in us that responds to the character of Jesus Christ, you know what they’re going to see? An attitude of patience, meekness. And I can imagine, in this early church where people were being thrown to the lions, that this would have been startling. And yet, as we face persecution, as we face opposition, as we see this country going down the tubes and it makes us hurt, it angers us, still this world has to see in us something that is striking. And he gives it there, several things, “uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”
In other words, ladies and gentlemen, meekness should characterize our lives as we respond to anyone and to every situation. I love this promise in Matthew, chapter 5. Turn back there, Matthew, chapter 5, verse 5. If you don’t think it’s worth it, if you don’t think your rights are being responded to, if you ever wonder if it will be better, if you ever wonder when justice will reign, there is a day and I love this verse. “Blessed are the” - meek, “praus” - “for they shall inherit the earth.” Isn’t it interesting that it is the meek person that seems to be the doormat for the world? And Jesus Christ, in giving the promise, says, He could have said a number of things that we’ll have but, He says, “You’re going to get the earth. One day you’ll have this planet. You will rule and justice will reign. And God will co-reign, as it were, with you.” Man alive, it’s worth it. And let’s do our best to bring people to Jesus Christ. And, as we witness to them and share truth with them, let’s remember that we are to be gentle, patient, and compassionate. Even though we hate their sin, we love them.
I hesitate to share this illustration with you but it is an experience that has marked me. I was sharing it with one of our church members this past week. And I will give you a disclaimer, I have opened my mouth more often than I should and I have remained silent less than I should. But this particular experience was an evidence of the grace of God that I have never forgotten. I take you back to Detroit, where Marsha and I were living in a duplex. It was just on the outskirts of downtown Detroit, across from the Fisher Body plant, beautiful section of town. We rented a duplex for a hundred and fifty dollars a month and that was six years ago and that was a good deal. We just didn’t go out at night. But we had someone living over us. It was the mother of the landlord. He and his wife were believers. We went to the same church together. And this woman, I can tell you a lot about her and it would create in you great compassion. She was an alcoholic who was a very bitter woman and never quite got over the fact that her son had been taken away by his wife. We moved in when they moved out and we didn’t really realize all the implications of what we were getting into. We had the same front door and then her stairs would lead up and we would go into our house. And that woman decided to take vengeance on Marsha and myself, for reasons we weren’t really sure of and especially me. And she would, at any given time, if I bumped into her on the sidewalk or wherever, literally curse me with all of the expletives. And it would never be provoked, ask my wife after. And I, for a year, would walk away, and it didn’t matter when, in fact the time that she was nice was the time that she was under the influence and she would say things and apologize. But then, in a day in and day out routine, she was very bitter. And we remember, those steps went over our bedroom and they were solid wood with little metal strips. And she would come in at two or three o’ clock in the morning and she would stomp slowly up those stairs and, of course, wake us up. And all the things she did to her son and daughter-in-law, I think, were far worse. But, I was at graduation time and, boy, we were delighted to be leaving Detroit and leaving that house. And, up until this point, we had never confronted her, we just tried to remain silent. But the fuse was wearing awfully thin. Believe me, her face was painted on my wall! Even though I did not respond, I had my speech all ready. Finally, one day, I was walking out through the back door and there was a little porch that led into her part and she was standing on that and I walked out and underneath there was headed toward this little garage and she decided, knowing I was graduating, I guess, this was it. She was going to take me to the wall. And, for no reasons that I can explain, she just began cursing me. She started with something like, “You’re not a preacher.” And then she told me what I was. And she went on for a few minutes and it was so loud the neighbor next door came out and stood on the porch and listened. And they were kind of buddies. And I turned around and I said, “Do you know what you are?” And then my mind was racing because what do I say now? I know what I’d like to say! The neighbor, you know, leaned forward to listen. She got real quiet. I think the birds stopped chirping. And then words came to my mind, to this day I don’t know how they ever came out. But I said, “Lady, you are a very unhappy woman.” And I turned around and walked away. I remember seeing the color drain from her face. She fled inside. The neighbor went in, disappointed I think. And we never really had much more contact with her. There is a good ending to this. A couple of months after we had left, her son called us up in Dallas. And he said, “Hey, you won’t believe it. Mom finally came to church with us and she got saved.” And he said, “I know you’ll appreciate me saying this so I’ll tell you, I’m looking for some more tenants.” And I said, “Oh brother, let me warn them.” And he said, “No, I was kidding.” He said, “I wanted you to know, she said she wanted somebody like you and Marsha.” Man, that has marked me. And I find myself in situations even now, and you do to, where the fuse is so short and, oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful to just let them have it. And, I think, it’s in that situation, wherever you are right now, that we reveal a quality that is unmistakably divine. It is the fruit of the Spirit of God, as we yield to Him. It is meekness. A patient disposition to those we know. Let’s pray.