Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Gospel

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. [Matthew 5:6 ESV]

In the first few verses of Matthew 5, in the passage we have come to know as the  Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents a description of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. There are in this description elements of the personality of the citizen and the evidences of reality of this Godly person living in a world which is not godly. His first four statements lay the foundation for the way a citizen thinks and feels and acts. It is no secret God’s desire to bring into His kingdom those who are His and that He uses His citizens as witnesses of His eternal working. Each Christian is a living, breathing example of the Gospel of grace.

We need not make the Gospel complicated. What is incomprehensible are the reactions of those confronted by God with the Gospel, which is everyone, and the danger and hatred toward God which comes with the Gospel’s plain teaching. It is the whole person God wants and it is the whole person who either concedes the truth in the Gospel or rebels against the One stating the truth.

Imagine yourself facing something, anything, you know in your deepest being is corrupt and vile yet morbidly attractive and provocative. You are moving toward this thing, drawn by it irresistibly and the closer you come the less vile it is and the more attractive it becomes. It is sin. Behind you is God calling you to turn away from sin and toward Him. Turning away from sin is repentance. Turning toward God is faith. Walking toward God is obedience. Every citizen of the kingdom has gone through this transition. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is the culmination of God changing those who are His and the beginning of His citizen being His.

Before we continue discussing hungering and thirsting for righteousness we must remember the process God has done in bringing us to this place.

These steps, if we can call them steps, are absolute and begin with poverty of spirit which is the recognition of sin. Those who are poor in spirit come to hate sin and love the truth. Thus, when God calls they turn because His call is the realization of the consequences of sin, which is separation from God. This realization is shown by deep mourning and repentance. Where there is repentance there is faith, for one cannot occur without the other. Faith is the flip-side of repentance. True faith is characterized by the relinquishing of control of self to the object of faith who is none other than God. This relinquishing of control of our weakness is in exchange for God’s strength.  Meekness is God’s strength in me under His control. Once control is given to God there is freedom from the slavery of sin to pursue the very opposite of what our corrupted nature and the world wants. God demands righteousness. The world demands rebellion against God, which is unrighteousness.  Once the citizen reaches this point they want righteousness and pursue righteousness out of love for God, not simple duty to Him. Righteousness is not a goal but the natural result of knowing God, and being known by Him.

Jesus has, in these few characterizations, defined and presented the Gospel. Return to imagining yourself walking toward sin, running toward sin, not knowing how devastating sin is. Then, God called and suddenly you recognize sin for what it is and that you are corrupted by sin. You recognize in the same way an addict must recognize the power his substance of choice has over him. He must grow to hate that substance. If there is no hatred for sin there is no turning from it.

God’s call stopped you in your tracks. But the power of sin, in the world, in your own flesh, in the enticement of Satan, fought against the voice of God. He demands obedience. It is why you were created. There is no merit in obedience, no earning your way into the Kingdom. You obey, not because you will get something but because it is what you want. Obedience is not an option but an expectation. Continued rebellion after hearing the call of God drives home the consequences, the reality of separation from God. When God calls only an out-and-out act of persistent rebellion drives some to stop their ears and close their eyes.

Once God’s call has stopped your continued journey toward sin He turns you away from sin toward Himself. No one turns them self. God has to turn. Turning away from sin requires trusting God. This is an emotional response to God’s moral character. It is repentance. Repentance is accompanied by grieving over what sin has done to you and to the world. Mostly though, deep grief comes from realizing what sin has done to God. For in turning away from sin you must turn toward God and begin to see who He is truly. And who you truly are.

Turning way from sin is repentance. Turning toward God is faith. Here, faith is relinquishing control of self. How can you or anyone fight for control against God while facing Him? You cannot, unless you take your eyes off Him.  Faith is the conduit through which we receive all God has to offer. All He gives is free. Faith is believing what He has said, trusting Him and obeying His commands.

While obedience is a necessary part of faith it is also integral to salvation. God does not ask us to believe, He commands it. He does not ask us to turn away from sin and repent, He demands it. He does not ask us to acquire faith and all He wants us to have. He supplies faith as the only way to receive what He has to give. He does not ask for obedience, He requires it. His commands are not grievous and overbearing. His commands are essential to our very being. Yet, in our present corrupted state there is nothing we can do but reject. If we obey, it is in His strength. If we reject God, it is in our own strength.

When we hunger and thirst for His righteousness our desire is obedience, to grow every closer to the source of life. Yet, we are conflicted. God does not lift us out of this world or change us so we are never tempted or prevent us from actively rebelling against Him. Christians are tempted and do fall into sin. We are at war and this war continues as long as He wants us in this world. Our struggle between the flesh which wants only itself, and the Spirit, which wants only God, rages. This is why so many of the admonitions in the Epistles are to stand firm with eyes firmly fixed on Him who is our salvation. Those who truly hunger and thirst for righteousness know their place in the kingdom and before God is fixed and sure.

Spiritual Nourishment

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. [Matthew 5:6 ESV]

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” [John 6:53-58 ESV]

To hunger and thirst suggests a basic need is missing to the point of endangering life. God fixed the universe with certain physical laws which cannot be violated. There may be a force applied to those laws to overcome them but the laws themselves cannot be changed or negated. One of these laws states life is sustained by taking in specific nourishment designed to maintain life.

In the physical world people need food, water and air to continue living. Take away one of these elements for a period of time and the person dies. Once dead the person cannot be brought back to life. These physical laws of the universe are brutal and unforgiving. How long can a person live without food? Over a month, generally, dependent upon how much food stores they carry in their bodies. How long can a person life without water? Generally, four to seven days, again, dependent upon how much water stores they have in their bodies. At about day three or four the person’s brain is so deprived of water they go insane. How long can a person live without air? Again, it depends upon the circumstance. Generally, four minutes is the maximum. Submerged in frigid water, the body begins to shut down and go into a type of hibernation the person will continue to live and may be resuscitated after an hour or so.

How long can a person live without God?

They cannot.

Part of the image of God in man is spiritual. People are spiritual and physical beings. Just as God fixed the world to sustain physical life in specific way so He also set the spiritual realm to operated within a set of specific laws. This means at physical death people continue to exist spiritually. God created man to have a relationship with Him. Breaking that relationship does not mean people, when they die in this physical universe or world, cease to exist if they are not connected to Him. God created people to exist for eternity. Either they exist within His life sustaining presence or they exist outside of His life sustaining presence. Either way, people continue to exist after physical death.

Separation from that which sustains physical life concludes in physical death. Separation from that which sustains spiritual life concludes in spiritual death. Just as dying of thirst or hunger or lack of air causes physical agony so dying from a lack of spiritual nourishment causes spiritual agony. Can you imagine existing for eternity separated from any source of nourishment? This is called hell, spiritual separation from God, the absolute source of spiritual life.

Since man is a spiritual  as well as physical being he needs both spiritual and physical nourishment. Yet, sin has separated man from God, the Creator and Sustainer of life. God continues to provide for man’s physical needs through common grace. Thus, man lives taking in only physical nourishment, never spiritual. Many have recognized this and begun seeking spiritual nourishment from sources other than God. They receive the equivalent of empty calories, stuff that fills but does not nourish. Filling oneself up on such empty spiritual calories may give a feeling of fullness and a level of satisfaction but leaves the person even hungrier, more desperate for that feeling of fullness. There is no benefit. In fact, doing this is detrimental and harmful. The spiritual person starves, becoming accustomed and desensitized to the need for spiritual nourishment. This may actually be beneficial for those destined for hell. If they do not realize the lack of spiritual nourishment now, they may not later.

God’s call includes the awakening of the spiritual desire for spiritual nourishment which is had only in God. Our relationship with Him is determined by Him, not by ourselves. The clay does not say to the potter, why did you make me such?

You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? [Isaiah 29:16 ESV]

Does not the One who created all have absolute rights over what is created? Does not the Creator determine how the creation will work and exist? For any to say, I do not need God condemns that person to existence away from God.

I have heard a sermon where the point was made that no one in hell will want to be in heaven and no one in heaven will want to be in hell. We are not sent anywhere against our will. Ultimately, rebellion against God has absolute consequences. Obedience to God must be just as absolute. There is no merit in obedience. Obedience is expected.

Introduction: Hungering and Thirsting for Righteousness

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. [Matthew 5:6 ESV]

Righteousness is that eternal characteristic of God against which He judges all of creation. Since He is the Creator of everything whether seen or unseen nothing has come into existence without His express will. He owns everything He has created and fashioned all creation according to His will and purpose. God’s highest creation according to Scripture is Man, created in His image for eternal relationship with Him.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. [Genesis 1:26-27 ESV]

Where all creation bears the evidence of purpose and precision of the Creator Man has more. He has characteristics shared with God and no other. Not even angels have the shared characteristics God has embedded in people. Man has a extraordinary relationship with God able to know Him both intellectually and intimately.

Jesus states the fourth element or characteristic of the Christian who is a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.  Citizens of God’s kingdom have a hunger and thirst for righteousness.  This would be true without the presence and corruption of sin. This element follows the first three in a perfectly logical sequence. It is the culmination, the peak or pinnacle of that which describes the citizen of God’s kingdom. In a world corrupted by sin, in constant rebellion against God, His citizens want desperately to conform to Him, to be known as His.

God is so completely in control of both the temporary world and eternity He has built into the temporary world illustrations of eternal truths. He does this so we would have an understanding, though limited and finite, of our privileged place before Him. Also, there are many instances throughout Scripture where God has instituted a spiritual truth with a temporal mandate. For instance, the relationship between a father and child illustrates the relationship between God the Father, and those who are His. With the corruption of sin the physical illustration breaks down but the spiritual reality remains constant. Jesus uses the exaggeration of hungering and thirsting to describe the desire for God and His righteousness.

This is not mere hyperbole. With sin comes separation from God. Separation from Him in the temporary world has eternal consequences. He is the source of life for all creation. Just as He gave food and water to Man to sustain him in the physical world so He gave Himself to sustain life in the spiritual realm. In reality, man does not need food and water and air, for God is capable of sustaining man’s very physical life without these. But God has set in place the laws of nature and determined man needs these things in order to continue living.

Sin separates us from the absolute source of life. We exist and live apart from the special grace of God, yet within His general grace. Once we come to the place of understanding our spiritual poverty before God, which causes mourning and ultimately a relinquishing of control in meekness to Him, we identify our basic need for Him because we are starving. We are spiritually famished, having received no spiritual sustenance from the very source of spiritual sustenance. We hunger and thirst, and even gasp for air once we have tasted the Lord. We crave God’s righteousness as we crave food when we are starving. We need His righteousness as we need water and without it would die. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are satisfied, or filled, their needs and desires met by the God who created them in His image so He alone might meet such needs and desires.

We need Him in the purest sense of the word “need.” He, however, does not “need” us but wants us in the purest sense of that word “want.”. His love for us is eternal and boundless yet constrained by His justice and our sin. Even corrupted by sin we  “hunger and thirst” after Him whose very being is righteousness. Having His image means our purpose and the needs of our most basic nature cannot be fulfilled by anything other than God.

Meekness: Conclusion

Blessed are the Meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

One of the tools used by the world, our own flesh and our Adversary is the redefining of words to cause confusion and division. People change the way they think as the meanings of words change and are used over and again. A fetus is a fetus but when you call a fetus a baby people think of something they have seen and possibly held and for whom they have cared. When we allow ourselves to think of “meekness” as characterized by weakness we lose the power of the word and cannot think correctly. While the definitions of words may change over time and with use the truths taught by God and His Son in the Scripture do not change. How we understand and use the words form our thinking which in turn motivates our actions which ultimately shows the evidence of our relationship with God.

Our definition of meekness and the discipline of the person who is meek cannot be over emphasized. We cannot spend too much time on the subject. We can spend too little. Meekness is first God’s strength just naturally under God’s control. God gives His strength and many other tools, to the person who has relinquished control of self to God.

Here is a baffling paradox: How does a person corrupted by sin do that which is completely against his fallen nature? How do I relinquish control of myself to God when I am, even knowing I am His, continually rebelling against Him? Only in God Himself is an answer found to these questions.

He takes those who are His through the process of sanctification where they recognize the fact of sin and then realize its consequences, which is separation from God who is the source of life. God expects obedience coming from His strength. Though we are responsible to obey His commands He does not want us to use our own strength because it is defined by rebellion against Him. He demands obedience from the whole self, the whole person, from our minds, emotions and wills. This obedience isn’t to a checklist of requirements like the Mosaic Law but the deep motivation of listening to and hearing His voice followed by a desire to  obey out of love for Him. He calls those who are His to recognize their sin and that of the world and then to realize the consequences of sin, followed by repentance, faith and obedience.

He tells us to be perfect and to be Holy but not under our own efforts. We can do nothing to make ourselves either perfect or holy. We can recognize His Son died for our sin and realize His blood covers us so that when He looks at us He does not see our sin but the perfect sacrifice of His Son. Relinquishing control demands a change of the thinking of our hearts from deciding to work in our own strength to actively deciding to continually relinquish control to Him who capable of fulfilling His promises. We are at war with sin. This war is for the weak to fight in His strength, not for the strong to fight in their own.

He gives the tools and weapons we need to fight the war raging against and within us. As citizens of His kingdom His expectation for obedience is absolute. There can never be a battle fought with even the smallest atom of our own energy and won. We must use the tools and weapons He has given in His strength having relinquished our own self to Him. This is meekness and this is why the world views meekness as weakness and with disdain. We do not fight the way the world fights.

One of the chief characteristics of Godly meekness is Godly leadership. A Godly leader has first learned to serve having completely relinquished control of self to the goals of their master. Only then can they be used by God to lead. This does not mean they will lead but that by knowing how to serve they have learned how and are continuing to learn how to lead. In Scripture the greatest leaders are the humblest servants who have placed themselves under the complete authority of God.

Jesus says “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” [Matthew 5:5 ESV]. Those who are truly meek do not want the earth. They want God. They do not want to serve themselves. They want to serve God. They may gain much in the world but they gain God completely. Nothing else matters.

Examples of Meekness: Peter

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach. [Mark 3:13-14 ESV]

We have selective hearing when it comes to saying we will do one thing and then proceed to do the exact opposite. Our tendency is to focus upon our expectations and fit the words we hear into those expectations without challenging or questioning them. If we paid attention to God’s whispers and His known will we would act differently because we would think differently because we would be different. How much of what we do is done unconsciously because of habit and ingrained expectations which then blocks any alternate action.

After Jesus chose the twelve he empowered them and sent them out to do His work. “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” [Matthew 10:1 ESV].  Their instructions were to demand unclean spirits remove themselves from  people’s bodies. They were to heal people, whether from disease or infirmity. Matthew 10 adds they were given the ability to raise the dead. And, they were to tell these people, everyone the encountered, to repent for God’s kingdom was at hand. This was John’s and Jesus’ message and now their message. As servants of Jesus, for His disciples were His servants, they worked and spoke with His authority.

Of these twelve three received special attention from Jesus. James, and his brother John and Peter saw things and heard words from Jesus not shared with the other twelve. At times all twelve argued. At least twice their arguments were over who was the greatest among their group. Where they not paying attention to Jesus’ words and actions? How irresponsible would it be for them to add their expectations to His words and grasp at authority not theirs? They would cease being His servant and become their own through shear rebellion. He is the greatest in the kingdom.

After Jesus’ ascension, James was killed by Herod, “and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also” [Acts 12:3 ESV].  By this time Peter is recognized as the leader of the new Church. After Acts 12, John is no longer mentioned in the growth of the Church. Peter is mentioned by Paul in Galatians as being the apostle to the Jews in Galatians 2:7 . Please remember all of the disciples selected by Jesus were leaders in the early Church.

What is it about Peter that made him the leader of the Apostles?

When Peter acted, or reacted, it is with his whole being. He never held back, even when recognizing his own sin. In Luke 5 Jesus calls him and his partners, James and John, to follow Him. They are fishermen who know Jesus from previous experiences and encounters. This encounter was different for these three men and especially for Peter. Jesus did an almost minor miracle.  Before the miracle Peter saw Jesus as just another man, just another itinerant preacher tickling the ears of those gathered to hear him. He had no time for such laziness but reluctantly made time for Jesus, after a hard, unsuccessful night’s work. Read the whole story.

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, Simon’s boat, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.

And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. [Luke 5:1-11 ESV]

Peter recognized the truth of his sinfulness and begged Jesus to leave him. That which is sinful cannot exist in the presence of that which is not sinful. Man cannot stand before God without sin first being covered, hidden from Him, or expunged, or dying and being removed from His presence.  Peter, at that moment, the beginning of his training, became “poor in spirit” against his will. He was forced to see the truth by obvious circumstances.

Then, at the end of his training, while Jesus is standing in a courtyard facing the those who would soon murder him, Peter three times denied knowing Him. This was the fulfillment of a prediction Jesus had made only a few hours earlier. As soon as Peter denied Him the third time “the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” [Luke 22:61-62 ESV].  Peter realized the consequences of his sin and “mourned” in a way he had never experienced. Saying he was willing to die for Jesus Peter was confronted by the lie in his boast. Both of these characteristics, being “poor in spirit” and “mourning” precede “meekness” and make it real.

Peter showed himself a hard working man unafraid of taking chances. If he saw the Lord doing something then he followed. When he saw Jesus walking on water, surrounded by the churning water and waves of the Sea of Galilee, enveloped in a raging storm, he asked to come to Him. All the other disciples were afraid when they saw Him, as they struggled against the waves to move their boat forward. Peter, an experienced seaman, knowing the dangers faced by all, the deadliness of the Sea, the ferocity of the storms, got out of the boat. None of the others followed.

Peter was the one with the suggestions, the boldness to confront the religious hypocrites, to speak to the Gentiles called by God, and even admit his own sin. When he sinned he faced it squarely, repented, and moved ahead. God and Peter struggled together, like Jacob wrestling the Angel of the Lord. Like Moses, he had to be dragged into the ministry when called by Jesus. He was compelled to follow in a way he could not avoid. Like David when he sinned greatly he repented deeply and thoroughly. Like Nehemiah he prayed continually. He inherited the world, but not as the world viewed as successful. As the apostle to the Jews he was the recognized leader of the Church in the world. Not the head of the Church, which belongs only to Jesus, but a recognized authority for the time he continued to live as one who had been chosen by and walked with the Lord of all.

Exmples of Meekness: Nehemiah

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

There are not many places in Scripture where someone asks to go and do God’s will, from a place of comfort and security to danger and chaos. Moses didn’t ask to lead the people of God out of Egypt. He was told to. David didn’t seek to become King of Israel. Samuel sought him out and anointed him because it was God’s will. David was so young his own brothers were incredulous at his being chosen by God. Moses said “no” to God but went anyway. David wasn’t old enough to understand what the anointing meant.

Nehemiah is a different story. There is no indication Nehemiah had ever seen Jerusalem or lived for any time in Israel or Judah. He was probably born and raised in exile. Yet, his identity was so completely Jewish that when he heard of the condition of Jerusalem he wept and fasted.

Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the capital, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. [Nehemiah 1:1-4 ESV]

He was the cup-bearer to the king. What does it mean to be a cup-bearer to the king? He was the chief servant of the king in charge of serving the wine at all times whether alone with the king or at great banquets. As a servant of the king it was his responsibility to ensure the kings health and safety from the possibility of poisoning. He would taste the cup, the wine or drink before giving it to the king. Perhaps he had the ability to smell or taste poison which helped qualify him for the position. If anyone tried to kill the king by poisoning his drink the cup-bearer would be the first to die. Nehemiah was willing to die for his king. Because of his position, Nehemiah probably rarely left the side of the king. He was closer to the king than anyone else. This pagan king trusted Nehemiah absolutely which means he had proven himself trustworthy long before his appointment as chief cup-bearer. Nehemiah had shown himself a true servant.

God worked in Nehemiah’s heart throughout his life and placed him in a position of authority as a servant to the king. Nehemiah knew his place before the king, knowing the kings moods and preferences, seeing the meaning behind his gestures and facial expressions. After hearing about the destruction of the city of God whom he served by caring for the king whom he served, God gave him the courage to ask to go to Jerusalem to repair the broken walls. He knew his position before the king and still took a calculated chance asking to go rebuild the walls of a city known for rebelling against pagan authorities. Why would a king allow his closest, most trustworthy servant to go back to a place known for rebelling against kings? He granted Nehemiah permission to go because God compelled him, though he did not know it, to allow Nehemiah to go.

There are a number of characteristics which define Nehemiah. He was a true servant, looking out for the best interests of his king. He knew and understood authority. Like the Centurion in Matthew 8, when the king said “go” he went expecting absolute obedience. Being a servant trained him in the skills of leadership.

Nehemiah prayed. He knew from where his strength originated. He knew without God nothing he could do would be successful. Given an opening, Nehemiah seized the opportunity, praying while making his request.

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid.

I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?”

So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”

And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. [Nehemiah 2:1-6 ESV]

Here is a man who relied completely upon God to work through the ordained authorities to answer prayer regarding the people of God, His mercy, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, considered the city of God. Nehemiah was a great leader because he was a loyal servant. He recognized sin, his own and those of his nation, showing his poverty of spirit. He recognized sin and the just consequences of sin against the rebellious nation of Israel in the just destruction of Jerusalem and exile of the people of God. He mourned over the consequences of sin, trusting God throughout because of the promises of God to restore the nation. He was meek, having God’s strength in him under God’s control. The man did not jump ahead of God, but when God said go he went with every ounce of his will. He did nothing for himself but poured himself out for God and the people of God.

Examples of Meekness: David

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” [1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7 ESV]

David’s legacy, as found in Scripture, comes from God’s perspective not man’s. All of the kings descended from David are compared to him. He is the standard by which God judges their actions. For, from before David was anointed by Samuel as king of Israel until his death, David sought the Lord with his heart. Either the future kings of Judah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, walking with God as David their father had done, or they did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did not wholly follow God, as David had done.

Everyone with a Bible may read about David. His devotion to God was unparalleled. His sins, though, were typical. Yet, because he was the king, the leader of the nation of Israel, when David sinned, not only did he bear the consequences of his sin but so did the entire nation.

David demonstrated specific characteristics throughout his life. He did not set himself up as king as soon as he was anointed, grasping after the throne or trying to displace Saul. Saul was still alive and David would do nothing to shorten the life of the living king. Everything David did, in relation to Saul, reinforced the kingship of Saul though Saul was rejected as king by God. David fought for truth, God’s truth, true truth, not Saul’s or his own perception of truth. David recognized man’s eyes and the thinking of their hearts were corrupted by sin. When David sinned he not only recognized his sin but grieved deeply over the consequences of his sin. He was “poor in spirit” and he “mourned” over sin, especially his own.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. [Psalm 51:15-17 ESV]

David intimately knew God and saw how He worked from before he was anointed king. As the youngest of eight sons David was not pampered but sent to work caring for his father’s sheep. The simplicity of his work ethic and his experienced trust in God comes through when Israel is challenged by Goliath. His duty was to mind the sheep. He did this in spite of dangerous circumstances and the occasional predator. How many of us would run from a lion or the bear even if the sheep they were attacking were ours? They are just sheep! Not David. He fought the lion and bear, killing both, because he knew God would fight for him. He believed God. He trusted God. He obeyed God. No matter the circumstances.

David relied upon the strength of God whether to defeat his enemies, make decisions or repent of the most grievous of sins. He was the youngest and least of the sons of Jesse. But God chose him because of the thinking of his heart showing the meekness of his life before God. He was the greatest king of Israel. David relied upon God’s strength working through him under God’s control and inherited a name by which all of the true kings of Israel were judged.

From David’s descendants, from the city of Bethlehem, came the promised Messiah, Jesus the Christ. When Scripture speaks about a future king In Him is no sin. In Him is justice and mercy and an unshakable government. There will be no divided kingdom and He will reign forever.

Everything Jesus did, his miracles and care for the people pointed to His divinity. Yet the people He encountered either hated Him or wanted to make Him an authority over them thinking He might be the one who would remove the presence of the Romans and help establish a geographical kingdom if Israel. Jesus came to establish a kingdom but not one constrained by physical boundaries. “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’ Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” [John 6:14-15 ESV]. He removed Himself from a place where the people might take control. When the people of Israel asked for a king it was in rebellion against God because they wanted to be like the nations around them. “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah  and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations” [1 Samuel 8:4-5 ESV].

Yet, Jesus recognized His heritage, that He was descended from King David and that He was the spiritual king of His eternal kingdom. He accepted the worship and adoration of those who were His but on His terms.

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” [John 12:12-15 ESV]

He was not fighting for something which He already owned. Like His ancestor David, who did not lay claim to his rightful place as king of Israel once he was anointed but waited for God to work Jesus fulfilled the command to obey even under the most tortuous circumstances. While David fled from Saul, who wanted him dead, Jesus stood before Pilate and the religious leaders who wanted Him dead.

And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” [Luke 23:2-3 ESV]

David did not fight for his kingdom trying to claim that which was already his.  But, he did fight for his kingdom, protecting and growing and establishing it at God’s direction. Jesus did not fight for His kingdom, laying claim to a people already His. He did die for His kingdom, redeeming those who are His from the kingdom of sin. David inherited the earth, the geographical area established by God as the nation of Israel. Jesus owns the earth and eternity and give it to whomever He wills. He gives it to those who recognize sin, realize the consequences of sin and relinquish control of self to Him gaining His strength in them under His control.

Examples of Meekness: Moses

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. [Numbers 12:3 ESV]

What is the first thing which pops into your mind when you think of Moses? Do you start reciting some of the Ten Commandments? Do visualize bloody sacrifices required by the Law of Moses?  Do you remember watching the Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston as Moses as he calls down the plagues upon the head of Pharaoh played by Yul Brynner? Do you see a flannel graph from Sunday School with Moses leading the people of God out of Egypt? Then wandering in the desert for forty years? How many think about Jesus debating the Pharisees and teachers of the Law? Most often when Moses is mentioned in the New Testament it is in reference to a law or the Law.

Hebrews 11 includes Moses in the “roll call of faith.” When he is first mentioned it is his parents faith illustrated, specifically his mother. “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” [Hebrews 11:23 ESV]. Pharaoh (not Yul Brynner) decreed all Hebrew baby boys were to be thrown into the Nile. After he was three months old his mother put him in a basket and placed him in the Nile.

He was discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted the boy and raised him in Pharaoh’s court. At no time is God’s will frustrated by the actions of anyone He has created. God turned the will of man upside down, forcing Pharaoh to do His will against his will. Moses knew he was a despised Hebrew even though he grew up among royalty. Remember, he killed a soldier, was discovered, and ran for his life. Yet, this is not how Hebrews presents the story.

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. [Hebrews 11:24-27 ESV]

One of the startling recorded exchanges in Scripture, taught over and over in most Sunday Schools, is the argument Moses had with God about going back to lead God’s people out of Egypt. God spoke to Moses from within a burning bush giving him the charge to return to Egypt and lead God’s people out. Moses blatantly refused. God talked to Moses with distinct, understandable words and Moses refused to do what he was told. He did finally obey when his older brother, Aaron, whom he had probably not seen for 40 years, arrived. Did God send Aaron, compelling him to find his brother in the desert,  knowing Moses would argue with Him? This story isn’t found in the epistle to the Hebrews. Nor is there mention of the plagues except for the last one. “By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them” [Hebrews 11:28 ESV].

While the first 80 years of Moses’ life show how God trained him for the last 40 years, the latter part of Moses’ life is characterized by deep faith. His middle and later life is characterized by hardship and suffering while leading obstinate and stiff-necked people. God used Moses’ entire life to train him, from the courts of Pharaoh to the sheep on the mountainside, for the task of leading millions of stubborn people out of Egypt. They wanted to disobey God and not go. They obeyed God and went. “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned” [Hebrews 11:29 ESV] The weak went with the strong and all were said to have faith.

Faith is not an autonomous activity. An individual’s faith is strengthened in a community of faith. Where an individual may falter in obeying the object of faith’s commands a community may strengthen each individual. Where a community may rebel against God an individual leader who trust God may lead them rightly.

In Numbers 12, Aaron and Miriam complain against their brother because he had been chosen by God for a specific purpose, to be close to God. Moses is called “meek“, more than anyone else on the earth. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth” [Numbers 12:3 ESV]. Since Moses is viewed as the author of this statement should we look at his words as boasting? Though he is old he is strong. He has grown close to God. Since God inspired the Scripture we will view this statement not as a boast but an honest report of his place before God and in front of the people God gave him to lead. His meekness has come from total dependence upon God in dangerous circumstances and through experiences of suffering. Moses’ faith is mature but not complete.

Moses’ relinquished his will to God’s. God worked in him, God’s strength in him under God’s control. Notice the outcome of this relationship. Jesus states “blessed are the meek, for the will inherit the earth.” Moses, while not inheriting the earth as the world would think, inherited such control over the earth the Jews spoke of him synonymously with the Law and the whole history of Israel. We still talk about, teach and preach about, Moses. He was, perhaps, the greatest leader who has ever lived.