Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 5:5b “. . .for they shall inherit the earth.”
Meekness, having every instinct and desire under God’s control, is a believer’s mark of distinction. The rabbis took pride in learning the law, the Greeks in philosophy, the Romans in brute power. Christians take pride in meekness. “He that ruleth his spirit (is better) than he that taketh a city” (PR 16:32). Disciplined inner strength is one of the rarest and most impressive traits in human existence, and also very rewarding. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”
To the Jews, their promised land was everything. It provided a safe, quiet place where they could enjoy the freedom and benefits to which they believed they were entitled as God’s people. In Jesus’ day, the Jews were frantic to regain control of their land through rebellion against Rome, but Jesus knew if they controlled all the earth, yet did not control themselves individually, it would be meaningless.
Only the meek, people whose lives are under God’s control, can truly “inherit the earth.” The ungodly are often made worse by their possessions. They sin in having the earth. They never see God in it, or thank God for it. The wicked do not truly have what they own, because the blessing of God is not attached to it.
The absence of meekness means the absence of enjoyment. Of the miserable people, rich and poor, you know, I dare say almost every one of them is not practicing meekness. Some area of their life is out of control.
For instance, one whose feelings are easily ruffled is constantly miserable, a slave to anyone who wishes to disturb him. Unless we are meek, refusing to be flared up by the insults and injuries from others, perpetual frenzy will ruin our inner peace. When any passion is out of control, we have no control, and life degenerates to being harried, vexed, unsettled.
Only people who have their inner lives under God’s control can truly reap the benefits of ownership. The ones who “inherit the earth” are those who enjoy it, not own it. “You cannot measure happiness by the acre” (Maclaren). “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked” (PS 37:16). “Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith” (PR 15:16).
Since greed and envy are in check, the meek enjoy what they have, however little of it there might be. Since the response mechanisms are under control, one is rarely and hardly provoked, the result being joy and rest. Satisfied and content in God, the meek find the whole earth a temple of devotion. Appropriating all things in the proper quantity and for the right reasons, the meek enjoy “the earth” to the fullest, relating to Paul’s words, “as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 C 6:10). Their enjoyment is unruffled, undisturbed, yielding little turbulence. “Godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 TM 4:8 NAS).
Matt. 5:6a “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst. . .”
Jesus used our natural hunger for food and thirst for water as metaphors to describe how passionate our desire should be for being right with God. Hunger and thirst are basic appetites which consume us, overshadowing every other physical desire in importance. Similarly, our longing to be Christ-like, free from every sin, should be our most urgent desire, rising from an earnest sense of deeply felt need.
Jesus expected our desire for God to be intense and serious, our strongest ambition. His intent is well illustrated by David’s passionate cry, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God” (PS 42:1).
Unfortunately, our wishes to be God-like often seem halfhearted, lackadaisical, ho-hum. Where is the fire, the passion? Our desires for God too often seem sluggish and nebulous, rather than sharp and intense. When times of testing come, our good words melt into an unwillingness to put forth the needed effort or to make the needed sacrifice. We are often like Israel, going back and forth repeatedly between penitence and sin. Hosea (6:4 NAS) said of them, “Your loyalty is like a morning cloud, and like the dew which goes away early.” Their resolve was temporary at best–here one minute, gone the next.
The Psalmist, on the other hand, desired God not in spurts, but constantly, “My soul is crushed with longing after thine ordinances at all times” (PS 119:20 NAS). Ours must be not a desire which is passing, but one present “at all times.”
We need to maintain an intensity which reaches almost to the point of desperation, to feeling that life itself is oozing out the pores when we are not enjoying God, to feeling that if God does not come, our loneliness cannot be cured and will result in death, to feeling that if God does not help, there is no help, all hope is lost. Little desire will not do. J. N. Darby well said, “When the prodigal son was hungry he went to feed upon husks, but when he was starving, he turned to his father.”
I urge us one and all to beg God for a heart on fire with desire. The longing, the yearning, is what matters. Note carefully our Lord’s words. The blessing is not on those who attain, but on those who want to attain. This is Jesus’ way of telling us that in our pursuit of God, there will always be more to enjoy. In seeking God, “It is better to be conscious of want than to be content” (Maclaren). It is better to be ever climbing toward the faraway summit than to stagnate in the nearby valley.
Petition God to make us ever want more, to let us never be satisfied with our present status. May we never quit hungering and thirsting after God. Let us return frequently to the table and to the fount to feast on and drink fresh satisfactions.
Desire fresh supplies, new adventures with God every day. Remain inflamed with hunger and thirst, for God seeks and delights in hearts ablaze with desire. David, being a man of blood, was denied his dream of building a temple. God refused him this honor, but said, “Thou didst well that it was in thine heart” (1 K 8:18).
Our desire for God must be stronger than any other aspiration of earth, including our desire to quit when we fail miserably. We all trip and stumble, but the desire for God must never end. Few have failed more miserbly and been a worse embarrassment to the kingdom of God than Samson, yet he is enshrined in the roll call of faith (HB 11:32). His desire, though it would flicker, never went out. Down in the dungeon, after his haircut in the devil’s barbershop, “the hair of his head began to grow again” (JG 16:22). He requested and was granted of God one last amazing triumph, the greatest of his life (JG 16:30). When we fall, we must repent quickly, and let our desire for God impel us back up on our feet as fast as possible.