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Study Notes:

Matthew 5:5-6

We continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount this morning, Jesus’ most famous sermon.  If you take what you find here seriously, and you should, it will challenge the way you live your day to day life.  Because the things we read in the Beatitudes are not normal, this is not natural.  This is a description of life in God’s kingdom, a description of what is possible with Him.  This is what natural people are missing out on; this is what things are supposed to be like and what we should all be trying to get back to.

This is the message of God for all who have ears to hear.

Matthew 5:1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

3 ​​“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

​​For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 ​​Blessed are those who mourn,

​​For they shall be comforted.

5 ​​Blessed are the meek,

​​For they shall inherit the earth.

6 ​​Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

​​For they shall be filled.

7 ​​Blessed are the merciful,

​​For they shall obtain mercy.

8 ​​Blessed are the pure in heart,

​​For they shall see God.

9 ​​Blessed are the peacemakers,

​​For they shall be called sons of God.

10 ​​Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,

​​For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This morning we focus on verses 5 and 6.  So we begin with:

5 ​​Blessed are the meek,

​​For they shall inherit the earth.

Now meekness is a word that has almost disappeared from the English language.  No one described any of the presidential candidates as meek in the last election.  No one describes any professional sports player or military leader as meek.  It seems like a word that goes along with quiet, shy, weak, timid – which just goes to show we’ve completely lost sight of the meaning here.

Some Bibles have translated the passage using the words humble or gentle instead of meek.  And I think that’s a good choice, many dictionaries list words like aggressive, harsh, or tyrannical as the antonyms, or the opposite of meekness.  So, humble and gentle are good, but they’re still missing a little something – they’re missing the hint of possibility that things could be different.  Yes, you are humble or gentle, but not because you have to be.

Meekness might best be described as: absolute power under perfect control.

We see this blend in Jesus who said:

Matt 11:28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle [meek] and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

And yet this same Jesus made a whip out of cords and drove people and animals out of the Temple, flipping over tables as He went.  This is the same Jesus who will appear again in the final judgment with eyes like a flame of fire, wearing crowns and a robe dipped in blood, with a sword in His mouth, to judge and make war, and tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God (Rev 19:11-16).

Jesus was the most powerful and yet the most approachable person the world has ever seen. So, yeah, meekness should never be confused with weakness. The weak person CAN NOT, the meek person CAN but chooses NOT to, often because of some other factor – which is exactly the case with Jesus.

The Jews of Jesus’ day wanted a military and political Messiah, a conqueror, an aggressive, confrontational kind of guy who would take back what was rightfully theirs from the miserable Roman invaders who controlled their daily lives.

So when Jesus showed up they were confused.  Obviously there was something special about Him – there was no denying He could work incredible miracles.  But He wasn’t building an army or stockpiling weapons and supplies for the rebellion.  So, what was the real plan here?  How could you have so much power and not use it to start a war of independence?

And the answer is: because Jesus didn’t come to create the perfect political party or build a perfect nation.  He came to set us free from the enemy that was living inside us – the sin that was controlling us, the disease that is manifest in a thousand different symptoms in every man, woman and child.  The Roman Empire, in all it’s glory, was a pathetic, puny, localized little conflict for the Son of God.  He had something much larger to attend to. 

He knew He was fighting an invisible war for control of the entire earth throughout all history; why get distracted by a momentary brush-up with some legionnaires from Rome?  Yes, Jesus COULD call on thousands of angels to come to His side, but He CHOSE not to because His identity and purpose was bigger than that temporary moment.  He knew what was really important and chose to focus on that.

Which is an essential component of meekness: the ability to remain calm and composed because you see the bigger picture.  You know who you really are and how things will ultimately work out.  Meekness depends on the ability to know what’s really important.  The meek man or woman doesn’t need to yell, or demand, or cause a big stink or start a fight, because they have confidence in their identity, purpose, and future and they demonstrate it in their attitude and conduct toward others.

Think about this: how much of your frustration, how much of your anger, how much of your stress and tension are the result of not getting the things you want the way you want them? And how much of that could be transformed if only you would see yourself with eternal eyes – if you could see your true identity and know what’s really yours?

5 ​​Blessed are the meek,

​​For they shall inherit the earth.

If you know you’re a son or daughter of the King, there’s a lot of stuff you stop worrying about.  If you allow your identity to come from the God of the universe instead of the people around you, if you truly believe that all the treasures and joys of the Kingdom of God are already available to you in Christ right now and even more are coming in Heaven, you can settle down.  You can let go of pride, boasting, self-protection and self-promotion BECAUSE you have confidence in your identity and destiny.

Which brings us back to a point we made in earlier studies: it needs to be remembered that the beatitudes are not natural qualities, character traits, or personality styles.  The kind of meekness put forward here is not something you’re born with.  You don’t read through the list of beatitudes like a quiz to figure out which Disney Princess you are, or which of the X-men or Avengers you’re most like.  You don’t read through these behaviors and blessings and say, “Oh, this one is me.”

The kind of meekness Jesus is speaking of is not natural, it’s supernatural, it is produced by knowing who you are.  If you are a Christian, if you are born-again, if you are forgiven and adopted as a child of God, you WILL inherit the earth and you HAVE an eternal destiny.  Knowing that, believing that, is what produces meekness in us. 

You see, if I know I’m going to inherit the earth because of my position in Christ, then I don’t have to fight you for my rights.  I don’t have to fight for my identity.  I am already accepted in the Beloved.  I don’t need a promotion, I don’t need a boyfriend, I don’t need your recommendation or commendation or smile.  I don’t need the acceptance or approval of my team or neighbors.  I have the kingdom of Heaven. I have Christ the Son.  I don’t have to strive and fight and struggle and compromise and keep up.  I can relax and be me.

In fact, I must. Because as we’ve discussed before, these blessings of the Beatitudes are promised to all Christians, but the behaviors of the Beatitudes are expected of all Christians as well.  In other words, if you are a Christian, God is leading you toward meekness. Whether you’re quiet and withdrawn by nature, or loud and bombastic, you WILL become increasingly meek as you follow Christ.  This is His ideal. This is His goal for all of us and you cannot opt out of it or gloss over it or say, “that’s not really who I am.”  Of course it’s not.  But this is who God will make you if you’re submitting to Him.

You were made to live in a dependent relationship with God and to inherit the earth because He is your Father, but by nature we tend to defy Him.  We tend to run away from meekness.  We want to be known for our strength. Even if you’re quiet, you might cultivate this idea of yourself as being quietly strong, an anvil of iron under a quiet shell.  Or we want to be known as an aggressive go-getter who can make things happen, the independent, expressive type with the power and drive to get things done.

And why do we think this way?  Because most of us think the powerful will inherit the earth.  And there are times and places where that does happen, a strong man takes over, a domineering woman takes charge and everyone underneath endures their reign of terror.  Well, aggressiveness can get you into some positions of power, but it doesn’t keep you there.  In fact, it becomes a liability instead of an asset and you create a culture where people are looking for the opportunity to show you what aggression really is and either passively or actively begin challenging and subverting you.

Jesus Christ, is fully capable of aggression, He is a victorious veteran of spiritual combat, but He quietly calls you to come, and stop striving so hard to accomplish, stop fighting so much with others, and find your identity and rest in Him, let Him lead you into meekness and let Him give you the whole world.

We move on to our next Beatitude,

Matt 5:6 ​​Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

​​For they shall be filled.

What do we make of this? 

Well, by now you know – hungering and thirsting for righteousness is not normal human behavior, so this is not speaking of someone who is socially respectable or has “good morals” because of their upbringing or personality.  There are plenty of very good, very decent human beings whose souls are still destined for a godless eternity. 

How can that be?  Well, when you hear the word righteous, you have to ask: in the eyes of whom?  Because righteousness is a matter of judgment: you meet the standard and are found righteous, or your character or conduct disqualifies you.  So, what is the righteousness that should be pursued?

And the answer of course, is the righteousness of God.  Not just good civic values, not just themes of social equality and justice, however “good” those things may seem – the Biblical blessings come to those who hunger and thirst for Biblical righteousness.

So we could say: blessed or happy are those who desire to be free from sin in all of it’s forms, who want to see truth, purity, and justice reign at all times and in all places – both in me personally, and in the world at large.

Let’s consider each of those for a moment.  Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness long to be free from the power of sin.  All Christians are free from the penalty of sin.  The penalty for sin is paid once and for all in Jesus Christ on the Cross.  But the power of sin is still present in our lives, we still wrestle and struggle with it.  Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are desperate have victory over the power and the pull of sin in their personal lives.  True, healthy, growing Christians are increasingly aware of how prevalent sin is in each of us.  And they want to be cleansed.  They want to stop fighting and wrestling with all the old desires.

But they also want to be delivered from the presence of sin globally.  They hunger and thirst for the day when sin no longer ravages human beings and all of their relationships.  They long for the day when our race is defined by our love for one another and all things are pure, right, and holy.  They desperately desire the day when everyone you know will be in true fellowship with God, constantly dependent on Him. 

And those are really great desires!  But you know what is tremendously encouraging? You don’t actually have to get there, you don’t have to arrive in order to receive the blessing.  You just have to hunger and thirst for these things. 

If you have ever tried to fight the sin in your life, if you have ever wrestled against the desires of your flesh, the thoughts and reactions that boil up seemingly unprovoked at times, if you have ever prayed and prayed and prayed, “God set me free from this, God help me change!,” friend, God sees that and He knows.  You’re hungering and thirsting, you haven’t achieved or attained, but you want it, and God says that, that’s the key to the blessing.

Matt 5:6 ​​Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

​​For they shall be filled.

O Christian, I hope you know something of this.  I hope you can identify with the experience, I hope you have tried very hard to be good and learned how very bad you really are.  And I hope you want with all that is within you to be changed.

I hope you can say with the Psalmist:

Ps 42:1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,

​​So pants my soul for You, O God.

2 ​​My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

Because, what is promised to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness?  They shall be filled.  They WILL be satisfied.  And isn’t that a great feeling?  When you’ve had a good meal, with good company – friends or family – and you go from being hungry, to being filled. And then what do you want to do? Go lay down and rest.  It’s a good thing.  You’re content.  You’re satisfied.  You’re stuffed.  That’s the picture of what you will receive in Christ’s Kingdom.

You WILL be made righteous.  You have been delivered from the penalty of sin, you are being delivered from the power of sin as you grow in your relationship with God and He changes your life, and one day you will be delivered from the presence of sin entirely and you will enter into His presence in Heaven.  You will be filled; your hunger and thirst will be satisfied.

But until that day, here’s the thing about hunger: it’s never permanently satisfied.  Thirst is never permanently satisfied.  If you are hungry, and you eat, no matter how much you eat or how well you eat, you will hunger again.  If you are thirsty and you drink, no matter how much you drink, you will become thirsty again.  And if you don’t drink again, you will die.

May the same be true for us!  May we perpetually hunger and thirst for righteousness.  May we long to be freed from the power of sin, and then may we see even more in our lives that was lying behind what was just removed and we may we desire to see that removed too.  May our hearts constantly ache as we look out on the world and see the tragedies that sin wrecks upon this planet.  May we hunger and thirst, and then come to God and find satisfaction and joy and then may the hunger and thirst slowly build again until they drive us right back to His table.

You Bible students might want to make a connection here with the way God miraculously provided for the people of Israel as they wandered in the desert for 40 years, before they entered the Promised Land.  There were no stores to shop in, and it’s kind of hard to grow crops when you’re living like nomads in the desert, so God miraculously provided their food.  You remember how they ate something called manna that God provided for them each day.  But every morning they only got enough to get them through one day.

If you were greedy and tried to collect more than you needed so you wouldn’t have to go back out the next day, when you woke up the next morning the manna was full of worms – it had gone bad.  God wanted His people to rely on Him each day for something fresh, something new. 

What a wonderful picture that is for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  You need to get up each morning, receive God’s mercies, which are new every morning, and be filled.  But you can’t collect enough for today and tomorrow; you have to let that perpetual hunger keep bringing you back to the Lord.  He’s going to have something for you every day, but you need to keep coming back to receive it.  Sure, you got something great from God yesterday, but just as your physical hunger returns today no matter what you ate last night, your spiritual hunger and thirst are going to return as well – so keep coming back to God and keep being filled. Depend wholly, entirely, on Him.

Friend, I want you to understand this: there isn’t a moment when you finally break through with God and get everything you need and you’re done.  This isn’t like an adventure where you finally discover the treasure and it’s over.  Don’t think of God as the One who is going to give you everything at once and then leave you alone. 

There is a radical transformation when you enter into a relationship with God, when you confess your identity as a sinner in need of Grace, when you ask God to forgive you for all of your sins, and you recognize that Jesus suffered personally on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins – He paid a debt He did not owe because you owed a debt you could not pay – when you see that, accept that, identify with that and ask God to accept you on the basis of it, that is the moment when you are adopted, you go from being made in the image of God to actually becoming a child of God, you can now call Him Father, and you suddenly have a right to inherit eternal life – a right you never had before, and all of His blessings are yours.  All the blessings in this list of the beatitudes, and many more, are yours.

That is a radical, soul-transforming, eternity-impacting, event.  You go from being spiritually dead and living in spiritual darkness, to being alive, fully alive, and walking in the Light of Christ.

But after that, you still hunger and thirst for righteousness.  You still need regular connection with God.  He doesn’t fill you up and then send you off with all your problems solved. 

It’s natural, it’s normal, it’s His plan, that you will hunger and thirst again and be drawn back to His table.  So don’t think you’re doing something wrong, because you feel like you have these ups and downs.  You were hungry, you were filled, and now you’re hungry again – so come back to Him and ask to be filled again.  It makes so much sense in the physical realm, why do we struggle to understand this idea spiritually?

One last thing to point out: the order here is very important.  We are not told to hunger and thirst for blessing or happiness- if we do, they always seem to be just out of reach.  If you put happiness before righteousness, you are doomed spiritually because that reversal leads so often to compromise.  The blessings or happiness that come from God come in the pursuit of something else: hunger for righteousness and happiness will come.  There are many in the church who come seeking a blessing, seeking an experience, and never get it, or are led astray by it – pursue righteousness first and you will receive the blessings because both are found in Christ who said

John 6:35 “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

Let’s pray.

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