Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Ornament of Meekness

The Christmas tree dazzled with a brilliance unparalleled in other years. Silver ornaments, offset by sparkling white lights, presented a picturesque image for the family living room. But throughout the year, another ornament seeks decoration upon the tree that is a woman's spirit. It is that of meekness..which is in the sight of God of great price (I Peter 3:4).

What precisely is this attitude that is to grace the life of the Christ-filled believer? Throughout the Old Testament, the Hebrew word meekness might be defined as “mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit.” Commentator Matthew Henry writes, “Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”

Coupled with the quiet spirit, a meek frame of mind is the attitude with which we must submit to God (James 1:21) and others (Eph. 4:2). Indeed, such an attitude yields its own rights, because it trusts that God, the Master Planner and Architect of our lives’ framework, will do right. Furthermore, such a spirit believes God’s promises and obediently yields to His way, confident that regardless of the bleak appearance of outward circumstances, His way is perfect.

The commentator continues: “In the Old Testament, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend them against injustice.” Too often when our ways become imperiled by difficulties, we resort to the way we know best—our own. Instead of turning in faith dependence to the One Who reminds, “Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5), we, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, feel ourselves out of sorts with life, crying against the sea of troubles that tosses us. We say the angry word, hastily utter the caustic remark, ridiculously assuming that following our own course through the God-ordained trial will somehow be safer.

However, standing in contrast to walking after our own way is following the way of meekness. As we habitually depend on God, our attitude toward negative circumstances and unkind people will not be “like treats like” but will rather be full of God’s gentleness and meekness, for this Christ-like spirit views such calamities as opportunities to access grace to meet daily challenges and needs; further, it envisions difficulties as stepping stones to higher ground. Henry explains it this way: “Meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time.”

Meekness’ opposite is selfishness. “My” way, “my” time, even “my” responsibilities can encroach upon my retaining a meek and quiet spirit. In such situations, I must replace the self-dependent life with the life of the Savior, Who lived on earth, a perfect example of meekness. He obeyed the Father, submitted willingly to God’s commands for His life, responded in grace to the forty-day temptation in the wilderness, and died a humiliating death.

Certainly Christ offers the perfect example of meekness. Matthew 21:5 explains how Christ entered Jerusalem: “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” Not a noble stallion—that will be later when he enters the world as Triumphal King—but a humble donkey was the means of transporting God the Son through the streets of Jerusalem that day. They called Him the King of the Jews, but how noble did He appear to them, entering the city in such a manner? In Matthew 11:29, our Example of Meekeness commands, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Meekness is the “way out,” like the exit signs that dot the London subway system. Curving through life on the train track of self, there is a way out. Christ’s way, the way of escape, is promised in I Corinthians 10:13, where God promises that He “will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

In sum, Henry concludes, “Gentleness or meekness is the opposite [of] self-assertiveness and self-interest. . . . This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will.” To further illustrate the Holy Spirit’s part in bringing about meekness, consider Moses, the meekest man: “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Moses certainly understood what it meant to depend upon God. It was Moses that heard God utter the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” and exemplified that primary mandate for the children of Israel by humbly submitting his will so frequently to the God he served as he led the complaining, griping, disobedient lot of people through the wilderness in a generally meek frame of mind. It was Moses who spent forty days and forty nights without bread or water on the mount with God, receiving these commandments from God’s mouth. It was Moses who, upon returning from the mount, spent forty more days and nights without bread or water, entreating God for mercy upon the children of Israel. (Combined, Moses spent a total of almost eighty days straight without food, waiting, depending fully on God.) This is humility—trusting God for all needs and believing He will fill all desires. Certainly Moses was of the number who are satisfied in the Lord, for “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” and “The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 29:19).

But more importantly than the man Moses’ example of meekness, God Himself possesses such a spirit. Psalm 18:35 records, “Thy gentleness [also translated "meekness"] hath made me great.” What a beautiful truth to consider when teaching others! Meekness assists students, children, and others to become what God wants them to be. It is a teaching method used by God Himself to make His children great. The meek response of the teacher, the coach, the parent—can help lay the groundwork for a great future generation! The gentle methods that the meek teacher uses, the patient ways, instill a praiseworthy spirit and one that bears fruit in the lives of many to come!

May this day and every subsequent one this year find me adorned with the ornament of meekness!