ESV Numbers 12:1
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. 2 And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. 3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. 4 And suddenly the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. 5 And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. 6 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” 9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed. 10 When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. 11 And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. 12 Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” 13 And Moses cried to the LORD, “O God, please heal her–please.” 14 But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” 15 So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again.
Aaron and Miriam had started developing the attitude that they were better than Moses, and God came down and set the record straight and basically God told them that Moses was better than them because he was meeker than all the people of the face of the earth. God wants His people to be meek today. In fact, meekness, which is also translated as gentle is one of the fruits of the Spirit found in Gal. 5:22-23.
While many Christians understand that we are to be meek, many have the wrong idea about what meekness is all about because of our modern definitions of this word. For instance, I want you to notice a few of these definitions.
1. humble in spirit or manner; suggesting retiring mildness or even cowed submissiveness;
2. very docile, which means easily led or managed
3. evidencing little spirit or courage; overly submissive or compliant; “compliant and anxious to suit his opinions of those of others”; (Word Net)
Based on these definitions, when someone thinks of a meek person, they may picture a weak looking person with a weak voice who is very timid around others and who will agree with everyone out fear of standing out. This is why we have to be careful when it comes to certain words in our Bible because many times the English words used do not capture the true meaning of the word from the Greek. For instance,
Easton Bible dictionary says that meekness is a calm temper of mind, not easily provoked.
Friberg Lexicon says that meekness is as a mild and friendly disposition, gentle, kind, considerate.
BDAG Lexicon says meekness is when a person is not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance, gentle, humble, considerate.
These three definitions give us a better understanding of what the Bible actual means about being meek, which gives us completely different picture than our modern definitions do. Meekness is very similar to be being humble, and based on the real meaning of being meek, we should be able to understand why God wants all of us to have this trait. In fact, Paul teaches us that every Christians should be working at developing this trait.
Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready unto every good work, 2 to speak evil of no man, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing all meekness toward all men.
When we treat our fellow man with meekness, we are going to have the respect of those around us and we will have many more opportunities to teach people about the love of God.
To prove further that our modern day definition of meekness is not what the Bible has in mind, consider the example of Moses, who we have already said was the meekest man on the face of the earth. If we go by our modern day definition, then this would mean that Moses was the most timid, cowardly man alive. Yet what do we find Moses doing in the Bible?
1. When Moses came back down from the mountain the first time and he saw with His what the people were doing, he became angry and threw the tablets of stone down a broke them.
2. It was Moses who took control of this situation and burned the golden calf and he rebuked the people. Then he ground the calf up and put the powder in some water and made the people drink it (Exodus 32:20).
Does this sound like the actions of someone with no backbone? No it does not. We gain a much better understanding of Moses’ meekness by looking at our example we started with in Numbers 12.
Numbers 12:1 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. 2 And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. 3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.
Moses’ brother and sister were giving him a lot a grief about marrying this Cushite woman. The openly condemned him for this and they thought since God had spoken through them in the past that they did not have to follow Moses’ lead anymore. We can see Moses’ meekness in how he dealt with this situation.
He never complained to God about their behavior and he decided to bear the burden of their grief. He wasn’t one to bother God with every little thing that happened to him. Even though Moses’ was willing to bear the burden himself, God heard them condemning Moses and making themselves look important, so God intervened and set them straight.
Aaron and Miriam’s example shows us that God is not pleased with those openly condemn the righteous or who make themselves out to better than other, while Moses’ example shows that God will be pleased with our meekness and He will even help us without our request when we learn to be meek like Moses.
Another gook example of Moses meekness and how he was willing bear the burden for his people comes from,
Exodus 18:13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 “When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” 17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 “Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. 19 “Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 “And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. 21 “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 “And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 “If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”
This is just another instance where Moses put everyone else before himself. He was working night and day making these judgments for the people even though it was wearing him out. Not one time did he put himself first or complain to God that his work was too difficult. He choose to carry this heavy burden on himself.
However, his father-in-law could see how vexing this was on Moses and he gave him some good advice to share some of this burden so that he could endure and be able to help his people even more. While being meek is wonderful attribute we should all strive for, this event shows that you can overdo meekness if you take on to heavy of a load. This is what Moses had done.
His Father-in-law’s advice was great this time because Moses needed to bring this matter before God, and he needed to learn to share his burden so that he did not get burned out or work himself to death. So, if we start over working ourselves with God’s work, we need to take this same advice and pray to God for wisdom and for helpers.
Sometimes Christians seem to think that no one else is willing to help them with what they are doing and that the world will come to an end if they don’t continue their work without taking a small break. If it is true that no one is willing to help that Christian with that work, then shame on us. But most likely, some brother or sister within the congregation is willing to help and we must learn to share our burden with them.
Again, I want to point out that Moses was not being timid in this event, he was simply dong the work of the Lord without thinking of his own well-being. He was making judgment calls based on God’s Word, which means he was leading and not following. I have feeling that not very many of us could have handled what Moses went through, which is why his meekness shows how strong he really was.
Another great example of meekness comes from who Moses prophesied about. Of course I am talking about Jesus. Notice, what Jesus says about himself in,
KJV Matthew 11:29 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.
Was Jesus saying that He was timid and that He would let anyone and everyone run Him over? No, absolutely not! Instead, we find Jesus standing up for God’s truth over and over again. If you will remember that at the beginning of His ministry and at the end, He ran the moneychangers out of the temple. He rebuked the opposing Jews on numerous occasions and who can forget His speech in Mat. 23 where He called the opposing Jews hypocrites several times.
So, in our text, Jesus is not saying that He is timid or scared. Instead, He is saying that He is willing to carry our heavy load for us so that our burden will be light. This fits perfectly with the real meaning of meekness. In fact, Isaiah prophesied about this in,
Isaiah 53:4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
This prophecy describes the meekness of Jesus because He was willing carry the weight of our sin on His shoulders, which caused Him to sweat drops like blood, and He willing gave up His life for us and He did all this with out complaining. Again, this is confirmed by Peter.
1 Peter 2:21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
This shows us how strong Jesus was by being meek and lowly in heart. Even though He could have called 12 legions of angels to rescue Him from dieing on the cross, He did not do it because He knew there was a work to be done for the Lord and that no one else could bear that burden. Yet, we are called to follow His example by becoming meek and by humbling ourselves before the Lord. As Paul said,
Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Again, this is what being meek is all about. A selfish person who only thinks about themselves cannot be meek because as Paul just said, we must not just look out for ourselves, we must also look out for the interest of others. Again, notice how Paul stresses this idea in,
Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
All of things Paul mention that we must put on and do as Christians can be accomplished when we learn to be meek and humble, because when we put others before ourselves and we treat others with kindness and gentleness it is going to be easier for us to be long suffering, and be willing to bear one another’s burden. Being meek will also make it easier to forgive those who sin against us and then repent. Of course, all these wonderful traits are bound together by love.
When Peter was teaching the married Christian woman how to reach her non-believing husband, he told her that she needed to have a quite and meek spirit, which is very precious in the site of God (1 Pet. 3:4). Since God considers a quite and meek spirit to be precious, we should all want to have that type of Spirit so that we will be pleasing to God.
Finally notice what Paul tells Timothy in,
1 Timothy 6:11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness (KJV – meekness). 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
This is the final example that I will use this morning that shows the difference between our modern definition of meekness and Bible definition of meekness. In verse 11, we are told pursue being meek or gentle, but in the very next verse we are taught to fight the good fight of faith, which proves that being meek doesn’t mean that you let people walk all over you or that you have not backbone. No, you can be meek and you can fight the good fight of faith by standing up for the principles in God’s Word. As Peter said,
1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.
So, while the world may not understand the importance or true meaning of being meek, we should, and I hope that all of us will work hard to become meek like Moses and like Jesus so that we can be pleasing to God and be more effective workers for the Lord.