The Meek and the Earth

A couple of weeks ago, I shared that we were working through the Beatitudes (found in Matt 5:1-12) this summer at Cornerstone. You can listen to or download the messages from our podcast site or from iTunes.

This Sunday, we moved into looking at vs5 – Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

I love teaching from this beatitude. It contains one of the most significant challenges for our lives (Blessed are the meek…) and one of the most significant promises for our lives (…for they shall inherit the earth).

Most people do not realise that God has promised the earth as a gift to His people, the meek. Actually, it has never registered for some that God has always promised land to His people.

In the beginning, before sin and death had entered our world, God gave the gift of Eden to Adam and Eve:

26Then 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.”
27So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:26-28)

Our first parents were given the land of the Garden, to work it and take care of it (Gen 2:15). God was the great owner, but they were called to be stewards of it, while also being fruitful, multiplying and filling the earth. A fantastic gift and opportunity to participate in this bit of land, this bit of heaven on earth.

But moving along.

After sin and death entered the world, we pick up the story of Abraham (though I could have made some stoppers along the way). It’s only a few chapters down the road, but quite a long distance with regards to time. Interestingly enough, God calls a man, a man to be a blessing to all peoples of the earth (Gen 12:3). And, lo and behold, He again promises a land to Abraham and his descendants (see Gen 15:18-21; 17:8).

Now, I am of the view that God set out certain pointers, foreshadowings, in the old covenant that signify greater things to come in Christ and the new covenant. So, for example, in the old covenant, God’s people were marked by circumcision of the foreskin. But it ultimately pointed to a greater circumcision of the heart by the Spirit (Rom 2:28-29). In the old covenant, there were only a few that were called to enter into the priesthood of the old covenant. But, in Christ, the whole body becomes part of the royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9-10). And so on and so forth we could continue.

I believe the same is true with regards to the gift of land. While the land of Canaan was promised to the descendants of Abraham, I believe that, in Christ, the promise to all God’s people, whom are actually Abraham’s descendants (Rom 4), expands to the whole earth. A renewed earth one day.

And so, this is brought out by the fact that Christ’s words in Matt 5:5 are a restating of Ps 37:11, but within the greater new covenant context. What were those original words of the psalmist?

But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace. (Ps 37:11)

And actually, we read at least 5 times in that psalm alone that God’s people will inherit the land.

What land? Well, in the old covenant context, it was the land of Canaan (or, today, we might say Palestine). But, within the new covenant that Christ initiates, we see God’s plan is to gift the whole earth to His people, which really harkens back to the original gift of Eden in Genesis. Not only that, but Paul refocuses the original promise to Abraham in these words:

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. (Rom 4:13)

And, so, I believe a kingdom worldview sees these 5 points as essential to God’s purpose in Christ and the new covenant:

1) The earth belongs to God (i.e. Ps 24:1)

As a side note, when Paul calls Satan the ‘god of this world’ (2 Cor 4:4), it does not mean that he is ruler of the earth. It means that he is only ruler over those ‘of the world’, or those who live in accordance with the ways of the world. The Scripture tells us the earth belongs to God.

2) The earth will be filled with God’s glory (i.e. Hab 2:14 and Is 11:9)

This is God’s design and the final outcome of where we are headed. If the earth is His, then He will ultimately disperse His glory into every corner. And, He is interested in utilising us in doing so even now. But I’ll come to that in just a moment.

3) All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Christ (i.e. Matt 28:18-20)

No, not every knee has bowed. Not every tongue has confessed. But the lordship of Jesus is a  reality. It is not scheduled for a later date. It is for now. It’s just that, at a later date, it will be confirmed for those who are not God’s. It is already confirmed to us. Therefore, we can ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’

4) God’s plan is for the meek to inherit the earth (i.e. Matt 5:5)

This is awesome news. Part of the good news, the gospel of the kingdom. That the earth, this earth which God will renew, is our ultimate home. God’s design is not a palatial city in the sky. His plan has always been to see what is in heaven, His rule and reign, come on earth. That is why Jesus asked us to pray such (Matt 6:10)

5) In this age, we proclaim the God news that God is reconciling people to the Himself and making all things new (i.e. 2 Cor 5:16-21; Rev 21:1-5)

Though there is an absolute beauty in seeing human beings reconciled with the Father, their sins forgiven and becoming partakers of the divine (2 Pet 1:3-4), it does not stop there. The good news is that God will redeem and renew creation. And just like our lives of discipleship and holiness point to the age to come, when heaven has fully invaded earth, so does our stewardship of planet earth point to the age to come when all things are completely made new. We taste of it now as new creations. But there is a day yet to come (Rom 8:18-25). And this is part of seeing the glory of the Lord extend into the earth even now (i.e. Hab 2:14). Amazing He asks us to participate in this.

Now, I set a background with all of this to move towards a significant point I want to make in this post.

If Jesus is Lord already, how do we proclaim that today? In the biblical, New Testament times, to say Jesus is Lord (or Jesus is kyrios), this would have been quite significant in a world where Caesar was Lord and Master. It was quite offensive and definitely challenging to Caesar’s authority to say such back then. But, today, that word is kind of taboo. Or it doesn’t mean too much. Lords were of the olden days or masters over slaves.

Yes, our songs sure enough proclaim Jesus is Lord, and we probably say it with our lips. But I’m not sure it means much practically. What does this mean to a world that does not have much grounding in the importance of the lordship of Jesus Christ?

To proclaim the lordship of Jesus could be done in various ways. But, this is where I believe God made the connection for me – To proclaim that Jesus is making all things new is a proclamation of the lordship of Jesus.

He said He is making all things new (Rev 21:5). He already has begun in the new creation life of His people (2 Cor 5:16-17). And I believe His desire is to see His people engaged in living out lives that point to the reality that Jesus is and will make all things new one day.

And, so, to proclaim that Jesus is making all things new, I believe this is part of the good news message that Jesus is kyrios, Jesus is Lord. Well, I suppose if He wasn’t Lord, He wouldn’t have much of a right to make all things new. And, if He wasn’t making all things new, well, I suppose we could question whether He is who He says He is.

But Jesus is Lord and a major pointer to that reality is that He is the One who is making all things new. That is where the connection really came to me about the practicality of Jesus’ lordship.

And, the call is that those who want to inherit the earth as God’s gracious gift, well this is extreme challenge – Blessed are the meek

The way of the kingdom is so counter to the ways of the world, the ways of our own flesh. One does not receive from God by arrogance, throwing one’s weight around, controlling or being authoritarian. One receives through becoming meek, becoming poor in spirit, dying to self, taking up their cross. You know, emulating the Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus.

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

You can listen to the sermon by clicking on the icon below, or, as I mentioned above, you can download it from our podcast site or iTunes.

The Land of Israel in the New Covenant

In my last article, I looked at what I believe is a healthy and Biblical understanding of the temple of God. My main thesis was that, in the new covenant, God is not so much interested in currently seeing another temple built of brick and stone. Rather, God’s Son incarnate was the great temple which housed the glory of God (John 2:19-22). And not only that, but God is now ultimately dedicated to the temple of His people being constructed as a beautiful masterpiece in which He could dwell by His Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5).

No doubt the topic of the temple brings much debate with it. Yet, there is one that might cause even more debate – Who does the land of Israel belong to? This question is usually answered in one of two ways: 1) Jews or 2) Palestinians. And you might find someone every once in a while claiming it should be for both.

In Genesis 15:7, the LORD promised ‘this land’ to Abram [his name later changed to Abraham] as part of the covenant ceremony. And only a few verses later, He promises it ‘to your offspring’ (Genesis 15:18). Obviously, the land referred to in the passage is the land of Canaan. And because God promised it to Abraham and his descendants, it thus became known as the promised land.

In actuality, God had already promised the land of Canaan to Abraham before the actual covenant ceremony:

The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17)

The promise of the land would be initially fulfilled 400 years later as the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River and began to conquer the land of Canaan, as described in the book of Joshua. And it would be David who would fully expand and establish the borders of the people of Israel, this being described in the first half of 2 Samuel.

As I acknowledged in my last article, many things in the Old Testament foreshadow a greater fulfillment to come in Christ and the new covenant. Or, as I also stated, it is the type that awaits the anti-type. Thus, as I recapped earlier, the temple in the Old Testament pointed to the greater temple of Christ and His body. Consequently, in regards to the land promised to Abraham and his descendants, I am convinced that it also pointed to and foreshadowed something greater to come in the new covenant.

So, what is that greater land now promised to the descendants of Abraham? I believe is the whole earth! The true descendants of Abraham, those Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Christ, are now promised the earth, as Jesus announced in the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

More than likely, Jesus was referring back to Psalm 37:11, which said:

But the meek shall inherit the land.

Interestingly enough, Jesus took something from the context of the Old Testament that spoke about ‘the land’ and expanded the definition to ‘the earth’. The Greek word used in Matthew 5:5 is , which is usually translated as ‘earth’ (e.g., see Matthew 5:13; 5:18; Ephesians 1:10; Philippians 2:10; etc). And, considering Jesus’ statement, I believe it is God’s desire to give His Bride the whole earth. It is the poor in spirit that gain the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3); it is those who truly mourn over their sin that are comforted (Matthew 5:4); and it is the meek that receive the gift of the earth (Matthew 5:5); and, in Jesus’ discourse known as the Beatitudes, the blessings continue for those who are truly God’s (see Matthew 5:6-11).

To continue to see this great expansion in the promise of land for the people of God, we can consider John’s words near the end of his great vision:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:1-3)

Here we see the Bride, the people of God, inheriting a new heaven and new earth. And interestingly enough, the Greek word John used for ‘earth’ in Revelation 21:1 is also , as found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Just as God has always wanted a temple in which to dwell, God has also always wanted a land to give His people. And as we saw the greater temple of God being that of His Son and the body of Christ, I also believe God’s ultimate heart in the new covenant is not to grant His people a plot of land in the middle-east, but rather give them the greater gift of the whole earth. In the end, the land of Israel/Palestine pointed to the greater promised land of the new earth.

Many will point out that, in Genesis 17:8, God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham as an ‘everlasting covenant’. Thus, the land still belongs to the Jews. But, consider this: God also spoke to Abraham that circumcision was to be an ‘everlasting covenant’ for his descendants (see Genesis 17:13). But we have come to see through the New Testament that circumcision is really about being circumcised in heart (see Romans 2:28-29). It’s not that God has changed His mind about circumcision being part of an everlasting covenant. However, that everlasting covenant is now fulfilled in a much greater way through circumcision of the heart by the Spirit of God!

Thus, I believe the same stands true in regards to God’s everlasting covenant about the land promised to Abraham. This is not a political or national question. This still remains a Biblical question. God is maintaining His faithfulness to His covenant. Yet, the promise is to be fulfilled in a far greater way than Abraham could have imagined. It was beyond all that he could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). The new covenant in Christ was ‘enacted on better promises’ (Hebrews 8:6). And one of those better promises is that God is now going to give His Bride a new heaven and new earth. Thus, God has kept His word to both Abraham and us! And, with Jesus, we cry, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’