The Meekness of Moses
Text: Numbers 12:1-15
I. If a little boy came up to and announced, “When I grow up, I want to be the meekest man on earth!” What would you think?
A. Oh, intellectually we know that meekness is a good thing. It is one of the fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22-23
B. But most of us have this image of a skinny, unassuming guy with a high pitched voice and a timid way of approaching people.
C. You see it in the definitions of meekness
1. “Humble in spirit or manner; suggesting retiring mildness or even cowed submissiveness”
2. “Compliant: evidencing little spirit or courage; overly submissive or compliant.”
3. The problem is that this is our modern usage. It is not necessarily the biblical meaning of the words being used.
II. The definition of “meek”
A. In discussing the Greek word for meek: prautes, Vines states:
1. “The meaning of prautes is not readily expressed in English, for the terms meekness, mildness, commonly used, suggest weakness and pusillanimity to a greater or less extent, whereas prautes does nothing of the the kind. Nevertheless, it is difficult to find a rendering less open to objection than ‘meekness’; ‘gentleness’ has been suggested, but as prautes describes a condition of mind and heart, and as ‘gentleness’ is appropriate rather to actions, this word is no better than that used in both English Versions. ... Described negatively, meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest; it is equanimity of spirit that is neither elated nor cast down, simply because it is not occupied with self at all.”
2. I believe it is that last phrase that captures the concept of meekness: It is a total lack of self-pride, to the point of a lack of self-concern.
3. It is related to humility, but it is not the same thing.
a. The poor and the oppress are often called meek, not because they are cowed but because they have no pride in their current position and, therefore, they have little concern about themselves.
b. Isaiah 11:4 - Depending on your translation the poor are equated to the meek, afflicted, or humble
4. It is a trait that all Christians are to have - Titus 3:1-2
a. Depending on the translation it is rendered as gentleness, humility, meekness, or consideration.
B. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for meek is anaw.
1. It means someone who is afflicted or bearing a heavy burden.
III. The example of Moses
A. Numbers 12:3 tells us that Moses was the meekest man on earth
1. How can this be?
2. After all wasn’t it Moses who in a fit of anger through down the tablets of stone and broke them?
3. Wasn’t it Moses who burnt the golden idol, ground it up, poured the powder into water and made the people drink it?
4. Does this sound like a mild-mannered, unassuming guy?
B. Numbers 12:1-3
1. Moses’ brother and sister have been giving him grief because he chose to marry a woman from Ethiopia
2. They openly spoke against Moses and insinuated that since God has spoken through them in the past that there was no need for them to follow Moses if they didn’t want to do so.
3. The statement in verse 3 about Moses’ meekness is an explanation about the circumstances
a. Moses never complained to God about the grief Miriam and Aaron were causing him.
b. He chose to bear the burden.
c. Thus, in verse 2, we see that God chose to step in and do something about the matter, even though He wasn’t asked.
d. Moses was not the type of person to bring his personal problems to God
C. We can also see the meekness of Moses in Exodus 18:13-23
1. Moses was literally wearing himself out trying to help everyone solve their problems.
2. He never complained or even gave thought to what this was doing to him.
3. He willing bored the problems of everyone else on his own shoulders
4. His father-in-law, however, saw the problem
a. He pointedly told Moses that what he was doing was no good.
b. Notice especially verse 19, Moses needed to take this matter before God
c. Then he needed to start training men to assume some of the burden that he was bearing on behalf of the people.
D. The meekness of Moses wasn’t a character of timidity or letting other people run over him.
1. Moses’ meekness as a demonstration of strength beyond what most men show.
2. He carried burdens that would cause most of us to crumble and he never complained – not even to God!
IV. The example of Jesus
A. Jesus tells us that he is meek - Matthew 11:29
1. He is not stating that he is retiring or cowed.
2. Recall that twice Jesus threw merchants and moneychangers out of the temple - John 2:14-17; Matthew 21:12-13
3. Instead, he is telling us that he is willing to take up our heavy loads and bear them in our stead. In their place he will give us light loads to carry.
B. Recall the prophecy of the suffering Servant? - Isaiah 53:4-7
1. This is the description of meekness: a willingness to bear the burdens of others with no thought of self without even a groan of complaint.
2. Jesus bore so much on our behalf. That is meekness!
C. I Peter 2:21-25 - He did not revile or threaten
D. Jesus wasn’t weak or cowardly.
1. At any time Jesus had but to ask and he could have stopped the violence - Matthew 26:50-54
2. But Jesus wasn’t concerned about himself. There was work to be done, there was a burden to carry that no one else could shoulder - Philippians 2:4-8
V. The meekness of a Christian
A. If we patiently suffer for what is right, then we have God’s commendation - I Peter 2:19-21
B. Understanding this, read Colossians 3:12-13
1. Meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another
2. Forgiving if anyone has a complaint
3. Without a doubt you are going to have to put up with brethren who will irritate you and cause you all sorts of grief
4. Do the best you can and carry the load.
C. Galatians 6:1-2
1. Restore with the attitude of meekness.
2. When people fall into sin, we who are spiritual should pick up their burden – not to the point of taking on their sin or being tempted to sin – but help them shoulder their burden so that they might have a chance to become stronger
3. Bear one another’s burdens, that is the law of Christ.
D. The spirit of meekness is very precious in God’s sight - I Peter 3:3-4
E. I Timothy 6:11-12
1. Have you given thought how odd it is to mention meekness and then in the very next phrase say, “fight the good fight”?
2. We are going to be opposed. Shoulder the burden. Give no thought for yourself, but battle for the Lord.