The Beatitude of Covenant Qualification
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 NASB
Again, since we know that MAKARIOS μακάριος, translated, blessed, refers to inner happiness, we can move on to the next important word in this phrase, PRAUS πραΰς. Just as in the construction of the previous two verses, this word appears as an adjective used substantively. This word, most often translated, meek or gentle, designates the category of person who is blessed, or full of inner happiness. Generally, the word describes someone who bears up under life’s pressures, such as unjust treatment, with calm composure, lacking in bitterness or anger. This isn’t simple passive submission in the face of such unpleasantness but an active, aggressive mental attitude dynamic that deliberately avoids mental attitude sins by applying the appropriate doctrines. To possess such a mental attitude, one must be fortified with accurate doctrinal rationales and the power of the Holy Spirit to empower them. Furthermore, it infers a focus in life upon grace; upon the graciousness God has brought to bear upon the human race through the work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, a better translation of the word in this context deals with humility. Humility for the believer becomes active, aggressive submission to God’s will, to include faith in Christ then learning and applying the thoughts of Christ, resulting in spiritual maturity. Truly, this grace oriented person will be full of inner happiness.
The entire passage, Psalm 37 aptly describes the mental attitude of the humble person:
Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees his day is coming. The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow to cast down the afflicted and the needy, to slay those who are upright in conduct. Their sword will enter their own heart, and their bows will be broken. Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD sustains the righteous. The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever. They will not be ashamed in the time of evil, and in the days of famine they will have abundance. But the wicked will perish; and the enemies of the LORD will be like the glory of the pastures, they vanish—like smoke they vanish away. The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives. For those blessed by Him will inherit the land, but those cursed by Him will be cut off. The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread. All day long he is gracious and lends, and his descendants are a blessing. Depart from evil and do good, so you will abide forever. For the LORD loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked will be cut off. The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. The wicked spies upon the righteous and seeks to kill him. The LORD will not leave him in his hand or let him be condemned when he is judged. Wait for the LORD and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it. I have seen a wicked, violent man spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil. Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more; I sought for him, but he could not be found. Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright; for the man of peace will have a posterity. But transgressors will be altogether destroyed; the posterity of the wicked will be cut off. But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him. Psalm 37 NASB
The next phrase speaks of an inheritance designated for this happy humble person. The word “inherit” is a future active indicative of KLERONOMEO κληρονομέω. It refers to an allotment given because of a certain qualification. It includes the concept of logical progression. If that qualification is met, then it follows logically, that the allotment or inheritance would be given. That allotment, in this case is the land, the GE, γῆ. Now, we need to go back to the context of this verse. What did “the land” mean to those who heard those words of the Lord? What does “the land” mean to us as Church Age believers?
The Land, to those hearers, was exactly that; the Land of Israel which God had promised to the Jews since the days of Abraham [Gen 13:14-15, 15:18]. It included much more territory than even David had conquered. Furthermore, the inherited land symbolized the fulfillment of all of the Unconditional Covenants God promised Israel. These have not yet been fulfilled in their entirety to this day. The coming of the Messiah is one provision in the covenants. God sent the Messiah, as promised, yet they rejected Him so His rule has been delayed until after the Dispensation of Israel is completed. These disciples, who were going out to spread the news of the present Messiah, needed to communicate the means to qualify for the covenants. Most Jews at that time thought they were already qualified because of their genetic relationship to Abraham and their adherence to the legalistic program promulgated by the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus sought to correct this false idea by the principles He taught in this and other sermons.
Our Lord, then charged the disciples, by this beatitude that to be recipients of the Unconditional Covenants, they had to orient to the work of our Lord by faith in Him, and then build their spiritual life upon that salvation. Also, note that our Lord brought the Old Testament Scripture in to His teaching:
But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. Psalm 37:11
The humble refers to a person who can be taught. When someone hears the Gospel of our Lord, God the Holy Spirit teaches that to him, making it real. The humble person will believe the Gospel, becoming a believer in Jesus Christ. The humble person will continue to believe what the Spirit teaches him resulting in spiritual maturity. Understand that the mechanics for the Spirit’s teaching includes the verbal or written message presented by one’s pastor. If a person is not humble, then he is arrogant, rejecting then the Gospel message and subsequent doctrinal instruction. The humble person, in the time of Christ, who would have believed in Him then progressed to spiritual maturity, qualified to participate in the Unconditional Covenants.
An interpretive translation of this beatitude reads this way:
Inner happiness to the spiritually mature for they will inherit the unconditional covenants.
How does this beatitude apply to Church Age believers? We are not a party to the unconditional covenants to Israel! We can apply this principle to our lives, however. We stand to inherit much more than Israel ever dreamed of. We in the Church Age must live our lives in the light of eternity, first, appropriating the Lord’s work by faith in Him, then grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord to qualify for the full inheritance we have “in Christ.”