Today’s lectionary reading contains one of the more popular statements in the Old Testament, namely that Moses was the meekest/most humble (or however it is translated in your version of choice) person among all people. I have always found this very interesting because Moses’ actions do not really line up with modern conceptions of what it means to be meek or humble. Growing up I always thought a person who was humble or meek was reserved and showed a bit of weakness. But, this really in no way depicts Moses. Take for example Numbers 25.4, which reads as follows:
4 The Lord said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people, and impale them in the sun before the Lord, in order that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.”
Those do not really sound like the words of someone who is reserved or who displays any weakness whatsoever. I am not sure what it would take for me to tell someone to impale another human being “in the sun before the Lord.” In fact, I in no way condone the statement here in Numbers 25.4. However, I think the passage can help us to redefine in our minds what the Bible means when it speaks about meekness.
What does Jesus mean when he says that the meek will inherit the earth? Taking into consideration the meekness of Moses, he certainly does not mean that those who are mild mannered and do not display fierce anger will inherit the earth. In fact, if we hold a proper kind of righteous indignation back, it is probable that we are not really being meek at all. We are being something else altogether.