by Rebecca VanDoodewaard
“But he has horns!” My sister and I stared at the image that my mother held up. Michelangelo was clearly confused when he carved Moses. Mum explained that the horns were supposed to represent the glory that Moses reflected after his time with God.
Horns were just one of the many things about Moses that didn’t make sense. Although my father said Moses was a meek man, we had heard stories of his temper: killing an Egyptian, throwing down the tablets, striking the rock in anger. He didn’t sound very meek, and the horns didn’t help.
But Numbers 12:3 states that Moses was the meekest man on earth. He is the only person that the Old Testament describes this way. We tend to think of meekness as mousy and quiet, lacking in opinions and backbone. Since Moses is described as meek, though, Scripture must have a different understanding.
In his Discourse on Meekness, Matthew Henry describes meekness as a kind of self-control. True, biblical meekness is a self-control of strength that makes us lambs in our own causes and lions for the cause of Christ. As it did in Moses, meekness compels us to act when God and His Word are dishonored and also to be humble before Him, putting the interests of God’s people above our own (Deut. 9:25ff). So, meekness keeps us in communion with God and other believers.
When our wills grow more and more alongside God’s will, we decrease and He increases (John 3:30). His priorities become ours, and we can submit to hard providences in a way that passes understanding. Henry points out that “peace in our own souls is some conformity to the God of peace.”
Our world is full of turmoil, and we add our own inner turmoil to it. But meekness brings quiet, a “composure of the soul” that stills our turmoil. It brings clarity and purpose because it is “a victory over ourselves.” That is why meekness brings true courage, that is, the will and ability to act selflessly in sacrificial ways. It is a practiced, emotional self-denial that frees us up for kingdom service.
All Christians develop meekness to some extent, since it is part of sanctification. This is why Psalm 37:11 says, “The meek shall inherit the land.” Believers will grow in meekness that is a “peace of conscience which Christ has left for a legacy to His disciples.”
Moses is the Old Testament’s meek man. But in the Gospels, we see Christ living out meekness flawlessly, emptying Himself as He carried out His Father’s will. Meekness turned the tables in the temple, had compassion on the crowds, called the Pharisees a brood of vipers, and prayed, “Not my will, but yours, be done.” It is meekness that characterizes the Lion of the tribe of Judah who is the Lamb that was slain. It is meekness that carried out the Trinity’s plan for our salvation. Increasing meekness in us is merely a reflection of our Immanuel.
Rebecca VanDoodewaard is an author and mother. She is author of Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity’s Rebirth and the Banner Board Books series for children.
From Tabletalk Magazine December 22, 2018 an outreach of Ligonier Ministries.