Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Receiving the Word with Meekness

Leslie Basham: When you have a meek heart you will complain a lot less. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You see, meekness says, “I know that God has His reasons, and it doesn’t matter whether I can see the reason or not.” But the proud heart, the poisoned heart, says, “It should have been done differently. I see no reason for this; therefore, God should not have done this.”

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, June 19.

Nancy continuing in the series, "The Beauty of Meekness."

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I grew up in the northeastern part of the United States—and I’m sure they have these in other parts—but one of the things I remember on our property were these beautiful willow trees. They were weeping willow trees, and in our area they had some huge, beautiful willow trees.

And I thought of those, I thought of that picture, when I came across this quote on the Internet about the issue of meekness. It uses the willow as a word picture. Let me read to you what this author said.

Meekness is the opposite of weakness. As a firmly rooted willow bends and flexes through the storm without breaking, so meekness is flexible, resilient strength that can endure tests and turmoil not by stiff resistance but by gentle yielding.

Because you know Him as the wise, sovereign, loving King who planned the path and sees the final outcome, you can accept His ways for you as good without argument or opposition [argument and opposition—that’s a stiff resistance], but instead you can yield gently. Resisting Him you fall and break. Surrendered to Him you stand anchored and indestructible in the fiercest storm.

That’s a good word picture about this subject of meekness.

Now, I want to take us back again and I will in each session in this series to this book by my Puritan friend, Matthew Henry. The book is called The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit. You can tell by the quotes I’m using that this is not necessarily easy sledding to read a book like this. But it’s worth the effort periodically to get one of these classics. This was written over 300 years ago.

But in this book Matthew Henry points out that meekness is seen in our response toward God, our relationship with Him, and in our response toward others. In this session we want to focus on meekness toward God. Matthew Henry says that,

Meekness toward God is the easy and quiet submission of the soul to the whole will of God according as He is pleased to make it known whether by His Word or by His providence.1

So submission to God, to the will of God, is meekness. We submit to the will of God whether He shows it to us directly through His Word or through the circumstances that He providentially brings into our lives. I’m going to let that be the outline for our session together—submission to God’s Word and submission to God’s choices or His providences in our lives.

First of all submission, meekness in response to the Word of God. James chapter 1 tells us that we are to "receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls." See this book? This is the Word of God, and it’s able to give us eternal salvation. It’s able to sanctify us. It’s able to cleanse us, to renew us, to transform our lives.

But it does none of that if we don’t receive it, if we resist what it says, if we don’t have a teachable and humble and open spirit to the Word of God. And we maybe haven’t willfully said, “I won’t do that.” But we’re just passing over those things. We neglect those areas of truth. We don’t receive them.

Sometimes we see something or we hear something preached from God’s Word and we think, “No way. I can’t do that. That’s too hard,” or “I don’t want to do that.” If we resist the Word of God, it doesn’t save our souls. It doesn’t change us. It doesn’t sanctify us. So we have to receive with a meek spirit the implanted Word which is able to save our souls.

To have a meek response to the Word of God, to receive God’s Word with meekness, means to have a listening ear. I love that verse in 1 Samuel chapter 3 where Eli the priest spoke to the young man Samuel. And he said, “If he calls you,” speaking of God, “you shall say, ‘Speak Lord for your servant hears’” (v. 9).

Receiving the Word with meekness means listening. We see the opposite of that repeatedly in the Old Testament where God sent prophets to warn His people, but the Scripture said they would not listen, but were stubborn.

It’s not just in the Old Testament, ladies. There are a lot of stubborn people sitting in our churches today. How often are we sitting there not listening?

Now, we may be listening with our physical ears, but we’re not listening with our hearts. This is why when I go to church on my way to church (I can’t say I do this every week, but I try to make a habit when I know I’m going to be hearing the Word of God), I try to prepare my heart by saying, “Lord give me ears to hear.”

In that sense, it doesn’t really matter whether the pastor or the preacher or the teacher is some spectacular communicator. If they’re opening the Word of God and speaking the truth, there’s something for me to listen to. They shouldn’t have to be some great orator for me to get something out of it. It’s the Word of God that’s powerful.

Listen. Listen. Listen. That’s receiving the Word with meekness.

To receive the Word with meekness means not only to have a listening heart; it means to have a humble heart, a teachable spirit. Over the years many, many times in my own quiet time, I’ve started my quiet time by praying that prayer from Psalm 25: “Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me” (v. 4 NIV). 

That’s a heart that’s saying, “Lord, show me. I need to learn. I’m coming as a student to listen, to learn, to be taught.”

To have a meek spirit is to have a responsive spirit to the Word of God, asking questions like:

  • How does this apply to me? I’m willing to make the necessary adjustments in my life to obey whatever God says from His Word.
  • Do you listen to the reproofs that God sends your way?
  • Do you listen to the Word of God?
  • What is your response when He sends correction through His Word, when He sends instruction?
    • Do you stiffen your neck in pride?
    • Do you just let it go like water off a duck’s back?
    • Or do you respond intentionally, in humility, meekness, and repentance wherever it’s needed?

Receiving the Word of God with meekness means we don’t debate. He is God. We don’t debate with God. Now we may discuss, “What does this mean?” We may wrestle with, grapple with understanding it. But once we know what it says, we don’t debate with God. He says it. He’s God. He’s Lord, and His Word reigns in our lives.

It means that we are obedient. To receive the Word of God with meekness means that we bow the knee. We say, “Yes, your majesty.”

There’s an interesting passage in Ezekiel chapter 24 that I think illustrates powerfully this response of meekness and humility and obedience to the Word of God. Let me read beginning in verse 15. “The word of the Lord came to me: 'Son of man.'" Now, this is prophet Ezekiel God is speaking to. "'Behold, I’m about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down'" (v. 15–16).

God says, “I’m about to take from you the most precious thing you have. But as an object lesson to the people of Israel, you are not to show any evidence of grieving or mourning.”

He says, “Sigh, but not aloud” (v. 17). You can do it in your heart, but you can’t express it.

“Make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, and put your shoes on your feet; do not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of man” (v. 17). He’s talking about don’t do the things that you would do to show cultural expressions of wailing or grieving or mourning.

So Ezekiel says, “I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded” (v. 18).

Now, I’m not saying here that God’s in the business of just striking people’s mates down. That’s not the point of this passage. There was a whole lesson for Israel in this, and God was doing something that was very unusual.

The point here is that God gave Ezekiel instruction in the toughest possible area of his life. God says, “You’re going to lose the thing that is most precious to you. And when you do, you are not to show any outward grieving.”

And Ezekiel says, “In the evening my wife died, and the next morning I did exactly what God told me to do.” That is receiving the Word of God with meekness. It’s saying, “Yes, Lord. Whatever You say. Yes, Lord.”

It’s the heart attitude we read in Psalm 119 verse 60. “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands” (NIV).

Do you receive God’s Word with meekness? Do you have that kind of heart responsiveness to His Word?

And then meekness as we respond to God’s choices and God’s providences in our lives, life circumstances. Sometimes those life circumstances are mysterious. We cannot understand what God is doing. We are called to respond in meekness, to receive God’s choices for our lives.

Sometimes they’re not only mysterious; sometimes they are intensely painful the circumstances that we go through. One Bible reference says that “meekness is that temper of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good without disputing or resisting them.”

Let me read that again because I think that’s such a powerful description of meekness.“Meekness is that temper of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good without disputing or resisting them. The meek man will not fight against God, and more or less struggle or contend with him."

Meekness says, "Lord if it pleases You, it pleases me. I don’t have to understand. I don’t have to agree. But I accept; I receive the choices that You have brought into my life."

Again, we can see this illustrated in the Scripture. Job chapter 2, a powerful illustration of responding to God’s providence in meekness. Then his wife said to Job after Job has been stripped of most of his possessions. He had lost his children, had lost his health, had lost almost everything he had in this world, "'Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.'" But Job said to his wife, "'You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (v. 10).

Where’s the meekness there? The meekness is saying, “I’m not only going to receive it when God showers good things upon me—money and kids and wealth and fame and prosperity and health and all these things—but I’m going to receive leukemia. I’m going to receive poverty. I’m going to receive difficulty in my marriage. I’m going to receive that physical challenge with one of my children. I’m going to receive that as being from God’s hand also.” That’s a spirit of meekness.

And Job said to his wife, “The foolish women say, ‘Curse God and die.’”

Now, we probably wouldn’t say, “Curse God and die,” but isn’t that a natural tendency we can have is to resist God’s choices?

And he says, “That’s foolish. We must receive good and evil from God.”

Matthew Henry says,

When the events of providence are grievous and afflictive meekness not only quiets us under them but reconciles us to them, and enables us not only to bear but to receive evil as well as good at the hand of the Lord. It is to kiss the rod.2

That is the rod of God’s chastening, God’s discipline. It’s to bless God even when His providences are painful in our lives.

Now I know this is tough stuff we’re saying here, and saying this is a lot easier than living it. But this is a heart of meekness.

He says, “It is to kiss the rod not daring to strive with our Maker, no, nor desiring to prescribe to Him.” We’re not daring to contend with God, and we’re not taking it upon ourselves to tell God what He should do because He’s God and we’re not. We’re to be quiet and "not opening the mouth because God does it."

And with that meekness comes peace. With that meekness comes joy. With that meekness comes rest, receiving God’s providences as from His hand.

Let me give you an illustration of that from the book of Leviticus. Remember when Aaron who was the high priest, his two sons who were also priests, Nadab and Abihu, they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord and God struck them and killed them? And again, this was as the nation of Israel was getting started. God needed His people to know that He was a holy God.

Now this is something that if you’re the parent of those two boys are you tempted to contend with God and say, “That isn’t fair; that isn’t right”? Are you tempted to resist God’s will?

Moses said to Aaron in Leviticus 10, “This is what the Lord has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be gloried.’ And Aaron held his peace” (v. 3). That’s receiving with meekness the disciplining hand of God.

Now that isn’t to say that God always deals that way. We could go further into some of why God may have dealt that way. But the point is that Aaron said, “If God has done it, I can’t argue. I can’t resist.”

Matthew Henry says,

Such is the law of meekness that whatsoever pleases God must not displease us. Let Him do what He will, for He will do what is best [that’s where you go back again to your trust in the Lord that He is good], and therefore [this is something to contemplate here], if God should refer the matter to me [if God were to ask me what I think should happen in this situation], says the meek and quiet soul, being well assured that He knows what is good for me better than I do for myself, I would refer it to Him again.4

If God were to say to me, "What do you think should be done in this situation?" I would say, “Lord, you know what is best.”

You see the essence of meekness as it relates to circumstances in life is the quiet trusting acceptance, not chafing, not resisting, not resenting. It’s knowing that nothing can touch my life apart from the permission of a wise, loving God.

That’s why we don’t have to spend our lives being bent out of shape, being angry, being frustrated, being irritable, being resistant. Meekness is a settled, quiet, “Yes, Lord. I receive this as from Your hand.”

We see the opposite of that spirit in an incident in David’s life in the Old Testament. David has many illustrations of being meek spirited. But on one occasion at least, he was not meek spirited. Remember the time when the Ark of the Covenant was being taken on an ox cart, which it should not have been in the first place?

A man named Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark from falling when the cart stumbled, and God struck Uzzah down. Again, I’m making it sound in this session like God is always in the habit of striking people down. Mercifully, He does not. But in this instance that’s what happened. The Scripture says,

David was angry because the Lord had burst forth against Uzzah. . . . And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and he said, "How can the ark of the Lord come to me?" So David was not willing to take the ark of the Lord into the city of David. (2 Sam. 6:8–10)

David got angry. He was afraid, but he was resistant. He said, “If that’s the way God’s going to be about having the Ark around, I don’t want the Ark around. Take it somewhere else.”

Now there was maybe some healthy fear there. But I think that fear in that case was born out of resistance. He was angry. His anger reflected a lack of meekness unlike Aaron who said nothing. He held his peace. If God has done this, this is what God knows is right.

Let me read to you a couple other quotes that really speak to me on this subject. Thomas Watson, another good Puritan, said, “Murmuring is rising up against God. For thou settest thyself above God as if thou were wiser than He.”

You want to be God? Well you can’t be, and you aren’t, and you won’t be. So recognize that He is God, and let it go. Let Him be God.

 Calvin said,

Why is it that men fret so when God sends them things entirely contrary to their desires except that they do not acknowledge that God does everything by reason [God has a purpose for everything He does] and that He has just cause? As soon as God does not send what we have desired, we dispute against Him, we bring suit, not that we appear to do this, but our manners show that this is nevertheless our intent. But from what spirit is this pronounced? Resisting God from a poisoned heart as if we said, "I see no reason for this."

See, meekness says, “I know that God has His reasons, and it doesn’t matter whether I can see the reason or not.” But the proud heart, the poisoned heart says, “It should have been done differently. I see no reason for this; therefore, God should not have done this.”

It is as if they accuse God of being a tyrant, or a hare-brain. Such horrible blasphemy blows out of the mouths of men.

It can be in big things or little things. I see no reason for this. In fact, often times it’s the little things that really expose our lack of meekness, our resistance.

I was gone for a couple of weeks recently and came back to discover that they were re-roofing the condo association where I live. While I was gone they had re-roofed most of the other condos in the association. But the night I got back, the next day (I was exhausted from my trip. It was a weekend. I treasure my weekend naps.) Saturday and Sunday there were roofers over my head pounding, pounding, pounding, pounding.

My thinking was, I see no reason for this. I see no reason for this.

But you know, meekness says, “This is something I cannot control. This is something I didn’t ask for. If they had asked about scheduling it, maybe we could have done it differently. But it is not worth my losing the peace of God in my heart by contending ultimately with God about His choices."

I’ve been struggling several weeks with a throat issue here and trying to get that checked out. It’s been distracting and it's made it difficult to teach and to speak. And my thinking at times has been, I see no reason for this.

But you know what? It doesn’t really matter whether I see reason for it or not. The point is, apparently God does see reason for it. So meekness says, “Lord, if it pleases You, it pleases me.”

Now, if you have a throat issue, you can go to the doctor; you can deal with it. I did make a call at one point to the roofing company and said, “I’ve got some interviews coming up tomorrow. Is it possible that we could work around the timing?” So where there are things you can change, that’s fine.

But the problem is when we develop this demanding spirit . . . “I have a right to some peace and quiet. I have a right to my nap time on Saturdays and Sundays without people pounding on my roof.” What do you do? You lose your peace? You lose your joy? You lose your fellowship with God. You lose your witness to the world.

So how do you respond to life circumstances when you’re inconvenienced and maybe bigger issues? Maybe your house isn’t being roofed. Maybe your house got lost in a tornado or a fire, or there’s been a great financial setback, or you’re caring for an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s, or God doesn’t give you a husband that you’ve been longing for, or you long for a child and God has not given you a child.

Is your heart attitude, “I see no reason for this?” Or is your heart attitude, “Lord, if it pleases You, it pleases me; I receive it"? That’s a spirit of meekness.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us why the topic of meekness is so practical. Today’s program is part of a series called, "The Beauty of Meekness." 

To read a transcript of today’s program or to get the series on CD, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Our team recently met a woman who has been learning to live out some of things we’re learning in this series. Nancy and the team were in Indianapolis on the Revive Tour and met Sherri.

Sherri:  I had discovered that my husband had been unfaithful, and it wasn't the first time. So I was struggling with a lot of bitterness and unforgiveness and fear. In counseling I was given the book Choosing Forgiveness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

In reading through the book, I thought it was going to help me change my husband. Instead, I realized how many seeds of unforgiveness were in my own heart. I went through the process of listing the things that were done wrong to me. Most of the responses I discovered about myself were based on my past, not based upon what Christ says about how I should respond.

Probably the biggest piece for me was I was not keeping him in prison, I was keeping me in prison.

Through the book, I actually went to my husband not only to ask forgiveness for disrepect but unrealistic expectations. God showed me it was more important to be concerned for his soul than it was to think about my happiness. That changed how I responded to him. When I didn't want to forgive him, I did because of what Jesus forgave me for. God really showed me what I had been forgiven for, and I can't throw a stone at him.

So the boundaries were different. He kind of expected me to be really tough, but I allowed God to show him where they needed to fall. And his heart changed because I wasn't being demanding. I was being loving. That led him to want to be that kind of person and make those decisions.  

Leslie: I’m so thankful for women like Sherri who have been sharing their stories on the Revive Tour.

The tour is in Lynchburg, Virginia today and then Lancaster, Pennsylvanis Friday and Saturday.  Will you pray for all the listeners attending? Pray that God will convict, encourage, comfort, and heal women in all kinds of situations. For details on joining the tour this weekend, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

We’ve been exploring meekness before God. Tomorrow we’ll look more carefully at meekness toward others. Please be back, for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1 Matthew Henry. The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, p. 18. 

2 Ibid.

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