BEATITUDES SERIES: Hungry For Him
MATTHEW 5:6 (NIV): Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
MATTHEW 5:6 (AMP): Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied.
ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR IT?
Perhaps there is something in your life that you are hungry for. It could be a recipe your mother or grandmother or dad used to make. It could be a family secret recipe. Perhaps it is a favorite dish at a restaurant.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ begins His most famous sermon with the Beatitudes. The beatitudes are a series of statements where Jesus describes people who are in the Kingdom of Heaven. Many times we look at these as isolated phrases, but in fact they are interconnected and build on one another. Jesus begins by telling us that we must be “poor in spirit” which means to understand our place in God’s design under Him and understand our sinfulness and confess Jesus. He then says that when we think about our sin, we will mourn it and have comfort from the blood of Christ. We then commit to being under God’s command and following His lead in all things.
As I think about Jesus words in Matthew 5:6, I see Him sharing with us now another element in this process of being part of the Kingdom of God. He frames this thought with the metaphor of being hungry and thirsty. We are meant to think about good food. We are meant to think about refreshing drink. We are meant to think about how our body feels when it is hungry or thirsty. We are meant to think about the different feeling after a great meal.
Matthew 5:6 is an essential element of being a follower of Jesus Christ. It is as non-negotiable as faith in Christ (5:3), repenting of sin (5:4), and submitting to God’s will (5:5) which is basically what He’s talked about thus far.
HUNGER AND THIRST
Jesus talks about being blessed when we hunger and thirst for righteousness. He uses the body functions of hunger and thirst. Hunger and thirst are normal experiences that every person has that keeps our bodies functioning. We are hungry and we eat and get nourishment and energy. We are thirsty and we drink and our organs stay hydrated and work properly. A body that has solid proper nutrition and good liquid intake is healthy and functions well. Jesus knows this. The people listening to Jesus know this. You and I know this. This creates a base connection in what He is describing.
Jesus is not the first to describe spiritual matters in terms of hunger and thirst. The Old Testament also terms seeking after God in hunger and thirst terms.
Isaiah 55:1-3 (NIV): “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3Give ear and come to Me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, My faithful love promised to David.”
God tells us through the prophet Isaiah that we have a natural desire in our souls like hunger and thirst. Specifically, in these verses God talks more about hunger and bread and wanting to eat what is good. Our spirits are hungry for the “richest fare.” Every soul hungers and this is normal. Every soul searches for meaning… this is normal.
It is the everlasting covenant relationship that God offers through Christ that satisfies our deepest hunger and our longings. In verses 1-2, God does not want us to chase after false things of this world that do not satisfy our souls. Rather, He wants us to come to Him for the truth and meaning and way of life that truly satisfy our spiritual hunger.
We then have the prophet Jeremiah…
Jeremiah 2:11-13 (NIV): “Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But My people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols. 12Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the LORD. 13“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
God tells us through the prophet Jeremiah that we have a natural desire in our souls like hunger and thirst. Specifically, in these verses God talks about thirst in terms of “living water” and self-made cisterns that cannot hold water.
We can seek after truth in this life that is completely empty. We can seek after meaning that leaves us empty. Material wealth is a broken cistern. Business success is a broken cistern. Heaping all your hopes on your children or grandchildren is a broken cistern. Sports is a broken cistern. None of these things can hold true meaning for our souls which is why God describes these types of things as self-made broken cisterns.
People are tempted to exchange God and a fulfilling relationship with Him for other idols. They are nothing at all really… just emptiness. We are to seek after God… He describes Himself as “the spring of living water” in Jeremiah.
ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR IT?
Jesus is clear that we need to hunger and thirst after “righteousness.” What does He mean by that word? To be honest, in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount He mentions the word “righteousness” 5 times: 5:6, 5:10, 5:20, 6:1, and 6:33. If we want to understand this beatitude, we need to know what Jesus means by the term “righteousness” and we are going to look at these other passages in the same sermon to help us. Scripture always interprets Scripture. Scripture always interprets Scripture. Scripture always interprets Scripture.
5:10: Righteousness is living noticeably opposite of the world.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10). We are to hunger and to thirst after the kind of life that will cause some people to be completely uncomfortable in our presence. Not uncomfortable because we are a weirdo, but because God shines through us and makes sinfulness painful. That uncomfortableness will lead to persecution. Righteousness is living noticeably opposite of the world.
5:20: Righteousness is not just actions.
Righteousness is right living, but it does not start there… it starts in the heart with our motivations. Jesus Christ said, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). The Pharisees were some right living people who followed all the rules God laid down in Leviticus and even followed their own traditional rules to make sure they followed God’s rules. They were some right living people, but according to Jesus their hearts were dead inside (Matthew 23:27) so the righteousness was empty. Based on the examples a little later of anger, lust, and love for enemies, righteousness starts in the heart and changes a person from the inside out.
6:1: Righteousness is for God.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:1, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” The Pharisees loved to pray loudly in public, dress up in religious clothes, give offerings publically, and do everything so people could see how religious they were. People have to clap for it to mean anything. Jesus wants His disciples to seek God for God and to be motivated by personal faith.
6:33: Righteousness is correct priorities.
Jesus also said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Jesus is talking about correct priorities. What is it that you are seeking in life? Fame or Fortune? Career advancement with a good salary? A secure future with a happy retirement with no money troubles? A perfect marriage partner? The dream home? Most of that stuff is pretty awesome, but not as awesome as putting God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness first. The standard to shoot for in all things is what God considers good and right.
What does “righteousness” mean? Scripture always interprets Scripture. Righteousness here means: Living for God from the inside out with priorities opposite of the world.
ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR HIM?
The word Jesus uses here is a word that means “filled,” “satisfied,” “well fed,” “gorged.” The joy and blessing and fulfillment from “Living for God from the inside out with priorities opposite of the world” is that God feeds our souls. How can I say this so we get it? God wants to stuff you with His presence so you are completely full of Him.