Blessed are those hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
In the first three Beatitudes we are called upon to witness the spiritual growth and maturity of one who has been awakened or “woke” by the Spirit of God. First, there is a sense of need, and a sobering realization of my humanity and emptiness without God. Second, there is a moral inventory of self, a consciousness of my guilt, and a godly contrition and sorrow over my lost condition in an evil world. Third, there is a conscious and deliberate ending of seeking to justify myself before God, and full abandonment of all arrogant pretenses to personal merit and self-promotion. We take our place like the rest of the humble and righteous – in the dust before God.
Here, in the fourth Beatitude, Jesus continues to turn the eye of the soul away from self and upward toward God. This has significant meaning and purpose: there is a longing after a righteousness (goodness) that we urgently need but know in our heart we do not fully possess – it will only be found through a deep hunger and thirst for the presence and revelation of God the Father in Ye’shua the Messiah. There has been way too much spiritual posturing and chest beating as to the precise context of the word righteousness in this present text. The best way to interpret and understand its intended meaning and significance is to go back to the Old Testament Scriptures where the term righteousness is first used, and then to shine a brighter light provided by the New Covenant in Ye’shua – Jesus in the biblical theology rich New Testament Epistles.
Listen to Isaiah the ancient Messianic prophet
“Drop down, you heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it.”
The first half of this verse refers, in figurative language, to the advent (coming) of Christ to this earth; the second half to His resurrection, when He was
“raised again for our justification”
“Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.”
“My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out,and my arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait.”
“Thus says the LORD: Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed.”
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul will be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
These passages make it clear that God’s righteousness is synonymous with God’s salvation. The Scriptures cited above are unfolded in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, where the Gospel receives its fullest exposition.
In Romans 1:16, 17, Paul says,
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.”
In Romans 3:22-24 we read,
“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
In Romans 5:19, Paul makes this declaration is made:
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made [legally constituted] sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made [legally constituted] righteous.”
In Romans 10:4, he instructs that
“Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believes.”
“The sinner is destitute of righteousness, for there is none righteous, not even one”
In Christ, God has provided for all who believe and follow Him a pure and perfect righteousness – not contrived or driven by unrestrained heart of men. This righteousness, satisfies all the demands of God’s holy Law against our sin; but the high price and heavy lifting for this assured salvation was all done by our replacement – Jesus. He was judged for our sin and died in our place. The righteousness that is Christ is now imputed to (that is, legally credited to our account) the believing sinner. Just as the sins of God’s people were all transferred to Christ, so His righteousness is placed upon them.
II Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
These words are a concise summary of biblical (not man’s) teaching regarding the critical subject of the perfect righteousness that God requires of us, and the righteousness that is ours by faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ.
“Blessed are those who do hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Hungering and thirsting expresses fierce and fervent desire, of that which the soul is acutely conscious.
First, the Holy Spirit brings before the heart the holy requirements of God. He reveals to us His perfect standard, which He can never lower. He reminds us that
except your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of heaven”
Second, the trembling soul, conscious of its own abject poverty and realizing its complete inability to measure up to God’s requirements, sees no help in itself – the soul is empty. This painful discovery causes the soul to mourn and groan. Has your soul ever grieved the emptiness without the goodness and righteous of God in Christ Jesus?
Third, the Holy Spirit then creates in the human soul a deep “hunger and thirst” that causes the convicted sinner to look for relief and remedy, to seek a source outside of itself. The believing eye is then directed to Christ, who is
“THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS”
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Like the previous Beatitudes, verse six describes a twofold experience. Jesus is obviously referring to more than a general interest or curiosity when He says, blessed are those who hunger and thirst. He is teaching about a hunger that is more like a craving appetite that cannot be completely satisfied – a thirsting that is a “life depends on it” passionate drive, or an irresistible and compelling spiritual pull towards an irresistible force. It is the deep and overwhelming draw of the Holy Spirit that occurs before a sinner turns to Christ by faith. But this hunger and thirst is not just an isolated experience, event, or a single moment – as in “remember that time I got so thirsty”? Jesus teaches of a continual longing that is perpetuated in the heart of every true follower and renewed heart until his or her dying day.
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.”
This longing is for Christ. He is our righteousness. Day after day after day we hunger and thirst – we long for Him until we become more like Him and less like us. In the “hunger and thirsting process” we become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, because we are becoming like Jesus. Made in Christ not made in us. Looked at through a wider lens – we conform to Him, not Him to us. In our continuous desire to conform to Him we are transformed into His image and likeness. His righteous likeness. We conform to be transformed. There is no other way to become the righteousness of God in Christ.
The text presents such a paradox that it is evident that no human mind could have ever thought or invented it. Can one who has been brought into union with Him who is the Bread of Life in whom all fullness dwells be found still hungering and thirsting? Probably not. Yet, this is the experience of the renewed heart and transformed life.
Note here the tense of the verb in the original Greek text: it is not “Blessed are they which have hungered and thirsted,” but “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst.” Not a past or one-time experience or made for TV event, but rather, active or fluid – a daily way of living, a pursuit for life itself. Hungering and thirsting after righteousness has always been the pursuit and active experience of God’s true saints.
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
“They will be filled.”
Like the first part of our text, this also has a double fulfillment, both as an initial experience and as a continuous blessing, favor and grace. When God creates a hunger and a thirst in the soul, it is so that He will satisfy it. When we, the poor, the meek, the mourner, and the hunger and thirsty sinner finally discover our true need for Christ, it is to that end that we are drawn to Him and led to embrace Him as our only righteousness before a holy God. We delight in confessing Christ as our new-found righteousness and to give Him and only Him the credit and glory.
Our hunger is satisfied and our thirst is quenched. We are filled with Christ. Now, we are His righteousness and will experience an ongoing filling: not with excessive wine or food, but with the Spirit.
We are to be
“filled with the peace of God that passes all understanding”
We who are trusting in the righteousness of Christ will one day be filled with divine blessing without any form or feeling of sorrow; we will be filled with praise and thanksgiving to Him. The reality is this – He has brought about everything that is good and righteous in us. The visible work of love and obedience in us as the true evidence of His saving work in and for us.
In this world,
“He has filled the hungry with good things”
“such as this world can neither give to nor withhold from those who seek the Lord”
He gives such goodness and mercy to us, who are
“the sheep of His pasture, that our cups run over”
Psalms 23:5, 6
Yet all that we presently enjoy is nothing more than a small sample of what
“God has prepared for them that love Him”
1 Corinthians 2:9
In the eternal state of being, when the corruptible will put on the incorruptible we will be filled with perfect holiness.
As 1 John 3:2 says,
“we will be like Him.”
We will be finished and done with sin forever. Then we will “hunger and thirst” no more – once and for all we will be filled.
[Reference and Resource]: The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12 by Thomas Watson; The Beatitudes by Arthur W. Pink; Reading The Sermon on the Mount by John Stott; An Exegetical Study of the Sermon on the Mount by Abernathy, David, Tehan, Thomas; Lexham Theological Word Study by Magnum, Douglass, Brown; Word Studies in the New Testament by Vincent, Marvin R.
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