Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Intro: Return to our theme for 2009 – Portrait of spirituality from Matt. 5:1-20. Our study this month is Matthew 5:6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

 

The 4th beatitude is pivotal. The first three statements point ot the necessity of looking at ourselves correctly (poor in spirit; mournful, meek). This statement begins to show us how to turn to God. Of course, without a humble disposition, one would not never turn to God, not could he properly turn to God.

 

Are you hungry? Are you thirsty?  _ I don’t know if you ate breakfast, but I can answer this for you. YES, you are hungry and thirsty.

 

I.  Restlessness and Longing – Some of the most evocative words in the Old Testament come from Ecclesiastes 3:11God has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 

A.  What does this mean? God has put eternity in man’s mind – God created us with a longing for eternal or spiritual things. Yet He has withheld form us the ability to know what God has done apart from revelation. We have a  restlessness and longing that only God can satisfy. Augustine said, “Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it rest in Thee.”

1.  The apostle Paul told the idol worshiping Athenians – And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; (Acts 17:26-27)

B.  We try to satisfy this longing with scenic vacations, creative accomplishments, sexual exploits, sports, drugs, education, more toys, etc. But the longing remains. Isaiah put it like this in 55:2-3: Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear that your soul may live.   Jeremiah 2:13My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. 

1.  We certainly do drink at broken cisterns and eat bread that does not satisfy. C.S. Lewis’s words ring true: He said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”  

 

II.  A Longing for Righteousness:  Return to Matthew 5:6 – The Christian is pronounced “blessed” or happy by Jesus because he is hungry and thirsty for righteousness, and his longing is satisfied by God. Again Jesus opposes the prevalent thinking of the day. Most of us are hungry and thirsty for happiness, expecting that our pursuit of happiness will make us happy. Happiness is the fruit, not the goal, of life.  But the great mistake made by many in the world, and some in the church, are making is that they are looking for happiness apart from righteousness and virtue. 

A.  What is Righteousness?  This word is dikaiosune, which means equity in character or act, justification. It is a legal term, which basically denotes obedience to law.

1.  It also includes the more general idea of doing that which is right and just. David McClister states, “In Matthew’s use of the term, the word takes on the idea of having the right relationship with God; “the right conduct of man which follows the will of God and is pleasing to Him” (TDNT II:198).

2.  It is easy to see why Paul sometimes uses the word as a synonym for “justification” (cf. Rom. 3:22; 9:30).  It refers to a right standing before God that comes through our justification by the blood of Jesus.

3.  In the sermon on the mount Jesus is referring to a personal righteousness that comes from pleasing God. It is much more than just a “moral consciousness” or a godly attitude.

4.  Jesus uses the word 5 times in His sermon.

  • In Matthew 5:10 where he says the child of God is blessed if he is “persecuted for righteousness sake” – points to the choice to obey God despite the consequences.
  • In His discussion about strict obedience to the law He says that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. (5:20) This again seems to point to obedient choices.
  • This same word (dikaiosune) is translated “alms”, or “charitable deeds” in 6:1.
  • In 6:33 He calls on us to seek first “the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”. Jesus’ use of this word here consistently refers to a right relationship with God that comes from obedience. But this is not to be understood in a legalistic manner. We do not to hunger after what we can provide for ourselves, but rather that which God provides through faith.

5.  To hunger and thirst after righteousness thus means to deeply desire to be right with God, to obey His will, and to be free from the sin that separates us from Him. This is only possible through the blood of Jesus and His forgiveness (justification)

6.  God is righteous. To desire for righteousness is to strive to be like God and accept His judgments. Ps 11:77 For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the uprightPs 19:9 – The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.   Ps 24:3-5 – 3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord, And righteousness from the God of his salvation. Ps 45:6-7 – 6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. 7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness.

B. What does it mean to be hungry and thirsty? The  word “hunger” is defined as a strong craving or desire. Most of us here today, if not all, do not know what real hunger or thirst is. We may miss a meal, but we have always had access to food and drink whenever we needed it.  But much of the world struggles with severe hunger. It is estimated that some 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of starvation, mostly children.

1.  Jesus uses terminology that his audience could relate to. They knew what it meant to hunger and thirst for something. It was also terminology that had O.T. roots.  The Psalmist used this image to portray a deep desire for a deeper relationship with God. “thirst for God”

  • Ps 42:1-2 – As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
  • Ps 63:1-2 – God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. 2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.

2.  The blessedness that Jesus describes for us does not come from a casual acquaintance or “experience” with God or His word.  This is the person who cannot live without righteousness, and will be satisfied with nothing else. He craves to know about God and please Him.

C.  Hunger : A Sign of Spiritual Health:  In physical life, hunger is a normal healthy sign. It is the sick who have no appetite, no desire for food. Just so it is in our spirituall life. Those who are spiritually sick or weak will have no appetite for God and the things of God.  They will seek to satisfy their longings with physical things.

1.  What is one of the first signs that a Christian is in trouble? Begins to forsake assemblies, Bible studies.   Heb 10:24-25 – 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

2.  In using the imagery of hunger and thirst, Jesus is conveying the importance of righteousness to our lives. Righteousness is as necessary to our spiritual lives as food and water is to our physical lives. It is a matter of life and death.

D. Hunger Pains – Physical hunger can be painful. So it is with spiritual hunger. We have to struggle in our desire to please God, and even to know His will. It is interesting to note that Jesus statement here is not “blessed are those that are righteous”, but blessed are those that hunger and thirst fro righteousness”. It is the craving that brings the blessing. God’s people have a drive that motivates them everyday – a constant thirst to draw closer to God and be more pleasing to Him.

1.  This decision will bring persecution and suffering: 2 Tim 3:122 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.  

2.  In spite of the pain, it is better to hunger than not to hunger. Jesus’ teaching is the opposite of Buddhist philosophy which seeks a state of nirvana in which one desires nothing. Do you know what the fastest growing religion is today? not Jehovah’s witnesses, Pentecostalism, or Islam. It is no religion – Those who have no spiritual interest or desire. The materialist.

a.  Have we killed the hunger pains?  How do you feel about religious arguments and debates. Some are contentious and wrong. But in some ways I desire for the day when people had enough passion about spiritual things to argue about them! Our desires are not too strong, but too weak.   Amos 8:1111 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord.

b.  Trying to feed your soul on things that satisfy the flesh is a diet for spiritual malnutrition. Galatians 5:16- 1716 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

c.  Today we are told that we can satisfy our greatest longings by purchasing the right car. Ours is an age in which spiritual blessings are being promised to those who buy material things. The spiritual is being absorbed by the physical.  But spiritual gratification could come only via spiritual means. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

3.  God will consistently test our spiritual hunger by demanding that we choose between the physical and the spiritual.  In Luke’s account of the beatitudes we find Jesus saying, “Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied,” and “Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger” (Luke 6:21, 24). The rich, young ruler who kept all the commandments came to Jesus asking what more he need to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus said, “Go sell all you have and give to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven.”  How much did he hunger for righteousness. Not enough. The young man responded by going away sorrowfully because he had many possessions (Luke 18:18-25)He was too full of the physical to be hungry for the spiritual.

 

Conclusion:  We will take a closer look at Jesus’ words and consider the attached promised of being filled up or satisfied. But let us resolve today, to focus our  lives on earnestly seeking his righteousness. Not merely toy with the idea of discipleship,  “I am interested in following Christ”, We need extreme discipleship  – “For me to live is Christ”.  I hunger and thirst for God. How much do you want to be right with God?  Are you hungry enough to obey Him today?