Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 112
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6 NIV11)
What does it mean that hungry people will be filled? And how is this connected to the kingdom of heaven?
In this series we are immersing ourselves in the beatitudes – Matthew 5:3-12. We’re trying to figure out what each beatitude means for us practically and how that affects our relationship with God, and in particular, our times of quiet with God.
The reason this is on my mind is because I am preparing a teaching and preaching series for the Thames Valley churches of Christ, and a teaching day for the Watford Church of Christ based on the sermon on the mount.
Join me today as I examine what it means to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness.
This beatitude aims at the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. Righteousness (and the kingdom, which is what the SOM is about) is the priority:
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV11)
We’re on to something big here. Let’s dive in deeper.
- Hungry and thirsty
What does it mean to hunger and thirst, biblically?
Do we seek experience and personal fulfilment or righteousness? The former are not wrong, but righteousness is more fundamental and foundational. If we do not desire this more than anything then pursuing the former will lead to shallowness and an addiction to ever-increasing emotional highs. We will not achieve happiness by pursuing it.
If we are in pain we want to relieve it – fine. But a doctor will have a deeper duty to discover the cause of the pain. If he only treats the pain he may miss something far more important and deadly. Similarly we have a hunger and thirst provided by God – if we meet that hunger in the wrong way we run the risk of spiritual death.
“According to the Scriptures happiness is never something that should be sought directly; it is always something that results from seeking something else.”
Food and drink are essential to life – so is righteousness for a Christian. There is a painful hunger that only righteousness can satisfy. It should be consistent. Psalm 42 sums this up.
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1–2 NIV11)
If more and more people pursued righteousness the world would be a much better place. Why? Because a community expressing a pattern of life lived in conformity to God’s will cannot help but influence this world for the better. Let’s have a deeper look at the issue of righteousness.
Three aspects to ‘righteousness’ dominate the Bible:
i) Legal – i.e. right relationship with God – not the point here since Jesus is addressing people who are already in a right relationship with him. Remember, he is talking about the characteristics of his Kingdom people – not those who want to know how to enter the Kingdom. He talks about that elsewhere (see the parables in Matthew 13). In many Old Testament passages ‘righteousness’ is synonymous with ‘salvation’ …” – Is 45:8, 46:12-13, 51:5, 56:1, 61:10. However, it should also be noted that the concept of ‘salvation’ in the Old Testament included more than simply being in a right relationship with God.
ii) Moral – i.e. right character and conduct that pleases God – contained in this verse and subsequent parts of the SOM (v20). It contains the idea of sanctification. A desire to be free from sin’s power and right with God in ongoing relationship. A desire to be free from the desire of sin. A desire to walk with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the light of fellowship (1 John 1:5). A desire for holiness – effectively, Christlikeness. Growing in the fruit of the Spirit is a sign of being filled, which in turn is a sign of hungering and thirsting after righteousness. It’s a comfort that Jesus indicates that the ‘blessed’ are not those full of righteousness, but those who ‘hunger and thirst’ after it.
iii) Social – i.e. a concern with seeking to liberate the oppressed, promote civil rights, justice, integrity in business and honour in the family. Luther said that we need a, “hunger and thirst for righteousness that can never be stopped or sated, one that looks for nothing and cares for nothing except the accomplishment and maintenance of the right, despising everything that hinders this end. If you cannot make the world completely pious, then do what you can.” We know when we’ve grasped this when we have no smug sense of self-satisfaction about our own ‘righteousness’. We need the attitude of Paul (Phil 3:7-11, Rom 7:18).
The call to righteousness is not passive. Although we can do nothing to ‘increase’ our own righteousness in God’s eyes, we are still responsible for hungering and thirsting after the right things. We are capable of being proactive in seeking righteousness. But it takes concentration and effort – it is not automatic or a default setting we don’t need to maintain.
Some things that encourage the right appetite:
- The company of godly men and women
- Time in the Bible
- Time in Prayer
- Reading godly books
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied, but in an on-going fashion. It’s good to stay hungry and thirsty and keep finding food and drink by going to the same place – our God. A Christian does not need to be hungry for salvation, but he or she should be hungry for growth, for sanctification, for the work of the Spirit in our lives. We desire ‘perfection’ and must press on.
Not until the next life will we know no hunger or thirst – Rev 7.16-17.
“Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”” (Revelation 7:16–17 NIV11)
These first four beatitudes have a logical progression and are primarily about our attitude towards God and his priorities. The next four beatitudes are more about our attitude towards our fellow human beings. We’ll move on to the next beatitude in the following podcast.
I’m delighted with the take-up for the “Wait for the LORD” retreat so far. There are a few places left. Email me if you would like to attend – firstname.lastname@example.org. All the details can be found on the dedicated page of my website.
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God bless, Malcolm
PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John