Many people today grieve over the extremes of political divisions in a world that has turned away God. The bitter hatred and vitriol stand in stark contrast to the words and actions of Jesus Christ who came to earth to bring us to God. In his fourth Beatitude recorded in Matthew 5:6, he says: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
Today I have a simple question: ‘What do you really long for in life?’ Peace and happiness? Health and fitness? Success in your work or profession? Sufficient resources to enjoy a great lifestyle and check off the items on your bucket list?
Having hopes and dreams is important, but we can be misguided in them.
In Jesus’ parable of the Rich Fool found in Luke chapter 12, he tells of a man who had enjoyed great success with his investments and wondered what he should do next. “I know, the man said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’”
However, there is a chilling conclusion to the parable: But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. ‘Fool!’ What a frightening epitaph. Hungering for wealth and success, the man had left God out of his life’s plan.
Over these weeks we are reflecting on Jesus’ Beatitudes or Blessings that we read in his Sermon on the Mount. Through the centuries Jesus’ Sermon has been regarded by countless numbers, including people whose belief is atheism, as one of the great speeches of all time.
Let’s consider his words: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”
Righteousness here refers to a pattern of life that reflects God’s beauty and purity. When we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we long for a life of knowing God, loving and honoring him with all of our being.
Our society chases after money, possessions, fame and pleasure. But is everyone satisfied? Is everyone happy? Does everyone have enough of what they pursue? Where are blessing and happiness really to be found?
Further on in this Sermon, Jesus speaks about our need for food and clothing. There he says: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you…”
So, where do we learn what righteousness looks like? Psalm 19 verse 7 following says: The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring for ever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
The law is not simply a reference to God’s commandments but rather to the breadth of God’s mind and will for his people. These verses of Psalm 19 alert us to God’s good and wise expectations, awakening us to the joy of knowing and loving God personally – trusting and honoring him.
To get the essence of Jesus’ words we need to understand the emptiness of our lives without God. We might say we know God as creator of the universe. We may say we know Jesus as our Savior and Lord, but do we really long for God? Psalm 1 tells us, Blessed is the man or the woman whose delight is in the law or the Word of God, who meditates on it day and night.
We live in a sex-obsessed society. Yes, God invented sex. He gave us the freedom and the blessing to enjoy it but, in the way he sets out – within a publicly committed and witnessed relationship between a man and a woman.
What then does Jesus mean by being filled? Filled speaks of stomachs that are replete with food. Jesus is telling us that God will make his people who hunger and thirst for righteousness happy and satisfied. But there is a paradox. I enjoy a key-lime pie and am satisfied when I’ve eaten some. However, I always want more! Eating one piece creates a desire for more.
That is a picture of what longing for righteousness looks like for God’s people. We long for the day when we will see God in his perfection and goodness. Jesus Christ brings us satisfaction. We can experience joy and hope now. Yet we are dissatisfied. We long for righteousness in all its truth. We have a homesickness for heaven where perfect righteousness will prevail.
Richard Bewes in The Goodnight Book records John Stott’s response to his question, ‘What are you looking forward to more than anything else?’ John Stott replied, ‘I think I can truthfully say that I look forward to being more like the Lord Jesus Christ in my character. That, above everything else.’
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
© John G. Mason – October 7, 2020
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