“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6
Strong words that paint a strong picture keep being used over and over again throughout this teaching we call the beatitudes, Lord. These are strong words from a strong God who can give us the strength to bring these character traits of living to life in our life. Beggarly poverty, abstract poverty and dependence, utter dependence. Grieving and intense emotional agony. Conflict, oppression, war. And now hunger and thirst enter the picture. But I wonder if I’ve been reading this picture at this point somewhat wrongly?
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness…” Do I really understand this? Maybe the question goes deeper than understanding. Is this truly evidenced in my life? If You, Jesus, were to look into my heart and life and mind, would You say, “Now there is one of my children who hungers and thirsts after righteousness.”? I mean it’s one thing for me to say that I do. But it’s a whole other story for You to say that about me.
What kind of hunger and thirst is this? That word for hunger, “peinao”, is that about starving? I mean we have been dealing lately with desperation. Strong’s Concordance takes me to associated words like pinching toil, famish, and crave. I’ve never experienced starving when it comes to food. I mean, that’s a near death experience. I mean, if I continue starving, I will die. It’s not something I can keep doing perpetually.
In digging into this treasure I found there is another word for starvation, “limos”, which is talking about a fatal lack of sustenance. Peinao, on the other hand, is all about our need for regular nourishment. The ones who hunger after righteousness aren’t just being saved in times of famine, This is a continual, life sustaining process. Neither is it about snacking between meals. Kingdom character is demonstrated when my daily, moment by moment sustenance is only fulfilled in the Lord. So I must ask myself, “What was Your food, Lord?” “I have food to eat that you don’t know about,” He answered His disciples. “Well, Lord, what was that food that they didn’t understand yet?” “My food is to do what the One who sent Me wants and to bring His work to completion.” Wow! That’s not just one heavy meal. That is meal after meal after meal until it’s fulfilled.
This hunger is a continual coming to the table. It’s a continuing need and a continuing of fulfilling that need. There is a state of “constant malnutrition” until the emptiness is filled and the emptiness can’t be fully filled until God’s righteousness and His righteous plans are fulfilled. There is a sense of persistence. There is a sense of need. There is a sense of seeking that which gives and sustains life. But life is more than about “food and shelter”. Those are daily needs. But without peace in God, my food and shelter are filled with emptiness. Like You, Jesus, I must also be about my Father’s business because in Him, in You, is fullness, daily, moment by moment fullness.
Hungering and thirsting is continual, it’s a constant need. I might as well just understand that I am in a constant, continual state of malnutrition. If I’m not seeking You and Your will in my life and for those around me, I’m empty. And I don’t want to live on empty. I don’t want something to be missing from my life. But the fact of the matter is that with this type of hunger, I will always sense a degree of emptiness, a degree of righteousness that is missing. So I continually come to You to be fed. And You feed me. But my own righteousness is never enough. Your righteousness continually outshines all righteousness. And as I reach for Your righteousness to eat of it and live on it’s nourishment, I find that there is always a greater righteousness to reach for. I can’t get enough. But that’s a good thing. Because there is enough righteousness to continually reach across the table for and ingest for the rest of eternity.
Does my righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees? When was the last time I examined myself? Because when I do, I see how far I really am from God’s holiness. Yet, if I’m really examining, I also see how much I long for Him and how that longing in itself draws me closer to Him. But that’s not my own work either. Because You, Lord, put the will and desire to draw closer to You in me! It’s a crazy thing but the more I have of You, the more I need of You.
So if I’m going to keep being hungry and thirsty, why keep trying? Because You promise that one day I will be fully satisfied. One day I will be complete. “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) There is coming a day when I will not only see fully, but I will eat and be full, and and know the experience of being full and complete in You, Lord. Your righteousness will one day be made complete in me, fully, and until that day, I’m living in that promise and preparing.
So the question is what do I really want to eat? What is my daily nourishment? Is it You? Am I so hungry for You that I wouldn’t even think about skipping a meal? Am I so delighting in the eating? What am I doing with Your word? Where’s Your Book in my life? Do I come to eat like I do to my table? Am I eating and running or sitting and savoring? How do You want me to feel, Lord, about Your words and Your righteousness demonstrated in them?
“And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.” (Revelation 10:10) John ate it. He ate the word. But this wasn’t the first time he ate the word. He’d been devouring it every day. He was living in it and living by it. It was his daily sustenance. And that’s why the angel asked him to eat of it here, because he would be able to understand, because only someone who’s diet is daily in the word will have a stomach for living it out. It’s not easy. And sometimes it makes our belly bitter. But there is nothing else that will fill us and satisfy our souls.
Jeremiah found the words and ate them and they were the joy and rejoicing of his heart, for in them he saw that he was called by Your name, Lord. Ezekiel opened his mouth and ate the words You gave him. He ate what he found from You and spoke it to Israel. In his mouth it was as honey for sweetness. David tasted Your words and righteousnes over and over and desribed it as “more to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” “How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” And I can’t ignore Your words Jesus, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'”
You know, I never stopped to think about those words of Yours Jesus, that “It is written” part. At least about how it related to the “Man shall not live by bread alone…” part. But it actually takes us back to Deuteronomy 8:3. Well, actually, I’m going to start at verse 2. “And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments, or no.” Isn’t that what this hungering and thirsting is all about even today? What is in my heart? Will I keep Your commandments? Do I truly love You? Am I keeping You that close?
But it doesn’t stop there. “And He humbled you, allowing you to become hungry, and then fed you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had ever known, to make you understand that a person does not live on food alone but from everything that comes from the mouth of ADONAI (God).” Lord, You continue to humble us. The question is, will I be humbled? Am I humbled? Do I understand my necessity of You?