Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew Chapter 5)
I have experienced both hunger and thirst, but not to extremes.
If you cannot satisfy either sensation, it is possible to endure and even get over the initial feeling.
In some situations, there is no choice. But the drive to satisfy that hunger with food, and that thirst with water, is powerful.
Starvation sadly does exist in our world. Even in our western society, people sometimes die as a result of starvation. Diseases sometimes rob us of our appetite. It is also an observation of mine that people that use heavier drugs often lose weight and become gaunt. The appetite for drugs over-riding that for food.
I will never forget a young mother once telling me that the desire for drugs overtakes everything, even care for your own child. In tears she described doing nothing for her daughter's birthday as she turned 5, instead spending what she had on a hit.
Certainly the hunger for drugs must be powerful.
But what of this hunger and thirst for righteousness?
What is it? How powerful is it?
Having discussed it in bible study recently, one of my brothers mistook this as the hunger for justice.
Yes, this too is a hunger. A strong driving force that can keep us awake at night, in prayer to God, in anxiety, in plotting for revenge, but this is not a hunger for righteousness, in my opinion.
The hunger for righteousness, in my opinion, is the sense that one is overwhelmed with conviction of their own sin and unrighteousness. A sense that they now can see an inkling of how we were meant to be, created to be, and how far we have fallen from that state.
It includes a sense of God’s utter holiness, and our utter unworthiness. A sense of how deserving we are of punishment or abandonment for our sin.
This sense can drive us in certain directions.
I believe it was the hunger for righteousness that led Nicodemus to seek Jesus at night in John Chapter 3.
This same hunger drove the rich young ruler to run and at fall at Jesus feet, asking Jesus how a man can find eternal life in Mark 10:17. The interesting point here is that although he had been trying to follow the 10 commandments all his life, his hunger had not truly been satisfied.
I also believe it was this same realization of unholiness that led Peter to tell Jesus to go away from him in Luke 5:8.
I think that without a hunger for righteousness, we can’t actually come to faith and salvation.
I came to faith relatively painlessly as a university student, but soon after, in those early days I came across some false teaching regarding salvation. A very strict view of the "how to" of salvation which added full immersion baptism to faith and repentance. There were other points. I struggled with this. I couldn’t theologically argue my way out of these propositions, and for a time I felt totally lost. IE going to hell for my sins.
I still know clearly that I remain totally unworthy of God’s presence and love in my life. Still every day, I struggle with sin.
Before I finish this personal point, I want to re-tell a story from a great teacher.
He described being at a series of meetings where he was teaching from the bible in his usual manner.
He was finishing off one talk, which would lead into a break, and then he would continue on with the topic.
He finished on a difficult point. He clearly stated that God, in His holiness and righteousness, could not, would not, ever forgive sin.
I agree this was an awkward spot to finish that talk.
During the break (probably coffee and chat for 15 minutes) a lady who had been listening, pushed through the crowd to speak personally to him.
She said to him.
You just said that God could not, and would not forgive sin.
He replied “Yes, that’s what I said”.
I imagine with a cold sweat and in desperation she cried to him; “Well then, what hope is there for me?”
“None whatsoever” was his reply.
“Apart from the cross.”
I’m sure that he went on to complete a rich series of meetings proclaiming the power of the cross of Jesus, and I have no doubt that this lady, from that day on, was secure in the love of Christ, and his great work for us all on the cross.
Back to my story.
A good friend (Greg) many years ago, saw how troubled I was regarding baptism and being right with God. He gave a cassette tape, which I played in my car. I can still remember where I was, in Sydney, at dusk, parking before I met a friend.
On this tape I heard that same teacher powerfully proclaiming the message of grace and the cross.
In quiet tears my hunger and thirst were finally satisfied.
I've made a point of keeping my infant baptism since then, as my only baptism experience. But I also espouse adult baptism as a great way to express what God has already done.
So, as I ponder the need for revival in our land, I think that, were God to bring revival, one sign would be a great hunger and thirst for righteousness.