Happy to Be Blessed: “Hunger/Thirst–>Satisfaction”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.
It was Tuesday, December 11, 1984. I was working as a substitute teacher in a Jr. High School English class – and I could barely make it from the beginning of one period to the end without needing to run to the restroom.
That evening I went to our church’s Session Meeting, but felt ill all evening long. I spent the night hovering over my apartment’s toilet, and I called in sick the next morning. By the time Wednesday was ending my fiancée’s family invited me over to their house so they could look after me while I recovered from this “flu”.
So I spent all day Thursday sick to my stomach, and drinking Orange Nehi soda … and going to the bathroom. No matter how much I drank, my thirst could not be satisfied. And some of you can guess the next paragraph.
On Friday I went to the doctor, and was admitted to Placentia-Linda Hospital with a blood sugar level of 983. A normal fasting blood sugar should be below 100. Higher than about 170 is considered diabetic.
My body was rejecting my efforts to rehydrate because my glass was full of more sugar, so I eliminated more fluids than I drank – which only increased my thirst, which caused me to drink more Nehi, which caused me to go to the bathroom, which increased my thirst, which caused me to drink more Nehi ….
I lost almost 30 pounds between Tuesday night and Friday morning – all in water weight.
I was never going to satisfy my thirst with soda. But with an IV drip, my thirst ended and my weight regained over the weekend.
I tell you that story, not so you’ll feel sorry for me, or be shocked about my near-death experience, but because those few days in the hospital taught me a lesson about faith. In our series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come to the fourth Beatitude: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
I was driven to this passage by the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed, shared, and talked about – and there were more this week (shootings, fires, auto-accidents, Navy ship-accidents, diagnoses, emergency surgeries, etc). These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.
Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-6 ….—-
1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (NIV)
The first four Beatitudes all describe the needs of a disciple. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” is the last in this intro-series.
The 1st Beatitude is about being “POOR in spirit”, acknowledging our spiritual bankruptcy.
The 2nd Beatitude is about being “MOURNING” our sinful tendency, and receiving God’s comfort of grace.
The 3rd Beatitude invites us into HUMILITY, we know our spiritual poverty and mourn it, therefore we know we cannot exalt ourselves.
These first three Beatitudes all remind us that, as human beings longing for eternal love, we need a Savior – who has come to us in the person of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.
Remember that the Greek word Matthew uses for “blessed” is Makarios, which refers to the BELIEVER in Christ who is SATISFIED and SECURE by the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT. (StudyLight.org) This is much more than the simple word “happy”. Makarios implies that there is nothing else needed. My friend and colleague, Pastor Chris Merkling, told me that the Greek island of Cypress was nicknamed Makarios Island, because it was like paradise – it had everything! The implication of this kind of blessedness, Makarios blessedness, is that nothing is lacking! Total SATISFACTION is acquired.
So, the first three Beatitudes lead us to WANTING to be more like our Savior Jesus. One of the ways to understand the word “Christian” is that it implies something like “little Christ”. The first time the people of the Way, the followers of Jesus, the Disciples, were called “Christians” was in a Greek-speaking Gentile city of Antioch – and it was probably meant as a slanderous slur on one’s intelligence. In a world where it was illegal to be of any religion other than the state sanctioned Roman gods religion, the name “Christian” might have been meant to belittle those who belonged to this break-off sect of Judaism that claimed Jesus as Lord (instead of the Roman Emperor). And if I am willing to be called a “little Christ”, I might take that as a challenge to become even more Christ-like! “Lord I want to be a Christian in my heart….”
So, the first three Beatitudes lead us to WANTING to be more like our Savior Jesus – hungering after Christ-like righteousness and thirsting after Christ-like holiness – and Jesus, in this fourth Beatitude promises that that desire will be SATISFIED!
Let’s take a minute to examine this phrase of hungering and thirsting, and what righteousness means, and how we will be filled, so we might claim a better understanding of what it describes, and what it demands.
Most of us in Spokane have rarely really been hungry or thirsty. Yeah, our stomachs growl sometimes and our tongue feels parched – but most of us seldom actually have nothing to eat or can’t turn on a faucet and find very drinkable water (Airway Heights not with-standing).
But 2,000 years ago (and still today in most third-world nations) truly dying of starvation or of thirst was a real danger.
I opened with my story about when my Juvenile Diabetes hit me because I could literally have died of blood clots or of dehydration or of coma-induced heart failure. And my cure was very literally killing me!
Jesus uses the image of hungering and thirsting as a metaphor to suggest the urgency one who recognizes his/her sinful condition would go after their salvation through the gift of Jesus Christ.
To hunger and thirst for righteousness, then, means we should urgently pursue righteousness!
The Bible speaks of three kinds of righteousness.
- LEGAL righteousness – Jesus SATISFIES this with His death on the cross. This is the kind of righteousness that Paul mainly deals with in His epistles. This is the one that describes that “all of have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” … and that the “wages of sin is death … but that the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 3:23, 6:23) The theological term for this is “justification”.
- PERSONAL righteousness – our growth in Christ-likeness. The theological term for this is “sanctification” – becoming more holy, sanctified, saintly. To hunger for this kind of righteousness is to yearn for God’s rule in our lives (“seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness …”, Matthew 6:33).
- SOCIAL righteousness – the Church bringing the Kingdom of God into our broken and fallen world! This involves us praying for our leaders, and for our family, and for those hurting, suffering, anywhere. This involves us going to the polls and casting our votes for those things we value. This involves our standing up to injustice, racism, ageism, bullying, etc. This is us “feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, inviting in strangers, clothing the naked, looking after the sick, visiting the imprisoned” (Matthew 25:35-40). This is the kind of righteousness thirsting after that draws the world in to the Kingdom of God. This is the Church in action – hospitals, schools, orphanages declaring the glory of God!
Being FILLED means having our hunger and thirst completely SATISFIED! God promises to bring satisfaction to our souls.
I saw that Alice Cooper is coming to Northern Quest Casino. His only song that I can think of is – “School’s out for-ever!” (1972 rock classic) which always reminds me the 1965 Rolling Stones classic, “I can’t get no satisfaction”. That is such a sad song about striving for the wrong things!
We CAN get SATISFACTION!
Are you hungry for the things of God? Do you thirst for righteousness? Are you longing for holiness? Personally? In society?
Or are you OK with just a nibble of righteousness, a taste of justice and love? Is your faith fired up for more, or does it feel more like a worn out ritual, a duty, a dull routine where you just drift along?
We are invited to find God’s ultimate SATISFACTION in Christ. The imperative of this indicative/imperative clause is to seek after righteousness, to long for holiness in our lives, to discover the satisfying swallow of sanctification. Blessed are those who hunger for holiness, who thirst for righteousness, not settling for soda to settle our stomachs, but yearning for righteousness of God’s glory!
Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.
Doriani, Dan; “Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 19-20.
“Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.