Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Jesus teaches us that he alone satisfies our fundamental need as humans created in the image of God.

Jesus’s words are based on Psalm 107:5, 9: “hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. . . . For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” Hunger and thirst are powerful, because they are the expression of a lack of a fundamental need. We need to eat and drink. 

 

We come now to Matthew 5:6 of the Sermon on the Mount, in which our Lord is speaking about life in the kingdom of heaven. What does it look like to belong to this coming age? And what is the hope of the coming kingdom for those that belong to it? There is a great disparity between life in this present age and life in the coming kingdom. The qualitative difference between them is exacerbated by sin. For, life in this world is a struggle. Yet there is hope in Christ. Those who trust in him will be blessed: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (v. 6).” By this, Jesus teaches us that he alone satisfies our fundamental need as humans created in the image of God.

Fundamental Desire

Jesus’s words are based on Psalm 107:5, 9: “hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. . . . For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” Hunger and thirst are powerful, because they are the expression of a lack of a fundamental need. We need to eat and drink. There is variability but—generally speaking—we can last three weeks without food and only about three days without any water. But we have an even deeper need than that. Our most fundamental need is union and communion with God. We would not exist apart from his sustaining word of power.

Nevertheless, this world seeks to live apart from God. It’s the great irony of sin. We reject God all the while depending on him while we issue our rejection. Van Til was fond of the analogy of a little girl, who slaps her father while being held in his arms. The only reason she can strike out is because she is supported by the very one she slaps. This is unrighteousness. It is anti-God.

Righteousness is a recurring theme of the Sermon on the Mount. It is an attribute of God. Indeed, righteousness is identical with God. When we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we ultimately desire a right relationship with God. This involves becoming like him by being conformed to the image of Christ.

We can recognize that Jesus’s teaching in Matthew finds great similarity with the teaching of James in his epistle. This is a matter of emphasis, for all of Scripture is unified. The emphasis on righteousness here and in James is justice and the upholding of all that is right in creation. It’s different from Paul’s frequent use of the word righteousness, which is largely a legal term having to do with our standing before God. That is a main feature of Romans 5, for example: “so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 5:21).”

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