This week’s verse from the Sermon on the Mount at Avalon was Matthew 5:6.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.Mt. 5:6 (NIV2011)
Often when I read familiar verses like this, I just keep going. One way I force myself to stop and mediate on Scripture is to think about each word individually.
Blessed. Favored by God. I’ve walked through that word in a previous blog.
Are those who HUNGER…. Hunger. An image of starving children in a foreign country who even if they are filled with food for a few hours, have been hungry for so long that they are malnourished and missing the nutrients to grow. That’s severe hunger. A hunger that I have never felt.
And THIRST…. A person in the desert so desperate for water that they imagine it being there.
The words hunger and thirst have a definition in common: to have a strong desire. A synonym, perhaps with a bit more intensity of meaning, would be CRAVE. To crave is to desire eagerly, even to need or to require something. People who truly hunger or thirst crave. A hungry child craves good, filling, nutritious food. Their bodies require it. A dehydrated person in the desert craves good drinking water.
Favored by God are those who crave…. What do they crave? Righteousness. The Amplified Bible expands righteousness to a “right standing with God.” Do we crave that? There is so much more to righteousness in Scripture though. The New Living Translation replaces righteousness with justice. That is also true. In fact in the Old Testament, righteousness and justice are often paired together. Proverbs 8:20 says, “I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice.” The words here are a synonymous parallel, two phrases that mean similar things. Do we crave justice? True justice? That leads to other questions like where do we see the need for justice in our world. And if we crave justice, how do we help bring it about?
However, while both of those things are true, they don’t fit really well in this verse when we finish it: “…for they will be filled.” What does righteousness mean in this context?
Righteousness in Romans is the gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ. It is not by obeying the law that we receive righteousness, but by faith in Jesus, by desiring him. The Old Testament has a great word picture for being thirsty for righteousness and for the giver of that righteousness:
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”Psalm 42:1-2
Jesus himself says in John 4 that he is the living water. Everyone who drinks the water he gives (himself) will never be thirsty again, unlike if we drink the water from the well sitting there. He talks about the same idea with bread in John 6. He is the bread of life that truly fills, unlike the physical bread that he gave the crowds the previous day. People who thirst and who hunger can find what will truly fill them in Jesus.
Do we crave Jesus? Do we crave his righteousness?
Matthew 5:6 says that when we crave righteousness we will be filled. Who does the filling? God. With what or whom are we filled? I could argue that we are filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Trinity that when we crave righteousness, which is a gift of God and comes through faith in Jesus Christ, we are filled with the Spirit of God.
This is all in contrast to what the world offers. KPaul did a great job of pointing to some of the things that the world says will satisfy our cravings on Sunday morning. Then I watched the Super Bowl Sunday night and saw a bunch of ads that displayed worldly cravings as well. But there was one ad that did a great job of showing what unfilled and filled looks like. It was the 3D Doritos™ commercial. Matthew McConaughey spends most of the commercial walking around as a full-size flat Matthew. Like a cardboard cut-out of himself. People look at him strangely, but he continues to do his thing as flat Matthew, even driving a car. He climbs into a vending machine and opens a bag of 3D Doritos™. When he eats one, he becomes a three-dimensional Matthew again. Except he is stuck in a vending machine. It’s a funny commercial.
Change the image. What if we are walking around empty? We are flat versions of ourselves. Cardboard cut-outs. Until we eat of the bread and drink of the water that Jesus offers us. We partake of him. Of the life he offers. And we are filled. Hopefully we don’t stay stuck in the vending machine of church, but we leave and share who has filled us with other people who truly need to be filled.
Matthew 5:6 says that God favors those who crave Him and His righteousness and He will fill them. They will have life. Abundant life is how John describes it. Isaiah makes a similar invitation:
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;Isaiah 55:1-3a
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.
I pray that you will crave God and his word this week because that’s a craving that He is waiting to satisfy.