Rev. Miersma is pastor of Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church of Lacombe, Alberta, Canada.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
In preceding articles we have seen the first three characteristics of the citizens of the kingdom of God. They are poor in spirit, mourners, and meek, indicating that they are in themselves nothing. All these are essential characteristics of the child of God. Each citizen must see and confess his own nothingness. When this is properly recognized, then one can enjoy the fullness of God’s blessings upon him.
Whereas the first three show our emptiness, this beatitude shows how we are filled. It is with righteousness that we are filled, and for it we hunger and thirst. This then should be the proper concern of each child of God, for there is much hungering and thirsting today for all sorts of things, all things but righteousness. So it is with natural man. We all too often follow their lead. We must be exhorted to hunger and thirst after righteousness, for only then will we be filled.
Righteousness suggests to us a certain standard of judgment. God is good and has been pleased to reveal His own goodness outside of Himself in the law. The law demands that one must love God with all of his being, and his neighbor for God’s sake. This love must be perfect, for the law will allow for no deviation. Whatever is not out of the love of God is condemned and deserves the eternal wrath of God. Furthermore, God Himself is the Judge as to what is righteous or not.
To be righteous, one’s walk must correspond to all that which the Word and the law of God require. You and I, then, must know what God demands of us and seek to observe all that is expected of us. We seek to be righteous, for we know that no unrighteous person shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.
No man can obtain this righteousness by his own efforts. There is no way that he can pay for his transgressions and deliver himself from the punishment which he deserves of God. To the contrary, he can only add to his debt. Nor is it within his ability to walk in that sort of goodness which God requires. The Pharisee in the day of Christ strived for this outward obedience, but Christ quickly set the record straight, comparing him to a whitewashed sepulcher filled with dead men’s bones. It is no different today. No man can fulfill the requirements of God’s Word and law, for he is totally dead in sin.
Our righteousness is fully merited through Jesus Christ our Savior. In eternity God determined to save for Himself a people. In the fullness of time He sent His only begotten Son into our flesh to accomplish that. By His suffering and death on the cross under God’s wrath, Christ fully satisfied what God’s justice demanded for His elect people. What Christ merited for us God applies to us by sending His Holy Spirit into our hearts. After the Spirit regenerates our hearts He applies the infallible Scriptures to our hearts and directs us to serve God so that we love to obey the law of God from our hearts.
For this righteousness we hunger and thirst. The figure suggests a great want or desire. It brings to mind a man stranded in the desert without food or water. Deprived of these essentials he cries out in deep need for sustenance. In such a condition he is not the least concerned about his home far away, or his car, or his business, or any such thing. No, his one concern is food and water, for which he has a great hunger and thirst.
That figure points to the reality of our deep awareness of our own spiritual need. The believer realizes and confesses his own sin and misery, understanding that there must be deliverance or there will be certain eternal damnation. He recognizes that, in order to escape this terrible bind in which he is, there must be applied to him righteousness. He must be righteous before God or he will be condemned to hell forever.
He further recognizes that he cannot provide for himself that which will satisfy the justice of God. However, he sees the oasis, the source of supply for him in his need. In the light of God’s Word he sees that God provides spiritual righteousness for the elect through Jesus Christ His Son in our flesh. He further understands that in Christ is righteousness and that this Savior confers it on all those who belong to Him. Thus, he hungers and thirsts after this righteousness, which is in his Lord, and in doing so is fully satisfied.
Now, when does this take place? Certainly one cannot hunger and thirst before his salvation. There are many today who believe that everyone hungers and thirsts and that all must simply be directed to the proper goal. However, the figure which Christ uses will not allow that interpretation, for to hunger and thirst one must be alive already. Physically a dead person, even though he is in the desert, does not hunger and thirst. There may be a lack of water and food, but a dead person neither expresses a desire for them nor does he seek them.
The same thing is true spiritually. The dead sinner does not seek righteousness, but continues to seek the corruption of this world. One must be alive to hunger and thirst and to seek the righteousness of the kingdom of God. Christ made that clear to Nicodemus in John 3:3: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” As a newborn baby immediately seeks his mother’s milk, so the born-again child of God hungers and thirsts after righteousness. And, oh, how richly the Lord provides! He gives us His Word and applies it by His Spirit, He forms us in His image, and He provides us with all good spiritual gifts. Therefore we continually seek spiritual sustenance from the source of all blessings. Just as one good meal is not sufficient for our entire life, so also we do not receive just one spiritual feast. Constantly we are seeking and feeding upon the riches which God provides for us through Jesus Christ.
We must take this to heart, for so often we hunger for the wrong things. We long for entertainment and pleasure, and for earthly things such as jobs, possessions, and riches. In seeking a husband or wife we sometimes sacrifice the Word of God upon the altar of that which pleases the flesh. This only points out the fact that there is much of the flesh in us and that our hungering and thirsting is often blunted by spiritual maladies.
A true hunger and thirst is manifested in our faithfully hearing the preaching of God’s Word each Sabbath, as we desire to use the means which God has provided to call His people to conversion and to strengthen them in the faith. We want to hear Jesus Christ crucified and raised again. We simply will not be content with a social gospel, which proclaims man’s ideas on the issues of the day. Satisfaction is attained only in hearing that payment for sins has been made.
One who so hungers and thirsts will be looking for the new heavens and earth in which righteousness shall dwell. It will be seen also in his daily walk, for he will speak, think, and act like a citizen of the kingdom. Loving the law and God’s Word he applies himself to a godly walk, speaking and singing of the glorious truth of the gospel. Fervently he will pray, “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus,” knowing that when He comes, then he shall be filled with all the riches which God has promised him in Christ.
The blessedness of it all is that he shall be filled. The child of God is assured that he will receive what he is seeking. You and I never have to seek or ask in vain. He who truly hungers and thirsts, and shows that in his life and walk, shall be filled abundantly. God guarantees this on the basis of what Christ has done for us on the cross. All of this shall be fulfilled when Christ returns again, when the sought righteousness shall be revealed in all its perfection. Then there shall be no more sin nor the temptation to sin, but only the praising and glorifying of the Lord our God eternally.
Even though it shall be fulfilled in the future, already now we experience the righteousness which we seek. This is experienced when we come to God in prayer and have blessed fellowship with Him. When we are in the fellowship and communion of the saints, this same righteousness is enjoyed. And most important of all, we have the assurance of the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ.
In this way we are most blessed or happy. Happiness is not an end in itself. Often we hear of the basic rights, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Man goes about pursuing happiness inseeking to obtain wealth, glory, and power. Yet he never attains to true happiness but becomes more and more unhappy. There is a warning in this for all of us, for we also can have mistaken ideas of happiness. We tend to complain that the church deprives us of the fun-things of life, for it condemns movie attendance and insists on proper regulation of TV, computer use, books, etc., as well as modesty in dress. It is always the kingdom first. Such complaints show a misunderstanding of true happiness.
True happiness or blessedness comes by way of seeking righteousness. The child of God who hungers and thirsts for righteousness is not, first of all, thinking of happiness. He does not regard his calling as boring, limiting, or old-fashioned. No, he simply seeks righteousness and is filled. In this way, he at the same time experiences a happiness which the world can never have. He is happy with his fellowship with God and with the saints of God, especially as that is experienced each Sabbath day under the preaching of God’s Word. Indeed, blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.