“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”
The Lord Jesus is teaching His disciples on the unnamed mount of Galilee. My text is part of the celebrated Sermon on the Mount, which extends from this chapter through chapter seven.
It is significant that this sermon begins with a description of those that are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. It colors the whole sermon. And also this: they are pictured not so much in their outward behavior as in their subjective estate. Significant, for they are blessed, seven times blessed.
The law of the kingdom is fulfilled in them: they exhibit the inner principle of the love of God. For that reason they are the poor in spirit, and the meek, they hunger and thirst after the righteousness of that kingdom: they know and have tasted its wonders.
These citizens of the kingdom of God are called blessed because they hunger and thirst after righteousness, and they shall surely be filled with that righteousness.
What is it?
I think that there are many possible answers, and that because this concept is so indescribably rich in content.
God is righteousness!
Christ is called: the Lord our righteousness!
And God’s people of every age are called the righteous!
God is righteousness! He is His virtues.
In God it is one of His virtues. Righteousness is that virtue in God wherein He is, in all His living and willing, in all His loving and work in perfect harmony with the only norm of Goodness, and that is His own being. Righteousness is that which answers to the highest and only norm of goodness. Righteous is one when this norm of goodness is laid alongside of his thought, word and deed, and when this norm expresses that he is in harmony with goodness.
To speak very simply: righteousness is good conduct.
And that is the virtue of God triune. He always does all things well. Attend to: “He is the rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” It is the song of God! It describes the living God in His ways, His conduct. You will sing that song unto all eternity. Far is the Lord from all iniquity!
God, our own God, is righteousness itself!
And therefore man is righteous.
That is, man as he was created by this righteous God. When man was created, God looked at him, through him, and said, Behold, he is very good! Oh yes, we came from the hand of the Creator very righteous creatures.
But we fell, and thereby hangs a story of unspeakable misery, for we became unrighteous. No, we did not merely lose righteousness as the wonderful virtue of good conduct, but we turned into its very opposite: we became crooked in all our ways. Our thoughts, our words and our deeds became crooked, for we in our deepest being became crooked. We are a perverse lot. And history has written her commentary on that truth. That is the reason why the whole history of man may be written in blood and tears. We are a perverse lot.
But God loved man from all eternity.
And in that love God determined by Himself to glorify Himself in millions of righteous men. He determined from before the foundation of this world to have a commonwealth of men that would be very righteous and that would surround His throne unto all eternity, singing and joying before Him, telling Him unto everlasting how wonderfully good He is. In other words, God determined that there should be a living mirror around about Him in which He would see a reflection of His own righteousness.
But how is this possible? Man is so unrighteous, so crooked that when you henceforth approach him with good conduct, he will turn away from it; no, more, he will turn to you and toward your righteousness and try to destroy it. He hates good conduct from his inner heart. That is proven in the bloody pages of history. I will have opportunity to prove this very conclusively.
The answer to this question is found in Jesus Christ, our righteousness.
You see, when man fell away from God and from righteousness, God had provided some better thing than Adam showed even in his state of original righteousness. It was not God’s will to glorify Himself eternally in and through the first Adam. He determined from before the foundation of the world that the universe should be united to Him in the second Adam, and that is Jesus: the perfect man of God’s good pleasure. This will of God is so central in His eternal counsel that the Scriptures teach how even the first creation, I mean the creation that fell away from God in Adam, was created by Christ and for Christ. Read the first chapter of, and tremble. The adorable Godhead planned to reveal all the glory of its perfect being in Christ! That is central in all God’s counsel and planning.
And so we come to the perfect, the righteous Man I
And He is Christ, the Christ of God!
The righteous man!
Jesus Christ our Lord!
Attend to it that the Holy Ghost calls Him: The Lord our righteousness!
God will show the second, the last Adam to the world, and so Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the fullness of time.
But He was heralded from the beginning of time.
And He was the angel of Jehovah from the beginning of time.
And He was concretely revealed from the beginning of time.
Read Paul in, and marvel. Marvel, my dear brother, for Paul wrote that Christ was in the Old Testament. And the rock was Christ.
And Daniel saw the Son of man in the Old Testament, and be wrote of His advent, how He would come to bring in an everlasting righteousness!
And we need just that, and so very, very much!
Remember? We said that righteousness is good conduct. Now look strongly on Jesus! Heaven, earth and hell have left their testimony: He was a good man! Oh yes, Jesus was a very righteous man.
Heaven said it: This is my beloved Son in whom is all my good pleasure!
The earth said it: He went through the land, doing good. And could we forget the testimony of Pilate? I find no guilt in this Man?
Hell said it: attend to Judas, the incarnation of Satan: I have shed the innocent blood! May I bring in the circumstance that the Sanhedrin had need of false witnesses? It is a strong testimony for Christ’s righteousness.
Yes, Jesus is very righteousness, a righteousness which God, the triune God, planned, thought out from all eternity.
And Christ established this righteousness, this good conduct. He died for the ungodly. He paid the price that God’s justice demanded. For all that commonwealth of which I spoke before this. For a certain number of men and women and children, Jesus paid the price which God’s justice demanded because of their sins.
But that is only part of the good conduct of Jesus.
He fulfilled the law of the ten commandments for us. God said to the righteous Adam in paradise: You, your wife, your sons and the whole human race in you shall love me as the highest good, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself!
We did not.
And this Christ fulfilled that which we failed to do.
His conduct in this was so wonderful, He loved God and his neighbor so intensively that He fulfilled the law for many, and secondly, He brought us to the heavenly heights. He does not bring us back where we came from, but He brought us to the heights of the spiritual man in Him that will lie with Him in the bosom of the Father.
Must I add here that He could do all these miracles because He also is very God himself? Mere man could not satisfy God’s justice. It demands eternal wrath, and eternal wrath is eternal: poor, weak, miserable man would never get through paying. Second: mere man cannot redeem himself, so how could he redeem his brother? Man cannot make overtime with God. But he will not either. Say that the possibility were opened to do this, even then he would not, for he hates God. And, finally, mere man cannot bring himself by good conduct to the heavenly glory of God’s covenant in Christ.
But Jesus could.
And He did.
He was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification.
The righteous man!
Righteousness of my text!
It is the object of the hunger and thirst of the people of my text.
Now we can see it. These people are the blessed people of God.
The reason why these people hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ is because they have received the Holy Ghost which was shed abroad in their heart. That Spirit of God, united with His blessed Word, taught these people that they were black with sin and corruption.
But this Spirit gave these people, also through the Word of God, a taste of this righteousness in Christ. In other words: the Spirit of Christ brought them in contact with the Christ of God. And gave them a taste of this Christ.
And that, my friends, makes all the difference in the world.
Through that blessed operation of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost and the Word of God, we receive a taste of the good conduct of Christ. We learn to know that Christ in all His riches: His coming, His suffering for us, His vicarious death and resurrection, His glorification upon His ascent to the highest heavens, and His return in the Holy Spirit.
And I assure you that the view of that Christ is beautiful beyond compare.
It makes all the difference in the world. When you once have received a view of that Christ of God, of that Righteousness in Him, you can never forget Him. You will follow after that righteousness from morn till night, yes, you will die for it. Thousands upon thousands have died for that view, that glorious view of the Christ of God. And more thousands will die for it again and again before the sorry history of this world is over and done with.
They hunger and they thirst for this righteousness, for this Jesus.
It is the righteousness of my text.
And they are blessed indeed!
First, because this hunger and thirst is a true earmark of grace.
Natural man does not hunger for this righteousness.
Natural man will always try to build his own righteousness. It is the earmark of natural man to do this for he is poisoned by the devil. The devil’s sin is pride, and he has instilled this pride in the heart of man from the beginning, and he continues to do so.
And the nearer you bring natural man to the gospel of this righteousness, the more he will try to build His own good conduct before the face of God, so that he will endeavor to become his own redeemer. Witness the sorry spectacle of the self-righteous Pharisees.
Good conduct by natural man? A little while ago I said that I would say a little more about that. Well, here is the proper place.
Bring God to the nation; bring Christ to the natural man; show the good conduct that Jesus did for His own to the natural man; place the godhead within reach of natural man in the person of Christ, and he will murder Him. That is the truth.
Witness Golgotha, and tremble, tremble, tremble!
Oh yes, natural man does hunger and thirst. But they long and yearn for sin. I know because I find it in me. Nothing human is strange to me.
They long for sin, for perverseness, for the earth and for earthly things. They wallow in sin and would have more of it. And they have success in it. The end shall be the revelation of the man of Sin, and that is Antichrist.
But there always will be a people that genuinely hunger and thirst for Christ, and for His righteousness.
They are those that were regenerated by God.
And converted by God.
And sanctified by God.
And justified by God.
And they shall be glorified by God.
God does it all. Yes, some of it through us, but even then, our fathers said, and I agree with them: even the act of believing is of Him.
And these people are blessed, secondly, because they shall be filled.
That happens even now on earth.
There is a beginning of this fulfillment.
Good conduct is given them in regeneration and conversion and sanctification. No, it is not a perfect fulfillment. It is only a beginning. There winds a thread, a golden thread of good conduct through the lives of these citizens of heaven. And we love that golden thread. It pays to be good. To be good, to think good thoughts, to say good words and to do good deeds carries its own reward. It gives you a little bit of heaven in your heart.
And the complete, the perfect fulfillment is coming.
What shall I say of that?
It is so heavenly and I am so earthy.
It is so glorious and I am so tarnished.
It is so eternal and I am so temporal.
But the Bible speaks of it. I have heard the heavenly song. And I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia!
That, my dear reader, is good conduct, that is righteousness!