In what is probably the most well known sermon in history, The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells the crowd listening to him that those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6), and that their hunger and thirst are “blessed” in the midst of longing for what only God can give. The question that lies behind this statement for many of us is this: “What does being hungry and thirsty for righteousness even look like?”
Before we start hungering and thirsting for something, let’s make sure that we know what it is we desire, and that we are happy with the right things.
When the New Testament speaks of “righteousness,” it speaks of the condition of the person who is acceptable in the presence of God. This condition is one that humanity cannot achieve on its own. God was aware of this and sent His Son Jesus Christ, who is God, to be a better representation of humanity as God intended it. Jesus was to sit in our place, and take on all of the punishment that the just God of the universe had to send because of the sin and rebellion of our world. When people trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, they are adopted into God’s family (John 1:13), being made children of God, and they are brought before God with the track record of Jesus, instead of their own. God does this completely of His own goodness, desiring that all would come to saving knowledge of this truth (2 Peter 3:9). This is known as the Gospel or “good news” of Jesus Christ.
We have all tried to “find happiness” at some point. A common phrase I hear from my peers is “Hey, if it’s what makes you happy, go for it!” Yet this phrase has never been a firm foundation in the storms of reality.
When the waves of depression hit, you won’t find any way to shore so long as you sail in the boat of “whatever makes you happy.” You cannot thrive on the food of shallow relationships, a few dollar bills, or large social media audiences. We need lasting happiness in a world that is broken and filled temporary bursts of pleasure.
The Gospel is good news because God was not only aware of our condition, but He did something about it. God actually became like us and in humility came and lived among us, proclaiming that salvation from the false joys and temporary treasures is actually available. Salvation is free to us, but it certainly wasn’t cheap.
The Judge became the Judged. The King became a Slave. The only Son of God came to relieve of us of our prolonged guilt and shame, of all of our suffering, and of the many temporary “pleasures” that lead us on to thinking we finally have what we’ve been searching. Jesus died, and died for your good, according to God’s plan.
As we learn to hunger and thirst for what only God can give, I’d say that the Psalmist have given us much to think about. Psalm 119:17-24 gives us a great picture of the life of someone who is on the never ending hunt to be satisfied by God. It is about how the Psalmist desires to live a life that reflects the will of God as it is found in His Word, and that even in the face of opposition, God’s Word gives him the necessary counsel to endure persecution.
17 Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
19 I am a sojourner on the earth;
hide not your commandments from me!
20 My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.
21 You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments.
22 Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies.
23 Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.
24 Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.
Ask yourself today, “Is this my heart? Do these things sound like my desires?” And then, chase after God.
Matthew-Louis Hall is a student at Leavell College at NOBTS.