The 8th Sunday After Pentecost July 14, 2013
419, 331, 431, 54
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
We all know what it means to be thirsty. Even the crying infant gives a sigh of contentment after it is nursed. Who doesn’t understand a “hunger and thirst” for financial security, a good husband or wife, a new car? The whole world understands what it means to be thirsty. But what is not understood by the world is the most difficult word in this passage: Righteousness.
This word changes everything! Hungering and thirsting after righteousness describes an intense craving to be able to stand safely before the Holy God forever. Jesus speaks of a HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH BRINGS TRUE AND LASTING HAPPINESS.
Your God is promising to satisfy this hunger and thirst. But who in the world hungers and thirsts for righteousness before God? In general, the world hungers and thirsts for the things of this world: If I eat it, will it make me a better, stronger, or faster athlete? If I put it on, will it make me more attractive to the opposite sex? If I chase it, will my business prosper? All of this is really a hungering and thirsting for good experiences and good things. It is not hungering and thirsting for God and His righteousness.
Who are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness before God? Are they the many millions of people who strive in good Boy Scout—manner to “do a good turn daily”—who are relatively “good” in their own eyes and in the eyes of their neighbors?
Let me tell you about the woman I met in a Greenville parking lot last week. When I noticed the fish symbol of Christianity on the back of her SUV located directly above the symbol of the Christ-denying Masonic Lodge, I asked her if she understood how the philosophy and prayers of the work-righteous Masonic Lodge actually reject and deny her Savior. Her immediate answer was spoken with great confidence. She said: “I am proud, very proud of the work that is done by our lodge and our ladies’ auxiliary. We open and close every meeting with prayer, and we are so proud of the work we do in our community.” I quickly realized that this poor woman had no more hunger for the Gospel of forgiveness in Christ than the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day.
Let me ask you: Does a man traveling through the desert hunger and thirst for food and water if he thinks he already has enough? Certainly not! Well then, neither does the person truly hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God if he feels that he already has it, or that by his own continual striving he may gain enough of it!
But those who truly hunger and thirst after righteousness are those who use the Law of God rightly—as a mirror to reveal their spiritual emptiness and wretched sinfulness before the Holy God. When we first aim the mirror squarely at ourselves, instead of holding it up to our neighbor, then we begin to see our own great sin. When the Law of God presses so hard upon us that our own sacrifices and works do nothing to remove our guilt or bring us peace of conscience, only then have we begun to hunger and thirst after the righteousness which is acceptable to God—the righteousness that is outside of us. This is the righteousness Paul wrote about to the Philippians—that righteousness which comes from God by faith (cf. Philippians 3:9, Romans 3:19-24). Do you hunger and thirst after this righteousness?
This righteousness is what Jesus offered the Samaritan woman who was drawing water at Jacob’s well. She was interested in the physical water of the well. But then Jesus said to her: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14).
Remember, this gracious Gospel invitation did not take root in the woman’s heart until our Lord gently reminder her that she had sinned against the Law. Jesus told her that she had had five husbands and that the one with whom she was then living was not her husband. When Jesus revealed Himself to her as her Savior, she dropped her water-pot and went running into the city telling others about Jesus. She reacted as one whose thirst for righteousness had been satisfied in Christ, her Savior.
Later, to the disciples who witnessed the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, Jesus said: “I AM the Bread of life; he who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). When we place such passages alongside Jesus’ words in our text we can only conclude that faith in Jesus Christ as one’s only Savior from sin fully satisfies our hunger and thirst for the righteousness that brings life and happiness before God forever!
Normally, the New Testament Greek would say that he was hungry for “some” or “part” of the bread, not “all” of the bread that there is. But here, the noun “righteousness” means that Christ is speaking about a hungering after the whole thing. Happiness belongs to those who hunger and thirst for the whole thing—a perfect righteousness, equal and identical with God’s righteousness.
But who hungers after perfect righteousness? Most people only want a little righteousness, just enough to get them through the gate of Heaven. But none of our righteousness will get us in! Sure, people take pride in their works, no matter how little, like the woman with whom I spoke in Greenville last week. How sadly enslaved are these poor souls who can never be sure whether they’ve done enough to stand before God on Judgment Day! The problem is that no one seeks the perfect righteousness which comes only from God through Jesus Christ. What about you?
Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians: “Christ Jesus…became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness…that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). Blessed and happy are you, dear friends, if you have been made to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Blessed and happy are you to be filled by the Gospel of Christ so that you are at peace with God in your hearts and lives and without fear of the judgment to come!
But remember: Jesus is talking about a hunger and thirst for all righteousness. The Psalmist tells us that the young Christian will want to How can a young man “…cleanse his way, by taking heed according to [God’s] Word” (Psalm 119:9). As long as you and I are Christians we will never cease to repent of our sins and weaknesses, giving thanks to God for the perfect righteousness of Christ—that righteousness outside of us—which He has so graciously placed in our account already! Just because we’ve been freely given that perfect righteousness in Christ, our faith will hunger and thirst to serve our Lord with righteous works until the day of our resurrection.
In that day God’s believing children will no longer hunger and thirst after righteousness.We shall finally and permanently be righteous. We “…shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike [us], nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd [us] and lead [us] to living fountains of waters…” (Rev. 7:16-17). “Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be, but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
There is no happiness like that of all those who shall finally be filled with God’s righteousness forever!
Lord Jesus, keep us in the faith that prays with King David: “As for me, I will behold Your face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake with Your likeness!v” (Psalm 17:15) Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.