Hunger affects us in a multitude of ways. When we are extremely hungry it is difficult to think of anything besides our hunger. All kinds of things may be going on around us that would normally pull our attention to it, but when we haven’t eaten in a few days, nothing draws our attention except the desire for food. When Jesus sat down on the mountainside to proclaim the Sermon on the Mount, it hadn’t been much time at all since the days in the wilderness, following his baptism in the Jordan. The Spirit drove him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for forty days. He went the whole time fasting from food and afterward was very hungry. It was at that point that Satan showed up. His first temptation of Jesus was “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to be made bread.” Now for me, that wouldn’t have been much of a temptation, since I don’t have the ability to turn the stones into bread. But for Jesus, it was a completely different matter. He had the power to say to the rocks, “become bread” and they would have obeyed. Many have said that the rocks in the area were small, flat, white rocks that actually looked like wafers or cookies. He was as hungry as a person could be, having gone forty days without food. So, the temptation to use his miraculous power selfishly and settle the hunger pains were real. Yet he responded by saying, “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Jesus resisted Satan’s attack that day. But when he sat down on the mountainside, that thought and feeling were still very close to him. As he looked at the crowd he certainly recognized that many of the people in the crowd were also struggling with hunger and thirst for food and drink. But he also recognized they had an even deeper hunger deep in their soul. They were hungry for a right relationship with God. They were parched with the thirst for God and the feelings that He was close to them and in a tight relationship with them. As he eyes focused on these hungry and thirsty souls he declared, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Recently, I had the opportunity to take a young man to lunch that hadn’t had enough to eat in a long time. When we sat down it was obvious that he could hardly stand the wait for the food to come. When his food was placed in front of him, he dug in with all the focus one could imagine. It seemed to me as if I had totally disappeared from the scene when the food was sat before him. Nothing was now on his mind but consuming the food as quickly and with as much gusto and one could imagine. Now I ate the food in front of me as well, but not at all like he did. I wasn’t particularly hungry having eaten breakfast a few hours earlier. But for him this was special.
It was for that person that Jesus spoke. Many in the crowd had empty stomach’s and certainly would have been drawn to food, but they had an even deeper hunger. They longed for a true and personal relationship with God. Their hunger or thirst wasn’t just for food and drink, they felt the same kind of gnawing pain for God and being in a personal relationship with him that they had for the food. Jesus was speaking to that person in the crowd when he said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” It wasn’t so much his declaration that we should all be hungry and thirsty for righteousness in our lives. Instead, it was the recognition that many of them had such a deep longing for him and focusing on their longing he said, “You are blessed for having such a hunger and thirst.” What is the blessing for one being so hungry for God and for being right with him? It is that the hunger will be satisfied.
When the man I took to lunch finally reached the stage that he had a full stomach, he looked up with a smile and said, “I’m satisfied.” It was truly as if he could finally think of something else and that we could talk about some other problems and challenges in his life, now that his hunger was satisfied.
The Bible speaks of righteousness in more than one way. There is a kind of righteousness tied to doing everything just right, that we can never attain to. It was that kind of righteousness that Paul refers to in Romans 3 when he said: “There is none righteous, no not one.” A righteousness based on doing everything right or even being totally obedient to God’s commands in life was only satisfied by one person in all the history of humanity. Only Jesus suffered all the temptations of life without ever giving in to the temptations he faced. He is totally righteous in that he never sinned, never failed to obey God’s teaching and never had anything in his life he needed to repent of. When we strive or hunger for that kind of righteousness, knowing full well that we have sinned many times already and that we will fail to follow God’s will totally throughout our lives it will never be satisfied.
There is a kind of personal righteousness that is tied to our being forgiven by God for the failures and sins in our life and that is now tied to our striving to live in the way God calls us to live. In Romans 6:16-18 Paul talked about this kind of righteousness. “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed and have been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” This is a righteousness tied to being cleansed by the blood of Jesus from sin as we turn to God and strive to live obediently to him all the time. This kind of righteousness grows in us as we mature in Christ.
The third way the Bible speaks of righteousness is imputed righteousness. In Romans 4 Paul discussed this type righteousness using Abraham as his prime example. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (Verse 3). “He was fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness” (Verses 21-22). Notice how Paul proceded from that illustration to make his point in verses 23-25. “But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our transpasses and raised for our justification.” Through Jesus sacrificial death in which our sins were imputed to him so he could pay the price for us and his righteousness is imputed to us who believe in him just as righteousness was counted to Abraham when he believed God in what he promised.
Praise God our hunger for a right relationship with God can be completely satisfied through Jesus obedient actions and our obedient faith in him. Truly we are blessed when we hunger and thirst for that righteousness because God has made it possible for all of us or any of us to be fully satisfied in Him.