Matthew 5:1-12 Part 4

“Blessed those who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

In this particular statement in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we are looking at another of the characteristics of the follower, or disciple of Christ.  A further description of a believer – a Christian.  And, as we have seen, it is very important that we should take it in its logical place in the series of statements that have been made by our Lord, because it is the inevitable result of that which has come before as each of these are. 

Jesus first says that the one who is poor in spirit is blessed.  The one who is poor in spirit is the one who truly sees himself as perverse – and knows the awful consequences of his evil rebellion against the holy and righteous God.  And he is blessed who truly mourns his own sin – and truly sees that the evil and death and corruption of the world comes from the very same depraved nature of mankind.

And because of this understanding of the plight and condition of all men, comes a meekness, which receives the chastening of God and the reviling of men.  And Jesus said that these are the blessed ones.  These are the ones who are content and happy and joyful.  And these are to ones who possess the Kingdom, receive the comfort of Christ and inherit the earth.

And, these are also the ones who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God.  They long, and desire, and yearn for God’s answer to the horror of sin and the stink of death.  And they shall be satisfied. 

Secondly, it’s also important that we continue to keep the full context of this sermon in the forefront of our minds because of the contrast between what is reality -–as Jesus preaches it – and the denial of reality as the Jews saw it.  Israel was no longer blessed, for it rejected the depravity of all men, including themselves.  And the essence of Divine justification in their minds lay in that it would take place in the future and in the heavenly judgment.  And that the whole of life consisted precisely in personal preparation for it.  In other words, salvation by personal righteousness.

And so when Christ presented Himself as the fullness of all of the Older Scriptures, He was rejected by Israel.  So He turned His back to the Old Covenant nation and preached the Gospel of repentance to the Gentiles, and told them that the Kingdom was now.  And it belonged to the poor in spirit, those who saw their own poor condition. 

And the Sermon on the Mount is the first recorded event of His extended preaching on the nature of His true disciples – and how the Law of God would be observed as a result of having these characteristics.  So the Jewish idea of the nature of man was wrong; their view of the Law was wrong; their adding to the Law was wrong; and, most of all, their understanding of themselves was a denial of reality.  They thought they were righteous and had no desperate need of the substitutionary atonement foreshadowed in the entire ceremonial Law.

Now, thirdly, it is also very important that we remember the contrasts which have been made between what Jesus says in this sermon and what is going on in today’s society and today’s Church – the denial of the reality of Jesus’ words, and the substitution of everything else in their place.  The contrast is between the facts and reality of the condition of all men, and the search for life and happiness within the confines of corruption and chaos and death.

The world order seeks happiness and contentment and joy.  It seeks to be blessed.  It seeks after it in false worship; it seeks it in pleasure; it seeks it in education, and in politics and government, in pursuit of the arts; it seeks it in organizations and movements; it seeks it in euphoria – whether it be from drugs or religion – it seeks it in depression and insanity; it seeks it in suicide.  These are all false solutions to peace and happiness!

But Jesus says right here that it’s not those who seek happiness that are blessed.  It’s those who desire righteousness.  (Another terrible paradox to the world order!)  None of these other things culminates in happiness.  Even desiring to be happy with all one’s soul is not the source of happiness.  The one who hungers and thirsts for righteousness is the one who is filled.  He sees his own condition and mourns it, and he desires God’s solution with all his heart.

There isn’t one command or one example in Scripture which indicates that people ought to search for happiness.  But people put happiness and blessedness as the number one goal in their lives.  Their number one objective.  But they don’t find it.  Because whenever you put happiness before righteousness you’ll be doomed to misery.  (Quest for righteousness – hungry and thirsty) 

And this is the great message of grace in the whole Bible – beginning to end.  They alone are truly happy who are hungering and thirsting for the righteousness of God.  They alone shall be filled.

Now, it’s not just the world order that’s seeking everything except righteousness to provide happiness – so is the Church.  People go around from meeting to meeting – convention to convention – revival to revival – Church to Church, trying to find some kind of happiness.  Trying to find this wonderful something – something special to fill the spaces in their lives – maybe some ecstatic thing – some feeling that makes them happy.  They see that some other people seem to have it, but, try as they may, they can’t seem to get it for themselves.

But that isn’t surprising.  We aren’t meant to hunger and thirst after experiences; we aren’t meant to hunger and thirst after warm feelings and filling up the empty spaces in our lives.  But if we truly hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God, then we are blessed.

Jesus says, in our text, “Blessed the ones who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  They alone.

So what is this righteousness?  What is it that we are to desire like a hart pants for the water-brook?  What is it that we should need so badly that it’s like the unrelenting pangs of hunger and thirst?

Well, let’s back up just a little bit.  What is it that is the source of our poverty of spirit?  What causes us to mourn?  Not only for ourselves but for the world – society, the Church, suffering, death, corruption?  What is it that necessitates our meekness before God and man?  Our sinfulness and our sin!

So what is it that we need, or desire – yearn for - beyond all needs?  Forgiveness.  We need acquittal.  We need to be justified.  We need a Divine verdict of “not guilty.”  We need to be set free of the bondage of sin!

Listen to the Psalmist for a moment:


Psalm 84:  “My soul longeth, yea even fainteth for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the Living God.” 

And Psalm 63:  “O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek thee.  My soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is; to see Thy power and Thy glory, so as I have seen Thee in the sanctuary.”

And Psalm 42:  “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God.  My soul thirsteth for God, for the Living God; when shall I come and appear before God?”


These three, and many others, give us a look at substantive examples – in empty bellies and parched bodies – of how we are to long for, and desire, the very basic necessities of life.  And how wonderful they are when we receive them.

And the point is, here, that food and water, when we’re hungry and thirsty, are compared to the ONE ultimate requirement that we are to desire beyond all others.... that ONE – most satisfying – ingredient of life:  righteousness!

Paul says, in Romans one, that, in the Gospel of God is the Revelation of the righteousness of God, which is by the faith of Jesus Christ to those who are believing.  What is it Jesus says?  “Blessed the ones hungering....”

Righteousness is what man requires in order to go free in the divine judgement.  The verb form of the word righteousness is “to justify.”  So justification is the Divine verdict.  The Older Testament Scriptures prophesied the coming revelation of the righteousness of God, and it has now been revealed in the advent of the Christ and in the Gospel, which is the Power of God into salvation.

Paul preaches the revelation of the acquittal verdict of God – a righteousness which may be spoken of no longer in terms of waiting, as in the Older Testament prophets, but rather in terms of a matter having been accomplished in Christ.  And He preaches it in terms of the certainty of faith.  In other words, He directs the eyes of the one who knows himself to be a sinner and can do nothing about it, who is poor in spirit, not only to the possibility of forgiveness, but he also speaks of the judicial verdict itself as a matter that has already been settled – the proclamation of which is the power of God into salvation to those believing.

So God has revealed the righteousness that is necessary in order that those who have faith in Jesus might stand in the judgement of God.  Christ’s death was God’s righteous judgement on the sin of the world.  God condemned sin in the flesh of His Son, and those in Christ through faith become righteous.  So the content of the whole Gospel can be defined as the revelation of the righteousness of God for everyone who is faithing.

Righteousness becomes, then, the all-inclusive word which describes the nature that man must have before he can enter the Kingdom of the heavens.  And the only way that man can receive that nature is by imputation through faith.  Christ’s nature is imputed to us by God through the channel of faith.  The righteousness we must have is His!

What is beyond all human ability is brought about by Christ, Who, by His holy life, and by His substitutionary death, met the demands of God’s standard of righteousness, met it in our place, imputes His perfect righteousness to us through faith, and wins our acquittal before the Divine judgement bar.

Now, since this is the righteousness of God, it takes its character from God Himself.  And the whole of salvation – justification, reconciliation, sanctification, is grounded in the righteousness of God;  revealed in Christ Jesus, and which finds its expression in right behavior.  He who is called to hunger and thirst for righteousness is blessed; and, in so doing, lives out the righteousness of Christ, in Whose body he lives.

“They shall be filled” is passive.  We receive it by pronouncement of God.  We seek it.  We hunger and thirst for it.  It is acquittal – forgiveness – reconciliation – and we seek it daily because we mourn our sin.  We are poor in spirit.  We receive offense meekly.  And we starve for righteousness.

Daily we strip off the old self as we faith in Christ.  That old self is splashed and spotted with the filth of sin – inside and outside, and we put on the new robe of righteousness wrought by Christ.  He is our covering.  And the whole process is the revelation of the righteousness of God.

I’ll say some more about our daily hungering for righteousness, and the resultant filling, in a minute, but Christ’s promise “they shall be filled” also has to do with the final judgement of God, for the Scriptures indicate that, even though there’s an immediate justification and reconciliation for the new believer, there’s also a final declaration of righteousness for all those in Christ.  The “hope of righteousness” as described by Paul in Galatians chapter five is the anticipation and hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God in the future, and in the grace which will be manifest in the final triumphant shout of Christ upon His return.  For all those who have persevered in the Faith there is a grand acquittal at the end of the age.

Now, the righteousness of God, which has been revealed in Christ Jesus, isn’t something to be put behind us after we enter the life of faith.  One doesn’t “accept” Jesus and then continue on as he was.  God doesn’t pronounce a man to be free of sin in Christ only to watch him live on in his life of rebellion and idolatry.

The revelation of the righteousness of God in Christ is a reality which accompanies the believer as a constantly fresh and sought after thing.  It binds the believer to Christ and his communion.  And it makes him long for the way of righteousness.  He hungers and thirsts to be filled with this righteousness.

And it’s such a tangible and palpable thing – that the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus is a present reality for me as I commune with Him daily through faith.  And in Him I have freedom from sin in all its forms and all its manifestations.  God has already pronounced my acquittal verdict in Christ.

And living in Him and communing with Him and feeding on Him through faith, my sin becomes a hated thing.  Wanting to be in the way of righteousness, and yet not.  Having sin and not wanting it.  Wanting righteousness and not doing it.  Living in His Body, but experiencing the constant depravity.  And because of it – learning more and more about God’s marvelous grace.

And all this causes me to long for, to hunger for, to thirst for, the righteousness of God in My Lord!  My mind says, “for me to live is Christ,” but this power of sin in me motivates me toward unbelief and disorder and chaos.  I yearn for the righteousness of Christ.  All men, all women, all children need acquittal, they want acquittal!

But although satiated, still poor in spirit.  And still mourning.  And still meekly submissive toward the awesome holiness and perfections and love that are there.  And more hungering and thirsting for the revelation of the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.

You see, my freedom from sin – and my freedom from the dominion of my sin nature – are in Jesus Christ, Who is the embodiment of the revelation of the righteousness of God.  In Him is the verdict of acquittal for me!  In Him is my release from condemnation!

And in Him I am blessed.  And in Him my daily and constant hunger and thirst for righteousness is filled.

No man, however wise and powerful he may be, has ever discovered a way to turn a guilty man into one that’s righteous.  Men declare themselves to be righteous; but this amounts to no more than the sinner’s denial of his sin, or the criminal’s insistence on his innocence.  Or the presenting of extenuating circumstances, or the accusation of others to cover himself.

And no man ever stood before a court of justice which has the full evidence of his guilt.  But what is beyond all human ability to accomplish, is done by Christ.  Every man stands before God’s bar of justice fully exposed – the judge knows the full extent of the guilt.  And Jesus paid the full price.  The righteous judgement of God was carried out to the limit, with no mercy.  He was dealt the punishment in the flesh.

This is the Gospel.  This is the revelation of the righteousness of God.  And the believer longs for that righteousness.  He longs for right living.  He yearns to be daily comforted in the body of the Lord.  He hungers and thirsts for the gifts and fruit of the Spirit, which come through faith in Christ.  He pants as the hart for the water of life.  He hopefully anticipates the public worship of God in Christ Jesus.  He jealously guards those times when, through faith, he enters into the very presence of God in prayer – with Christ as His advocate.  He mourns and hates his sinful nature and his sin – and hopes for the day when that sin is no longer an issue.  And he is filled.  Declared blessed.  Happy – content – joyful, filled and satiated with the righteousness of Christ.

When we come to the table this morning it ought to be obvious to us that our Lord has given us a sign of these very things we’ve been talking about His first recorded sermon includes hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  And during His three-year ministry He spoke often of eating and drinking in figurative terms, as the psalmist did.  And then, just before His crucifixion, He institutes the new covenant sign to replace the Passover Paschal Lamb – the Lord’s Table – bread and wine.  No longer do men hope for the coming of the revelation of God’s righteousness, for the perfect Lamb has come.  And the new sign of the covenant is to signify our intimate union in Him – that the union is so close that we feed on Him and drink His blood.  By faith, His body is the bread of life, and life is in the blood.

It is a union that’s so close, that we actually receive His righteousness, and He receives our sin.  It’s so close that we participate in His Divine characteristics.  It’s so close that when we hunger and thirst for His righteousness, He fills us – He satisfies us.  It’s so close that when our spirits are poverty-stricken, His Kingdom belongs to us.  It’s so close that when we mourn our sin, He comforts us.  And it’s so close that when we receive the ridicule and revilings of men, Christ receives them too.  And ridicule drives us to seek righteousness, for we want the covering of Christ – and the forgiveness of Christ – and the comfort of Christ – and the obedience of Christ.  All of this is signified in the bread and the wine.  Let us commune together.