Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness

For They Shall Be Filled



Dr. John Hoole – September 20, 2015



Today, we come to the fourth of eight Beatitudes as mentioned in Matthew 5.


Matthew 5:6 NKJV


6   Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.


As I was pondering this lesson, one thing that came to me is how little I think about hunger and thirst.     I have not been desperate for food or drink to the point of concern at any point in my life.  I was raised in a relatively poor family.  I did not know that fact at the time because we never missed a meal.


In other words, I’m not sure I ever have “hungered and thirsted after” food in a real, powerful, physical sense except as a baby – at least not in my memory.  Whenever I feel even a little hungry or thirsty, I am able to satisfy that feeling very quickly and with minimal effort.  Feeling hunger and thirst has one, and only one, purpose – to prompt the one to eat and drink.  This protects the body from the damage that inevitably occurs from lack of nourishment.


Hunger and thirst represent the necessities of our physical life.  And Jesus uses this analogy to demonstrate that righteousness is required for spiritual life.  Righteousness is not an optional spiritual supplement but a spiritual necessity.  We can no more live spiritually without righteousness than we can live physically without food and water.


Since the great famine in Egypt during the time of Joseph, and probably long before then, the world has been periodically plagued by famines.  Rome experienced a famine in 436 B.C., which was so severe that thousands threw themselves into the Tiber River to drown rather than starve to death.  Famine struck England in A.D. 1005, and all of Europe suffered great famines in 879, 1016, & 1162.  In the 20th century, despite the advances in agriculture, many parts of the world still experience periodic famines.  Africa has seen some of the most devastating famines in the world’s history.  In the last 100 years tens of millions throughout the world have died from starvation or from the many diseases that accompany sever malnutrition.


A starving person has a single, all-consuming passion for food and water.  Nothing else has the slightest attraction or appeal.  Nothing else can even get one’s attention.  Those who are without God’s righteousness are starved for spiritual life.  But tragically they do not have the natural desire for spiritual life that they do for the physical.


The heart of every person in the world was created with a sense of inner emptiness and need.  Yet apart from God’s revelation men do not recognize what the need is or how to satisfy it.  Like the prodigal son, they will eat pigs’ food, because they have nothing else.  God asks, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread.”  Let’s read it in Isaiah 55.


Isaiah 55:2 NKJV


2   Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.


The reason is that men and women have forsaken God and have sought our own resources to answer our hunger.


Jeremiah 2:13 NKJV


13             For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns — broken cisterns that can hold no water.


Though God has created mankind with a need for himself, they try to satisfy that need through lifeless gods of their own making.  And the Word of God has given us ample warning in this area.


1 John 2:15-17 NKJV


15             Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16             For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.

17             And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.


The call of Jesus to spiritual hunger and thirst follows the progression of the beatitudes.  The first three are essentially negative – commands to forsake things that are barriers to the kingdom.  In poverty of spirit we turn away from self-seeking.  In mourning we turn away from self-satisfaction.  And in meekness we turn away from self-serving.


The first three are also costly and painful.  Becoming poor in spirit involves death to self.  Mourning over sin involves facing up to our sinfulness.  Becoming meek involves surrendering our power to God’s control.  The fourth beatitude is more positive and is a consequence of the previous three.  When we put aside self, sins, and power and turn to the Lord, we are given a desire for righteousness.


Martyn Lloyd-Jones says:


“This beatitude again follows logically from the previous ones;  it is a statement to which all the others lead.  It is the logical conclusion to which they come, and it is something for which we should all be profoundly thankful and grateful to God.  I do not know of a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this.”


To have God’s life within us through the new birth in Jesus Christ is to desire more of His likeness within us by growing in righteousness.  This is certainly clear from David’s confession in Psalm 119:97“O how I love Your law.”


Paul echoes David’s passion for righteousness in Romans 7:22  “I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.”


Most of us have never faced life-threatening hunger and thirst.  We think of hunger as missing a meal or two in a row and of thirst as having to wait an hour on a hot day to get a cold drink.  But the hunger and thirst of which it speaks here is of a much more intense sort.


During the liberation of Palestine in World War I, a combined force of British, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers was closely pursuing the Turks as they retreated from the Negev Desert.  As the allied troops moved from the south northward past Beersheba they began to outdistance their water-carrying camel train.  When the water ran out, their mouths got dry, their heads ached, and they became dizzy and faint.  Eyes became bloodshot, lips swelled and turned purple, and mirages became common.  They knew that if they did not make it to the wells of Sheriah by nightfall, thousands of them would die – as 100s already had done.  Literally fighting for their lives, they managed to drive the Turks from Sheriah.


As water was distributed from the large stone cisterns, the more able bodied were required to stand at attention and wait for the wounded and those who would take guard duty to drink first.  It was four hours before the last man had his drink.  During that time the men stood no more than twenty feet from thousands of gallons of water of which to drink had been their consuming passion for many agonizing days.


It is said that one of the officers who was present reported, “I believe that we all learned our first real Bible lesson on the march from Beersheba to Sheriah Wells.  If such a thirst for God, for righteousness and for His will in our lives, a consuming, all-embracing, preoccupying desire, how rich in the fruit of the Spirit would we be?”


This is the of hunger and thirst of which Jesus speaks in this beatitude.  The strongest and deepest impulses in the natural realm are used by Christ to represent the depth of desire that the redeemed of Christ have for righteousness.  In Matthew 5:6, the words, thirst and hunger, are present participles.  That indicates a hunger and thirst that signifies continuous longing, continuous seeking.  Those who truly come to Jesus Christ come hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and it is a hunger and thirst that should continue in our salvation.


When Moses was in the wilderness, God appeared to him in a burning bush.  When he went back to Egypt to lead his people out, he saw God’s might and power in the miracles and the ten plagues.  He saw God part the Dead Sea and swallow up their Egyptian pursuers.  He saw God’s glory in the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire which led Israel in the wilderness.  He built a Tabernacle for God and saw the Lord’s glory shining over the Holy of Holies.


And, as we read in Exodus 33:11, “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.,”


But Moses was never satisfied and always wanted to see more.  He continued to plead with God, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory”  (Exodus 33:18).  Moses never had enough of his Lord.  Yet, from that dissatisfaction came satisfaction.  Because of His continual longing for God, Moses found favor in His sight (vs. 17).  And God promised Him, in verse 19:


I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.”


We find a similar hunger and thirst in David.


     In Psalm 63:1, we read, O God, Thou art my God.  I shall seek Thee earnestly; my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”


The apostle Paul had great visions of God and great revelation from God, yet he was not satisfied.  He had given up his own righteousness that he says he “derived from the Law” and was growing in “the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.  But he still longed for much more, as we read in Philippians 3.


Philippians 3:10 NKJV


10             That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,


Peter expressed his own great desire and hunger when he counseled those to whom he wrote to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18).






I paraphrase what Jesus states in this fourth Beatitude.  “You want to be happy?  Here are eight things that will guarantee happiness.  “One of them is ‘Blessed (Happy) is the person who hungers and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.’ ”


People hunger for – pursue after – many things.  Even Christians are in hot pursuit of things other than righteousness.  Pursuit of righteousness is not a very popular activity, even among Christians.  We are prepared to eagerly pursuit other things:


                        •  Real happiness,

                        •  The Spirit’s power

                        •  Spiritual maturity

                        •  Effective witnessing skills.


But how many of us really hunger and thirst for righteousness.


Matthew 6:33  (KJV)


33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.


Seeking righteousness obviously should head our list of priorities.  Jesus declares that the deepest desire of every person ought to be to hunger and thirst for righteousness.


This is not to argue that the other things we might see are not desirable, but rather that they are not as basic to our Christian life as righteousness.


Do you and I really want to be filled with God’s righteousness?  How hungry are we?      How thirsty are we?







Psalm 42:1-2  (NAS)


1   As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God.

2   My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; …..


This is not the hunger we experience for a snack at 4:00 p.m.   It is not the thirst for a Coke at 10:00 a.m.  Jesus is speaking of a thirst as intense as a person would experience if he/she was stranded in the Sahara Desert.  It is the thirst that a deer experiences in the summer when all the water holes are dry.


The deer will pant and move around continually as it searches earnestly for just a little water to drink.   It is a hunger and thirst that cannot be satisfied by anything else.




The result of hungering and thirsting for righteousness is being satisfied.  The giving of satisfaction is God’s work.  Our part is to seek, His part is to satisfy.


In fact, the person who genuinely hungers and thirsts for God’s righteousness finds it so satisfying that he or she will wants more.  God’s satisfying of those who seek and love Him is a repeated theme in the Psalms.


Psalms 107:9 NKJV


9   For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.


Psalms 34:10 NKJV


10             The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.


The best-loved of all Psalms begins with “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”  The Psalmist later declares: “Thou dost prepare a table before me … my cup overflows” (vs. 5).


The prophet Jeremiah, speaking of the future reign of Christ, wrote: “My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, declares the     Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:14).


In John 4:14, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar:


     “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give Him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”


To the crowd at Capernaum, many of whom had been among the 5,000 He fed with the five barley loaves and the two fish, Jesus said:


John 6:35 NKJV


35             And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.


Other Scriptures that come to mind which depict the hunger we need for God are:


Psalm 84:1-2  (NKJV)


1   How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts!

2   My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.


Psalm 63:1  (NKJV)


1   O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.


Verse 8  (KJV) adds:


8        My soul followeth hard after thee: ……


Jeremiah 29:13  (NKJV)


13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.


When Jesus uses the words hunger and thirst, He is speaking of real hunger and thirst.   Most of us have a very hard time identifying with what Jesus intended to communicate. We have never really experienced true hunger or true thirst.   Jesus was speaking of starvation and the intense hunger which it brings.  He was speaking of people who are in desperate and dire circumstances, like those who are suffering from famine.  Very few of us can really relate to this kind of hunger in our physical bodies.


I can relate only one time in my life when I had come to experience very great hunger.


•  a hunger that caused you to dream about food.

•  a hunger that resulted in many of us losing enormous amounts of weight in a short period.


What kind of hunger and thirst is Jesus speaking about?  Let me assure you, it is intense hunger and thirst.  In Joel 2:12 we read, "'Even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.'"  That is pretty intense, isn't it?


We need to examine ourselves to see if we have the proper hunger for God.


What are the signs of true hunger and thirst for righteousness?


1.         If you have real hunger, you will experience pain.


Isn't that true? You will experience pain and feel your life ebbing away from you.  Just as we read in Psalm 107:5,  “They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away."


It is the kind of pain you feel in your stomach that can only be relieved by eating.  We must have such a hunger for righteousness, for perfect conformity to God's revealed will.


2.         Real hunger is only satisfied by Jesus Christ .


If you truly are hungering and thirsting, then let me assure you, only God's righteousness will satisfy you.  Nothing else will satisfy you--not money, not sex, not power, not fame, not friends, not art objects, not sleeping in the White House.  Nothing will satisfy you but Jesus Christ himself.


In Psalm 73:25 we read,


"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you."


That is the real hunger we are talking about--painful hunger that only righteousness will satisfy.


  1. If you have such hunger and thirst, you will overcome all difficulties that stand in your way.




In Genesis 42 we read about a great famine in Israel.


And in Genesis 42:1-2 we read,


"When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, 'Why do you just keep looking at each other? I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us so that we may live and not die.'"


And because of their urgent need, his sons made the long journey to buy food.


In Mark 2 we are told about a man who was paralyzed.


Four people brought him to Jesus, but there was no room inside, so they climbed to the roof removed the tiles and dropped the paralyzed man from the roof into the very presence of Jesus Christ.  That is overcoming difficulties!


Look at blind Bartimaeus, sitting at the highway by which Jesus was going.  The people around told him to be quiet, but he continued to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me!"  And when they told him again, he shouted the more until Jesus stopped.   Most of us cannot say that we hunger and thirst for God in that way.


I cannot speak for you – only myself.  And I want to pursue God more than ever before.  Right now, and I hope it never changes, Psalm 63:8 speaks what my heart is feeling.  My soul followeth hard after thee:


I tell you as a brother in Christ, “I love you.”  But I love Him a lot more.  And yet, I know that I cannot say I love God and not also love you……