“Emmanuel’s Kingdom – Part 5” – Matthew 5:6

November 30th,  2014

Matthew 5:6

“Emmanuel’s Kingdom – Pt 5”


Meditation/Preparation:   What does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness?   Think long and hard about what this world would look like if even half of us sought after a life in which we lived in a right manner with everyone and everything and did so with the urgency and passion of needing to do so to survive.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. — Matthew 5:6


Background Information:

  • Looking back, we can see that the first four beatitudes reveal a spiritual progression of relentless logic. Each step leads to the next and presupposes the one that has gone before.  To begin with, we are to be “poor in spirit,” acknowledging our complete and utter spiritual bankruptcy before God.  Next we are to “mourn” over the cause of it, our sins, yes, and our sin too–the corruption of our fallen nature, and the reign of sin and death in the world.  Thirdly, we are to be “meek,” humble and gentle towards others, allowing our spiritual poverty (admitted and bewailed) to condition our behavior to them as well as to God.  And fourthly we are to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”  For what is the use of confessing and lamenting our sin, of acknowledging the truth about ourselves to both God and men, if we leave it there?  Confession of sin must lead to hunger for righteousness.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 46)
  • The first three beatitudes 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 other three.  When we put aside self, sins, and power and turn to the Lord, we are given a great desire for righteousness.  The more we put aside what we have, the more we long for what God has.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 180)

  • There is no qualification at all, it is an absolute statement, it is an absolute promise–“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 74)
  • If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of Scripture you can be quite certain you are a Christian; if it is not, then you had better examine the foundations again. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 62)
  • In many ways this is one of the key Beatitudes, it is one of the most vital of all. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 71)
  • The fourth beatitude bridges the God-centered concerns of the first three and the neighbor-centered focus of the last four. The appetites and satisfaction Jesus promised were directed at both external and internal desires.  Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness experience that longing in at least three forms:
  1. The desire to be righteous–to be forgiven and accepted by God; to be right with God.
  2. The desire to do what is right–to do what God commands; imitating and reflecting God’s righteousness.
  3. The desire to see right done–to help bring about God’s will in the world. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 78)
  • All along, we were concerned with this terrible problem of the self–that self-concern, and interest, that self-reliance which leads to our miseries and which is the ultimate cause of war, whether between individuals or nations, that selfishness and self-centeredness that turns in upon self and defies self, that horrible thing that is the cause of all unhappiness ultimately. And we have seen that the Christian man is one who bemoans and regrets and hates it all.  Here we turn and look for the solution, for the deliverance from self for which we long.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 62)


The questions to be answered are . . . What is righteousness?  What does it mean to hunger and thirst after righteousness?  Why should I seek righteousness?  


Answers: Righteousness is living in a right relationship with everyone and everything.  To hunger and thirst after righteousness means to seek it and pursue it with passion, an obsession and urgency because your LIFE depends upon it.  If you fail to possess a desire to obtain righteousness, it indicates that you are not saved and do not possess God’s Spirit and thus means you cannot be blessed or enter into the Kingdom of Heaven and one day be filled (satisfied). 


Hunger and thirst is God’s way of telling you that you have been deprived of something you need to sustain life.  If you do not spiritually hunger and thirst for righteousness, then it means, in a spiritual sense, you are dead. — Pastor Keith.


The Word for the Day is . . . Hunger


  1. What is righteousness? (Mt 5:6, 20; Rom 1:16-17; 3:21-28; 4:4-8; 1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Gal 2:16, 21; 5:1-6; Eph 2:8-9; Phil 3:9-13; Ti 3:5; 2 Tm 1:9)


In Matthew’s Gospel, righteousness refers to actual righteousness, expressing itself in right deeds (see Mt 6:1, for instance).  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 75)


Jesus also uses the definite article (tēn), indicating that He is not speaking of just any righteousness, but the righteousness, the only true righteousness–that which comes from God and, in fact, is God’s very own righteousness which He has in Himself.

It becomes obvious, then, that we cannot possibly have our longing for godliness satisfied in this life, so we are left to continually hunger and thirst until the day we are clothed entirely in Christ’s righteousness.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 183)


All unrighteousness grieves them and makes them homesick for the new heaven and earth–the home of righteousness (2 Pt 3:13).  Satisfied with neither personal righteousness alone nor social justice alone, they cry for both:  in short, they long for the advent of the messianic kingdom.  What they taste now whets their appetites for more.  Ultimately they will be satisfied (same verb as in 14:20; Phil 4:12; Rv 19:21) without qualification only when the kingdom is consummated.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 134)


There is one further point in this beatitude, a point which only emerges in the Greek.  It is a rule of Greek grammar that verbs of hungering and thirsting are followed by the genitive case.  The genitive case is the case which, in English, is expressed by the word of: of the man is the genitive case.  The genitive which follows verbs of hungering and thirsting in Greek is called the partitive genitive, that is the genitive of the part.  The idea is this.  The Greek said, “I hunger for of bread.”  It was some bread he desired, a part of the bread, not the whole loaf.  The Greek said, “I thirst for of water.”  It was some water he desired, a drink of water, not all the water in the tank.

But in this beatitude, most unusually, righteousness is in the direct accusative, and not in the normal genitive.  Now, when verbs of hungering and thirsting in Greek take the accusative instead of the genitive, the meaning is that the hunger and the thirst is for the whole thing.  To say I hunger for bread in the accusative means, I want the whole loaf.  To say I thirst for water in the accusative means, I want the whole pitcher.  There the correct translation is: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for the whole of righteousness, for complete righteousness.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 101)


When a man comes to Jesus there is no room for self-glorification.  When a person puts his trust in Christ, he transfers ALL MERIT to the Lord.  If he doesn’t, then it is not complete trust.  Any pride a person has will keep him from receiving God’s righteousness as a free gift.  Yet it is important to see that faith, by itself, saves no one.  It is merely the MEANS by which God’s gift comes to us.  It is a tool.  It is the Lord Who makes us righteous, not our faith.  Faith is the means by which we receive Him.  This is the great doctrine of the book of Romans.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Romans, 81)


Here is a spiritual principle regarding the grace of God; To the extent you are clinging to any vestiges of self-righteousness or are putting any confidence in your own spiritual attainments, to that degree you are not living by the grace of God in your life. (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 33)


The very context in which we find it (and especially its relation to the three Beatitudes that have gone before) insists, it seems to me, that righteousness here includes not only justification but sanctification also.  In other words, the desire for righteousness, the act of hungering and thirsting for it, means ultimately the desire to be free from sin in all its forms and in its every manifestation.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 65)


“The real difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not their attitude toward sin. . . the difference is their attitude toward their good deeds.  The Pharisee repents of sin, but the Christian repents of his or her ‘righteousness’ as well, seeing it not only as insufficient, but sinful itself, since it was done in order to save ourselves without Christ.”  (Tim Keller; The Content of the Gospel, 27)


“The real evil is that we trust in our own power to be righteous and will not lift up our eyes to see what Christ has done for us…”   It is your goodness more than your badness that separates you from God.”  — Martin Luther


Real righteousness is, simply, doing what is right.  That should be a concern for us, and not just a passing concern.  The images used here are those of hunger and thirst.  This message was given to people who, for the most part, lived in the desert, who knew what it meant to have such a parched palate that their thirst was so consuming that just one cup of cold water would dramatically improve their condition.  They also knew what it meant to endure starvation, to go hungry for long periods of time.  For someone who is in that state of hunger, like one who crosses the desert and runs out of water and prays every second for the appearance of an oasis, the pursuit of that oasis is the only thing that keeps him going.  The intensity of that sort of thirst and hunger is what Jesus says should mark our lives.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 83)


Those who have studied Matthew’s use of the term increasingly recognize that “righteousness” here (and also in verses 10 and 20) means a pattern of life in conformity to God’s will.  Righteousness thus includes within its semantic range all the derivative or specialized meanings, but cannot be reduced to any one of them.

The person who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, then, hungers and thirsts for conformity to God’s will.  He is not drifting aimlessly in a sea of empty religiosity; still less is he puttering about distracted by inconsequential trivia.  Rather, his whole being echoes the prayer of a certain Scottish saint who cried, “O God, make me just as holy as a pardoned sinner can be!”  His delight is in the Word of God, for where else is God’s will, to which he hungers to be conformed, so clearly set forth?  He wants to be righteous, not simply because he fears God, but because righteousness has become for him the most eminently desirable thing in the world.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 23)


The thirst for righteousness is not a selective righteousness.  Like politicians care about integrity in government but have little regard for their marriage vows or promises to their children.  Or the sport’s hero who sacrifices to take one for the team, but cannot get up and walk across the room to be nice to his aging mother or submits his dog to a brutal dog fighting business.   The grammar in the Greek specifies this as a comprehensive righteousness.  It is the concern and hungering and thirsting is for ALL of righteousness; every aspect, personal, social, civil and spiritual.


  1. What does it mean to hunger and thirst after righteousness? (Ps 42:1-2; 63:1; 119:20, 97; Isa 55:1-2; Amos 8:11-14)


Mark carefully the tense of the verb:  it is not “blessed are they which have hungered and thirsted,” but “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst.”  Do you, dear reader?  Or are you content with your attainments and satisfied with your condition?  Hungering and thirsting after righteousness has always been the experience of God’s true saints (Phil 3:8-14).  (Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, 35)


The man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is the man who sees that sin and rebellion have separated him from the face of God, and longs to get back into that old relationship, the original relationship of righteousness in the presence of God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 65)


The man who is hungering and thirsting after righteousness always puts himself in the way of getting it.  You cannot create it yourself; you cannot produce it.  But at any rate you do know there are certain ways in which it seems to have come to these people about whom you have been reading, so you begin to imitate their example.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 77)


The man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is the man who never misses an opportunity of being in those certain places where people seem to find this righteousness.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 77)


Now the man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is a man who wants to get rid of that desire for sin, not only outside, but inside as well.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 66)


To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to do all that and, having done it, to realize that it is not enough, that it will never produce it.  The people who hunger and thirst after righteousness are frantic.  They do all these things; they are seeking righteousness everywhere; and yet they know that their efforts are never going to lead to it.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 78)


Spiritual hunger is the Old Testament prescription for spiritual health.  (R. Kent Hughes; Preaching The Word – Luke Vol. One, 61)


Christians growing closer to the Lord Jesus want what he wants.  When evil happens, they hurt for victims and long for the end of evil’s influence and strength.  They want God’s victory over evil to be complete soon–even now.  They hunger for the end of trouble, for the full measure of God’s peace and righteousness.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 79)


Thirsty hearts are those whose longings have been wakened by the touch of God within them.  —A.W. Tozer  (Curtis and Eldredge; The Sacred Romance, 1)


Hungering and thirsting expresses vehement desire, of which the soul is acutely conscious.  First, the Holy Spirit brings before the heart the holy requirements of God.  He reveals to us His perfect standard, which He can never lower.  He reminds us that “except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20).  Second, the trembling soul, conscious of his own abject poverty and realizing his utter inability to measure up to God’s requirements, sees no help in himself.  This painful discovery causes him to mourn and groan.  Have you done so?  Third, the Holy Spirit then creates in the heart a deep “hunger and thirst” that causes the convicted sinner to look for relief and to seek a supply outside of himself.  The believing eye is then directed to Christ, who is “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer 23:6).  (Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, 34)


The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts.  And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth.  For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.  (John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer, 14)


The hunger which this beatitude describes is no genteel hunger which could be satisfied with a mid-morning snack; the thirst of which it speaks is no thirst which could be slaked with a cup of coffee or an iced drink.  It is the hunger of the man who is starving for food, and the thirst of the man who will die unless he drinks.

Since that is so this beatitude is in reality a question and a challenge.  In effect it demands, “How much to you want goodness?  Do you want it as much as a starving man wants food, and as much as a man dying of thirst wants water? “ How intense is our desire food goodness?  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 99-100)


The OT precedes the New for an important spiritual reason.  As Luther said, “Hunger is the best cook” and the “Law-work” of the OT, as the Puritans would call it, was designed to awaken hunger for every dimension of redemption. (Richard F. Lovelace; Dynamics of Spiritual Life An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, 82)


So if a doctor merely treats the pain without discovering the cause of the pain, he is not only acting contrary to nature, he is doing something that is extremely dangerous to the life of the patient.  The patient may be out of pain, and seems to be well; but the cause of the trouble is still there.  Now that is the folly of which the world is guilty.  It says, “I want to get rid of my pain, so I will run to the pictures, or drink, or do anything to help me forget my pain.”  But the question is, What is the cause of the pain and the unhappiness and the wretchedness?  They are not happy who hunger and thirst after happiness and blessedness.  No.  “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 64)


The inevitable and constant preliminary to revival has always been a thirst for God, a thirst, a living thirst for a knowledge of the living God, and a longing and a burning desire to see him acting, manifesting himself and his power, rising, and scattering his enemies.  (D. Martyn  Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 90-1)


The person who is truly hungering and thirsting after righteousness obviously avoids everything that is opposed to such a righteousness.  I cannot obtain it myself, but I can refrain from doing things that are obviously opposed to it.  I can never make myself like Jesus Christ, but I can stop walking in the gutters of life.  That is a part of hungering and thirsting.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 76)


I suggest that if we are truly hungering and thirsting after righteousness we shall not only avoid things that we know to be bad and harmful, we shall even avoid things that tend to dull or take the edge off our spiritual appetites.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 76)


To hunger and thirst after righteousness means we shall remind ourselves of this righteousness actively.  We shall so discipline our lives as to keep it constantly before us.  This subject of discipline is of vital importance.  I am suggesting that unless we day by day voluntarily and deliberately remind ourselves of this righteousness which we need, we are not very likely to be hungering and thirsting after it.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 77)


If you and I are hungering and thirsting after righteousness, a good deal of time every day will be spent in considering it.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 77)


Before the Lord can bring any of us into a new phase of His will, He must dismantle that “sense of attainment” which often accompanies our old relationship to His will.  It is a fact that many church movements, both in and out of denominations, began simply.  Hungry souls longed for, and found, more of God.  Over time, as their numbers grew, success replaced hunger; people grew more satisfied with God’s blessings than with His Presence.  There is a profound difference.  (Francis Frangipane, The Days of His Presence, 100)


The word of God is truth.  And we need to meditate or ruminate on truth until it becomes food for us.   That is why Jesus said that His food was to do the will of His father and Jesus also echoed the words of Dt 8:3.  In that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Are we taking in and chewing God’s word until it becomes food for our souls?  I feel the reason so many of us are spiritually malnourished is because we are not taking in God’s Word like this.  — paraphrase of Tim Keller


We are not to hunger and thirst after blessedness; we are not to hunger and thirst after happiness.  But that is what most people are doing.  We put happiness and blessedness as the one thing that we desire, and thus we always miss it; it always eludes us.  According to the Scriptures happiness is never something that should be sought directly; it is always something that results from seeking something else.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 63)


The man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is the man who wants to exemplify the Beatitudes in his daily life.  He is a man who wants to show the fruit of the Spirit in his every action and in the whole of his life and activity.  To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to long to be like the NT man, the new man in Christ Jesus.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 66)


It means a deep consciousness of our great need even to the point of pain.  It means something that keeps on until it is satisfied.  It does not mean just a passing feeling, a passing desire.  You remember how Hosea says to the nation of Israel that she is always, as it were, coming forward to the penitent form and then going back to sin.  Her righteousness, he says, is as “a morning cloud”–it is here one minute and gone the next. The right way he indicates in the words–“then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.”  “Hunger” and “thirst”; these are not passing feelings.  Hunger is something deep and profound that goes on until it is satisfied.  It hurts, it is painful; it is like actual, physical hunger and thirst.  It is something that goes on increasing and makes one feel desperate.  It is something that causes suffering and agony.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 67)


People who hunger and thirst after righteousness know what it is to spend time in prayer and mediation reminding themselves of what they are in this life and world and what is awaiting them.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 78)


It is not that he wants to be a little bit better, still less that he thinks of righteousness as an optional luxury to add to his other graces; rather, he hungers and thirsts for it.  He cannot get along without righteousness; it is as important to him as food and drink.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 22)


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 his 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 physical.  The tendency of fallen mankind is to turn to itself and to the world for meaning and life, just as “a dog returns to its own vomit,” and “a sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire” (2 Pt 2:22; cf. Prv 26:11).

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 know what will satisfy it.  Like the prodigal son, they will eat pigs’ food, because they have nothing else.  “Why,” God asks, “do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?” (Isa 55:2).  The reason is that men have forsaken God, “the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer 2:13).  Though God has created men with a need for Himself, they try to satisfy that need through lifeless gods of their own making.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 179)


When our spiritual hunger and thirst are genuine they will make no conditions; they will seek and accept God’s righteousness in whatever way He chooses to provide it and will obey His commands no matter how demanding they may be.  The least of God’s righteousness is more valuable than the greatest of anything we possess in ourselves or that the world can offer.  The rich young ruler wanted only the part of God’s kingdom that fit his own plans and desires, and he was therefore unfit for the kingdom.  He thirsted more for other things than for the things of God.  His conditions for God’s blessings barred him from them.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 185)


In the ancient world men often knew hunger.  Wages were low, if they existed at all.  Unless men were of the aristocracy they seldom grew fat on the fruit of honest labor.  Many starved.  Moreover, in a desert country where the sun was scorching and sand and wind storms were frequent, thirst was man’s constant companion.  To such a world hunger meant the hunger of a starving man, that of a man who would die without water.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 41)


III.  Why should I seek righteousness?  (Dt 4:29; Ps 34:10; Isa 64:6; Jer 29:13; Mt 5:6; 6:33; 7:7; Rom 3:9-28; Phil 3:8-11; Rv 7:16-17; 22:17)


The person who hungers and thirsts for righteousness is blessed by God, and filled; but the righteousness with which he is filled is so wonderful that he hungers and thirsts for more of it.  This built-in cycle of growth is easy to understand as soon as we remember that righteousness in this text refers not to obeying some rules, but to conformity to all of God’s will.  The more a person pursues conformity to God’s will, the more attractive the goal becomes, and the greater the advances made.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 24)


Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in thee, O Lord.  — St. Augustine


There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any other created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus.  — Blaise Pascal


God is the source of all good things: fortune, fame, sex, success, happiness, and other things besides.  James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Jas 1:17).  But God is also holy, and, because he is, he can have no dealings with those who are not holy.  Men are sinners.  Sin breaks the fellowship that should exist between men and God; it makes all who are sinners God’s enemies.  The only way that man can enter again into fellowship with God and find the happiness and blessing he longs for is to possess a righteousness and holiness that will commend him to God.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 39)


In the realm of the mind and the spirit, “you are what you eat” is more penetrating.  If you feed on violence, excitement, erotica, and materialism, you will eventually personify them.  You will become what you eat.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 39)


To hunger and thirst for this righteousness means longing after the practical righteousness that the Beatitudes represent both personally and in the world.  The one who hungers and thirsts wants the character of the kingdom.  He pants after the fruit of the Spirit.  He wants God’s will and all it entails.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 40)


Something awful has happened; something terrible.  Something worse, even, than the fall of man.  For in that greatest of all tragedies, we merely lost Paradise—and with it, everything that made life worth living.  What has happened since is unthinkable: we’ve gotten used to it.  (John Eldredge; The Journey of Desire, 9)


It is only as you seek this righteousness with the whole of your being that you can truly discover it.  You can never find it yourself.  Yet the people who sit back and do nothing never seem to get it.  That is God’s method.  God, as it were, leads us on.  We have done everything, and having done all we are still miserable sinners; and then we see that, as little children, we are to receive it as the free gift of God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 78)


The one who would have God’s power must lead a life of self-denial.  There are many things which are not sinful in the ordinary understanding of the word sin, but which hinder spirituality and rob men of power.  I do not believe that any man can lead a luxurious life, overindulge his natural appetites, indulge extensively in dainties, and enjoy the fullness of God’s power.  The gratification of the flesh and the fullness of the Spirit do not go hand in hand.  “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Gal 5:17).  Paul wrote: “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Cor 9:27; see ASV, Greek; note also Eph 5:18).  (R. A. Torrey, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, 75-6)


The danger is that the soul should persuade itself that it is not hungry.  It can only persuade itself of this by lying.  (Simone Weil as quoted by John Eldredge; The Journey of Desire, 51)


What if being human means to keep vigil, to long to be free, to battle with pain, to be discontented with the fallen world in which we live to weep, to hunger, thirst, to mourn to wait.  What if to become inhumane is to accept this fallen world as the norm?  (Paraphrase of Henri Nouwen; Reaching Out, 24)


What follows from Augustine’s view of grace as the giving of a sovereign joy that triumphs over “lawless pleasures” is that the entire Christian life is seen as a relentless quest for the fullest joy in God.  He said, “The whole life of a good Christian is a holy desire.”  In other words, the key to Christian living is a thirst and a hunger for God.  (John Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, 62-3)


Where there is no thirst for righteousness the sermon is “dry.”


We are producing a generation of men and women whose greatest virtue is that they don’t offend anyone.  Then we wonder why there is no more passion for Christ.  How can we hunger and thirst after righteousness if we have ceased hungering the thirsting altogether?   As C. S. Lewis said, “We castrate the gelding and bid him fruitful.” (John Eldredge; the Journey of Desire, 54)


In certain people, thinking about food increases their insulin level, which makes them feel hungry.  Thinking about food doesn’t actually add pounds, but an increased appetite may!

Our thoughts stimulate other appetites as well, appetites that lead to temptation and ultimately to sin.  To control our conduct, we must first control our thoughts. (Craig Larson; Contemporary Illustrations for Preaching, Teachers & Writers, 242)


The greatest human tragedy is to give up the search.  Nothing is of greater importance than the life of our deep heart.  To lose heart is to lose everything.  (John Eldredge; The Journey of Desire, 2)


The way to render a man happy, is to engage him with an object that will make him forget his private troubles.  What can be the reason that this man, who not long ago lost his only son, and this very morning was engaged almost to distraction in a law suit, now does not give his troubles a thought?  You need not be astonished; he is taken up with watching a stag, which his hounds have been in full chase after, for six hours.  However great his distress may have been, in this he finds ample consolation.  In short, prevail upon a man to join in any amusement whatever, and as long as that lasts he will be happy; but it will be a false and imaginary happiness, arising not from possession of real and solid good, but from a levity of spirit that obliterates the recollection of his real miseries, and fixes his thoughts upon mean and ridiculous objects, unworthy of his attention, and still less deserving of his love.  (Blaise Pascal, as quoted by John Eldredge; The Journey of Desire, 80)


When the prodigal son was hungry he went to feed upon husks, but when he was starving, he turned to his father.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 68)


Most people suffer from what Robert Louis Stevenson called “the malady of not wanting.”  It would obviously make the biggest difference in the world if we desired goodness more than anything else.

When we approach this beatitude from that side it is the most demanding, and indeed the most frightening, of them all.  But not only is it the most demanding beatitude; in its own way it is also the most comforting.  At the back of it there is the meaning that the man who is blessed is not necessarily the man who achieves the goodness, but the man who longs for it with his whole heart.  If blessedness came only to him who achieved, then none would be blessed.  But blessedness comes to the man who, in spite of failures and failings, still clutches to him the passionate love of the highest.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 100)


Here, in the fourth Beatitude, the eye of the soul is turned away from self toward God for a very special reason:  there is a longing after a righteousness that I urgently need but know that I do not possess.  (Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, 31)


That is the teaching of the Bible, that is what the Bible says.  “The wrath of God abideth on him.”  It is only this righteousness that can fit us to be right with God and to go to heaven to be with Him and to spend eternity in His holy presence.  Without this righteousness we are lost and damned and doomed.  How amazing it is that this is not the supreme desire in the life of everybody!  It is the only way to blessing in this life and to blessing in eternity.  Let me put to you the argument of the utter hatefulness of sin, this thing that is so dishonoring to God, this thing that is dishonoring in itself, and dishonoring even to us.  If only we saw the things of which we are guilty so continually in the sight of God, and in the sight of utter holiness, we should hate them even as God Himself does.  That is a great reason for hungering and thirsting after righteousness–the hatefulness of sin.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 79)


We can no more live spiritually without righteousness than we can live physically without food and water.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 178)


The person who is pleased with his own righteousness will see no need for God’s.  The great Puritan Thomas Watson wrote, “He has most need of righteousness that least wants it.”  No matter how rich his spiritual experience or how advanced his spiritual maturity, the hungering Christian will always say, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 184)


A hungry man cannot be satisfied by an arrangement of lovely flowers, or beautiful music, or pleasant conversation.  All of those things are good, but they have no ability to satisfy hunger.  Neither can anything but God’s own righteousness satisfy the person who has true spiritual hunger and thirst.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 184)


  1. True food and true righteousness that bring satisfaction can only be secured in Christ. Everything else simply spoils our appetites.  (Dt 8:3; Ps 17:15; 23:1-3; 34:8; 107:9; Isa 53:4-5; Mt 4:4; Lk 1:53; Jn 4:7-15, 34; 6:35-36; 7:37; Rv 7:16-17)


The more one conforms to God’s will, the more fulfilled and content one becomes.  But that in turn spawns a greater discontent.  Our hunger increases and intensifies in the very act of being satisfied.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 42)


This does not mean that the person is now so satisfied with the righteousness given him that his hunger and thirst for righteousness are forever vanquished.  Elsewhere, Jesus does in fact argue along such lines:  “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst…I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (Jn 4:14; 6:35).  So there is a sense in which we are satisfied with Jesus and all he is and provides.  Nevertheless, there is a sense in which we continue to be unsatisfied.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 24)


Yet in this life our hunger will never be fully satisfied, nor our thirst fully quenched.  True, we receive the satisfaction which the beatitude promises.  But our hunger is satisfied only to break out again.  Even the promise of Jesus that whoever drinks of the water he gives “will never thirst” is fulfilled only if we keep drinking.  Beware of those who claim to have attained, and who look to past experience rather than to future development!  Like all the qualities included in the beatitudes, hunger and thirst are perpetual characteristics of the disciples of Jesus, as perpetual as poverty of spirit, meekness and mourning.  Not till we reach heaven will we “hunger no more, neither thirst any more,” for only then will Christ our Shepherd lead us “to springs of living water.”  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 46)


We may eat steak or our favorite pie until we can eat no more, yet our taste for those things continues and even increases.  It is the very satisfaction that makes us want more.  We want to eat more of those things because they are so satisfying.  The person who genuinely hungers and thirsts for God’s righteousness finds it so satisfying that he wants more and more.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 183-4)


How does this hunger and thirst for righteousness become fully satisfied?  By the imputation of Christ’s merits.  Thus we obtain a righteousness of state.  By the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.  Thus we obtain a righteousness of inner condition and outward conduct.  Cf. Rom 8:3-5; 2 Cor 3:18; 2 Thes 2:13.  These two are inseparable:  those for whom Christ died are sanctified by the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, those whose sins are forgiven render the sacrifice of thanksgiving.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 274)


The metaphor of hunger and thirst here recalls 4:4, the idea of living not on physical food but on every word that comes from God.  It is a matter of priorities.  Such hunger and thirst will be fully satisfied:  chortazomai, a graphic word used also for fattening animals, implies being well filled, as in 14:20, colloquially being “stuffed.”  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 168)


The secret of a joy filled life is to keep on coming.”   (Stott’s exposition of Jn 7:37-39 in Baptism and Fullness).  A true Christian is always thirsty, always drinking.  God promises that something miraculous will happen in your life.  Keep on.  Keep on trusting.  Keep on believing.  Keep on seeking.  That is how we draw near to Christ and ultimately are filled with the Holy Spirit.


Unwise counselors may try to tell us we should fight the loss of feelings.  Yet gluttony for spiritual feelings opens a wide door to the other appetites, including greed, overeating, sexual lusts, the hunger for power, and other sins.  When feelings become the focus of our faith, religion becomes not a friend but an enemy, concealing the true state of our heart.  We wonder why we fall into sin so soon after a seemingly powerful encounter with God.  What we fail to realize is that our hearts were stolen by spiritual gluttony, not real reverence.  We have been misled into believing that these feelings are an indication of the temperature of our hearts and the commitment of our will.  They are not.

So God steps back.  He stubbornly denies us the spiritual feelings with which we’ve grown so familiar.  This is frequently accompanied by very dry periods, times when our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling and our hearts feel like hot, dry sand.  God does this so He can irrigate our desert with the cold water of pure faith, so He can break our addiction to the sensual and call us to the truly spiritual, and so we can humbly say, without doubt or need for reinforcement, “O God, You are my God, and I will follow You all of my days.”  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 186-7)


Grateful people overflow a little, especially with thanksgiving and passed-on kindnesses.  But they do not therefore lack discipline.  In fact, self-indulgence tends to suppress gratitude; self-discipline tends to generate it.  That is why gluttony is a deadly sin: oddly, it is an appetite suppressant.  The reason is that a person’s appetites are linked:  full stomachs and jaded palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for justice.  And they spoil the appetite for God.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 35)


Bertrand Russell once said, “It is preoccupation with possession more than anything else that prevents man from living freely and nobly.”  If the object of your life is a great getting–of prestige, wealth, power–you are the victim of an ever-increasing appetite which can never be satisfied.  (Lloyd J. Ogilvie, The Communicator’s Commentary: Luke, 275)


Rather than continuing faithfully to take the routine steps toward God in our pilgrimage, we wait by the side of the road looking for a holy handout.  It’s always easier to opt for the quick hit, the rush of spiritual adrenaline, than to focus on the long haul.

Rangers in Yellowstone Park tell us that in spite of all the signs that say “Don’t feed the bears,” people are constantly doing just that.  As a result, rangers have to pick up dead bears in the woods that die from starvation because tourists weren’t there to feed them.  If there are no handouts for 2 weeks, the bears die.  And to think that the woods are full of nourishment!  The bears could have gotten busy doing what they were built to do, but instead they died because they tried to get by on the easy handouts.

We are like those bears.  God has provided an abundance of things for us to feed on if we are tracking toward Him through prayer, Bible reading, fellowship with other Christians, and practicing the commands of Scripture.  If we are faithful, none of us is going to starve.  In fact, our spiritual hunger should drive us to seek out more of the good things of God.  He calls us to be fed and nourished by Him at the core of our beings, yet we keep looking for easy, quick hits of His presence.  It makes me wonder if heaven contains signs that say, “Don’t feed the Christians!”  Intimacy is not about holy handouts.  It is characterized by steadfast faithfulness.  (Joseph M. Stowell, Experiencing Intimacy With God, Discovery Series 8)


Evangelicals, we need to hear Jesus’ words afresh:  “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (Jn 4:10).  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 44)


When a person abandons all hope of saving himself, all confidence in self-righteousness, and begins to hunger for the salvation that brings God’s righteousness and the obedience that God requires, he will be blessed, be made divinely happy.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 182)


Worship Point:  Realize the wisdom and benefits of pursuing after righteousness with all the urgency and passion of doing so to survive.  Also realize how far short you fall of having this kind of urgency and passion for righteousness.  Then worship as you look to Jesus to be all you have failed to be.


Gospel Application:  The Good News is that Jesus really did pursue righteousness with all the passion and urgency of one needing to have it to survive.  He saw His relationship with His Father as far more significant and sustaining than any food or drink.  Look to Jesus to be all you have failed to be.


Spiritual Challenge:  As a Christ follower, take inventory of your relationships with persons or things that are not righteous and endeavor to make at least one of them right or die trying.


O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.  I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace.  I am ashamed of my lack of desire.  O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still.  Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed.  Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.  Say to my soul, “Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.”  Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.  (A.W. Tozer, Pursuit of God)



Quotes to Note:

The believer who seeks God’s righteousness above all other things will find fulfillment and satisfaction even in those things that humanly are disastrous.  Thomas Watson comments that “the one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness can feed on the myrrh of the gospel as well as the honey.”  Even the Lord’s reproofs and discipline bring satisfaction, because they are signs of our Father’s love.  “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Hab 12:6).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 184-5)


For some, Jesus’ pronouncement may uncover buried, almost forgotten glimmers of past life when you first came to Christ and perpetually hungered and thirsted for righteousness.  You couldn’t get enough of Jesus or his Word.  You were joyously desperate for the things of God.  You also cared about the world and its spiritual famine.  You welcomed opportunities for self-sacrifice and were willing to go for it all.  But time blunted your desires, “the realities of life” took over, and that delectable hunger ceased.  Now you are content with a life of lesser, limited devotion.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 41)


However, if you do hunger and thirst for righteousness, if the Lord has given you a holy discontent with your life, you have his smile!  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 42)


The hungry and thirsty whom God satisfies are those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”  Such spiritual hunger is a characteristic of all God’s people, whose supreme ambition is not material but spiritual.  Christians are not like pagans, engrossed in the pursuit of possessions; what they have set themselves to “seek first” is God’s kingdom and righteousness.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 44)


There is perhaps no greater secret of progress in Christian living than a healthy, hearty spiritual appetite.  Again and again Scripture addresses its promises to the hungry.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 45-6)


Lucifer hungered for power; Nebuchadnezzar hungered for praise; and the rich fool hungered for pleasure.  Because they hungered for wrong things and rejected God’s good things, they forfeited both.

Jesus declares that the deepest desire of every person ought to be to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  That is the Spirit-prompted desire that will lead a person to salvation and keep him strong and faithful once he is in the kingdom.  It is also the only ambition that, when fulfilled, brings enduring happiness.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 178)






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