(In 2017, I wrote this series for the 40 days prior to Easter to prepare our hearts and minds for the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. I’m reposting the series now for the 40 days after Easter to encourage us to follow through, living in the risen Savior and King.)
Sociology even categorizes entire civilizations based on their ability to satisfy their hungers and thirsts. Agrarian societies, in the opinion of many, are the most basic form of society because they are generally only able to feed themselves. Industrial societies have “advanced” enough to be able to feed others and at a profit for the producers. And consumer societies have advanced so far (again, I’m not sure that is the most accurate way to say it) that their primary concern is how well others feed their every desire.
Of course, we hunger and thirst for more than food and drink. We crave intimate relationships, physical rest, emotional peace, personal control, recognition for our work, self-esteem, lasting meaning and much more.
We who live in consumer societies can testify to a critical truth. All of the things we crave in this world can be like the best restaurant buffet: the objects of our desire may quickly satisfy but just as quickly lose their appeal and power. They can even turn our stomachs.
We need something different to fill us.
In Matthew 5:6, the Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Today’s devotional is the fifth in a mini-series on the Beatitudes. At the end of Matthew chapter 4, the Lord had just returned from His 40 days of being tempted in the wilderness, had begun preaching repentance for the Kingdom of God, had called His first disciples, and had begun reaching out to the undesirables of the world. Then, in Matthew 5, He tells those who have gathered around Him what it will mean to follow Him.
It makes sense that Jesus encouraged His followers in this way at this point in His sermon on the mount. He had begun by telling them how hard it would be to follow Him – that they would be poor in spirit, mourn and be meek. That’s a lot of hurt, or maybe we could say a lot of “hunger pangs”. They needed to know what would satisfy, so He told them: righteousness.
Although we might think of different things when we hear the term, “righteousness”, the Israelites would have immediately understood its meaning and satisfying power: secure standing before God, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that He approves of you and will watch over you and bless you in every way because of your standing with Him.
But who can have that kind of standing and favor with God?!
“The earth is the Lord ’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for He founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, God of Jacob. Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty— He is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24)
Only Jesus, the Lord of glory, has truly clean hands and a pure heart to stand before the Father. That’s why our righteousness only comes by trusting in Him.
Over and over, God’s Word tells us that the righteous will live by faith. (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38, etc.) But that kind of faith is not merely a strong feeling of hope in whatever. Faith that brings soul-filling righteousness is a pointed trust in Jesus because of His standing with the Father.
Dr. Tony Evans, pastor, writer, speaker and Chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys, tells the story of leading a friend into the Cowboys’ locker room. When his friend showed some hesitation and asked “Are you sure I can go in there?”, Evans encouraged him matter-of factly, “It’s okay. You’re with me, and I have full access – everywhere, all the time.”
That confident access to God Himself is why righteousness by faith in Jesus fills us. The righteousness He earned by His perfect life and death in our place guarantees that God welcomes us into His presence, embraces us, hears our prayers, watches over us and works daily to bless us according to His good will for us. And walking in the righteousness of His commands proves to us that He is good, that He knows what makes a secure, joyful relationships, that He uses even hardships to soften, strengthen and satisfy His people, and that following Him leads to real Life – here and now and for eternity.
Jesus satisfies because He is the righteousness who fills hungry souls.