Sermon Notes – 28 October 2018 – Stay Thirsty (Matthew 5:6)

Audio from this sermon is available here.

We are making our way through the Beatitudes in our ongoing study through the Gospel of Matthew. The Beatitudes are statements of blessing that Jesus makes at the start of his famous Sermon on the Mount. They were deliberately provocative but ultimately true statements about the path of full blessing, or happiness, or satisfaction.

That’s the promise at the beginning of each beatitude. “Blessed”. The Greek word from the ancient Matthew texts is makarios. It is a fascinating word that had been preserved previously almost exclusively for poetic renderings of the happy state of the gods. Important to remember that while this was recorded for us in Greek, Jesus would have said it in Aramaic, and most likely used the common Hebrew word asher.

Now, this word is fascinating. It does mean happy and it is littered right throughout the Old Testament. It is of course the name of one of Jacob’s son, born to the slave Zilkah when Leah couldn’t conceive. Leah names him Asher, hoping that his birth will make her happy, and more importantly display that happiness to her competitors.

It is the call of Psalm 1:1. Wanna be happy? Live like this man.

But Asher is an abstract noun, and abstract nouns always have concrete roots. They become ideas that develop out of the image of an actual thing. The root (concrete) word for Asher is ashar. It means to go straight ahead, or to advance on a straight path.

There is a sense then that the idea of happiness comes from the idea of being on the right road, the road that leads home. There is real blessing from being on the right path.

Ever felt the relief of getting back onto the right road after being lost? You see a familiar landmark, or sign, and you finally know where you are. When I was younger, my oldest brother tried to launch a career (or just a very expensive hobby) as on off road rally driver, and he asked me to be his navigator. I had no idea what I was doing. In our first race we crashed in the first corner, and I dropped my pace notes and zeroed my odometer so I didn’t have solid mileage markers to work off. Once we got out of the ditch I had no idea where we were in the notes. What a relief it was when we somehow got to a timing station and could reset. The happiness of being on the right path.

So that is what Jesus has been teaching. The way to be happy is to be on the path that leads to the Kingdom. But the way he has described the path has been hugely provocative. Provocative because they presented an upside-down view of the world. It would have been shocking to Jews, Greeks and Romans. All of those had views on happiness of some sort, but none of those had views that looked anything like this.

And yet, as we have seen, there is such truth and such liberty in them when rightly understood and applied. So far Jesus has taught us:

  • The poor in spirit are on the right path and happily so, for they get the kingdom of heaven.
  • Those who mourn are on the right path, for they get God’s comfort.
  • Those who are meek are happily on the right path, for they are inheriting the earth.

This week we reach a beatitude that at first seems to make no sense. It seems to make no sense because it again flies in the face of the common wisdom of that day and the common wisdom of today. But, it also seems self-defeating and borderline contradictory as a statement. In essence, Jesus is going to say that the dissatisfied will be the most satisfied. Look at what he says,

Passage and Main Points:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.[1]

 

See how that can be confusing? In essence, Jesus says.

The path to satisfaction is one of all-consuming longing

You are on the right path to happiness when you experience the ongoing, nagging, all-consuming drive of hunger and thirst. That doesn’t seem right, especially in our culture and context when we really don’t allow ourselves to be denied of physical desires for very long. And, we tend to view satisfaction as a satiation of all desires. To not desire is to be at peace according to the thinking of the day, but it is not the way of the Kingdom. People on the right path have deep longing. How can that be?

Well, hunger and thirst can be good things right? They are actually signs of physical life.

  • What do doctors ask when they have run out of other things to ask? How’s the appetite? Loss of appetite is seen as a dangerous thing.
  • I have been around enough hospice scenarios to know that when a person stops drinking, it isn’t long.
  • Hunger and thirst are good desires for life.

And having hunger and thirst, deep desires, longings can actually be a sign that you are on the right path. The words that Jesus uses here for hunger and thirst are intense. This isn’t like being a bit peckish, these are words of strong and intense desire and they are bit of a biblical theme for the people of God.

Look at Psalm 42

 

    As a deer pants for flowing streams,

so pants my soul for you, O God.

    My soul thirsts for God,

for the living God.

 When shall I come and appear before God? [2]

 The deer hunters in the room should love this image. The image of a deer who has been running for its life, panting, sweating, breathing hard, needing to keep moving but knowing that it has to drink.

The Sons of Korah (the writers of the Psalm) say that is what our souls should be like before God. Desperate, urgent, needy.

 Look at Psalm 63:1-4

 

          O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you;

                        my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

                      So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

                      Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

                      So I will bless you as long as I live;

in your name I will lift up my hands. [3]

 David knows how badly he needs God. His soul thirsts, his flesh faints. The steadfast love of God is better than life itself, and David knows he needs it otherwise his life is worth nothing. Friends, this is the posture of people on the right path of Kingdom happiness. The Christian life isn’t “meh” in terms of its passions and desires. The worry is that we medicate ourselves away from this sort of posture here in the burbs. We can’t stand to hunger and so we graze on the gross snacks that leave us feeling worse, but at least we don’t feel desperate.

But if you think about it, this call from Jesus is actually good news. How many of us have become increasingly convicted as we have gone through the Beatitudes? I have. They are driving some deep discontent out of me. This should be the result of their cumulative effect. This isn’t just one more thing you have to do. This is who we should be when we realize that we aren’t doing the things we should do.

There is a holy form of discontent. Not all discontent and desire is holy, but there is a holy form. I have wrestled deep angst my whole life. I still do. And ironically one of the ways that I try to satiate that angst is through eating my feelings. We know enough of the biblical witness to know that Jesus isn’t just calling us to discontent, so what is he calling us towards? Let’s look at it again.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

The goal isn’t just hunger and thirst, but hunger and thirst for the right thing. If we hunger for the wrong things then we don’t get to satisfaction.

Eg. Me on Thursday night. Left teaching a class pretty late and was HUNGRY…bordering on HANGRY. You get to the point where you can’t make good decisions, so I narrowed it down to Chic-Fil-A or P Terry’s. Now, I know I might get read out Evangelicalism for this, but I don’t actually get the Chic-Fil-A thing. I mean, their sauce is nice, but that’s about it. All their food is just different types of sauce recepticles. So, I smashed a P Terry’s double cheese and a vanilla milkshake. Did I feel satisfied? Nope, I felt nauseous. And I felt all 39 of my years trying to digest that sucker. I am still.

And so, satisfaction isn’t guaranteed just from hunger, but from hunger for righteousness. You have to want the right things.

The path to satisfaction is one of all-consuming longing for righteousness

What does it mean to long for righteousness? Well, the word used here is a complex and nuanced one. It literally means fulfilling what God requires of us. Now, if you have been in church long enough you should know that there is a tension built into Christian obedience when you think about God’s requirements. We are called to obey those requirements and we know that we never fully can. Both of those things are true at the same time, and so righteousness feels like a dangling carrot we can never catch.

But, we can’t opt out on this passage though and just say that we hunger and thirst for the Christ’s righteousness because that isn’t how this word is used in the rest of the gospels and even later in this very sermon. In verse 10, Jesus says that we are blessed when we are persecuted for righteousness sake. That isn’t an anticipation of belief in Christ’s righteousness that will get us persecuted, but rather holy living in a counter cultural way.

So, what does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness? Simply, I propose that it means to have a desperate and continual longing for…Righteousness from us, around us and for us.

  • Righteousness from us
    • A deep desire to live rightly before God. A deep desire and hunger for greater holiness, greater humility, greater godliness. A longing for this.
    • Friends, perhaps a deep dissatisfaction with our current level of obedience to God isn’t evidence that we are necessarily far from the Kingdom, but might actually be evidence that we are on the right path in the Kingdom.
    • The Scriptures call us again and again to lives of ongoing and increasing obedience. We should hunger and thirst for this.
    • Like the cries of the Psalmists who say…

 

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

11 Cast me not away from your presence,

and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and uphold me with a willing spirit. [4]

 

  • Or…

Blessed are those whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the Lord!

Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,

who seek him with their whole heart,

who also do no wrong,

but walk in his ways!

You have commanded your precepts

to be kept diligently.

Oh that my ways may be steadfast

in keeping your statutes! [5]

 

This is the lament of Romans 7 and so much of the content of the Epistles in the NT. You are made a holy people and now you need to act in holy ways! This is Peter’s cry that we would crave pure spiritual milk like a new born, and live as a holy nation, a set apart people as a result. This is James’ cry that our faith would grow legs and that we would live holy lives saved by grace. This is John’s cry that we would walk in the light, and walk in acts of righetousness. All different language for the same thing.

FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST…BELIEVERS IN CHRIST SHOULD HAVE A YEARNING HUNGER TO BE MORE LIKE CHRIST!

 Friends, the Holy Spirit (if you are a believer) will be pulling you towards holiness. It should be a hunger, a thirst, a constant yearning to be more like Christ than you currently are. That’s a good thing. It isn’t a good thing for believers when that isn’t there. We shouldn’t be “meh” in terms of our appetite for holiness. The dissatisfaction that you have your current level of holiness might be a sign that you are on the right path! Keep going!

Okay, so there should be hunger for righteousness that comes from us, but that righteousness should result in a greater sense of God’s righteousness in the communities is which we live. So, we should also have a hunger for…

 

  • Righteousness around us

 

Look at how God’s requirement is defined by the prophet Micah.

 

He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God? [6]

 

The righteous requirement of God is that we would be a people of justice and kindness and humility. All of these are things that should be felt by our surrounding communities. This is the collective call to be a people who hunger for righteousness.

We should have a deep hunger for justice, for kindness, for collective humility and mercy. This is not first and foremost governmental, this is communal for the people of God. We should have a desire to be this sort of people. It should drive us.

But that isn’t all of it, because we know that there is only one who is truly righteous. When Jesus summarizes the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, his call is for perfection. That is a demand and a pointing away simultaneously. It should drive us to our knees in hunger and thirst saying, I deeply desire what I cannot ever have!

And that is the point. That we would desire righteousness from us and around us but that we would know that we deeply need…

  • Righteousness for us

It is no coincidence that Jesus calls himself the bread of life and it is no coincidence that he speaks of offering living water.

He does this with the woman at the well in John 4. He does it with a group of disciples in John 6, and says that those who want to follow him need to eat his flesh and drink his blood. In other words, they need to deeply desire a righteousness that he alone has.

This is what Paul speaks about in Philippians 3 when he says that he doesn’t have a righteousness of his own that comes from the law but righteousness that comes from faith in Christ. This is what he is talking about in 2 Cor 5, where he sees that Christ became sin that we might become the righteousness of God.

Those who will be filled, are those who deeply hunger for a righteousness that they don’t have.

And that’s the promise if we look at one more time…

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

The promise is that they will get to eat their fill. That their longing, their hunger will drive them something that fills them up. The word here is from an agricultural root. A term for feeding animals, until they were totally full.

That is what he will do one day, but only for those who are hungry for righteousness. Look at Psalm 17:15 as we close.

15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;

when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. [7]

 

Here is the invitation today. For those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness to come. We take communion. As we eat and we drink, we acknowledge our desire for righteousness from us and around us and we declare our need for righteousness for us.

For some, you have been snacking, and the hunger has grown dull. Ask God to revive it. I have been praying that God would make us hungry for righteousness. It is a root desire of revival.

[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 5:6.

[2]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 42:1–2.

[3]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 63:1–4.

[4]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 51:10–12.

[5]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 119:1–5.

[6]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mic 6:8.

[7]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 17:15.

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