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Matthew 05.6

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April 22, 2007 at FBC, Comanche; Expositional studies: Matthew

Text: Matthew 5:1-12, Matthew 5:6

6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied [filled, KJV].”

“The Beauty of Seeking”

“The Beauty of Hungering and Thirsting”

Introduction: Who or what are you seeking?  What you seek, you will find, especially when you search with wholehearted devotion. 

Jeremiah 29:13

13 “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Matthew 6:33

33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Matthew 12:36

 36 "But I tell you that every careless [useless] word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the Day of Judgment.”

Matthew 16:27

 27 "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.”

Romans 14:12

12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

Galatians 6:7-9

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Hebrews 4:12-13

12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do [Who will judge rightly].

1 Peter 4:5

 5 but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

1 Peter 4:17

17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?


1.    The Decision—to hunger and to thirst

A.     Will—what is your will, your desire, your want, your need

B.    Work—what is your passion, what are your working towards

++  Hunger: πεινάω [peinao]—through the idea of pinching toil, “pine”; to suffer want or to be needy; to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire.

++  Thirst: διψάω [dipsao]—figuratively, those who are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened

++  Hunger” and “thirst” are present active participles meaning we are to presently, currently, continually be active in hungering and thirst after God, the Word of God, the worship of God, the will of God, and the work of God. 

Our need of God should motivate us to hunger and to thirst for those things that please God, that are in accordance to His Word.

2.    The Directionafter righteousness

A.     Who or What are you seeking?

B.    Why are you seeking that?

++  Righteousness: δικαιοσύνη [dikaiosune] the state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God; the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God; integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting

@  Proverbs 11:27 **

27 He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.

3.    The Declarationthey shall be filled / satisfied

A.     Faithful Promise

B.    Fulfillment of Purpose

++  Filled:  χορτάζω [chortazo] to [feed with herbs, grass, hay], to fill, satisfy with food, to fatten. 1a of animals. 2 to fill or satisfy men

The Lord Jesus Himself promises and pronounces genuine satisfaction.

Conclusion and Application

  • Decision—are you choosing based on what you want, or what you need?
  • Direction—is your life one of integrity, dignity, and Christian character?
  • Declaration—are your choices bring satisfaction, righteousness,and peace?

 Our Lord Jesus came to “seek and to save that which was lost.”  Will you begin to seek that which pleases our Lord?


Proverbs 1:28

28“Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me,

Proverbs 2:4
4If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures;

Proverbs 8:17
17“I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.

Proverbs 11:27 **
27He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, But he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.

Proverbs 14:6
6A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none, But knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.

Proverbs 15:14
14The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on folly.

Proverbs 17:9
9He who conceals a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.

Proverbs 17:11
11A rebellious man seeks only evil, So a cruel messenger will be sent against him.

Proverbs 17:19
19He who loves transgression loves strife; He who raises his door seeks destruction.

Proverbs 18:1
1He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom.

Proverbs 18:15
15The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

Proverbs 19:6
6Many will seek the favor of a generous man, And every man is a friend to him who gives gifts.

Proverbs 23:35
35“They struck me, but I did not become ill; They beat me, but I did not know it. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink.”

Proverbs 28:5
5Evil men do not understand justice, But those who seek the Lord understand all things.

Proverbs 29:26
26Many seek the ruler’s favor, But justice for man comes from the Lord.


First place in your thoughts

(Brooks, "The Golden Key to Open Hidden Treasures")

Friends, these things must have first place in your thoughts:

1. Your sins--to humble you and abase you before God.

2. God's free and rich and sovereign grace--to soften and melt you down into submission to His holy will.

3. The Lord Jesus Christ--to assist, help, strengthen, and influence you in all your duties and services.

4. The blessed Scriptures--to guide you and lead you, "and to be a lamp unto your feet, and a light unto your paths."

5. The afflictions of the godly--to draw out your charity, mercy, pity, sympathy and compassion to men in misery.

6. The glory and happiness of the eternal world--to arm you and steel you against all your sins, snares and temptations.


They that hunger and thirst after righteousness (οἱ πεινωντες και διψωντες την δικαιοσυνην [hoi peinōntes kai dipsōntes tēn dikaiosunēn]). Here Jesus turns one of the elemental human instincts to spiritual use. There is in all men hunger for food, for love, for God. It is passionate hunger and thirst for goodness, for holiness. The word for “filled” (χορτασθησονται [chortasthēsontai]) means to feed or to fatten cattle from the word for fodder or grass like Mark 6:39 “green grass” (χορτος χλωρος [chortos chlōros]). [1]


 

Matthew 5:6

Shall be filled (χορτασθησονται)

A very strong and graphic word, originally applied to the feeding and fattening of animals in a stall. In Revelation 19:21, it is used of the filling of the birds with the flesh of God’s enemies. Also of the multitudes fed with the loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:20; Mark 8:8; Luke 9:17). It is manifestly appropriate here as expressing the complete satisfaction of spiritual hunger and thirst. Hence Wycliffe’s rendering, fulfilled, is strictly true to the original.[2]


 

5. (5:6) Hunger and Thirst: to have a starving spirit. It is real hunger and starvation of soul. It is a parched and dying thirst. It is a starving spirit and a parched soul that craves after righteousness. But there is something more: righteousness means all righteousness. The true believer is starved and parched for all righteousness. This is shown by the Greek, for the verbs hunger (peinōntes PWS: 2047) and thirst (dipsaō PWS: 3969) are usually in what is called the Greek genitive case. This simply means that a person sometimes feels a little hunger and a little thirst; therefore, he hungers and thirsts for a bit of something, for example, an apple or a glass of juice. But in the beatitude, hunger and thirst are in the accusative case. This is most unusual. It means a hunger and a thirst for the whole thing—for all righteousness, not for little tidbits. This is significant: it means that the promise of a filled life is conditional. A person must starve and thirst for all righteousness if he wishes to be filled with the fulness of life. Note several significant points.

1.  Who is blessed? The person who hungers and thirsts to be righteous and to do righteousness. To do righteousness is not enough. To be righteous is not enough. Both are essestial in order to be blessed (see Deeper Study #5—Matthew 5:6).

Thought 1. Many want just bits and pieces of righteousness—just enough to make them comfortable.

2.  There are those who stress being righteous and neglect doing righteousness. This leads to two serious errors.

a.  The error of false security. It causes a person to stress that he is saved and acceptable to God because he has believed in Jesus Christ. But he neglects doing good. He does not live as he should, obeying God and serving man.

b.  The error of loose living. It allows a person to go out and do what he desires. He feels secure and comfortable in his faith in Christ. He knows that wrong behavior may affect his fellowship with God and other believers, but he thinks his behavior does not affect his salvation and acceptance with God.

The problem with this stress is that it is a false righteousness. Righteousness in the Bible means being righteous and doing righteousness. The Bible knows nothing about being righteous without living righteously.

3.  There are those who stress doing righteousness and neglect being righteous. This also leads to two serious errors.

a.  The error of self-righteousness and legalism. It causes a person to stress that he is saved and acceptable to God because he does good. He works, behaves morally, keeps certain rules and regulations, does the things a Christian should do, and obeys the main laws of God. But he neglects the basic law: the law of love and acceptance—that God loves him and accepts him not because he does good, but because he loves and trusts the righteousness of Christ (see Deeper Study #5—Matthew 5:6).

b.  The error of being judgmental and censorious. A person who stresses that he is righteous (acceptable to God) because he keeps certain laws often judges and censors others. He feels that rules and regulations can be kept because he keeps them. Therefore, anyone who fails to keep them is judged, criticized, and censored.

The problem with this stress is that it, too, is a false righteousness. Again, righteousness in the Bible is both being righteous and doing righteousness. The Bible knows nothing of being acceptable to God without being made righteous in Christ Jesus (see Deeper Study #5—Matthew 5:6; cp. 2 Cor. 5:21. See Deeper Study #1—Romans 4:22; Deeper Study #2—Romans 4:22 for more discussion.)

4.  The answer to righteousness is not what most men think when they think of righteousness. When most men think of righteousness, they think of doing good—doing good deeds, good works, and helping their fellow man. As man walks through life, he faces appeal after appeal for help, and he helps. And he feels comfortable with himself because he has helped. He feels his good deeds make him acceptable and righteous before God. But the Bible is not saying that men never do good; it is saying that men are not righteous—not perfectly righteous within their hearts (see Deeper Study #5—Matthew 5:6).

5.  Christ does not say, "Blessed are the righteous," for no one is righteous (Romans 3:10). He says, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness." Man is not righteous, not perfectly righteous. His chance to be righteous is gone. He has already come short and missed the mark. He is already imperfect. Man has but one hope: that God will love him so much that He will somehow count him righteous. That is just what God does. God takes a man's "hunger and thirst after righteousness" and counts that hunger and thirst as righteousness. God does this because He loves man (Romans 5:6, 8-9. See Deeper Study #1—Romans 4:22; Deeper Study #2—Romans 4:22; note—§ Romans 5:1.)

Thought 1. The question each person needs to ask is this: how much am I seeking after righteousness? Am I seeking at all—seeking a little—seeking some—seeking much—seeking more and more? What Christ says is this: a person has to crave, starve, and thirst after righteousness. A person must seek righteousness more and more if he wishes to be saved and filled.

6.  Every person has some pull and some influence that urges him to do good. The pull and influence need to be nourished. In fact, it has to be nurtured or else it weakens, and it can be subdued and weakened so much that it is killed completely. It is just hardened against doing anything except what self wants to do (Hebrews 3:13 cp. Proverbs 21:29; Proverbs 28:14; Proverbs 29:1).

7.  Righteousness is the only thing that will fill and satisfy man's innermost need. Food and drink will not. Any honest and thinking man knows there is nothing anywhere on this earth that can meet his deep need for life (permanent life, life that never ends). Only God can fill a life and satisfy the deep need for permanent life. This is the reason Christ says to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Thought 1. Being filled means to "to be filled with the spirit" (Ephes. 5:18). "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace...." (Galatians 5:22-23).

DEEPER STUDY #5

(5:6) Righteousness: What is righteousness? (Also see note—§ Romans 3:21; note—§ Romans 4:4-5; Deeper Study #1—Romans 4:22; Deeper Study #2—Romans 4:22; notes—§ Romans 5:1; notes—§ Romans 10:5; notes—§ Romans 10:6-7; note 3—§ Galatians 2:15-16 and Deeper Study #1—Galatians 2:15-16; Deeper Study #2—Galatians 2:16; cp. Galatians 3:10.) In the Bible "righteousness" means two simple but profound things; it has a double meaning. It means to be right and to do right. It may be said another way: to be good and to do good. This is critically important in the Bible.

"There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10).

"There is none good but one, that is, God" (Matthew 19:17).

"All...come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

What is being said is that God alone is righteous; He alone is perfectly good. Man is not perfectly righteous; he comes short. How then can a man become perfectly righteous? What is the answer? The answer is what Christ says: "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." What happens is this.

God takes a person's "hunger and thirst after righteousness" and counts it as righteousness. The person is not righteous, but God counts him righteous. This is the great love of God. A man hungers and thirsts after righteousness; therefore, God fills him.

Several things need to said about righteousness.

1.  Righteousness is explained throughout Scripture in the word faith. Faith is believing God and trusting the goodness of God to take our faith and count it as righteousness (see Deeper Study #1—Romans 4:22; Deeper Study #2—Romans 4:22; note—§ Romans 5:1; cp. Romans 4:1-3). Hebrews 11:6 says it clearly: "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

It is the person who diligently seeks God who really believes God. The man who so hungers and thirsts after God and His righteousness shall be counted righteous and shall be filled. (See outline—§ Phil. 3:7-16 and notes—§ Phil. 3:7-16.)

2.  The righteousness of God has been shown to man. Just what God wants man to be and to do has been demonstrated perfectly in Jesus Christ. This is the love of God. God has not given man just the written Word describing His righteousness; He has given man a life—the life of His own Son—to show what He means by righteousness. Jesus Christ is perfect righteousness; He did nothing but good. This is what the Bible means when it talks about Christ being "the righteousness of God." Christ is the picture, the expression, the pattern, the very image of righteousness—of being right and of doing right.

"Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us...righteousness" (1 Cor. 1:30).

"...the righteousness of God in Him [Christ]" (2 Cor. 5:21).

"Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3:9).

3.  Righteousness involves the mind. Scripture says it involves being "renewed in the spirit of your mind" (Ephes. 4:23), and being "renewed in knowledge" (Col. 3:10).

What does this mean? Very simply, the man who seeks "after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." He "puts on the new man" and is "renewed in the spirit of [his] mind" (Ephes. 4:23).

Another way to say the same thing is this: the man who seeks after God has "put off the old man with his deeds; and [has] put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Col. 3:9-10).

DEEPER STUDY #6

(5:6) Filled— Life, Abundant: the believer who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is wonderfully filled with both abundant life and eternal life.

1.  He is "full of goodness, filled with all knowledge" (Romans 15:14).

2.  He is "filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephes. 3:19).

3.  He is "filled with the Spirit" (Ephes. 5:18).

4.  He is "filled with the fruits of righteousness" (Phil. 1:11).

5.  He is "filled with the knowledge of His [God's] will" (Col. 1:9).

6.  He is "filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13:52).[3] 
Matthew 5

Jesus Gives the Beatitudes—Matthew 5:1-1249

Matthew 5–7 is called the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus gave it on a hillside near Capernaum. This “sermon” probably covered several days of preaching. In it, Jesus revealed his attitude toward the law of Moses, explaining that he requires faithful and sincere obedience, not ceremonial religion. The Sermon on the Mount challenged the teachings of the proud and legalistic religious leaders of the day. It called people back to the messages of the Old Testament prophets who, like Jesus, had taught that God wants heartfelt obedience, not mere legalistic observance of laws and rituals.

The most well-known and provocative portion of the Sermon on the Mount is known as the Beatitudes (5:3-10). These are a series of blessings promised to those who exhibit the attributes of God’s kingdom. Over the centuries since Jesus first presented the Beatitudes, many interpretations of them have been offered. There are strengths in each one, and combinations of elements from several can create new interpretations. Five of the main interpretations are as follows:

1.    Perfectionist legalism. This view was developed during medieval times and teaches that there are higher standards for “disciples” (clergy and the monastic orders). It teaches that true followers should live on a level of righteousness above normal Christians. However, Jesus’ sermon does not teach two different standards for Christians, and we must not read into the sermon salvation by works.

2.    Impossible ideal. Widely accepted after Martin Luther, this view states that the sermon functions like the Old Testament law, forcing people to realize their sinfulness and helplessness and so turn to God. However, Jesus provides enablement to fulfill his requirements, so these demands are not impossible. Scholars also see the use of hyperbole (overstatement to make a point, as in “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off” in 5:30) as an accepted teaching method during Jesus’ time to stress moral urgency.

3.    Only for Jesus’ disciples. Albert Schweitzer said that this teaching was only for the disciples, who thought that Jesus would return in their lifetime and that the moral demands were not for all time. However, Jesus makes no reference to the end of the world or to his return in this sermon.

4.    Kingdom age. Dispensationalism teaches that these laws are for the kingdom age (Millennium) and are only an example for us and our day. Jesus offered the kingdom to the Jews, but they rejected it. Thus, the reality was postponed until the Second Coming. However, nothing in Jesus’ teaching ever exempted the disciples then or now from these principles. They are principles for disciples for all ages.

5.    Social gospel. Protestant liberals have used the ethics of the sermon as a mandate for the church to usher in the kingdom of God by means of reforming society. However, the teachings of Jesus here cannot be isolated from all his other teachings about himself, evangelism, personal faith, and devotion.

There is another way to understand the sermon in light of a double-pronged interpretation. The kingdom has been inaugurated (beginning), but not yet realized (completion). So there remains a creative tension between the “already” and the “not yet” aspects. Those who obey Jesus now experience, in a partial way, the wonderful benefits he described.

We must not let the promise of future blessing deter us from the radical demands for discipleship that Jesus presented. We must ask what the Beatitudes meant in the Jewish milieu in which Christ delivered them. We must also interpret the phrases in their historical (cultural) and logical (the developing message) contexts.

So then, the Beatitudes

t    present a code of ethics for the disciples and a standard of conduct for all believers,

t    contrast kingdom values (what is eternal) with worldly values (what is temporary),

t    contrast the superficial “faith” of the Pharisees with the real faith that Christ wants, and

t    show how the future kingdom will fulfill Old Testament expectations.

Matthew 5:1-2

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: … (niv) Large crowds were following Jesus—he was the talk of the town, even of the entire province, and everyone wanted to see him. Jesus had already been preaching throughout Galilee (4:12-25). During that preaching mission, Jesus had healed several people: a government official’s son in Cana (John 4:46-54), Peter’s mother-in-law and many others in Capernaum (Matthew 8:14-17), a man with leprosy (Matthew 8:1-4), and a paralyzed man also in Capernaum (Matthew 9:1-8). (See the Harmony of the Gospels at the end of this commentary.) These events happened prior to this sermon. (Matthew’s Gospel is arranged topically rather than chronologically.) The many miracles that Jesus had performed throughout Galilee accounted for his immense popularity. When people learned of this amazing preacher with healing words and healing power, they sought him out and followed him.

Jesus often presented his teaching up on a mountainside. Jesus did not have access to public address systems or acoustical amphitheaters. So he used what he himself had created—the natural stage of a sloping hill, which were plentiful on the western coast of the Sea of Galilee. The people sat on the slope below him. After Jesus went up, he sat down (a typical teaching position for a rabbi).

Matthew then reported that his disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. Some scholars say that the word “disciples” refers to the crowds, many of whom were Jesus’ followers (and therefore, his disciples). However, others say that this refers specifically to the Twelve, whom Jesus had just chosen (see the Harmony of the Gospels and Mark 3:13-19). Most scholars agree that Jesus gave these teachings primarily to the disciples, but that the crowds were present and listening (see 7:28). Much of what Jesus said referred to the ideas that had been promoted by the religious leaders of the day.

The disciples, the closest associates of this popular man, might easily have been tempted to feel important, proud, and possessive. Being with Jesus gave them not only prestige, but also opportunity for receiving money and power. However, Jesus told them that instead of fame and fortune, they could expect mourning, hunger, and persecution. Jesus also assured his disciples that they would receive rewards—but perhaps not in this life.

Matthew 5:3

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (nkjv) The Beatitudes are not multiple choice—pick what you like and leave the rest. We must take them as a whole. The Beatitudes describe how Christ’s followers should live. Each beatitude tells how to be blessed. “Blessed” means more than happiness; it means singularly favored, graciously approved by God. Jesus’ words throughout this sermon seem to contradict each other. According to worldly standards, the types of people whom Jesus described don’t seem to be particularly “blessed.” But God’s way of living usually contradicts the world’s. The Beatitudes don’t promise laughter, pleasure, or earthly prosperity. To Jesus, a person who is “blessed” experiences hope and joy, independent of his or her outward circumstances. The disciples, riding on the wave of Jesus’ popularity, needed to first understand kingdom priorities.

Jesus explained that the poor in spirit are blessed. The poor in spirit realize that they cannot please God on their own. They are “poor” or “bankrupt” inwardly, unable to give anything of value to God and thus must depend on his mercy. Only those who humbly depend on God are admitted into the kingdom of heaven. In this beatitude and in the very last one (5:10) the reward is the same. And in both places the reward is described in the present tense—“theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The intervening beatitudes describe the reward in the future tense. The final consummation of all these rewards, and of the kingdom itself, lies in the future. However, believers can already share in the kingdom (as far as it has been revealed) by living out Jesus’ words. It must be remembered, one is not rewarded for being virtuous; virtue is its own reward.

Acting Strangely

People who want to live for God must be ready to say and do what seems strange to the world. Christians must be willing to give when others take, to love when others hate, to help when others abuse. By putting aside our selfish interests so that we can serve others, we will one day receive everything God has in store for us. To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, we must follow Jesus no matter what the cost.

The Unbeatitudes
We can understand the Beatitudes by looking at them from their opposites. Some, Jesus implied, will not be blessed. Their condition could be described in this way:
Wretched are the spiritually self-sufficient, for theirs is the kingdom of hell.Wretched are those who deny the tragedy of their sinfulness, for they will be troubled.Wretched are the self-centered, for they will be empty.Wretched are those who ceaselessly justify themselves, for their efforts will be in vain.Wretched are the merciless, for no mercy will be shown to them.Wretched are those with impure hearts, for they will not see God.Wretched are those who reject peace, for they will earn the title “sons of Satan.”Wretched are the uncommitted for convenience's sake, for their destination is hell.

Matthew 5:4

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (nrsv) In another seeming contradiction in terms, Jesus explained that those who mourn are blessed. Jesus reminded his disciples that the prophet Isaiah had promised that the Messiah would “comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:2 niv). Scholars differ on the exact nature of this mourning. Some say that Jesus was referring to the nation of Israel mourning for its sins; others interpret this more personally, explaining that it refers to those who mourn for their own sins or even for personal grief or oppression. Tied with the beatitude in verse 3, this means that humility (realization of one’s unworthiness before God) also requires sorrow for sins. Still other scholars see in the word mourning a picture of God’s people who suffer because of their faith in him.

Whether Jesus’ followers mourn for sin or in suffering, God’s promise is sure—they will be comforted. Only God can take away sorrow for sin; only God can forgive and erase it. Only God can give comfort to those who suffer for his sake because they know their reward in the kingdom. There he will “wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17 niv). Jesus explained to his disciples that following him would not involve fame, popularity, and wealth. Instead, it could very well mean sorrow, mourning, and suffering. But they would always know that God would be their comfort.

Matthew 5:5

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (nrsv) The word translated “meek” (praeis) occurs only three other times in the New Testament (Matthew 11:29; 21:5; 1 Peter 3:4). In all three other places, it is translated “gentle.” The meaning conveys humility and trust in God rather than self-centered attitudes. The psalmist, contrasting the destinies of the meek and wicked, wrote, “For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:9-11 nkjv).

Meek people realize their position before God (5:3) and gladly live it out before their fellow humans. They do not look down on themselves, but they do not think too highly of themselves either. Such people exemplify the Golden Rule. They are not arrogant; they are the opposite of those who seek to gain as much for themselves as possible. Ironically, then, it will not be the arrogant, wealthy, harsh people who get everything. Instead, the meek will inherit the earth. To the Jews, this implied the Promised Land; Jesus used the “earth” to refer to the future inheritance of the kingdom. According to Revelation 21–22, believers will enjoy a new heaven and a new earth. God will one day freely give his true disciples what they did not grasp for themselves on earth.

Matthew 5:6

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (nrsv) The words “hunger and thirst” picture intense longings that people desire to satisfy—necessities that they cannot live without. The psalmist wrote, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Psalm 42:1-2 nrsv). Those who have an intense longing for righteousness are blessed. What kind of righteousness? Most likely, this refers to personal righteousness—being so filled with God that the person completely does God’s will, without tripping up, sinning, making mistakes, and disappointing God. Righteousness refers to total discipleship and complete obedience. It may also refer to righteousness for the entire world—an end to the sin and evil that fill it. In both cases, God’s promise is sure—they will be filled. He will completely satisfy their spiritual hunger and thirst.

Regarding the longing for personal righteousness, John, one of Jesus’ disciples, later wrote, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2 niv). Regarding the longing for a righteous world, Peter, another of Jesus’ disciples hearing this message, later wrote to persecuted believers: “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13 niv).

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.

Starved

Hungry for hamburgers, maybe; hungry for victory on the tennis court, normally; hungry for the love of that special someone, usually … but hungry for righteousness? We don’t hear about that one too often.

We must proceed carefully here. Christians are not to get hungry for self-righteousness. We’re not to be prickly and perfect and proud about our morals. That just feeds the ego.

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.

Whenever you pray for God’s will to be done, you are getting hungry for righteousness. Pray often, until the little pangs become a passion and your heart becomes centered on what God wants most.[4]


Matthew 5:6

Blessed are they which do hunger …—Hunger and thirst, here, are expressive of strong desire. Nothing would better express the strong desire which we ought to feel to obtain righteousness than hunger and thirst. No needs are so keen, none so imperiously demand supply, as these. They occur daily, and when long continued, as in case of those shipwrecked, and doomed to wander months or years over burning sands, with scarcely any drink or food, nothing is more distressing. An ardent desire for anything is often represented in the Scriptures by hunger and thirst, Ps. 42:1-2; 63:1-2. A desire for the blessings of pardon and peace; a deep sense of sin, and want, and wretchedness, is also represented by thirsting, Isa. 55:1-2.

They shall be filled—They shall be satisfied as a hungry man is when supplied with food, or a thirsty man when supplied with drink. Those who are perishing for want of righteousness; those who feel that they are lost sinners and strongly desire to be holy, shall be thus satisfied. Never was there a desire to be holy which God was not willing to gratify, and the gospel of Christ has made provision to satisfy all who truly desire to be holy. See Isa. 55:1-3; 65:13; John 4:14; 6:35; 7:37-38; Ps. 17:15.[5]


Section One

Expository Notes on the Beatitudes

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was seated, his disciples came unto him. And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (vv. 1–3).

This section of Matthew’s Gospel is among the most important parts of the Bible. Here, the King reveals to His students the characteristics to be manifested in the life of every disciple. Jesus, having called His followers, thought it necessary to instruct them; they could hardly teach others if they remained unaware of the requirements of the kingdom. Therefore, at the earliest opportunity, He took them up the mountain to conduct a retreat, which continued for at least seven days. We must try to visualize that resplendent scene.

Many years earlier, Elijah had sought refuge in the mountains of Israel, and his open-air sanctuary had become the most precious place on earth. The ravens brought his food in the morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. When the prophet lay down to sleep and saw stars shining in the sky, he felt he was looking at God’s country. Every morning, he stretched his arms and said, “Good morning, Lord,” and every night ere he closed his eyes, he thanked God for the blessings of the day. God was his companion in the mountain.

Now, many years later, the disciples felt they were sharing a similar experience. The Lord, knowing what lay ahead, had possibly purchased sufficient food to last for days, and probably the party camped near a mountain stream from which they could drink. Maybe, as was the case with John the Baptist, they found food in the trees and honey in the rocks where the bees had their home. High in the mountains, the air was pure, the vision glorious. The disciples did not know the importance of the occasion, but, in actual fact, they had returned to school, where Jesus was to be their Teacher.

Morning had arrived; breakfast had been eaten; the camp was set in order and the tune for the first lesson was at hand. The Lord deliberately seated Himself, at a convenient location, and looked at His students. They were ready, and perhaps a little nervous. What would He say? The theme to be considered was “Life in the Kingdom,” and as Jesus prepared to speak, He thought of other kingdoms around the world where men struggled for power. Throughout the kingdoms of earth, men valued material things, and paid high prices to capture positions of eminence. Jesus considered God’s kingdom, and recognized the need to reveal to His friends its basic principles. His students would not understand all He wished to tell them, but it was necessary to begin somewhere.

It is said that “when he was seated,” His disciples came unto Him. His action was very deliberate; He was like a judge entering a court room, and as everybody stood respectfully, He calmly took a seat on the bench to announce the session was in progress. The theme to be examined was Characteristics of God’s Kingdom. It was as though He said, “Listen, My Children, I want to introduce you to the greatest virtues possible; I want to instruct you concerning God’s kingdom, and tell you what His children should become. This is the first of nine important lessons.”

The Fourth Beatitude... Blessed Are They Which Do Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness: for They Shall Be Filled

This commentary is being written in the year 1985, when the world has become aware of the famine devastating Ethiopia. The pictures shown on television are appalling; it is sickening and frightening to see the emaciated bodies of small children destined to die prematurely. They are slowly starving to death, whereas in America, much food is wasted daily. Throughout World War II, the people in Britain were strictly rationed, but there was always sufficient food to keep people alive and, occasionally, a few luxuries became available. When Jesus spoke of “hungering,” many of His listeners understood what He meant. Nevertheless, He was speaking of hungering and thirsting after righteousness. However vital it was to have food for the body, it was even more important to obtain nourishment for the soul. The same idea can be found in Psalm 42:1, “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 .... ” Acute need begat an irrepressible urge for fellowship with the living God. During my stay in Africa, I often saw deer making their way along forest paths, and their need was apparent. The pasture had been destroyed by bush fires; water seemed unobtainable, but with an unerring instinct, those beautiful creatures knew where to go. They were indeed “panting after the water brooks.” Their need was not casual nor partial. They longed with an intensity of desire difficult to describe. Did the Lord have such a thought in mind when He said, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness”? Every Christian, to a degree, longs for righteousness, but, frequently the intensity of desire is missing. The only people who are “filled” with God’s wonderful sufficiency, are they who hunger desperately for the things heaven alone can supply. Was Paul expressing a similar thought when he wrote: “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung [refuse], that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:8–9).[6]


April 22, 2007 at FBC, Comanche; Expositional studies: Matthew

Text: Matthew 5:1-12, Matthew 5:6

 

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

 6 “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” [KJV]

“The Beauty of Seeking”

Introduction:

First place in your thoughts

(Brooks, "The Golden Key to Open Hidden Treasures")

Friends, these things must have first place in your thoughts:

1. Your sins--to humble you and abase you before God.

2. God's free and rich and sovereign grace--to soften and melt you down into submission to His holy will.

3. The Lord Jesus Christ--to assist, help, strengthen, and influence you in all your duties and services.

4. The blessed Scriptures--to guide you and lead you, "and to be a lamp unto your feet, and a light unto your paths."

5. The afflictions of the godly--to draw out your charity, mercy, pity, sympathy and compassion to men in misery.

6. The glory and happiness of the eternal world--to arm you and steel you against all your sins, snares and temptations.


They that hunger and thirst after righteousness (οἱ πεινωντες και διψωντες την δικαιοσυνην [hoi peinōntes kai dipsōntes tēn dikaiosunēn]). Here Jesus turns one of the elemental human instincts to spiritual use. There is in all men hunger for food, for love, for God. It is passionate hunger and thirst for goodness, for holiness. The word for “filled” (χορτασθησονται [chortasthēsontai]) means to feed or to fatten cattle from the word for fodder or grass like Mark 6:39 “green grass” (χορτος χλωρος [chortos chlōros]). [7]


 

Matthew 5:6

Shall be filled (χορτασθησονται)

A very strong and graphic word, originally applied to the feeding and fattening of animals in a stall. In Revelation 19:21, it is used of the filling of the birds with the flesh of God’s enemies. Also of the multitudes fed with the loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:20; Mark 8:8; Luke 9:17). It is manifestly appropriate here as expressing the complete satisfaction of spiritual hunger and thirst. Hence Wycliffe’s rendering, fulfilled, is strictly true to the original.[8]


5. (5:6) Hunger and Thirst: to have a starving spirit. It is real hunger and starvation of soul. It is a parched and dying thirst. It is a starving spirit and a parched soul that craves after righteousness. But there is something more: righteousness means all righteousness. The true believer is starved and parched for all righteousness. This is shown by the Greek, for the verbs hunger (peinōntes PWS: 2047) and thirst (dipsaō PWS: 3969) are usually in what is called the Greek genitive case. This simply means that a person sometimes feels a little hunger and a little thirst; therefore, he hungers and thirsts for a bit of something, for example, an apple or a glass of juice. But in the beatitude, hunger and thirst are in the accusative case. This is most unusual. It means a hunger and a thirst for the whole thing—for all righteousness, not for little tidbits. This is significant: it means that the promise of a filled life is conditional. A person must starve and thirst for all righteousness if he wishes to be filled with the fulness of life. Note several significant points.

1.  Who is blessed? The person who hungers and thirsts to be righteous and to do righteousness. To do righteousness is not enough. To be righteous is not enough. Both are essestial in order to be blessed (see Deeper Study #5—Matthew 5:6).

 Thought 1. Many want just bits and pieces of righteousness—just enough to make them comfortable.

 2.  There are those who stress being righteous and neglect doing righteousness. This leads to two serious errors.

a.  The error of false security. It causes a person to stress that he is saved and acceptable to God because he has believed in Jesus Christ. But he neglects doing good. He does not live as he should, obeying God and serving man.

b.  The error of loose living. It allows a person to go out and do what he desires. He feels secure and comfortable in his faith in Christ. He knows that wrong behavior may affect his fellowship with God and other believers, but he thinks his behavior does not affect his salvation and acceptance with God.

The problem with this stress is that it is a false righteousness. Righteousness in the Bible means being righteous and doing righteousness. The Bible knows nothing about being righteous without living righteously.

3.  There are those who stress doing righteousness and neglect being righteous. This also leads to two serious errors.

a.  The error of self-righteousness and legalism. It causes a person to stress that he is saved and acceptable to God because he does good. He works, behaves morally, keeps certain rules and regulations, does the things a Christian should do, and obeys the main laws of God. But he neglects the basic law: the law of love and acceptance—that God loves him and accepts him not because he does good, but because he loves and trusts the righteousness of Christ (see Deeper Study #5—Matthew 5:6).

b.  The error of being judgmental and censorious. A person who stresses that he is righteous (acceptable to God) because he keeps certain laws often judges and censors others. He feels that rules and regulations can be kept because he keeps them. Therefore, anyone who fails to keep them is judged, criticized, and censored.

The problem with this stress is that it, too, is a false righteousness. Again, righteousness in the Bible is both being righteous and doing righteousness. The Bible knows nothing of being acceptable to God without being made righteous in Christ Jesus (see Deeper Study #5—Matthew 5:6; cp. 2 Cor. 5:21. See Deeper Study #1—Romans 4:22; Deeper Study #2—Romans 4:22 for more discussion.)

4.  The answer to righteousness is not what most men think when they think of righteousness. When most men think of righteousness, they think of doing good—doing good deeds, good works, and helping their fellow man. As man walks through life, he faces appeal after appeal for help, and he helps. And he feels comfortable with himself because he has helped. He feels his good deeds make him acceptable and righteous before God. But the Bible is not saying that men never do good; it is saying that men are not righteous—not perfectly righteous within their hearts (see Deeper Study #5—Matthew 5:6).

5.  Christ does not say, "Blessed are the righteous," for no one is righteous (Romans 3:10). He says, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness." Man is not righteous, not perfectly righteous. His chance to be righteous is gone. He has already come short and missed the mark. He is already imperfect. Man has but one hope: that God will love him so much that He will somehow count him righteous. That is just what God does. God takes a man's "hunger and thirst after righteousness" and counts that hunger and thirst as righteousness. God does this because He loves man (Romans 5:6, 8-9. See Deeper Study #1—Romans 4:22; Deeper Study #2—Romans 4:22; note—§ Romans 5:1.)

 Thought 1. The question each person needs to ask is this: how much am I seeking after righteousness? Am I seeking at all—seeking a little—seeking some—seeking much—seeking more and more? What Christ says is this: a person has to crave, starve, and thirst after righteousness. A person must seek righteousness more and more if he wishes to be saved and filled.

 6.  Every person has some pull and some influence that urges him to do good. The pull and influence need to be nourished. In fact, it has to be nurtured or else it weakens, and it can be subdued and weakened so much that it is killed completely. It is just hardened against doing anything except what self wants to do (Hebrews 3:13 cp. Proverbs 21:29; Proverbs 28:14; Proverbs 29:1).

7.  Righteousness is the only thing that will fill and satisfy man's innermost need. Food and drink will not. Any honest and thinking man knows there is nothing anywhere on this earth that can meet his deep need for life (permanent life, life that never ends). Only God can fill a life and satisfy the deep need for permanent life. This is the reason Christ says to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

 Thought 1. Being filled means to "to be filled with the spirit" (Ephes. 5:18). "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace...." (Galatians 5:22-23).

DEEPER STUDY #5

(5:6) Righteousness: What is righteousness? (Also see note— Romans 3:21; note— Romans 4:4-5; Deeper Study #1—Romans 4:22; Deeper Study #2—Romans 4:22; notes— Romans 5:1; notes— Romans 10:5; notes— Romans 10:6-7; note 3— Galatians 2:15-16 and Deeper Study #1—Galatians 2:15-16; Deeper Study #2—Galatians 2:16; cp. Galatians 3:10.) In the Bible "righteousness" means two simple but profound things; it has a double meaning. It means to be right and to do right. It may be said another way: to be good and to do good. This is critically important in the Bible.

 "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10).

"There is none good but one, that is, God" (Matthew 19:17).

"All...come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

What is being said is that God alone is righteous; He alone is perfectly good. Man is not perfectly righteous; he comes short. How then can a man become perfectly righteous? What is the answer? The answer is what Christ says: "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." What happens is this.

God takes a person's "hunger and thirst after righteousness" and counts it as righteousness. The person is not righteous, but God counts him righteous. This is the great love of God. A man hungers and thirsts after righteousness; therefore, God fills him.

Several things need to said about righteousness.

1.  Righteousness is explained throughout Scripture in the word faith. Faith is believing God and trusting the goodness of God to take our faith and count it as righteousness (see Deeper Study #1—Romans 4:22; Deeper Study #2—Romans 4:22; note— Romans 5:1; cp. Romans 4:1-3). Hebrews 11:6 says it clearly: "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

It is the person who diligently seeks God who really believes God. The man who so hungers and thirsts after God and His righteousness shall be counted righteous and shall be filled. (See outline— Phil. 3:7-16 and notes— Phil. 3:7-16.)

2.  The righteousness of God has been shown to man. Just what God wants man to be and to do has been demonstrated perfectly in Jesus Christ. This is the love of God. God has not given man just the written Word describing His righteousness; He has given man a life—the life of His own Son—to show what He means by righteousness. Jesus Christ is perfect righteousness; He did nothing but good. This is what the Bible means when it talks about Christ being "the righteousness of God." Christ is the picture, the expression, the pattern, the very image of righteousness—of being right and of doing right.

 "Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us...righteousness" (1 Cor. 1:30).

"...the righteousness of God in Him [Christ]" (2 Cor. 5:21).

"Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3:9).

 3.  Righteousness involves the mind. Scripture says it involves being "renewed in the spirit of your mind" (Ephes. 4:23), and being "renewed in knowledge" (Col. 3:10).

What does this mean? Very simply, the man who seeks "after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." He "puts on the new man" and is "renewed in the spirit of [his] mind" (Ephes. 4:23).

Another way to say the same thing is this: the man who seeks after God has "put off the old man with his deeds; and [has] put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Col. 3:9-10).

DEEPER STUDY #6

(5:6) Filled— Life, Abundant: the believer who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is wonderfully filled with both abundant life and eternal life.

1.  He is "full of goodness, filled with all knowledge" (Romans 15:14).

2.  He is "filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephes. 3:19).

3.  He is "filled with the Spirit" (Ephes. 5:18).

4.  He is "filled with the fruits of righteousness" (Phil. 1:11).

5.  He is "filled with the knowledge of His [God's] will" (Col. 1:9).

6.  He is "filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13:52).[9] 
Matthew 5

Jesus Gives the Beatitudes—Matthew 5:1-1249

Matthew 5–7 is called the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus gave it on a hillside near Capernaum. This “sermon” probably covered several days of preaching. In it, Jesus revealed his attitude toward the law of Moses, explaining that he requires faithful and sincere obedience, not ceremonial religion. The Sermon on the Mount challenged the teachings of the proud and legalistic religious leaders of the day. It called people back to the messages of the Old Testament prophets who, like Jesus, had taught that God wants heartfelt obedience, not mere legalistic observance of laws and rituals.

The most well-known and provocative portion of the Sermon on the Mount is known as the Beatitudes (5:3-10). These are a series of blessings promised to those who exhibit the attributes of God’s kingdom. Over the centuries since Jesus first presented the Beatitudes, many interpretations of them have been offered. There are strengths in each one, and combinations of elements from several can create new interpretations. Five of the main interpretations are as follows:

1.    Perfectionist legalism. This view was developed during medieval times and teaches that there are higher standards for “disciples” (clergy and the monastic orders). It teaches that true followers should live on a level of righteousness above normal Christians. However, Jesus’ sermon does not teach two different standards for Christians, and we must not read into the sermon salvation by works.

2.    Impossible ideal. Widely accepted after Martin Luther, this view states that the sermon functions like the Old Testament law, forcing people to realize their sinfulness and helplessness and so turn to God. However, Jesus provides enablement to fulfill his requirements, so these demands are not impossible. Scholars also see the use of hyperbole (overstatement to make a point, as in “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off” in 5:30) as an accepted teaching method during Jesus’ time to stress moral urgency.

3.    Only for Jesus’ disciples. Albert Schweitzer said that this teaching was only for the disciples, who thought that Jesus would return in their lifetime and that the moral demands were not for all time. However, Jesus makes no reference to the end of the world or to his return in this sermon.

4.    Kingdom age. Dispensationalism teaches that these laws are for the kingdom age (Millennium) and are only an example for us and our day. Jesus offered the kingdom to the Jews, but they rejected it. Thus, the reality was postponed until the Second Coming. However, nothing in Jesus’ teaching ever exempted the disciples then or now from these principles. They are principles for disciples for all ages.

5.    Social gospel. Protestant liberals have used the ethics of the sermon as a mandate for the church to usher in the kingdom of God by means of reforming society. However, the teachings of Jesus here cannot be isolated from all his other teachings about himself, evangelism, personal faith, and devotion.

There is another way to understand the sermon in light of a double-pronged interpretation. The kingdom has been inaugurated (beginning), but not yet realized (completion). So there remains a creative tension between the “already” and the “not yet” aspects. Those who obey Jesus now experience, in a partial way, the wonderful benefits he described.

We must not let the promise of future blessing deter us from the radical demands for discipleship that Jesus presented. We must ask what the Beatitudes meant in the Jewish milieu in which Christ delivered them. We must also interpret the phrases in their historical (cultural) and logical (the developing message) contexts.

So then, the Beatitudes

t    present a code of ethics for the disciples and a standard of conduct for all believers,

t    contrast kingdom values (what is eternal) with worldly values (what is temporary),

t    contrast the superficial “faith” of the Pharisees with the real faith that Christ wants, and

t    show how the future kingdom will fulfill Old Testament expectations.

Matthew 5:1-2

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: … (niv) Large crowds were following Jesus—he was the talk of the town, even of the entire province, and everyone wanted to see him. Jesus had already been preaching throughout Galilee (4:12-25). During that preaching mission, Jesus had healed several people: a government official’s son in Cana (John 4:46-54), Peter’s mother-in-law and many others in Capernaum (Matthew 8:14-17), a man with leprosy (Matthew 8:1-4), and a paralyzed man also in Capernaum (Matthew 9:1-8). (See the Harmony of the Gospels at the end of this commentary.) These events happened prior to this sermon. (Matthew’s Gospel is arranged topically rather than chronologically.) The many miracles that Jesus had performed throughout Galilee accounted for his immense popularity. When people learned of this amazing preacher with healing words and healing power, they sought him out and followed him.

Jesus often presented his teaching up on a mountainside. Jesus did not have access to public address systems or acoustical amphitheaters. So he used what he himself had created—the natural stage of a sloping hill, which were plentiful on the western coast of the Sea of Galilee. The people sat on the slope below him. After Jesus went up, he sat down (a typical teaching position for a rabbi).

Matthew then reported that his disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. Some scholars say that the word “disciples” refers to the crowds, many of whom were Jesus’ followers (and therefore, his disciples). However, others say that this refers specifically to the Twelve, whom Jesus had just chosen (see the Harmony of the Gospels and Mark 3:13-19). Most scholars agree that Jesus gave these teachings primarily to the disciples, but that the crowds were present and listening (see 7:28). Much of what Jesus said referred to the ideas that had been promoted by the religious leaders of the day.

The disciples, the closest associates of this popular man, might easily have been tempted to feel important, proud, and possessive. Being with Jesus gave them not only prestige, but also opportunity for receiving money and power. However, Jesus told them that instead of fame and fortune, they could expect mourning, hunger, and persecution. Jesus also assured his disciples that they would receive rewards—but perhaps not in this life.

Matthew 5:3

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (nkjv) The Beatitudes are not multiple choice—pick what you like and leave the rest. We must take them as a whole. The Beatitudes describe how Christ’s followers should live. Each beatitude tells how to be blessed. “Blessed” means more than happiness; it means singularly favored, graciously approved by God. Jesus’ words throughout this sermon seem to contradict each other. According to worldly standards, the types of people whom Jesus described don’t seem to be particularly “blessed.” But God’s way of living usually contradicts the world’s. The Beatitudes don’t promise laughter, pleasure, or earthly prosperity. To Jesus, a person who is “blessed” experiences hope and joy, independent of his or her outward circumstances. The disciples, riding on the wave of Jesus’ popularity, needed to first understand kingdom priorities.

Jesus explained that the poor in spirit are blessed. The poor in spirit realize that they cannot please God on their own. They are “poor” or “bankrupt” inwardly, unable to give anything of value to God and thus must depend on his mercy. Only those who humbly depend on God are admitted into the kingdom of heaven. In this beatitude and in the very last one (5:10) the reward is the same. And in both places the reward is described in the present tense—“theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The intervening beatitudes describe the reward in the future tense. The final consummation of all these rewards, and of the kingdom itself, lies in the future. However, believers can already share in the kingdom (as far as it has been revealed) by living out Jesus’ words. It must be remembered, one is not rewarded for being virtuous; virtue is its own reward.

Acting Strangely

People who want to live for God must be ready to say and do what seems strange to the world. Christians must be willing to give when others take, to love when others hate, to help when others abuse. By putting aside our selfish interests so that we can serve others, we will one day receive everything God has in store for us. To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, we must follow Jesus no matter what the cost.

The Unbeatitudes
We can understand the Beatitudes by looking at them from their opposites. Some, Jesus implied, will not be blessed. Their condition could be described in this way:
Wretched are the spiritually self-sufficient, for theirs is the kingdom of hell.Wretched are those who deny the tragedy of their sinfulness, for they will be troubled.Wretched are the self-centered, for they will be empty.Wretched are those who ceaselessly justify themselves, for their efforts will be in vain.Wretched are the merciless, for no mercy will be shown to them.Wretched are those with impure hearts, for they will not see God.Wretched are those who reject peace, for they will earn the title “sons of Satan.”Wretched are the uncommitted for convenience's sake, for their destination is hell.

Matthew 5:4

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (nrsv) In another seeming contradiction in terms, Jesus explained that those who mourn are blessed. Jesus reminded his disciples that the prophet Isaiah had promised that the Messiah would “comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:2 niv). Scholars differ on the exact nature of this mourning. Some say that Jesus was referring to the nation of Israel mourning for its sins; others interpret this more personally, explaining that it refers to those who mourn for their own sins or even for personal grief or oppression. Tied with the beatitude in verse 3, this means that humility (realization of one’s unworthiness before God) also requires sorrow for sins. Still other scholars see in the word mourning a picture of God’s people who suffer because of their faith in him.

Whether Jesus’ followers mourn for sin or in suffering, God’s promise is sure—they will be comforted. Only God can take away sorrow for sin; only God can forgive and erase it. Only God can give comfort to those who suffer for his sake because they know their reward in the kingdom. There he will “wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17 niv). Jesus explained to his disciples that following him would not involve fame, popularity, and wealth. Instead, it could very well mean sorrow, mourning, and suffering. But they would always know that God would be their comfort.

Matthew 5:5

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (nrsv) The word translated “meek” (praeis) occurs only three other times in the New Testament (Matthew 11:29; 21:5; 1 Peter 3:4). In all three other places, it is translated “gentle.” The meaning conveys humility and trust in God rather than self-centered attitudes. The psalmist, contrasting the destinies of the meek and wicked, wrote, “For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:9-11 nkjv).

Meek people realize their position before God (5:3) and gladly live it out before their fellow humans. They do not look down on themselves, but they do not think too highly of themselves either. Such people exemplify the Golden Rule. They are not arrogant; they are the opposite of those who seek to gain as much for themselves as possible. Ironically, then, it will not be the arrogant, wealthy, harsh people who get everything. Instead, the meek will inherit the earth. To the Jews, this implied the Promised Land; Jesus used the “earth” to refer to the future inheritance of the kingdom. According to Revelation 21–22, believers will enjoy a new heaven and a new earth. God will one day freely give his true disciples what they did not grasp for themselves on earth.

Matthew 5:6

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (nrsv) The words “hunger and thirst” picture intense longings that people desire to satisfy—necessities that they cannot live without. The psalmist wrote, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Psalm 42:1-2 nrsv). Those who have an intense longing for righteousness are blessed. What kind of righteousness? Most likely, this refers to personal righteousness—being so filled with God that the person completely does God’s will, without tripping up, sinning, making mistakes, and disappointing God. Righteousness refers to total discipleship and complete obedience. It may also refer to righteousness for the entire world—an end to the sin and evil that fill it. In both cases, God’s promise is sure—they will be filled. He will completely satisfy their spiritual hunger and thirst.

Regarding the longing for personal righteousness, John, one of Jesus’ disciples, later wrote, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2 niv). Regarding the longing for a righteous world, Peter, another of Jesus’ disciples hearing this message, later wrote to persecuted believers: “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13 niv).

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.

Starved

Hungry for hamburgers, maybe; hungry for victory on the tennis court, normally; hungry for the love of that special someone, usually … but hungry for righteousness? We don’t hear about that one too often.

We must proceed carefully here. Christians are not to get hungry for self-righteousness. We’re not to be prickly and perfect and proud about our morals. That just feeds the ego.

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.

Whenever you pray for God’s will to be done, you are getting hungry for righteousness. Pray often, until the little pangs become a passion and your heart becomes centered on what God wants most.[10]


Matthew 5:6

Blessed are they which do hunger …—Hunger and thirst, here, are expressive of strong desire. Nothing would better express the strong desire which we ought to feel to obtain righteousness than hunger and thirst. No needs are so keen, none so imperiously demand supply, as these. They occur daily, and when long continued, as in case of those shipwrecked, and doomed to wander months or years over burning sands, with scarcely any drink or food, nothing is more distressing. An ardent desire for anything is often represented in the Scriptures by hunger and thirst, Ps. 42:1-2; 63:1-2. A desire for the blessings of pardon and peace; a deep sense of sin, and want, and wretchedness, is also represented by thirsting, Isa. 55:1-2.

They shall be filled—They shall be satisfied as a hungry man is when supplied with food, or a thirsty man when supplied with drink. Those who are perishing for want of righteousness; those who feel that they are lost sinners and strongly desire to be holy, shall be thus satisfied. Never was there a desire to be holy which God was not willing to gratify, and the gospel of Christ has made provision to satisfy all who truly desire to be holy. See Isa. 55:1-3; 65:13; John 4:14; 6:35; 7:37-38; Ps. 17:15.[11]


Section One

Expository Notes on the Beatitudes

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was seated, his disciples came unto him. And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (vv. 1–3).

This section of Matthew’s Gospel is among the most important parts of the Bible. Here, the King reveals to His students the characteristics to be manifested in the life of every disciple. Jesus, having called His followers, thought it necessary to instruct them; they could hardly teach others if they remained unaware of the requirements of the kingdom. Therefore, at the earliest opportunity, He took them up the mountain to conduct a retreat, which continued for at least seven days. We must try to visualize that resplendent scene.

Many years earlier, Elijah had sought refuge in the mountains of Israel, and his open-air sanctuary had become the most precious place on earth. The ravens brought his food in the morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. When the prophet lay down to sleep and saw stars shining in the sky, he felt he was looking at God’s country. Every morning, he stretched his arms and said, “Good morning, Lord,” and every night ere he closed his eyes, he thanked God for the blessings of the day. God was his companion in the mountain.

Now, many years later, the disciples felt they were sharing a similar experience. The Lord, knowing what lay ahead, had possibly purchased sufficient food to last for days, and probably the party camped near a mountain stream from which they could drink. Maybe, as was the case with John the Baptist, they found food in the trees and honey in the rocks where the bees had their home. High in the mountains, the air was pure, the vision glorious. The disciples did not know the importance of the occasion, but, in actual fact, they had returned to school, where Jesus was to be their Teacher.

Morning had arrived; breakfast had been eaten; the camp was set in order and the tune for the first lesson was at hand. The Lord deliberately seated Himself, at a convenient location, and looked at His students. They were ready, and perhaps a little nervous. What would He say? The theme to be considered was “Life in the Kingdom,” and as Jesus prepared to speak, He thought of other kingdoms around the world where men struggled for power. Throughout the kingdoms of earth, men valued material things, and paid high prices to capture positions of eminence. Jesus considered God’s kingdom, and recognized the need to reveal to His friends its basic principles. His students would not understand all He wished to tell them, but it was necessary to begin somewhere.

It is said that “when he was seated,” His disciples came unto Him. His action was very deliberate; He was like a judge entering a court room, and as everybody stood respectfully, He calmly took a seat on the bench to announce the session was in progress. The theme to be examined was Characteristics of God’s Kingdom. It was as though He said, “Listen, My Children, I want to introduce you to the greatest virtues possible; I want to instruct you concerning God’s kingdom, and tell you what His children should become. This is the first of nine important lessons.”

The Fourth Beatitude... Blessed Are They Which Do Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness: for They Shall Be Filled

This commentary is being written in the year 1985, when the world has become aware of the famine devastating Ethiopia. The pictures shown on television are appalling; it is sickening and frightening to see the emaciated bodies of small children destined to die prematurely. They are slowly starving to death, whereas in America, much food is wasted daily. Throughout World War II, the people in Britain were strictly rationed, but there was always sufficient food to keep people alive and, occasionally, a few luxuries became available. When Jesus spoke of “hungering,” many of His listeners understood what He meant. Nevertheless, He was speaking of hungering and thirsting after righteousness. However vital it was to have food for the body, it was even more important to obtain nourishment for the soul. The same idea can be found in Psalm 42:1, “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 .... ” Acute need begat an irrepressible urge for fellowship with the living God. During my stay in Africa, I often saw deer making their way along forest paths, and their need was apparent. The pasture had been destroyed by bush fires; water seemed unobtainable, but with an unerring instinct, those beautiful creatures knew where to go. They were indeed “panting after the water brooks.” Their need was not casual nor partial. They longed with an intensity of desire difficult to describe. Did the Lord have such a thought in mind when He said, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness”? Every Christian, to a degree, longs for righteousness, but, frequently the intensity of desire is missing. The only people who are “filled” with God’s wonderful sufficiency, are they who hunger desperately for the things heaven alone can supply. Was Paul expressing a similar thought when he wrote: “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung [refuse], that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:8–9).[12]


2. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew.

A brief survey of the history of interpretation of the Sermon confirms just how influential these chapters have been and how many major theological issues they raise.

2.1. History of Interpretation. The first commentary on the Sermon was probably written by Origen in the middle of the third century, but only a short fragment of it has survived. The two most important expositions of the Sermon in the early church were written by Chrysostom and Augustine at the end of the fourth century, both of whom insisted that the Sermon was the perfect pattern for the life of all Christians. In his homilies on the Sermon Chrysostom attacked the heretical views of Gnostics and Manicheans. He rejected their view that the body is evil and only the mind and spirit are good; he insisted that Matthew 5:29 teaches that it is the “evil mind” which is accursed, not bodily organs such as the eye and hand. Chrysostom also refuted “those heretics who say that the old covenant is of the devil”; the sayings of Jesus do not repeal the old Law, they “draw out and fill up its commands.”

Augustine also grappled with the relationship of the Sermon to the Law of Moses. The Manichean Faustus had claimed that Matthew 5:17 was a saying neither of Jesus nor of Matthew: someone else had written it under Matthew’s name! In his Reply to Faustus Augus tine stressed the continuity of the “old Law” and the “new” more strongly than was usually the case in the early church. In his own exposition of the Sermon, however, the more common line of interpretation is prominent. Augustine drew attention to the sharp discontinuity between the “old Law” and the “new” by distinguishing between the “lesser precepts given by God through his holy prophets and servants to a people who still needed to be bound by fear” (i.e., to Israel before the coming of Christ) and “the greater precepts given through his Son to a people now ready to be freed by love.”

Augustine is not the only interpreter who interpreted Matthew 5:17–48 in different ways either in different contexts or at different points in his life. Augustine may have been inconsistent, but the issue is still with us today. To what extent and in what ways is the ethical teaching of the OT still important today? How “new” is the teaching of Jesus, and does it have priority over Scripture? Do we retain the parts of Scripture to which Jesus refers, and ignore or reject the rest?

In the thirteenth century Thomas Aquinas also stressed the discontinuity between the old Law (“the Law of bondage”) and the new Law (“the Law of liberty”) but without conceding that the latter contradicted or abrogated the former. In his interpretation of the Sermon he used the analogy of the tree (the new Law) which is in a sense contained in the seed. Aquinas also introduced a distinction which was to become very influential in Catholic thought. In addition to the commandments of the new Law, which are necessary in order to gain salvation, there are also optional counsels which “render the gaining of eternal bliss more assured and expeditious.” The latter are intended for those who strive for perfection; they are based on poverty, chastity and obedience and are therefore primarily for those who join the religious life. This distinction is hardly hinted at in interpretation of the Sermon in the early church, though it may be implied by the harsh saying of Jesus concerning the renunciation of marriage: “Let those accept it who can” (Mt 19:11–12). Luther, Zwingli and Calvin wrote extensively on the Sermon. They all insisted that Matthew 5–7 represents the true interpretation of the Law of Moses, which had been obscured in Judaism. On the whole they emphasized the continuity be tween the “Law of Christ” and the “Law of Moses” more than their Catholic opponents. They rejected the use made of the Sermon by radical Anabaptist groups who claimed that the ethical teaching of Christ was a clear development beyond the Law of Moses, parts of which have been abrogated. Anabaptists claimed that the Sermon should be interpreted literally and that Christians should therefore never use violence (Mt 5:39; see Peace), never swear oaths (Mt 5:34; see Oaths and Swearing) and never hold office as a judge or ruler (Mt 7:1). Their literal interpretation of the Sermon led them to opt out of secular government completely.

In a series of sermons on Matthew 5–7 (and in other writings) Luther developed his well-known doctrine of the two realms—the secular and the spiritual. The Christian lives in both spheres. In the spiritual sphere (i.e., within the life of the church) the Christian must obey all the commands of the Sermon; in the secular sphere, natural law or “common sense” must prevail. In his remarks on Matthew 5:38–42 (the use of violence and compulsion), for example, Luther claimed that most interpreters failed to distinguish properly between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the world. In these verses

Christ is not tampering with the responsibility and authority of the government, but he is teaching individual Christians how to live personally, apart from their official position and authority … A Christian should not (use violence to) resist evil; but within the limits of his office, a secular person should oppose firmly every evil.

For Luther a “secular person” included Christians participating in the secular realm.

Luther also discussed the Sermon in terms of “Law” and “gospel.” In some of his writings he emphasized that the Sermon is the “law of Christ” that makes people aware of the gospel of God’s grace through Christ: “we are not able properly to fulfil one tittle out of our own strength … but must always crawl to Christ.” But in other passages Luther stated that the Sermon is not just the accusing Law that points to sin: it is also “gospel.” This is especially true of the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3–12). Christ “does not press, but in a friendly way entices and speaks: ‘Blessed are the poor.’ ”

By referring in different passages in his writings to the Sermon both as Law and as gospel, Luther confused some of his later followers. Many Lutheran theologians have stressed that the Sermon is the Law that awakens knowledge of sin. But some (notably J. Jeremias 1961) have claimed that the demands of Jesus in the Sermon are preceded by gospel, that is, by his proclamation of the kingdom and by his encouragement to his disciples to share his own sense of sonship.

In his comments on Matthew 5:21 Calvin noted that “we must not imagine Christ to be a new legislator, who adds anything to the eternal righteousness of his Father. We must listen to him as a faithful expounder. …” Calvin partially anticipated eighteenth- and nineteenth-century discussion of the sources of the Sermon in his recognition that Matthew 5–7 is “a brief summary of the doctrine of Christ … collected out of his many and various discourses.”

All the various approaches just sketched can be found in modern discussion of the Sermon. Twentieth-century scholarship, however, has added two new issues: the extent to which the Sermon reflects the views of Jesus (or of Matthew) concerning the end-times (eschatology) and the extent to which Matthew the Evangelist has shaped the traditions he has incorporated into chapters 5–7.

In 1892 J. Weiss published a short but influential discussion of Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God. He claimed that Jesus expected that the kingdom would shortly be ushered in through a cataclysmic divine intervention. In 1901 A. Schweitzer developed this approach even more vigorously. Both writers believed that the ethical teaching of Jesus was in tended as a preparation for the short period before the end (“interim ethics”). The sayings of Jesus were not intended to be used by later generations, as most readers of the Sermon down through the centuries had simply assumed. Thus most of the issues with which earlier interpreters of the Sermon had grappled were declared to be irrelevant. Weiss and Schweitzer raised in an acute form the relationship between the ethical teaching of Jesus and his proclamation of the coming kingdom. Discussion of this issue has to range far beyond Matthew 5–7 and consider all the relevant sayings of Jesus.

B. W. Bacon (1902) was one of the first writers in English to attempt to reconstruct the earliest attainable form of the Sermon. He concluded that in its original form Jesus spoke as a prophetic (see Prophets, Prophecy) interpreter of a new Law; Jesus did not lay down rules, but opened up principles. These conclusions were hardly novel, but in his isolation of the “intrusive additions” of Matthew, Bacon paved the way for later redaction-critical studies. Bacon claimed that Matthew has supplied “neo-legalistic touches” in verses such as 5:16 (“good works”); 5:18–19; 5:32 (the exception to “no divorce”); 7:12b. The original Sermon of Jesus is not legislative (as Matthew seems to have regarded it) but prophetic.

Since 1945 interpretation of the Sermon and of Matthew’s Gospel as a whole has been dominated by redaction criticism. This approach explores the ways in which the Evangelist has reshaped the traditions at his disposal in the light of the needs of his first readers. Redaction criticism has confirmed that Matthew is more than a compiler. Matthew’s five discourses have been composed in the same way: in all five the Evangelist has rearranged and reinterpreted the sayings on which he drew. He often elucidates earlier traditions with extra phrases or even (on occasion) with whole verses which he himself has com posed. The following may be noted as possible examples: 5:10, 13a, 14a, 16, 20; 6:10b and c, 13b; 7:12c, 19, 20, 21. In many places in the Sermon Matthew’s own distinctive vocabulary and emphases are evident. For example, the five important references to “righteousness” (Mt 5:6, 10, 20; 6:1, 33; see Justice, Righteousness) are all redactional additions made by the Evangelist himself.

In recent decades numerous studies of the Sermon and several detailed commentaries have been published. In nearly every case the Sermon has been isolated from the rest of Matthew’s Gospel and treated as a separate entity simply for convenience. There has been no suggestion that Matthew 5–7 have a quite distinctive origin or purpose which sets them apart from the rest of Matthew’s Gospel, and also from Mark and Luke.

There are, however, two notable exceptions. In his influential study of the Sermon (1964) W. D. Davies suggests that “one fruitful way of dealing with the Sermon on the Mount is to regard it as the Christian answer to Jamnia. Using terms very loosely, the Sermon is a kind of Christian, mishnaic counter-part to the formulation taking place there” (315). Davies sets out at length a cumulative case which rests on a large number of observations. He himself recognizes that some of his points are stronger than others. Davies appeals both to the Sermon and to other parts of Matthew’s Gospel. Some of the latter passages are undoubtedly significant. For example, Davies is able to show that the Evangelist’s community was at odds with contemporary Judaism.

But the evidence from the Sermon itself is not compelling. None of the direct links proposed between the Sermon and the reconstruction taking place within Judaism during the Jamnian period is entirely satisfactory. It is the whole of Matthew’s Gospel, not the Sermon in isolation, which can plausibly be related (though only indirectly) to the Jamnian period. Although Davies suggests that “there was an outside stimulus for the Evangelist to shape the Sermon” (315), he does not claim that Matthew 5–7 contains theological emphases which are quite distinct from the rest of the Gospel. Davies seems to accept that the Sermon and the rest of Matthew come from the same social setting, though he does not discuss this point.

H. D. Betz’s hypothesis, however, is not compelling. The links with the epitomes of the Greco-Roman rhetorical tradition are not strong, and the claim that the theological perspective of the Sermon is said to be at odds with Matthew’s own theology is difficult to defend. Betz overlooks the extent to which in chapters 5–7 the Evangelist Matthew has shaped and reinterpreted the traditions at his disposal in ways which are completely consistent with the methods and themes developed elsewhere in his Gospel.

The latter point is one of the pillars of redaction-critical study of the Sermon. From a quite different angle narrative critics (led by J. D. Kingsbury) have recently underlined the ways in which the Sermon is part and parcel of the Evangelist’s overall presentation of the story of Jesus.

2.2. Questions for Current Interpretation. The above survey of the history of interpretation confirms that careful study of these chapters involves a large number of issues, some of which are theological, some ethical, some historical and some exegetical. For convenience they may be divided into five sets of overlapping questions, some of which are discussed further in later sections of this article.

(1) Does Jesus simply interpret or clarify the Law of Moses? Or does he present radically new teaching? Is Jesus portrayed as the “new Moses” who “goes up on the mountain” (Mt 5:1) in order to present on a “new Mt. Sinai” a “new Law” for a “new people”?

(2) What is the relationship between Matthew 5–7and Paul’s gospel of grace? Is the Sermon (as Law) intended to make the readers or listeners aware of their need of grace? Or does the Sermon presuppose God’s forgiveness and acceptance of the sinner and therefore set out demands for true discipleship?

(3) To whom is the Sermon addressed? To men and women in general, or to those committed to the way of Jesus? The text itself is ambiguous at this point. The introduction and conclusion (Mt 5:1 and 7:28) imply that the Sermon was addressed to the crowds, but 5:2 notes that “when the disciples had gathered around him Jesus began to address them.” While many parts of the Sermon seem to set out an “ethic of Christian discipleship,” the final verses of the whole Gospel imply that the teaching of Jesus is to be part of the message taken to “all nations” (Mt 28:18–20).

(4) Are all parts of the Sermon to be interpreted literally, as some have claimed? Or do some sayings (such as Mt 5:22, 39, 43) contain hyperbole? Does the Sermon set out a code of ethics, or principles or attitudes appropriate for “members of the kingdom”? These questions arise whether the intention of Matthew or of Jesus is in view.

(5) To what extent are individual sayings dominated by the expectation (either of Jesus or of Matthew) of the approach of the end-times (i.e., eschatology)? For example, does Jesus commend a casual attitude to food and clothing in Matthew 6:25–34 because of the approach of the end-times, or simply because this is the right attitude regardless of when the end-times come? Is every petition of the Lord’s Prayer (Mt 6:9–13) to be interpreted eschatologically? If so, when we pray “Give us this day our daily bread” we are not asking for the basic necessities of everyday life, but requesting a partial anticipation now of the “feast of heaven”—the “bread of heaven.” Does the petition “lead us not into temptation” concern the time of testing expected in the end-times or everyday temptations?

The modern interpreter will quickly find that interpretation of individual sayings or groups of sayings will be determined by the answers given to all five sets of questions. These questions have been discussed for nearly two thousand years, though some have been more prominent than others in different periods of church history.

2.3. The Structure of the Sermon and Key Sections.

2.3.1. Structure. In recent years several proposals concerning the structure of the Sermon have been made. The overall structure of the Sermon is clear. The Beatitudes (5:3–12) are an introduction to the Sermon as a whole; the similarly structured “salt” and “light” sayings in 5:13–16 form the second part of the introduction. The central section of the Sermon extends from 5:17 to 7:12; it opens and closes with references to the Law and the Prophets: 5:17–20 and 7:12. The Sermon is rounded off by an epilog, 7:13–27, in which, as we shall see, there is considerable coherence.

It is not difficult to set out the structure of the first half of the Sermon, from Matthew 5:3 to 6:18. Following the general introduction in 5:1–16, the important sayings on the continuing significance of the Law and the Prophets in 5:17–20 are clarified and expounded, as it were, by the six antitheses in 5:21–47. Matthew 5:48 is probably intended to round off all the anti theses. Matthew 6:1 introduces three paragraphs on almsgiving, prayer and fasting (6:2–18), all of which have exactly the same structure; the Lord’s Prayer and two related sayings (6:9–15) partly breaks the very impressive symmetry in this part of the Sermon.

But what about the structure of the second half of the Sermon? Matthew 6:19 to 7:11 has long puzzled interpreters. This part of the Sermon seems to be a rag-bag of sayings, only some of which are loosely related to others. G. Bornkamm has offered a novel solution: the second half of the Sermon is a commentary on the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew 6:19–24 expounds the first three petitions, 6:9–10; 6:25–34, then works out the implications of the bread petition, 6:11; 7:1–5 is an exposition of the forgiveness petition and, finally, 7:6 takes up the theme of 6:13. Bornkamm’s ingenious explanation has not convinced other scholars, but he has shown just how strongly the whole section from Matthew 6:5 to 7:11 is dominated by the theme of prayer.

U. Luz claims that the Sermon has been built symmetrically around its centerpiece, the Lord’s Prayer (Mt 6:7–15). The first section, 5:3–16, corresponds to the last section, 7:13–27; the second section, 5:17–20, corresponds to 7:12; 5:21–48 corresponds to 6:19–7:11 (these two passages are identical in length); and 6:1–6 corresponds to 6:16–18. Although the theory is not completely convincing (the correspondence between 5:21–48 and 6:19–7:11 is forced), there is little doubt that Matthew does intend 5:17–20 to introduce the central section of the Sermon, and 7:12 to conclude it.

2.3.2. The Prologue: The Beatitudes (Mt 5:3–12). In Matthew there are nine Beatitudes, only four of which are found in Luke. The word makarios at the beginning of all the Beatitudes has long teased translators. Makarios echoes LXX usage, where it expresses the happiness which is the result of God-given salvation. The English phrase “Happy are those who …” hardly catches this rich meaning. “Blessed” is perhaps preferable, but in some colloquial English usage “blessed” can mean “cursed.” “God’s gift of salvation is given to those who …” is accurate but clumsy, especially if repeated nine times.

Matthew and Luke have taken over the four Beatitudes found in Q which referred to the poor, the hungry, those who weep and those who are persecuted. Matthew has added (in part from earlier oral traditions) five further Beatitudes which are found in his Gospel alone: the blessings on the meek (Mt 5:5), the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and a second saying concerning persecution (Mt 5:7–10). These additional Beatitudes and the changes made by Matthew to the Q sayings confirm that he is particularly concerned with ethical conduct. In Luke those in desperate need—those who are literally poor, hungry, weeping and persecuted (Lk 6:20–23)—are promised that their position will be reversed by God. In Matthew the dominant theme is very different. Those ad dressed, that is, the disciples and also the followers of Jesus in the Evangelist’s own day, are promised that their positive qualities—their meekness, mercy, purity of heart, and abilities as peacemakers—will be rewarded by God.

This general observation may be illustrated by the two references to righteousness which Matthew adds to Q Beatitudes. The saying at Luke 6:21 which corresponds to Matthew’s fourth Beatitude (Mt 5:6) refers to those who are literally hungry: In their rather desperate state they will be blessed by God and their hunger satisfied. In Luke (but not in Matthew) there is a corresponding “woe” on the rich (Lk 6:24). In Matthew, however, God’s blessing is promised to a rather different group: to those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Mt 5:6), that is, to disciples who are “hungry” to do God’s will.

In Matthew 5:10 those who are “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” are promised that the kingdom of heaven is theirs. This saying (like Mt 5:20) contains so many of Matthew’s favorite words that the Evangelist may have created it himself. As in several other similar cases, Matthew develops themes already present in the sources he is using. The second half of Matthew 5:10, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” echoes 5:3 (Q); the first half of Matthew 5:10 under lines the importance of the Q Beatitude which follows in 5:11, where disciples are encouraged in the face of persecution. Whereas Luke explains that the fierce opposition being experienced is “on account of the Son of man” (Lk 6:22), in 5:10 Matthew gives a different explanation: Followers of Jesus are being pilloried on account of their righteous conduct. A few verses later a more positive note is struck: “Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:16). Here “good works” seems to be synonymous with the “righteousness” or “righteous conduct” stressed so strongly in Matthew’s Beatitudes.[13]


 

Matthew 6:33

John 8:31-32

Psalm 23 (KJV)

1A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


The Beatitudes

Happy are the Hungry

by
John MacArthur
All Rights Reserved

(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)

Matthew 5:6        Tape GC 2201

Introduction

The blessedness the Lord offers in Matthew 5:3-12 can be known only by becoming a part of His kingdom. Christ's words express the conditions for entering His Kingdom and the ongoing characteristics of those who dwell in it: you must be poor in spirit (v. 3), mourn over your sin (v. 4), and be meek (v. 5). To enter the kingdom you must also hunger and thirst after righteousness--perpetual appetites that are found in every kingdom citizen (v. 6).

Matthew 5:6 says, "Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled." That Beatitude speaks of strong desire and ambition. There are many things people strive for. Ambition is a word that can be used in either a positive or negative sense.

A. Negative Ambition

1. Lucifer

Lucifer was God's most glorious creation. However he had a prideful ambition. Isaiah 14:13-14 says of him, "Thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High." Lucifer's ambition was to be like God--he was hungry for power. God's response to him was, "Thou shalt be brought down to sheol, to the sides of the pit" (v. 15).

2. Nebuchadnezzar

Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon, the greatest of all the world's empires. He ruled over a vast number of people and was one of the most powerful kings who ever lived. Daniel 4:30 says, "The king spoke, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?" Nebuchadnezzar was hungry for praise. He praised himself and God chastened him: "While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O King Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken, The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field; they shall make thee to eat grass like oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will" (vv. 31-32).

3. The Rich Fool

In Luke 12:17-19 the fool says to himself, "What shall I do, because I have no place to bestow my crops? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease. Eat, drink, and be merry." The rich fool didn't want to share his plentiful harvest with others. He was hungry for his possessions. God said to him, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" (v. 20).

Lucifer, Nebuchadnezzar, and the man in Luke 12 were all hungry for the wrong things. Their ambition was improperly directed.

B. Positive Ambition

In Matthew 5:6 Jesus says, "Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled." Just as food and water are physical necessities, righteousness is a spiritual necessity. It isn't wrong to hunger or thirst physically--those are normal desires. The same is true in the spiritual realm. In Matthew 5:6 Jesus is saying, "Anyone coming into My Kingdom has as great an appetite for righteousness as he does for food and water."

Feed the Body But Starve the Soul?

Unsaved people have ambitions. They hunger and thirst for happiness but they search for it in the wrong places.

Peter compares the unsaved to a dog who licks up his own vomit and to a pig that wallows in mire (2 Pet. 2:22). When the prodigal son needed food he was eating hog food (Luke 15:16). Man seeks "that which is not bread" (Isa. 55:2)--he doesn't seek the bread of life. Jesus offered Himself as that bread (John 6:35). He knew the hunger and thirst of men and women. The heart of every person in the world--believer or unbeliever--was created with a hunger for God.

In Jeremiah 2:13 God says, "My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." God made man with a thirst for Him but man refuses the well of living water. It's sad to see people attempting to met their hunger and thirst with the wrong things. They need fulfillment and meaning in life but seek to fill themselves with worldly pleasures, possessions, power, and praise.

The prodigal son thought pleasure, possessions, and popularity would fulfill his needs. But his soul was still hungry and he finally had the sense to say to himself, "How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" (Luke 15:17). He returned to his father's house and was given a feast (a picture of salvation). The world's "food" of riotous living tries to meet the soul's hunger with the pleasures of sin but send it away starving. Those who respond to the Spirit of God come running to the Father and are given a feast that fills the hungry soul. First John 2:15-16 says, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world [such as] the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life."

As we study Matthew 5:6 you need to ask yourself, What am I hungry for? Do I seek power, praise, possessions, or pleasure? Am I feeding myself on the husks that swine eat (Luke 15:16)? Am I like the dog who licks his vomit or the pig that wallows in mire (2 Pet. 2:22)? Or am feeding at the real source of happiness? The answer you give will indicate whether you are in Christ's kingdom or not.

Lesson

I. HOW DOES THIS BEATITUDE FIT IN WITH THE OTHERS?

A. It Is Part of a Progression of Thought

The first Beatitude says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3). He who is poor in spirit recognizes he is devoid of righteousness. In God's eyes what seem to be human advantages are in fact nothing. Apart for Christ every man and woman is hopeless and sinful. Matthew 5:4 says, "Blessed are they that mourn." He who is poor in spirit sorrows over his moral bankruptcy. Jesus then said, "Blessed are the meek" (v. 5). He who understands his sinful nature and mourns over it is meek before God. In comparison to God, sinful man recognizes he is nothing. That meekness recognizes that man's internal spiritual hunger can be satisfied only from God's table.

The progression of the Beatitudes is simple. Commentator Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of Matthew 5:6, "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. 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" (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977], pp. 73- 74).

Our society chases after all the wrong things: money, possessions, fame, and pleasure. The United States Declaration of Independence says the right to pursue happiness is unalienable, but most people can't find happiness because they look for it in the wrong place.

B. It Is Part of God's Promises

A promise accompanies each Beatitude: "theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (v. 3); "they shall be comforted" (v. 4); "they shall inherit the earth" (v. 5); and "they shall be filled" (v. 6). The world is working like mad to gain material things, yet if people would come into God's kingdom on His terms they would ultimately gain all.

The Jewish people at the time of Jesus' earthly ministry worked hard to bring the kingdom to earth. They wanted to inherit the earth and were trying to fill their empty lives with meaning. However they were looking for the wrong things. What the Lord Jesus promised He offered as a gift.

C. It Logically Follows Meekness

I think the key to receiving God's promises is meekness. Those who are meek are broken over their sin and seek what God has promised. In every example of meekness in the Bible the underlying motive was that the person knew God's promises.

1. The example of Abraham

When Abraham and Lot divided the land they were living in Abraham told Lot, "Is not the whole land before thee?... if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left" (Gen. 13:9). Abraham demonstrated meekness, but it was based on his knowledge that God had promised him all the land anyway (Gen. 12:7). He didn't care if Lot had some of it temporarily. The meek person knows that in the end God will give him everything.

2. The example of David

When David had the opportunity to kill King Saul, his enemy, he didn't (1 Sam. 24:3-7). Instead he cut a corner off of Saul's robe. David knew God had anointed him to become king of Israel. He could wait on the Lord's timing because he knew God would fulfill His promise.

Once we believe God's promises we stop trying to fulfill them on our own. Since God said we will inherit the earth, there is no need to spend our lives trying to get it. We shouldn't mind others borrowing it for awhile.

3. The example of Christ

In Matthew 5:40-42 Jesus says, "If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him two. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away." We aren't to hang onto the things of this world. It will all be ours someday so we are to share it. That kind of spirit produces the right kind of ambition. A person ambitious for the righteousness of God will inherit everything else too.

4. The example of Paul

The apostle Paul said, "All [things] are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1 Cor. 3:22-23).

The Jewish people of Christ's time wanted to rule the earth and be comforted in the midst of bad political and social circumstances. They were working furiously to attain happiness. But our Lord told them they would be given what they sought only if they came on His terms. In Matthew 6:33 He says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

It's painful to be broken in spirit, mourn over your sin, and meekly dies to self. However, Matthew 5:6 holds the promise of comfort: when you hunger and thirst for righteousness you will reach out to God. Then He will give what only He can give.

II. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HUNGER AND THIRST?

A. A Right Desire

1. It is intense

Both hunger and thirst are intense desires. The concept Christ spoke of in Matthew 5:6 was a more powerful concept in His culture than it is in ours. For the most part we don't know what it really means to hunger or thirst. Most of us have never experienced a drought. We think of hunger as an empty feeling we get when it's 1:00 p.m. and we are used to eating at 12:15 p.m.

A book written by Major Vivian Gilbert called The Romance of the Last Crusade (N.Y.: D. Appleton & Co., 1927) describes the British liberation of Palestine in World War I. Dr. E.M. Blaiklock related part of it in a magazine article: "Driving up from Beersheba, a combined force of British, Australians and New Zealanders were pressing on the rear of the Turkish retreat over arid desert. The attack out-distanced its water-carrying camel train. Water bottles were empty. The sun blazed pitilessly out of a sky where the vultures wheeled expectantly.

"'Our heads ached,' writes Gilbert, 'and our eyes became bloodshot and dim in the blinding glare.... Our tongues began to swell ... our lips turned a purplish black and burst ....' Those who dropped out of the column were never seen again, but the desperate force battled on to Sheria. There were wells at Sheria, and had they been unable to take the place by nightfall, thousands were doomed to die of thirst. 'We fought that day,' writes Gilbert, 'as men fight for their lives.... We entered Sheria station on the heels of the retreating Turks. The first objects which met our view were the great stone cisterns full of cold, clear, drinking water. In the still night air the sound of water running into the tanks could be distinctly heard, maddening in its nearness; yet not a man murmured when orders were given for the battalions to fall in, two deep, facing the cisterns.'

"He describes the stern priorities: the wounded, those on guard duty, then company by company. It took four hours before the last man had his drink of water, and in all that time they had been standing 20 feet from a low stone wall, on the other side of which were thousands of gallons of water.

"'I believe,' Major Gilbert concludes, 'that we all learned our first real Bible lesson on that march from Beersheba to Sheria wells.'" Blaiklock added, "If such were our thirst for God, for righteousness, for His will in our life, a consuming, all-embracing, preoccupying desire, how rich in the fruits of the Spirit would we be" ("New Light on Bible Imagery: Water," Eternity [August, 1966], pp. 27-28).

The Greek verbs Jesus used are powerful: peinao means "to suffer deep hunger," and dipsao means "to suffer thirst." Those are the strongest impulses in the natural realm.

2. It is continual

Grammatically Jesus expressed the two Greek verbs as present participles, which imply continuous action. He was speaking of those continuously hungering and thirsting for Christ's righteousness.

R.C.H. Lenski said that the hunger and thirst a person has for righteousness "increases in the very act of being satisfied" (The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1964], p. 189). Speaking of that same hunger Luke 6:21 says, "Blessed are ye that hunger now." If you claim a relationship to Christ but you aren't hungering and thirsting for righteousness, you need to honestly question whether you know Him.

C. The Biblical Model

1. Moses' desire

While Moses lived in the wilderness, God called to him from a burning bush (Ex. 3:2-4). When Moses drew near to the bush God said, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (v. 5). Moses saw the Shekinah glory of God in the bush. Later when God led Israel out of Egypt, Moses saw God's hand in the plagues. He saw God at work when the Red Sea parted for the Israelites and when the Egyptian army was destroyed. Moses knew what it was to hunger after God and be filled.

After Moses built the Tabernacle according to God's commands and God's glory took residence in it, Moses still wanted to see more of God's glory (Ex. 33:18). One would think he had seen enough! But Moses hungered to see and know more of God and His righteousness. That's what kingdom citizens are like: they can never get enough of God's righteousness.

2. David's desire

David was a man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). He walked in close communion with God. He wrote, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.... Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (Ps. 23:1-4). David personally experienced God's protection, care, and guidance. Zeal for God's house had eaten him up (Ps. 69:9). The pain that fell on God fell on him. In Psalm 63 he says, "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" (v. 1). David's hunger and thirst for God never diminished.

3. Paul's desire

Paul knew the Lord--he had seen personal visions of Christ on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:3-9), in the jail at Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-21), and when he was caught up to the third heaven, where he saw things too wonderful to describe (2 Cor. 12:1-4). He wrote many of the books in the New Testament, penning marvelous expressions of divine truth. It would seem he knew all of God he could ever want to know. Yet his cry in Philippians 3:10 was, "[Oh] that I may know [Christ], and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings." Before Paul was converted he had known the righteousness of the law (Phil. 3:6). After his conversion he counted that righteousness as worthless compared to knowing the righteousness of God.

In 2 Peter 3:18 we are exhorted to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." J.N. Darby, an early leader of the Plymouth Brethren movement, said, "To be hungry is not enough; I must be really starving to know what is in His heart towards me. When the prodigal son was hungry he went to feed upon husks, but when he was starving, he turned to his father" (quoted in Martyn Lloyd-Jones' Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, vol. 1, p. 81). Only God can satisfy that kind of desperation. Not until people hunger and thirst after righteousness do they seek the fulfillment God can give. Luke 1:53 says, "He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away." Those who are satisfied with what they have will not seek to be filled by God. They will remain spiritually empty.

The desire for righteousness is a tremendous hunger that knows no end. The psalmist said, "I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Ps. 17:15). Only when we see Jesus Christ will our hunger and thirst for righteousness be satisfied.

III. WHAT IS IT WE ARE TO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR?

A. Shun Superficial Happiness

Amos said that the people of the world "pant after the dust of the earth" (2:7). People hunger for happiness. One thing that has always amazed me is our society's orientation toward amusement. I'm not against Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, Magic Mountain, and other places like that, but many people think pleasure is the answer to their search for happiness. It's as though they have a painful disease they are happy to put up with as long as they have no pain. A doctor would be considered very bad if he could cure a disease but instead decided just to relieved its pain. Yet that is what so many in the world are like: they ignore the disease and the cure in a headlong rush to find an anesthetic.

Too many in the church today are seeking the same kind of remedy to their problems. Many Christians are searching for happiness through ecstatic experiences. They want a holy high. Some go to seminars or visit counselors with the hope of experiencing spiritual ecstasy. But that isn't what Christians who are in search of happiness are to look for.

B. Seek Spiritual Happiness

Many say, "I'm so miserable. How can I be happy?" Matthew 5:6 says, "[Happy] are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness." Happiness is a by-product of righteousness. It doesn't come from getting zapped with a holy high. Biblically, righteousness (Gk., dikaiosune) or justification means "to be made right with God." The only real happiness of enduring value is being right with God.

1. Salvation

Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness seek salvation. That righteousness is given when a person believes in Christ. At that point he will understand he is a sinner separated from God. He becomes broken in spirit, mournful, and meek. He wants to be restored to a right relationship to God and be forgiven, desiring to be freed from self and sin's power.

Righteousness is synonymous with salvation in many Old Testament passages. The prophet Isaiah repeatedly equated the two, noting that righteousness is a gift received at the moment of salvation (Isa. 45:8; 46:12-13; 51:5; 56:1; 61:10). Therefore we can use the word salvation as a substitute for righteousness in Matthew 5:6. It can thus read, "Happy are those who hunger and thirst after salvation." Those who want to be happy desire salvation--the cleansing that comes through the blood of Christ and the righteousness of Christ applied to all that believe in Him.

Only when a man abandons his self-righteousness and hungers for the salvation that comes only from God will he know true happiness. The Jewish people of Christ's time had a problem with giving up their self-righteousness. They thought they would gain salvation by their works. So for Jesus to say they didn't have true righteousness was an unbelievable shock for many.

Spiritual happiness belongs only to the holy. If you are unhappy it may be because you are unholy. To Christ's Jewish audience holiness meant conforming to certain rules. It was an entirely external affair. But Christ said, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:20). Even those who were externally the most righteous did not meet His standard. The Beatitudes strip away external self-righteousness and force us to look at who we are inside.

2. Sanctification

A person doesn't stop hungering and thirsting for righteousness once he is saved. A true Christian desires to be more and more like Christ. He desires greater purity and will never get to the point in this life where he thinks he has arrived. It is just as revolting to hear unregenerate people say, "We have saved ourselves" as it is to hear professing Christians say, "We have arrived." In Philippians 1:9 Paul says, "This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more." No matter how much you love you should love more. No matter how much you pray, obey God, or think like Christ, you should always want to do better (cf. Phil. 3:12-14).

Not Some But All

Christians don't seek bits and pieces of righteousness. They seek all the righteousness of Christ in their desire to be like Him. The grammatical construction of the Greek text of Matthew 5:6 shows that.

In the Greek language verbs like hunger and thirst are normally followed by nouns in the genitive case. In English, genitives are usually expressed by placing the word of before a noun. When a Greek person was hungry he would literally say, "I hunger for of food." That is a partitive genitive--a noun in the genitive case that indicates a person wants part of what is available. He wouldn't say, "I hunger for food" because that would mean he hungered for all the food in the world. Rather he would phrase his statement to mean he wanted enough food to satisfy his need.

However in Matthew 5:6 the normal use of the partitive genitive is abandoned. Instead the accusative case is used, which makes the verse read, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after all righteousness." The Christian is never satisfied because no matter how much righteousness he has he doesn't have all that is available. Like David he cries out, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Ps. 17:15).

Also, in Matthew 5:6 the definite article appears in the Greek text before "righteousness." Christians are to desire the righteousness--the righteousness of God.

Our hunger and thirst for righteousness begins with salvation and continues in sanctification. Jesus commended those who hunger after righteousness--not those who claim to possess it. Those who heard Christ preach Matthew 5 expected Him to say, "Blessed are those who possess righteousness." But He said, "Blessed are those who want it." It's been well said that such a desire is a thirst no earthly stream can satisfy, a hunger that must feed on Christ or die!

IV. WHAT IS THE RESULT OF DESIRING RIGHTEOUSNESS?

A. Blessing

B. Filling

Jesus said that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness "shall be filled." The Greek word translated "filled" was used of foddering an animal. Here it speaks of being completely satisfied. God will make us happy and satisfied.

From what we have already said, it may seem that a paradox exists: God will satisfy us but we will continue to hunger and thirst. I'm satisfied when I eat the lemon-cream pie my wife makes, but I always want more! The satisfaction one piece provides also increases my desire for more of the same. That is a picture of what righteousness is for the saved--the more we are filled with the rich, sweet taste of Christ's righteousness the more we desire it.

1. James 2:15-16--"If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled ... what doth it profit?" The word Greek translated for "filled" speaks of being really filled or stuffed. James was referring to physical food but Jesus was speaking of spiritual food.

2. Psalm 107:9--"For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness."

3. Psalm 34:10--"They who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing."

4. Psalm 23:1-5--"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.... [My] cup runneth over."

5. Jeremiah 31:14--"My people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the Lord."

6. John 4:14--Jesus said to a Samaritan woman, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst."

7. John 6:35--Jesus said, "I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger."

Christ brings satisfaction. Yet believers also have a blessed dissatisfaction that desires more of His righteousness. A person who belongs to God's kingdom has a consuming desire not for power, praise, or possessions, but for righteousness.

V. HOW CAN I KNOW IF I'M HUNGERING AND THIRSTING FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS?

A. Are You Dissatisfied with Yourself?

Thomas Watson said, "He has most need of righteousness that least wants it" (The Beatitudes [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1980], p. 124). Do you find yourself saying, "Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). Or are you self-righteous, thinking everyone else is wrong and you are right?

If you are in any sense satisfied with yourself you need to question whether you really hunger after righteousness. The pain of constantly falling short of God's standards characterizes those who hunger after righteousness. Believers need to hunger for righteousness as Esau was when he returned from a hunting trip (Gen. 25:32).

B. Does Anything External Satisfy You?

Do external things influence the way you feel? Do things seem to be better in your life when you buy something new? A hungry man will never be satisfied with flowers, music, or an encouraging speech--he will still want food. A thirsty man will not be satisfied unless he is given a drink. A hunger for righteousness cannot be satisfied with anything but the righteousness of Christ.

C. Do You Have a Great Appetite for God's Word?

Jeremiah said, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them" (Jer. 15:16). If you hunger and thirst after righteousness you will devour God's Word. The hungry do not need to be told to eat. Believers shouldn't have to be told to read and study their Bibles. If you have no desire to learn what Scripture says about increasing in righteousness, you are not functioning as a child of the kingdom should. Either you are being sinful or you aren't a kingdom child.

D. Are the Things of God Sweet to You?

Proverbs 27:7 says, "To the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet." You can tell if a person truly seeks righteousness when God brings devastation into his life. The hungry soul is still content despite the pain he is going through. Those who rejoice only when good things happen and react with resentment when things get rough do not hunger and thirst after righteousness--they are chasing after superficial happiness. Thomas Watson said that the person who desires righteousness "can feed upon the myrrh of the gospel as well as the honey" (The Beatitudes, p. 128).

Some know what it's like to be reproved by God or suffer greatly--they have experienced severe trials, pain, and anxiety. However I can tell you from personal experience that everything is still sweet in the midst of such circumstances. Everything is sweet to the hungry soul because God is making that person more and more righteous.

E. Are Your Hunger and Thirst Unconditional?

Matthew 19:16-22 is the account of the rich young ruler who wanted to know how to get into Christ's kingdom. However, his hunger was obviously conditional and he was never filled because he was unwilling to give up his possessions. If you want Christ and your sin or Christ and something else, you aren't hungering and thirsting after righteousness. A hungry man doesn't want food and a new suit. A thirsty man doesn't want water and a new pair of shoes. Psalm 119:20 says, "My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thine ordinances at all times."

Conclusion

Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? Isaiah said, "With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early" (26:9). David said, "O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee" (Ps. 63:1). The wise virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 had oil in their lamps before the bridegroom came. They were prepared because they thirsted.

Sadly, there will be people who thirst for righteousness when it's too late to do so. They will be like the rich man in Luke 16:24 who said, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:24). They will thirst when there can be no remedy. Thirst now and be filled.

Focusing on the Facts

1. Christ's words in the Beatitudes express the _______ for entering His Kingdom and the _______ __________of those who dwell in it (see p. 1).

2. What was Lucifer's ambition? How did God respond to him (Isa. 14:13-15; see p. 1)?

3. What was Nebuchadnezzar hungry for? How did God respond to his desire (Dan. 4:30-32; see pp. 1-2)?

4. What did the rich fool of Luke 12:17-19 want to do? What was he hungry for (see p. 2)?

5. How does Christ illustrate the necessity of righteousness in Matthew 5:6 (see p. 2)?

6. Where do unsaved people look for happiness? Explain (see pp. 2-3).

7. What do you need to ask yourself when you when you study Matthew 5:6 (see p. 3)?

8. Explain the progression of thought in Matthew 5:3-6 (see pp. 3-4).

9. What promises have been made to believers in the Beatitudes we have studied so far? (see p. 4)

10. Why could Abraham and David be confident enough to be meek (see pp. 4-5)?

11. What are we exhorted to do in Matthew 6:33? What will be the result if we do that (see p. 5-6)?

12. Why is it significant that Jesus used present participles for expressing hunger and thirst (see p. 7)?

13. Give examples of people in the Bible who had a continual thirst for God. Explain how they showed their thirst (see pp. 7-8).

14. What happens to people who are satisfied with what they have (Luke 1:53; see p. 9)?

15. When will the believer's desire for righteousness be fully satisfied (see p. 12)?

16. What do many people think is the answer to their search for happiness? What's wrong with that approach (see p. 9)?

17. What does the word righteousness mean? When does a person who hungers and thirsts after righteousness first receive it (see p. 9)?

18. What is righteousness synonymous with? Explain (see p. 10).

19. To whom does happiness belong? If you are unhappy what is likely to be the reason (see p. 10)?

20. How is the meaning of Matthew 5:6 affected by the fact that the partitive genitive is not used in that verse (see pp. 11)?

21. What does the Greek word translated "filled" in Matthew 5:6 speak of (see p. 12)?

22. Explain the apparent paradox in Matthew 5:6 (see p. 12).

23. How does a person who hungers after righteousness respond when God brings devastation into his life (see pp. 13-14)?

Pondering the Principles

1. How severe is man's need for righteousness? In many churches today it is said that all men and women are good-- some more than others--and need only the opportunity to show it. The idea is that somehow we are all Christians at heart. Vance Havner said, "We have too many casual Christians who dabble in everything but are not committed to anything. They have a nodding acquaintance with a score of subjects but are sold on nothing. 'Of course I'm interested in church--but with my club and my lodge and my golf and my bridge and my stamp collecting and my ceramics and my African violets, I just can't get too excited about religion.' Our Lord had no place in His program for casual disciples. It was all or nothing" (Pepper 'n' Salt [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966], p. 29). Man's need for Christ's righteousness is not to awaken him from a slight slumber-- it's to raise him up from the dead. A person who truly hungers and thirsts for righteousness realizes he is dealing with a life-or-death issue--not an interesting activity to be squeezed into an already busy schedule. Do you hunger and thirst like that?

2. Since hungering and thirsting for righteousness is the essence of a Christian, what place does sin have in a believer's life? Writer Jerry Bridges made this discovery while studying 1 John 2, "I realized that my personal life's objective regarding holiness was less than that of [the apostle] John's. He was saying, in effect, 'Make it your aim not to sin.' As I thought about this, I realized that deep within my heart my real aim was not to sin very much.... Can you imagine a soldier going into battle with the aim of 'not getting hit very much'? The very suggestion is ridiculous. His aim is not to get hit at all! Yet if we have not made a commitment to holiness without exception, we are like a soldier going into battle with the aim of not getting hit very much. We can be sure if that is our aim, we will be hit--not with bullets, but with temptation over and over again" (The Pursuit of Holiness [Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1978], p. 96). Arm yourself with righteousness and diligently avoid sin.


 

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C Y D L S L H T H A N S O
B C V E N O N E Y N G S T
N G V I T E H U R Y E E A
I L O V G U H T S I R L S
U P T N U O C C A T T B L
S S E N S U O E T H G I R
G L A D S A P V S T A H C
P N R S H A L L R R H A G
C N D N E V A E H C E E A
N U P T H E I R S G B P Y
L R V V Y L H T H R C L D

ACCOUNT HEAVEN SHALL
BLESSED HUNGER THEIRS
DISCIPLES INHERIT THEY
GENTLE PERSECUTED THOSE
GLAD RIGHTEOUSNESS  


 

E Y P D I S C I P L E S G I
A S H A L L S B R A V K B B
M O U N T A I N H N T N A B
T C G E N T L E Y M E R C Y
G D I I N H E R I T O H T K
L L I N S U L T S T H E Y I
P E A C E M A K E R S L I N
L S G D P E R S E C U T E D
E D M U L T I T U D E S D S
I I U G K G C K H U N G E R
E R I G H T E O U S N E S S
H E A V E N V B L E S S E D
U K A C C O U N T M O U R N
V T H O S E D T H E I R S K

ACCOUNT INHERIT PEACEMAKERS
BLESSED INSULTS PERSECUTED
DISCIPLES KINDS RIGHTEOUSNESS
GENTLE MERCY SHALL
GLAD MOUNTAIN THEIRS
HEAVEN MOURN THEY
HUNGER MULTITUDES THOSE


----

[1]Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 by Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. (Mt 5:6). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

[2] Vincent’s Word Studies

[3] Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible - Commentary

[4] Life Application Bible Commentary Series: Matthew

[5] Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament

[6] Powell, Ivor, Matthew’s Majestic Gospel

[7]Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 by Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. (Mt 5:6). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

[8] Vincent’s Word Studies

[9] Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible - Commentary

[10] Life Application Bible Commentary Series: Matthew

[11] Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament

[12] Powell, Ivor, Matthew’s Majestic Gospel

LXX Septuagint

[13]Green, J. B., McKnight, S., & Marshall, I. H. (1992). Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (737). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

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