Month 11:22, Week 3:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5937:318 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Friday 21 February 2014
The Heart of Torah V
What Yah'shua Most Loves
4. Hungering & Thirsting
Continued from Part 3
- (1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- (2) Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
- (3) Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
- (4) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
- (5) Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
- (6) Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see Elohim (God).
- (7) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of Elohim (God).
- (8) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- (9) Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matt.5:3-12, NKJV).
Shabbat shalom and may the grace of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) be with you all as we continue today with our study the fourth of the nine beatitudes.
4. The Hungering and Thirsting
The Blessing of Hunger and Thirst
- 4a. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled (satisfied)" (v.6, NKJV).
- 4b. "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled...Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger" (Lk.6:21a,25, NKJV).
It may not at first appear obvious to us that to be hungry and thirsty is a blessing. The words 'hunger' and 'thirst' imply something negative to nearly everyone. We're hungry because we have a feeling of emptiness or weakness that tells us that if we don't meet this very basic need we're going to be in serious trouble health-wise. We might even starve to death or perish from dehydration. The drive, then, is good, because it warns us to take heed and take action.
The Two Possible Responses
That is not the end of it, however, because there are always two possible responses to this drive: we can respond in a way that will alleviate the need or make it considerably worse. If Yahweh has provided for a positive solution to the hunger you can be quite sure that Satan has provided a negative counterfeit. Responding to the counterfeit will kill us as well as not responding at all.
Hunger in the Plain: Level 1
The context of hungering and thirsting is not given in the Sermon in the Plain because the Master is here concerned about hunger itself. He doesn't specify what we should be hungering for. Rather, He wishes His listeners to recognise that there is purpose in being hungry and that if they will trust Him, they will be filled.
Hunger on the Mount: Level 2
The Sermon on the Mount takes the teaching to the next level. To have our hunger and thirst alleviated by trusting in Him implies hungering and thirsting for something in particular - righteousness.
What is the Quest for Righteousness?
In the English language, a quest for righteousness is the quest to be righteous, and to be righteous is to proceed from, or in accordance with, an accepted standard of morality, justice or uprightness. The standard of Yahweh's righteousness is His Law, the Torah. If we are walking morally, ethically and religiously in accordance with it, we are righteous in Yahweh's eyes. One who does this is blessed indeed. But it is impossible to do so until it is recognised that its absence leaves the soul in a desperate state of hunger and thirst that cannot be assuaged by Satan's counterfeits.
Constant Need, Constant Feeding
Why does Yah'shua (Jesus) link this need for the righteous life to that of the need to eat and drink? Because it's something that requires a constant intake and more than just once a day. Just as we have an inbuilt drive to answer to physical hunger and thirst, so we have an inbuilt spiritual drive for righteousness. In the absence of the drive we die, so the drive is blessed, but the greater blessing is the realisation, and understanding it is righteousness ingredient specifically.
Self-Will in the Short- and Long-Term
To be blessed is to have that daily desire to do the will of our Elohim (God) because we know deep down, even if we don't always remember why, that doing His will brings us the deepest and most lasting satisfaction of all. Though doing our own will will may be a major rival and competitor, and may bring a certain amount of pleasure and satisfaction in the short term, in the long term it leaves us even more hungry and thirsty.
Desperate for Yahweh
A casual, superficial or secondary interest in Elohim (God) to other things will not meet our need. Our interest in the divine can never be passive. It's not enough to be willing to let go of the world and its pursuits. To hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Yahweh-Elohim is describing an intense, consuming passion. Like those in despertate need of food and water, the true children of Elohim (God) are keenly and sometimes desperately eager for deep and meaningful relationship with El Elyon, the Most High.
The Blessing of Poverty
This is why affluent and wealthty nations rarely hunger for Elohim (God). And that is why it sometimes a blessing to be impoverished (the first Beatitude) if it will lead us to hungrily and thirstily pursue Elohim (God). Sooner or later we learn that the need to have our basic physical needs met cannot be separated from spiritual needs. Both are a matter of well being, and of life or death.
The key is the proper desire, and the promise of the Master is that whilst that hunger and thirst may not be fulfilled immediately, it will be in the future when the Righteous King returns and rules. That can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes. We read, do we not, of King David's frequent desperation as his needs are apparently unmet. The prophet Jeremiah seems to have had a miserable time of it most of his life. The righteousness he sought for his country he never saw in his lifetime.
The Need to be Right with Elohim
But really what Yah'shua (Jesus) is talking about is not just the national or the global reign of righteousness-to-come, but the need every man and woman has to have righteousness established within. We have a need not just to be right with one another but to be right with Elohim (God) too because separation or estrangement does not bring simcha (joy). How do we become righteous? By doing righteous deeds?
Human Deeds Like Filthy Rags
We can never get right with a qodesh (holy, set-apart) Elohim (God) by doing deeds of righteousness. Like Joshua the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) we discover to our dismay that we are wearing filthy spiritual clothing (Zech.3:3-4) and that all our efforts to 'change' into something clean are futile. Our attempts to be 'spiritual', 'holy' or 'righteous' by acts of self-will fail again and again:
The Road to Becoming Righteous
"But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags" (Isa.64:6, NKJV).
The word "filthy" here is the Hebrew 'ed and means 'menstrual flux'. Our attempts at being 'good' or 'righteous' are therefore likened to a soiled menstrual cloth - a used sanitary pad in modern parlance! So how do we become righteous in Yahweh's eyes? It is a process and understanding the steps is critical.
The Gift of Being Declared Righteous: Justification
First, comes the realisation that to be declared righteous by Yahweh is a gift from Him and not something presented to Him as something we have earned through good deeds. We have to be in possession of a heavenly endowment that is given by Yahweh without cost. It has to be received by man without any attempted payment. It only becomes possible for man to do righteous deeds after he has received the free gift of being declared righteosness (known as Justification) from the Heavenly Authority. And man can only receive that by the unconditional surrender to his life to Elohim (God). He totally, fully and willingly yields self-sovereignty.
Sanctification and Ultimate Glorification Through the Ruach
The gift of being declared righteous (the Heavenly Decree or Davar/Word which cannot be broken and is effective anywhere in the Universe and at all times) is accompanied by the gift of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). It is the Ruach (Spirit) who enables us to live in purity and righteousness as we make choices to do what is right. The effect of being conrolled and directed by the Ruach (Spirit) as we make daily choices to do good and by implementing the Father's Torah in our daily living, results in a progressive change of our spirits inside known as Sanctification. This becomes visible to others observing in us a character-change - we become more and more like Yah'shua (Jesus). And finally, when Yah'shua (Jesus) returns, we shall be changed - transformed - even more, but this time also in our bodies when we are physically resurrected. This completed transformation, inwardly in our spirits and outwardly in our bodies, in is called Glorification
From Theory to Existential Experience
Most Christians understand the theology of these things but struggle to find that passion or intense desire for that righteousness. Most of us, if we're honest, view all of this as something far off, distant, or intellectual, and not something to be easily grasped or made real in day-to-day life. It remains trapped in the realm of philosophy. So what do we do if we are just plodding on as fairly placid talmidim (disciples) and clearly lacking this hunger and thirst? Perhaps we were once, and have lost it. Or maybe we never experienced it. What are we to do to get hungry and thirsty? How is his passion for righteousness obtained? We most of us find it easy to say "Amen!" to it in our heads but how do we feel it in our hearts in the same way we feel a gnawing emptiness in our stomachs when we're hungry for food or parched throats when we're thirsty for water? How do we find the intensity?
From Commitment to Covenant Followed by Evidence
Though Yahweh most certainly does kindle sudden fires in us, both at the initial New Birth and subsequently after periods of stagnation, by far the most common and unpopular method (because we're spiritually lazy by nature) is through progressive yielding or surrendering of our yatsurim (members - Job 17:7) or spiritual limbs to Yah'shua (Jesus) so that they can become instruments of righteousness, directed and animated by the Ruach (Spirit). This can only start with a commitment to Yahweh's will, that is to say, a binding covenant. We learn commitment both at Yom haBikkurim which is represented in baptism which represents a general commitment to follow Messiah, and at Shavu'ot which is the covenant to follow the minutae or details of Yahweh's Torah in the mitzvot (commandments). Our obedience to these is the evidence that we actually meant our general commitment to be a talmid (disciple) of Messiah. Indeed, that's how we can test ourselves to see whether our initial commitment was real or just words.
The Journey and the Experience
The more we commit, the more the Ruach (Spirit) is poured into us and the more we are led into righteousness. And the more we are led into righteousness, the closer we live to the Master, and the more sensitive we become to the unrighteousness and injustice of the world. The more sensitive we become to these, the more passionate we come for the full manifestation of the Kingdom in our personal lives, in our marriages, in our families, and in our local fellowship, community, nation and the world. We may not be able to make much of an impact on the large scale but we most definitely can and should on the small. And when many are doing this, then there is an impact higher up.
Dealing With Spiritual Sluggishness
As we labour in this our called fields in life, so our longing for righteousness will grow and grow until we are on fire. When we grow sluggish, as we do when doubt or let carelessness set in, then repenting will result in the Ruach (Spirit) giving us a boost. Thereafter it's up to us to keep on making right choices, trusting in spiritual empowerment from on High, and bringing the Besorah (Gospel) of Salvation to everyone we can.
That is what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness and that is how we get to, and stay in, that blessed state of being always filled. Amen.
 Adapted from, Allen Ross, An Exposition of the Gospel of Matthew, the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)