Blessed are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for these will be satisfied.
In the Beatitudes we’ve looked at so far, there seems to be a theme: the poor, mourners, humble, and now the hungry and thirsty. In all of these there’s a sense of the oppressed, the downtrodden–those who are without material means, who have lost friends and lost ones possibly to injustice, those who are put down and neglected, and those who crave justice (another possible translation of the Greek word dikaosunê). For each of these, Jesus gives them hope. For the hungry and thirsty, he promises satisfaction. God does indeed present himself as the one who provides bread and water in Psalm 104, and Jesus encourages us to pray for our “daily bread” in Matthew 6:11. We could certainly take these passages as metaphors of God’s provision for our needs–including judicial or moral satisfaction. But to what extent can we say God guarantees this? There are many who love the Lord who go hungry, or who suffer injustice–and maybe even go to their graves without seeing relief from these conditions.
If you recall from the Gospels, Jesus’s disciples–and many others–believed the Messiah would be a warrior-figure who would lead his people against the Romans, tear down the oppressors, and establish a new kingdom in their place, where the ancient theocracy would be re-established. You can certainly sense this behind the disciples’ rebuke of Jesus when he would speak of his forthcoming execution at the hands of the Jewish leaders (e.g., Matthew 16:21-23), or their question about the establishment of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). But we know that’s not the kind of Messiahship Jesus had in mind, nor was the kingdom he spoke of one of physical dominion. So, while it is true that God will establish His people, giving them relief from oppression, and the restoration of justice, God’s plan is much more long-term than we might think. There will come a time when His kingdom will be established, the wicked will be punished, and the oppressed and persecuted will be rewarded for their faithfulness. But it will be in a way that is much more spiritually satisfying.
For that reason, I think it is better to consider this Beatitude in terms of “righteousness” than “justice.” And it is ultimately that righteousness before God for which we should hunger and thirst. It is the deer in Psalm 42 that we should emulate, thirsting after God as the deer thirsts after water. When he was tempted, Jesus resisted the satanic urging to transform the rocks into bread that he might break his fast, reminding Satan that man survives on the Word of God, not bread. Physical needs are easily taken care of–the hungry and thirsty can be satisfied with bread and water. But if that spiritual longing for the righteousness of God to reign in one’s heart is not present, there’s nothing anyone can do to satisfy that craving. Only God can do that. So it is imperative we look to God, yearn for Him and His righteousness. And His promise is that He will not fail us.
Proverbs 8:15-17 reminds us that it is by God’s power that king and princes reign and decree justice–they are incapable of good judgement apart from God–and that God loves those who love Him, and those who seek after Him diligently will find Him. There is no justice outside of God, and to seek after God is to seek after the only One through whom true justice can reign. And even if we don’t see it in this life, we know He will bring it about in His timing, when He declares an end to all things. But more importantly, we should seek after God with diligence. His righteousness should be our consuming passion. And we know that when we do this, we will find Him, and we will be satisfied.
Have a great week!