Having been purged of the obsessions and slaveries of the world, our heart is freed. No longer sick on the candy of the world, no longer filled with fattening appetizers, the heart hungers for the true food of God’s Word, Wisdom, and Sacraments.

Through purgation, the Lord creates in us a desire for the better things. He also dilates (enlarges) our heart.

Hunger is very motivating. Seeking the illumination of God’s truth and righteousness is the usual result of a hunger that will not be satisfied by the snacks and empty calories of this world. Once one has read great literature, dime-store novels and formulaic sitcoms no longer satisfy. Higher forms are sought. Milk will no longer satisfy; the true meat of God’s truth is now necessary.

Now that God has purged us and we have reached this stage, He gives us a deepening desire for the very things He wants to give us: the righteousness and holiness of His Holy Spirit. Increasingly, we are satisfied, filled with God, because in our hunger we seek earnestly the things of God. We long for prayer and do not have to be dragged to it. We long for Scripture and the gifts of the Spirit.

Thus, we seek. And having sought, we find and are filled.

 
Everyone imagines their motives are pure. Ask anyone why he made a particular choice and they always give a righteous reason. You have never heard anyone say, “I did that just to be mean, ugly, and stupid.”

It would be good to look back over our past and say our actions are always blameless and full of good intentions. You already know we can’t. You faced that issue at the mourning beatitude.

Doing a dumb, angry, or revengeful act is painful in two ways. First, it is terribly embarrassing for your mistakes to show up in public. Next, bad results always come from bad acts. So you need to make righteous choices that translate into moral acts for you own sake. It makes life easier.

But that doesn’t always happen. The truth is that most of us are as Paul described himself in his letter to the Romans. “I do not control my own actions. I do not do what I want, but do what I would not.” Guilt and damage caused by this quirk of human nature makes your soul “hunger and thirst” for right choices and habitual righteousness.

Hungering is a discomfort caused by lack of necessary nutrients. Thirsting is a strong need for live sustaining fluid. Hungering and thirsting puts all other needs into the back of your mind. “I must,” we say, “get something to eat and drink, now!”

Built into us a hunger to be right. We want to be seen as righteousl. Righteousness is the food and drink of our spiritual health. It makes us comfortable. To be complete, we must be righteous: free from guilt, shame, and sin.

Being made righteous is to be set upright and in conformity with God’s laws. You can depend on God’s promise to grow His righteousness in you.
 
Justice and righteousness in the New Covenant indicate the fulfillment of God's will in your heart and soul. It is not mere observance of the law (Matthew 5:20), but rather an expression of brotherly love (I John 3:10). A continuous desire for justice and moral perfection will lead one to a fulfillment of that desire - a transition and conversion to holiness. This is true for all the virtues - if you hunger and thirst for temperance, you will head towards the goal you have in mind. St. Augustine called the Beatitudes the ideal for every Christian life! In his discourse on the Lord's Sermon on the Mount, he noted the correspondence of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and their necessity in fulfilling the Beatitudes. For example, one must have the gift of fortitude so one may be courageous in seeking social justice. 
 

Hunger and thirst denote the ardent longing for those virtues which constitute Christian perfection. He who seeks such perfection with ardent desire and earnest striving will be filled, that is, will be adorned by God with the most beautiful virtues, and will be abundantly rewarded in Heaven.

 

Matthew 5:6. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. The perfect answer of the Father's love to the various spiritual feelings and conditions of the children is most interesting and instructive. The riches of the kingdom are promised to the poor in spirit "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Divine comfort is the sure portion, in due time, of those who mourn — "They shall be comforted." And, as saith the prophet: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem." (Isa. 66:13.) The coming possession of the land of Israel is the promise held out to those who meekly bow to the will of God in the land of their strangership, and leave all their interests in His hands — "They shall inherit the earth." And to the fourth class, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, full satisfaction of soul is promised — "They shall be filled."

This is grace, and like the ways of the Lord in grace, from the beginning. His answer meets the felt need of the soul. He creates the desire that He may satisfy it. When the heart desires that which is good, we may be sure that His grace is there. As there is nothing spiritually good in the natural heart, the first, as every good desire after, must come from God. "I will arise, and go to my father," was the effect of grace working in the heart of the prodigal; and he was then as safe as when he was in his father's arms, though he did not know it. So that a good desire is the fruit of grace, and, in a certain sense, the possession of all that is desired. It is like the earnest of the inheritance.

Surely there is great encouragement in these facts to those who are earnestly seeking the Lord, as they say, but who are fearful and doubting as to whether they have found Him; whereas it is just the opposite; Christ has sought and found them, and is causing the heart to feel that nothing can ever satisfy it but Himself. The world, its pleasures, its riches, its society, are all too small to fill it. Even a Solomon found that all under the sun could not fill his heart. At the same time he is made to tell us, in his beautiful song, that a poor out-door slave finding the Messiah, or rather found of Him, her heart overflows with His love. "Thy love," she says, "is better than wine" — better to me now than all the social joys of earth. This must be the work of His grace. No true desire, we know, for the Christ of God can ever spring from our depraved hearts, and sure we are that neither the world nor Satan has put it there: from whence, then, must it come? From the grace of God alone. And the longing desires and expectations He has awakened He waits to fulfil. But He would have us to say with the Psalmist, "My soul, wait thou only upon God: for my expectation is from him. Heonly is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence: I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God." (Ps. 62) It is the word "only" in this beautiful psalm that so searches and tries our hearts. The Lord give us to weigh it up in His presence.

We conclude, then, from these reflections — and reflections they are, for very little is said about pardon, salvation, or redemption, in the Beatitudes — that every desire of the heart after Christ shall be satisfied for ever. So far this is true now. May the Lord awaken and draw forth many deep, earnest, longing desires after Himself, in these last and closing days. We will now return to our Beatitude.

As we are all well acquainted with the force of the figure, we can easily see its spiritual application. To hunger and thirst after righteousness evidently means an earnest desire of the renewed mind to do the will of God in this world; and this desire is increased from finding the world opposed to what is right in the sight of God — to righteousness. Hence the intensified feeling of hungering and thirsting. The effect of thus seeking to maintain that which is according to the will of God is great blessedness to the soul. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness." But though blessedness is the sure reward of righteousness, the righteous path will be one of great trial and many difficulties. The maxim of the world is, not what is right before God, but what is convenient, profitable, or suitable to self. What the mind of God may be on the subject is never thought of; and he who would suggest the inquiry would be set down as unfit for the practical realities of this life.

But this looseness of principle is not confined to the world; we find it in the professing church. How many things are introduced and practised there, with all the show of divine authority, and made terms of membership, which have no sanction in the word of God? So that he who would seek to maintain the authority and the glory of God. or in other words to walk in the paths of righteousness, either in the church or in the world, must meet with trial at every step. Grace must mourn when the will of man is in the place of the righteousness of God. The meekness, also, of the divine life will be in exercise, as looking up, and leaving all to God.

But whatever others may do, the maxim of the man of God must ever be, Is it right? Is it in harmony with the revealed will of God? Not merely is it most practical, most likely to gain the end in view, but is it right? "The righteous Lord loveth righteousness: his countenance doth behold the upright." (Ps. 11:7.) Righteousness, we admit, had a special place with the Jew who was under law, and who was to see that all things were done according to the letter of the law; but surely in the New Testament we have both deeper and higher principles than in the Old, and which were brought out, not so much in the Sermon on the mount, as after the death and resurrection of Christ; and a broader righteousness is looked for, just because we are to reckon ourselves as dead and risen in Him, and not under law, but under grace. Hence the apostle says, in Romans 6, "Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace."

As a test of the real character of much that we allow and do, it would be impossible to over-estimate the value of this short and simple question, Is it right? Not that we are to expect an express passage of scripture for everything we do or allow; but we may seriously inquire, is this in accordance with the revealed will of God in Christ? Are we sure that it has His approval? If not, what is it worth? It is worse than useless, it is wrong. It may be a religious observance, or an acknowledged principle in the affairs of this life; but if it has not the sanction of God, better give it up. To hunger and thirst after righteousness is the earnest desire to maintain what is right in the sight of God, though it may expose us to the opposition and oppression of the world, or to that of worldly-minded Christians.

But would not, thou mayest say, my soul — would not this seeking to walk in conformity to a rule or given standard tend to a spirit of legalism? Not in a christian point of view; on the contrary, the word of God is "the perfect law of liberty" to the divine life which we have as Christians. But this leads us to the root of this great subject, on which thou wilt do well to meditate deeply and prayerfully for a little while. Here thou wilt discover the secret of real, holy liberty.

The life of Christ, which is ours, as thou knowest, and in which we are to walk, can never dislike or be opposed to His word. The new nature delights in the words or commandments of Christ; they are but His authority to do what the divine life desires to do. Let us suppose a case. A young Christian, from the purest motives, has an intense desire to go to the prayer-meeting; this would be right — according to the mind of Christ — righteousness. But the way is not clear, he is under another. He quietly waits on God. By-and-by he is told to go — this is what his heart was desiring; he rejoices to obey; it is the law of liberty. The bent of his new life and the word of Christ are one. But take another example. A young Christian is indulging in a worldly state of mind; he is asked to go to the prayer-meeting, but he dislikes going; the will of his fleshly mind is opposed to the will of Christ; His commandments are not at present joyous, but grievous; they are not the law of liberty, but of bondage, he is most unhappy. Thus it is that obedience, walking in righteousness, is perfect liberty, holy joy, and divine power to the life of Christ in the soul. True, the Holy Spirit is the power, but we cannot separate the power of the Spirit from the authority of the word. The desires of the new life, the authority of the word, and the power of the Spirit, go together.

The first epistle of John, especially the second chapter, is a divine exposition of this great practical principle of Christianity. "Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." The words of Christ were the expression of His life when here on earth — that life is thine, my soul — that very life — wondrous, precious, blessed truth! And this shall be thy life for ever, and the basis of thy happy fellowship, and of thy divine intimacies, with Christ throughout the countless ages of eternity. "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." But, in the meantime, suffer His words so to guide and direct thee, that thou mayest walk even as He walked.

Before closing our Meditations on this beatitude it may be well to turn for a moment to Psalms 16,17. Here we have the same great lines of truth — life and righteousness — but in immediate connection with Christ and the godly remnant in Israel. In the former we have the path of life with God, and that through this world, through death, up to the fulness of joy in His presence. "Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." In the latter we have the path of righteousness in entire dependence on God. Absolute faithfulness in heart and life, both to God and man, marked the steps of Jesus through this world. "Hear the right O Lord," was His cry, and this should be the Christian's motto — "Hear the right, O Lord." His one grand object was to meet His Father's mind, to do His Father's will, and mark out a path for us, that we might walk in His steps. And here — the heart is proved, and the value of the word. "Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. Concerning the works of men; by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer." This could only be absolutely true of Christ, and only true of us in so far as we live the life of Christ. Nevertheless, we should be able to appeal to God as to the purpose of our hearts and the desire of our lives.

The Lord enable us by His grace thus to walk before Him, with proved hearts and consistent lives, notwithstanding the opposition and persecution we may have to bear. Hungering and thirsting after righteousness — after the whole mind and will of God in Christ Jesus, and practical conformity to the blessed path of the Son of man in this world — we shall surely be filled. This beautiful psalm, observe, begins with, "Hear the right, O Lord," and ends with the grand consummation, "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness." Glorious end! Shall it be thine, my reader? Pause, consider — hast thou faith in Christ? Is His life thine? His practical ways in this world thy delight? Wondrous, blessed hope! What is to be compared with it? To awaken from the long sleep of death, to arise from the ashes of the tomb, and come forth in the radiant beauty and the heavenly glory of the Lord Jesus, is a prospect worthy of thy deepest consideration now. Another, while I write, and a near neighbour, has just passed off the stage of time. His credit at the bank in this world is counted by millions, but, if that be all, many millions, could he take them with him, would not buy a foot of ground in the paradise of God, or one drop of cold water in the regions of hell. How many fall from the lap of luxury to the depths of eternal misery! Nothing can purchase the blessings of heaven, or deliver the soul from the doom of sin, but the precious blood of Christ. It is the sinner's only passport through the gloomy gates of death, and his only title to the mansions of glory. Prayers, penance, charity, with the devout observance of religious ordinances, may pass current in this life, but without Christ and His cleansing blood they are valueless, and must be rejected as counterfeit coin at the gate of heaven. The work that saves the soul is a finished work.

"See, 'sprinkled with the blood, 
The mercy-seat' above;
For justice had withstood
The purposes of love:
But justice now withstands no more,
And mercy yields her boundless store."

Yes, be assured of this, my dear reader, that. no good works are acceptable to God that are not the fruit of living union with Christ Himself. The branch that is wild by nature must be grafted into the true olive, and drink of the fatness of its roots, before it can bear fruit to the glory of God the Father. Have faith, then, in the blessed Jesus; trust His precious blood to cleanse thy sins away; trust to His holy word without a misgiving; and patiently wait His return, when He will do more and better far than thou hast either asked or thought of. "We are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26.

 
 
Daily Meditation by(c) 2013 Don Schwager
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