The forth Beatitude is to hunger and thirst for righteousness. And if we do this we will be blessed by God and satisfied. So it seems, in the list, that we must begin by acknowledging our poverty of spirit (that we come to God with nothing). Then also we are to mourn over our sins. Then, thirdly, we are to be meek (or gentle) in our relations with others, being teachable and approachable. Now then, with this humble spirit, we are to seek God for every good thing we lack. We bring nothing good of ourselves, so we must seek it and desire it from God. Our own righteousness is of no value, so we must leave it, reject it. And we must then seek a pure righteousness from God. He will give it to us; but first He requires that we truly desire it. Thus we must be empty of self in order to be filled up with Him.
What is this hunger and thirst? What does it look like? Here are three descriptions all from the Psalms.
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for Thee, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God?
Here the picture is of a very thirsty deer, panting for water, desperate for a drink from the water brook. The deer is in deep suffering and agony of thirst. This is how we are to thirst for God. It is not to be just a thirst of body but of soul. It is to be a deep soul-thirst that continues until it is satisfied with the living water of His Spirit.
O God, Thou art my God;
I shall seek Thee earnestly;
My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
The picture here is of one thirsting for water in a dry and weary land—in a desert. Again here is a desperate situation. We are to seek God, to thirst for Him, when it seems that He is not near. There may be other sources of water nearby, but only God can truly satisfy us. So, we are to seek only Him. And even though He seems not to be near, we are to seek Him earnestly until we find Him and are satisfied.
They were hungry and thirsty;
Their soul fainted within them.
6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
He delivered them out of their distresses.
The picture here is of wanderers in the wilderness. They were so hungry and thirsty that they felt faint. Yet they continued on in their journey. And they cried out to the Lord until He delivered them. This is to be our attitude, to continue on even though we feel faint, and to believe that He will soon see our need and give us the water of His Sprit.
So this is the vivid picture of what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness. The next question we have to ask and pursue is how to acquire this attitude. How can I be one who is so desirous of God?
How do I begin to hunger and thirst for righteousness?
1. Since sin always blocks and is against righteousness, we must work to be free of sin. But it is not enough to say I want to be free of sin; I must also work at being free from the power of sin and the desire of sin. This should be a constant effort and prayer. And in your prayers, when God points out any area of sin, we should make it our priority to be rid of it. Thus, in doing so, we will open the door for the holy desire of righteousness.
2. Along with sin we should also work and pray to be free of self and self-righteousness. Note that self-righteousness is not righteousness. True righteousness is holiness and godliness and a God-presence. But self-righteousness is nothing more than a building up of self—a false belief in self. It is what makes hypocrisy and self-deception. And if this wall of self-deception gets big enough, it will block out any light of the glory of God and thus prevent us from obtaining a holy desire for God.
3. Avoid all things that will take the edge off of our spiritual appetite. We can’t create a holy righteousness inside of us; only God can do that. But we can avoid things that will prevent us from obtaining it. What are these things? Sins, worldly activities, or maybe just being too busy with non-essentials that tend to steer us away from what God wants of us.
4. Work and pray to know God and what He desires of us.
5. Put ourselves in the way of righteousness by what we do. Here are four things we can do.
- Put yourself around righteous people.
- Read the bible regularly.
- Pray regularly.
- Read biographies of holy people.
Well, these are just a few ideas of how we can develop a taste for righteousness and to really desire to be righteous like God. And if we develop that desire, that hunger and thirst for Him, He Himself will satisfy us. He will give us the living water of His own Spirit. Oh what a thirst quencher!
John 7: 37b-38
If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being will flow revers of living water.”