Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
What does Jesus really mean, to be thirsty for righteousness? What is righteousness and why is it a blessing to thirst for it? The word, “righteous,” here means to stand in the right way. Does this mean the religious, that have it all together with the Big Guy upstairs, get blessed? It makes sense that God being pure love must always bless His children. So, it makes perfect sense that the prosperous must be on God’s good side. Yet we see many examples of wealthy individuals who obviously are not seeking God. Then, why are they so blessed? There’s something we missed. What about the word here, “thirsty?” A quick word study in the Blue Letter Bible website reveals this definition, “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” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, 2019).
What does it mean to be thirsty then? Here in the Arizona desert, one summer season can drop even the strongest man without the life-giving, life-sustaining power of water. But thirst has more ways to be quenched besides water. If you have any teens around the home, you may already know more than one meaning of the word. I have three teen boys going to our local high school and I find myself often conversing with them about relational drama. Anyone who must have multiple relationships or must continually be in a relationship, regardless of the number of hookups and breakups, earn the name of “thirsty.” Of course, as young men, they are obviously not immune to the culture’s seductive lure, so we strategize what the best ways of maintaining focus might be. I will say my old eyes have been opened to the aggressive dating atmosphere plaguing their young existence (okay, well I’m 46 so whatever.)
I don’t know about you but, as I attended high school, I remember there being a preoccupation with relationships, but the atmospheric pressure was a little more secondary to school activities and/or hanging out with friends. Or was it? Growing up in the seventies and eighties was all about the top 40 hits and movies that were fast and furious before there was such a franchise. The phrase, “one-hit wonder,” was birthed out of what is now called the Retro Age. The music industry and the movies echoed relationships that promised forever and ever based on the youthful ego of now. Thinking more on it made me realize those events did show us wrapped up in the “perfect relationship” just like today. It’s funny how our memories tend to color facts to the point of diminishing the past’s reality. King David gives us a notable example of how easily we can forget past realities but more shows us what it looks like to thirst either for God or for others.
Some of King David’s most pointed contributions to scripture were written while hiding away from the then current king, King Saul. David had already been anointed king, so he had right to the throne, but his zeal for the relationship he had with God kept him from challenging the current king. He trusted God’s appointment to the position would eventually make his kingship a reality. Though, this was not to be in King David’s timing but God’s. In his self-imposed exile, he laments over the fact he cannot draw near to God’s presence in the Levitical Israelite way. An example like Psalm 42 shows David’s desire for God as it states, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2). This passion of his for God was incredible but later it’s revealed that passion can be distracted.
King David’s most touching readings of relationship with God are in Psalms, but his most infamous recording of passion is in 2 Samuel. It records that while the king should have gone out to war, he stayed back. There is no mention of why, yet, in the same passage he is shown to have adulterous passion for a neighbor’s wife. This thirst led to adultery, deception, dishonor, and murder. Tell me again why this man is called a man after God’s own heart? Before getting too consumed by the question, it’s wise to look at our own world. All around we see passion plays. We pay billions of dollars a year to be entertained by the latest superhero movies with emotional relationships woven throughout the genre. Media thrives on thirst. So, if thirst runs rampant throughout society, and we believe that God created us all, then it follows that He placed the thirst in us. Why? Isn’t calling Him our Savior good enough? If God was handing out insurance plans for those that want assurance of a heavenly destination where they can experience eternal selfish bliss, then I suppose that would be enough. But scripture doesn’t show God as a heavenly Circle K clerk. Nor does it show Him as a Zeus-like impersonal jerk who sets things in motion just to see how much trouble we can get into without Him.
The history we see in the lives of the Bible are earmarked by moments of greatness mixed with human depravity. Even after King David’s example, the line of kings that followed seemed to either cling to God through devotion or rail against Him in rebellion. In all cases, whether loyal or defiant, God shows Himself to the Israelites as long-suffering yet powerful. In the book of Isaiah, He longs for the people to be faithful. He knows what’s best for His love, even if they have gone astray, as He states through the prophet, “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:18). The prophet later reminds them regarding their ancestor’s common selfish nature saying, “They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; he split the rock and water gushed out. “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:21-22). Scripture shows they didn’t thirst for God but wanted their own way.
Repeatedly, we demonstrate how we hunger and thirst for anything but God, while over and over God shows He desires us. It’s not only our focus that needs redirecting but our definition of peace as well. Even though Isaiah was written some 2600 years ago, the message from God has not changed. A later portion of the book states:
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.” (Isaiah 55:1-4.)
The hunger and thirst we have aren’t really for food or water but for the Living God who created us and sustains us. We end up searching for other things to satisfy that need though. Here, God states through Isaiah that it’s the ones who unashamedly come to Him, those that are not able to purchase, that will be satisfied by what He provides. God’s providing faithful love identified like the Davidic relationship. I know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard this before so yeah, you’ve checked out. One more question though: got milk?
Of course, there are things that go together like Oreos and milk but what about good works and faith? For some people, doing good is easier than for other people, that’s plain to see. But is doing good what counts for being in a right relationship with God or is faith in God’s ability what counts to create appropriate works? The stories regarding the rich and the Kingdom of God in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18 all tell of the rich young man questioning Jesus about what he must do to gain the Kingdom of God. He had great wealth and lived religiously in a culture that elevated pious acts in a prescribed order to God status. Still, he obviously desired more since he continued to thirst. When Jesus told him the correct answer of selling all he had (losing all of his statuses that he made for himself) and follow Jesus (be in right relations with the King of the Kingdom he desired), the man’s response was natural, wrong, but natural. Most of the time we look at the wealth component of this story and see God saying we must be in poverty to experience God. Well, that may be true. Living in the wealthiest nation on the planet, we all might need to lose a lot of financial success to see God for who He really is. But the deeper point to this story has little to do with the amount of money. It’s much more about the desire for God and His Kingdom versus our desire for ours. What will we choose?
The issue of thirst did start at the beginning with Adam and Eve. But to say that they are to blame for the choices we make some six thousand years later is absurd. The only thing it proves is that like them, we choose to blame everyone else for our dumb choices. What of our children that have been handed the torch of thirst? We cannot make their choices for them, nor can we stop the incessant flow of temptations. As a father of six great blessings (yes, I have been thirsty too) I have found the best thing I can do for them is focused on my example. I conclude with this, for those of us who call ourselves Christian, where is the thirst for the One that first called us to Himself? For those who don’t call themselves Christian, what do you thirst for? For all involved, what do you find your mind bent on most of the time? What things have we all been allowing our hearts to crave? Whether we admit it or hide it, whether we celebrate or exhibit shame for it, the things we thirst after are the best indicator of whose kingdom we serve and who we really love. The choice is ours, what are we thirsty for?
Guest Discerning Dad