H. P. Wotton
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5. 6.
I. The empty who are full
Here we see how opposed the world’s standards are to the teaching of Christ. The ungodly cannot think of hunger and thirst in terms of blessedness, and neither can many who say they are Christians. When did the reader last hear a sermon on this beatitude, if indeed he has heard one at all? There appears to be comparatively little spiritual hunger and thirst. This is because the empty have been full.
But what strange talk is this? Who are the empty who are full? They are those who are rich in things but poor in soul; rich in self-righteousness, self-esteem, and in other avenues of self-exaltation;
and so, though ‘He hath filled the hungry with good things; the rich he hath sent empty away’. (Luke 1. 53).
To be filled with things that are of no value to the soul is to be empty of the true riches. Which reminds me of the rich young ruler who appeared so eager to come to Jesus; but he came doing outwardly what he should have done inwardly. He came running, but his legs left his soul behind; he knelt at the feet of Jesus, but his kneeling was no true outward expression of inward submission, for at the call of Christ he was not prepared to part with his idol. He went away sorrowful, for we are told that he had great temporal riches. But his heart was the real cause of his sorrow; for it was so taken up with his riches that it blinded his eyes to the fact they were no more than an image of the real thing.
II. Those who have found out the truth
The people who hunger and thirst after reighteousness know the truth about themselves – that is, that they have no righteousness of their own. Truth makes men free, and it does so by first showing them that they are in bondage; and we are made to intensely desire righteousness by the Holy Spirit opening the eyes of our understanding to see the beauty and desirability of the things of God and of His righteousness. This creates an appetite for them just as the commercial world creates an appetite for the things it has to offer by presenting, through the advertising media, their attractions.
Pilate, when confronted with Jesus, asked Him, What is truth? He saw before him a man persecuted by His enemies and forsaken by His friends. But Pilate’s eyes were not opened to see the beauty of the character of Jesus. Had he done so he would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Pilate had not the Spirit of truth, and because of this he had no desire to know this perfectly righteous Man.
When the Spirit of truth enters a man’s life what a difference there is! Jesus said, ‘When the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear that shall He speak: and He will shew
you things to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you’. (John 16 13, 14).
III. The hungry and the thirsty
Many people have never known what it is to be hungry and thirsty because they have always had the means to supply their needs. On the other hand there are many parts of the world where people suffer from want of necessities, and there is no promise for unbelievers that their physical wants shall be supplied.
Adam and Eve may never have suffered from physical hunger and thirst. At least, they would not have done so before they fell into sin, when they were in the garden, where God had provided them with abundant provision for their physical health and well-being. But the foul fountain from which all the troubles of humanity flow is the fall of our first parents into sin, the results of which we inherit, including the evil of unsatisfied physical hunger and thirst. Though these things stem from the curse, spiritual hunger and thirst are a great blessing.
The curse of unsatisfied hunger and thirst came upon the human race via the sin of the first Adam, but the blessing of spiritual hunger and thirst comes to us through the redemptive work of the last Adam, the Lord Jesus, Personal experience of the blessing of this beatitude, as of the others also, is evidence that we have in interest in Christ’s great work of redemption.
‘As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God: my soul thirsteth for God, for the living God:
when shall I come and appear before God?’ (Psalm 42. 1, 2). Do you know anything of the psalmist’s experience?
IV. The Bread of Life
It was said of Marie Antoinette that, when she was told that the people had no bread, she said, ‘Then why do they not eat cake?’ But the Lord Jesus does not mock His people when they are hungry and thirsty. He has provided for them an abundant supply of the Bread of Life to satisfy their hunger and of the Water of life to satisfy their thirst. To hunger and thirst after righteousness is equivalent to a strong desire to feed on the Bread of life and drink of the living waters; and when we feed on Christ, who is the living Bread, the bread does not lessen, and when we drink of the waters that flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb we drink from an ever-flowing fountain.
Why is Christ the bread of life to our souls? He is so because of what He is to us and of what He has done for us. No man who is only man can be bread to a hungry soul. The reason for this is that God made man for Himself, and not man for man.
It is because Christ is God as well as man that He is able to be life to our souls. It is because we had no righteousness of our own that He was willing to take us into union with Himself in a bond that can never be broken. Because He is perfect God and perfect Man. He was able to keep the holy law of God that we had broken. He did it for us, so that His keeping of the law could be imputed to us, just as though we had kept it ourselves; and to pay the debt we
had incurred because of our sin. He bore our sins in His body on the tree. This is justifying righteousness, by which we live.
V. Living Waters
God has His own times and places in which to fulfil His purposes. When it is high tide in one place it is low in another. At one time there is an abundance of rain, and at another there is drought. Our sovereign Lord is in control of everything, for He ‘worketh all things after the counsel of His own will’. (Ephesians 1. 11). We read of the Lord Jesus that on one occasion ‘He must needs go through Samaria’. This was because near to the city of Sychar there was a well, where He would meet a woman and talk to her of the water of life, that water of which He said, ‘Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life’. (John 4. 14). This was no doubt the occasion, in the purpose of God, when eternal life entered into the soul of this Samaritan woman.
In the eighteenth century it was the fashion for people of wealth and leisure to spend at least a part of the year ‘taking the waters’ at the English spas. This they did at great expense; but during the same period many took advantage of waters that gave them new life and health without payment. ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money’! (Isaiah 55. 1).
The gospel of the grace of God was being preached by George Whitefield and others, and as they travelled from place to place they left behind them many who drank of the life-giving stream. For all who have not received it, and desire to do so, the water of life is still flowing. ‘Let him that is athirst, come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’ (Revelation 22. 17).
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him.
VI. A determined seeking
In the days of Noah, before the flood, the earth was filled with violence; and in the New Testament we read that as it was in the days of Noah so shall it be in the day of the Son of Man. Violence is often the outworking of a determined seeking, a hunger and thirst for the fulfilment of a personal, or, perhaps, political, end. God hates violence. ‘The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence His soul hateth.’ (Psalm 11. 5).
But there is a hunger and thirst, a determined seeking that the Lord loves, for it is written ‘the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force’. (Matthew 11. 12). Such violence is an earnest seeking of the kingdom of God and of His righteousness. It is to be found at times in the lives of real Christians; more so in the lives of some than of others.
It may be illustrated in the life of Billy Bray, ‘the King’s son’: for some time he had been seeking the Lord, when ‘everything else was forgotten in the intensity of his desire that the Lord would
speak peace to his soul’; but the day came when he was determined to press right into the kingdom. ‘When he got home on former nights he had not cared anything about supper, his anguish of soul being so great, nor did he this night, because a hope had sprung up in his heart, and with it a determination to press right into the kingdom of heaven. He said to the Lord, “Thou has said, ‘They that ask shall receive, they that seek shall find, and to them that knock the door shall be opened,’ and I have faith to believe it”. The result was that the Lord made him so happy that he could not express what he felt. He shouted for joy.
What a wonderful outcome of a determined seeking!
VII. Filled in time and in eternity
‘Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:
for they shall be filled.’ We know that all who come within the scope of this beatitude will be filled with perfect righteousness throughout the countless ages of eternity; but every child of God is filled according to his capacity here and now. During the course of his life his capacity is not always the same. We cannot expect to pour a quart into a pint jug; but though the pint jug continues to have the same capacity, the child of God is subject to increase of holiness and enlargement of heart.
John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, but this does not mean that the new-born babe had the same capacity as had the great forerunner, who in the wilderness of Judea, prepared the way for the coming of Christ by preaching the baptism of repentance. As he grew physically from a babe to a boy, from a boy to a young man, no doubt he grew spiritually also.
The apostle John wrote to believers according to their capacity. To little children, to young men, and to fathers, addressing each according to their degree of spiritual growth.
There must have been a great difference between the penitent thief on the cross, who went to heaven at second birth, and the apostle; but according to their capacity all God’s children will be eternally filled and eternally satisfied.