Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Here’s a quick recap before we dive into the fourth Beatitude. The Beatitudes are Jesus’ intro to the Sermon on the Mount, right at the beginning of his earthly ministry. The Bible says Jesus went about preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and this sermon, these beatitudes, are the outline of the gospel of the kingdom that he will preach to thousands for the duration of his time on earth. He begins with “blessed are the poor in spirit.” The road to salvation begins here. No one will ever seek God and His righteousness who is self-righteous. First we have to recognize our spiritual poverty. Then, after we recognize how destitute we are apart from God, we mourn because we realize that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. In realizing that we are poor in spirit, and subsequently mourning, we become meek — humble and gentle. Rather than praying loudly and proudly in public like the Pharisee in Luke 18, we are like the tax collector who beat his chest and said “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” We become meek because we realize that we have no right to demand anything of God.
At this point, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” This is a logical progression. Having realized that we are poor in spirit — empty spiritually, we see that only God and His righteousness can fill us up and make us spiritually rich. We cannot fill ourselves. So we hunger and thirst for His righteousness. Note Jesus’ usage of the words “hunger” and “thirst.” Hunger and thirst are desires that we must fulfill or else we die. As physical beings, we understand this perfectly. But as spiritual beings, unless we see our need for God’s righteousness and begin to hunger and thirst after it, we cannot live spiritually.
John chapter 6 records the time that Jesus fed 5000 men, along with women and children. Having received a free meal, the crowds followed him, and tried to get him to repeat the miracle. They were only wanting free food, not the words that Jesus spoke to them. But Jesus said this to them in verses 53-59,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
After Jesus said these things, the Bible says that many of his disciples turned away and did not follow him any more. They weren’t hungry for spiritual bread. They only wanted a full belly. They were only interested in what Jesus could offer them in physical realm of Here-And-Now.
The word Jesus uses in this beatitude translated “righteousness” is dikaiosunē. It means “divine approval” or “what is reckoned right by the Lord.” This is the word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 5 when he says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” At the moment of salvation, then, the righteousness of Jesus is credited to our account. We become, in him, the righteousness of God. And while salvation does have a one-time aspect — Ephesians 1:13 says that at the moment we believe, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit — it also has an until-we-meet-the-Lord aspect. Colossians 2:6-7 says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” As we received Christ, so we walk in him. He becomes our daily bread and our daily water. And again, Peter speaks of ‘growing up into salvation’ (1 Peter 1:23-25, 2:1-3), “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk of the word, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Having been born again, having begun to hunger and thirst for righteousness and for the life of Christ, we can never go back to merely hungering and thirsting for physical stuff. At salvation, a massive priority shift begins to take place, and where once we were consumed with this world, with the here and now, with the cares and worries of this life, we now ‘seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.’ What a promise Jesus gives here: “for they shall be satisfied.” Physical things can never truly satisfy. Not only does Christ satisfy our true need, but His supply is limitless. Just as the Israelites received fresh manna from heaven every day, so we receive fresh grace and fresh food from His word without measure. The Lord still calls as he did in Isaiah 55:
"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 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."