Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Luke 6:21a
As with the last beatitudes we studied, we understand inner happiness, so we can move on to those who qualify for the wonderful happiness God has provided. The class, so to speak, of believer who will logically appropriate this inner happiness is described by two participles which express one concept. Both participles need to be understood figuratively, not literally. The first is the present active participle of PEINAO πεινάω translated substantively “you who hunger.” We can also translate this as “those who hunger,” “hungering ones” or “the hungry.” In this context it refers to a strong, avid desire for something that is a necessary for life, necessary for the live of the believer in Jesus Christ. The second participle, also in the present active, is DIPSAW διψάω, translated, thirst; again, used figuratively.
Let’s explore the figurative concepts of hunger and thirst. We mentioned that this is an intensive concept. Today, being hungry and thirsty isn’t much of a crisis to we Americans who, upon a bit of a hunger pang, can reach into the refrigerator and find any exotic food you care to buy then satisfy that hunger in a matter of seconds. I prepared in a matter of minutes Thai curry that was delicious! But, if you reached the point of hunger in ancient times, you then had to take the time to prepare it. By the time you’d finished preparing it, you really were hungry! Remember when Abraham was visited by angels, then offered them food? (Genesis 18:6-8) His wife had to bake the bread; his servant slaughtered and prepared a calf, not to mention pulling together curds and milk to serve. How long did this take? By the time you had the food, you would be desperately hungry!
Because these two participles are connected by the conjunction KAI καί, we may assume based upon Greek grammatical conventions, that they communicate the same figurative concept: desire for the Word of God. That hunger and thirst represent extreme desire for the relationship with God, the most extreme desire you have, which must be based upon His Word. The object of hunger and thirst is not only the subject of the rest of this verse but is also found in the Old Testament [A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew]:
Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Isaiah 55:1 HCSB
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:2
That both participles are in the active voice is very significant because it emphasizes that this desire comes from one’s person. You choose this. You desire that relationship with God beyond salvation which involves leaning and applying doctrine because you understand its importance and benefits. To a degree, this hunger and thirst becomes a part of your being as a result of your salvation. Upon your salvation did you want to know something of the God who died for you? However, unless you initially heed this desire by learning and applying doctrine you will squelch it by forming scar tissue in your soul. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ and you do not desire the Word, then you have formed scar tissue in your soul. You are in danger of ultimately leaving this world under the sin leading to death.
Matthew wrote that the object of this desire is DIKAIOSUNE δικαιοσύνη, righteousness. By definition, this term refers to “anything pertaining to the integrity of God, His righteousness or justice. ” It also defines the status of the believer in the three different categories of his spiritual life, because he is related to God. In the first category, experiential sanctification, every believer is declared justified or righteous because both the Father and Son have imputed His righteousness to him at the moment of salvation. The second category, of which this verse refers, deals with experiential righteousness and the pursuit of the spiritual life. The third refers to ultimate sanctification. This desire, then, does not refer to the desire for salvation but the desire to conform to God’s plan for you. God’s desire is for your spirituality and spiritual maturity. This only comes if you take the time to avail yourself to the concise systematic teaching of God’s Word coupled with the Spirit’s empowerment. You become experientially righteous when you are filled with the Spirit. You progress in your sanctification when you learn and apply Bible doctrine. The Apostle John related your happiness or blessing to knowledge and application of the Word:
If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. John 13:17
The next phrase, “shall be satisfied” comes from the Greek verb, CHORTAZO χορτάζω, in the future passive indicative. This is a “very strong and graphic word, originally applied to the feeding and fattening of animals in a stall…it is used of the filling of the birds with the flesh of God’s enemies.” (Word Studies in the New Testament) It means to be totally satisfied. After a good meal, you are stuffed! After a good sermon, you should be spiritually sated. This future tense, a gnomic future indicates that this is a logical progression. If you desire the Word; the righteousness it provides, then you will be happy and satisfied. The passive voice indicates that this is a totally grace procedure. All you bring is your desire, your use of God’s procedure to maintain your empowerment of the Spirit and God provides everything else in grace. You receive this satisfaction because of God’s grace.
Our interpretive translation of this beatitude sounds this way:
Inner happiness to those who strongly desire experiential righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6
The term “experiential righteousness” refers to the believer who is living within God’s plan for his life on earth. This believer is fairly consistently filled with the Holy Spirit and growing spiritually from learning and applying doctrine. Other categories of pertinent righteousness include positional righteousness and ultimate righteousness.