Lesson # 6
God's Plan for a Transformed Heart and Life:
Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
Merciful Heavenly Father,
You looked upon a world torn and bleeding from the ravages of sin "a world desperate for deliverance through the grace of a pure and holy God "a world hungry for Your love and Your redemption. In Your great love for us You sent your Son who spread open His arms to embrace Your poor lost children as the Roman soldiers nailed His hands to the Cross. He allowed His Body to be torn open so Your children might receive nourishment for their journey through this life with the promise that Your Son's very flesh and blood would give us what we needed to reach eternal life in the next. Come to Your children, beloved Holy Spirit and guide us in our study of the Law of the New Covenant people of God. We pray in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
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BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
The Wisdom of God
personified in the Old Testament: Approach me, you who desire me, and take
your fill of my fruits, for memories of me are sweeter than honey, inheriting
me is sweeter than the honeycomb. They who eat me will hunger for more; they
who drink me will thirst for more. Ecclesiasticus 24:21 (29)
(in the Old Testament wisdom was defined as knowledge of God)
St. John's vision of the righteous elect standing before the throne of God: Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, "Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?" I said to him, My lord, you are the one who knows.' He said to me, "These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they stand before God's throne and worship him day and night in his temple. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun nor any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:13-17
For the eyes of
the Lord are on the righteous and his ears turned to their prayers..
1 Peter 3:12
Matthew 5:6: Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Denying our own "self-sufficient spirit" we yield to God in "poverty of spirit", acknowledging that we need Him in our lives and in childlike faith we take our place at the foot of His throne. As we draw closer to God we become aware of our sinful nature; we mourn our sins and the sins of the world, and in repentance and atonement we are purified. Our desire is now to surrender our lives and experience spiritual renewal as we strive to submit ourselves to His will, offering our lives as useful tools in the hands of the Master of the universe. As a result of yielding to Him in meekness and humility we want to be more like Him "our souls hunger and thirst for righteousness just as our physical bodies need food and drink for us to survive physically. The fourth Beatitude is a pivotal step in our spiritual journey. In this Beatitude we move from what we need to give to God to the miracle of what God plans to give to us.
Please read Ezekiel 18:5-9
Question: How did the Old Testament prophets define righteousness?
Answer: As defined by the Old Covenant prophet Ezekiel a righteous man or woman was one who:
The Law of the Sinai Covenant contained more than the basic Ten Commandments. The whole body of the Law is found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In the covenant obligations given by God to Moses in Leviticus chapter 19, the Children of Israel are commanded in Leviticus 19:2b to Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, AM holy. This command to holiness is also understood as the path to "righteousness", being "right" with God, under the Law.
Question: In Leviticus 19:18b; and three times in Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:1 & 30:6 the commands of the Covenant are summed up in two commands which Jesus will repeat in the Gospel accounts of His ministry (see Matthew 5:43 and 22:37-40; Mark 12:29; Luke 10:29-37). What are these two commands that summarize the entire Old Covenant Law and which will also be the sum of the New Covenant Law?
Answer: These commands contain the basic principle of the whole Mosaic Law:
The Old Covenant prophets of God defined a righteous covenant believer as one who loves God with his complete self: heart, soul, and strength; who demonstrates that love by keeping God's commandments, and who extends the love to God in acts of charity to others. In essence, a righteous believer totally submits his/her will to be in complete "rightness" with the will of God. The righteous believer's desire is to ever increase in the wisdom of God which, according to the writer of Ecclesiasticus, in the Old Covenant, one can never be filled or satisfied (also see Ecclesiasticus (Ben Sirach) 24:21 which is quoted in introduction to this section).
Jesus' definition of "righteousness" is one who "hungers and thirsts" in this beatitude. In St. Jerome's commentary on the Gospel of Matthew concerning this beatitude, he writes that Jesus is not suggesting we have a legalistic "letter of the law" desire for righteousness but that we should ardently seek righteousness as necessary to our spiritual life as food and water are necessary for our physical life. Jesus has raised the bar in His demand for "rightness" with God "it is not enough to merely submit with a regimented obedience to the Old Covenant Law, as the Pharisees interpreted the path to salvation. In the New Covenant we must actively, diligently, and relentlessly seek righteousness as though our very life depended upon it; for indeed it does.
How did the disciples and Apostles understand this call to righteousness? The answer is found in how "righteousness" is defined by the New Testament writers of Sacred Scripture. In the New Testament the Greek adjective dikaios [dik'-ah-yos], usually translated as "righteous" or "just", and the Greek noun dikaiosune [dik-ah-yos-oo-nay'], usually translated as "righteousness" but also translated as "justification" are both defined as the character or quality of being right or just without prejudice (see Strong's Concordance # 1342 & 1343). In Old English the word "righteousness" was formally spelled as "rightwiseness", which is more descriptive in its meaning of "right being with God." In Romans 3:1-8 St. Paul uses the Greek word for "righteousness" to denote an attribute of God.
Please read Romans 3:1-8.
Question: How does Paul use the word "righteousness" in this passage?
Answer: The context of St. Paul's passage shows that "the righteousness of God" (verse 5) is defined as His covenant faithfulness, His truthfulness, and His desire to interact with all men "attributes consistent with His own nature and the covenant promises as expressed throughout Sacred Scripture.
As St Paul continues in Romans chapter 3 he discusses man's universal bondage to sin, in Romans 3:9-20, and then in 3:21-31 he addresses justification [dikaiosune] apart from the Old Covenant Law. In verses 21- 30 St. Paul uses the words dikaios and dikaiosune, translated as "righteousness, "righteous", "justified", "will justify" , and "justification" nine times, but the key verse is Romans 3:25.
Question: How many times and in what verses does St. Paul used the words "righteousness", "righteous", "justified", "will justify" or "justification" between Romans 3:21-31, and how does St. Paul define righteousness in Romans 3:25?
Answer: He uses this word in verses 21, 22, 24, 25, 26 x 3, 28, & 30 (English translations may not reflect the literal translation). In verse 25, St. Paul addresses God's righteousness as exhibited in the death of Jesus Christ. The connection between Christ's Passion and God's righteousness demonstrates God's holiness which finds expression not only in His covenant faithfulness and truthfulness, but in His condemnation of sin.
Note: repetition of words in Scripture is usually significant. Numbers have significance beyond their numerical value in the Bible. The number nine is usually seen as a number indicating judgment. If you include the use of this Greek word for "righteous" or "just" in verses 4, 5 & 11 St. Paul uses this word in its various forms 12 times. 12 is the number of perfection of government. For more information on the use of numbers in the Bible see the document The Significance of Numbers in Scripture in the Documents section.
This connection is also seen in 2 Peter 1:1-2 St. Peter's greeting to the universal Church is: Simon Peter, a slave and Apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of equal value to ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, may grace and peace be yours in abundance through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
Question: How does St Peter identify "righteousness" in his greeting to the universal Church?
Answer: Peter identifies "righteousness" as the righteous action of God with sin and with sinners founded upon the sacrificial death of Jesus the Christ.
This is a key teaching in the New Testament. Righteousness as expressed by the Gospel and Apostolic writers for the most part is expressed as the gracious gift of God to mankind where all who have faith are bathed in the blood of the Lamb of God whereby they are brought into the "rightness" of their relationship with the Most Holy Trinity. Righteousness for New Covenant believers is then linked to Christ's sacrificial death on the Cross. Righteousness is linked to a state of grace "the grace freely given through the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
Question: Is it possible for any man or any woman, other than Mary of Nazareth, to be in their own human nature truly righteous without Christ? Mary was saved by Christ at the moment of her conception when she was conceived without sin to be prepared to be the future holy Tabernacle of God the Son.
Answer: No. He was the only "righteous" man ever born of woman "Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah, Son of God, the King of Righteousness. It is through His sacrificial death that we are freed of sin and freed to a "righteous" rebirth into the family of God in which, empowered by the action of God the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments, we strive to continue in a "righteous" relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
FOR THEY SHALL BE SATISFIED
Blessed are they
which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.' Now
He calls those parties, lovers of a true and indestructible good. They will
therefore be filled with that food of which the Lord Himself says, My meat is
to do the will of my Father,' which is righteousness; and with that water, of
which whosoever drinketh', as he also says, it shall be in him a well of
water, springing up into everlasting life.'
St. Augustine, The Sermon on the Mount, Book I, chapter II, 6
for they shall be satisfied.
This beatitude has a promise that is also a consequence if the blessing is not fulfilled. If we aren't righteous, we won't be "satisfied" or as it is in some translations, we won't be "filled". Each of the beatitudes, unlike the 10 Commandments, is given in a positive statement and yet a negative is implied if the blessing is not fulfilled. The implications of realizing this implied negative in each beatitude is much more serious when one considers what will be lost if this spiritual perfection is not achieved.
The Greek word which is translated as "satisfied" or "filled" is chortazo,[ khor-tad'-zo; with the Semitic "tz" dipthong], meaning "to gorge, or to supply food in abundance; feed, fill, satisfy" (see Strong's Concordance #5526).
Question: Who is the "righteous One" who satisfies as no one else can satisfy and who fills us as no one else can fill us?
During the Byzantine era of the early Church a pelican wounding its breast to feed its young became a symbol of the sacrifice of Christ in giving us the life-giving blood that flowed from His side to nourish the Church. This self-sacrificial love Christ gave to us and the kind of love He called us to give to each other, " love one another as I have loved you" [John 15:12b]. The image of the Christ sacrificing Himself for the children of God compared to the pelican mother sacrificing herself for her young is reflected in the ancient hymn Adoro te devote: O loving Pelican! O Jesu Lord! Unclean I am but cleanse me in Thy Blood; of which a single drop, for sinners split, can purge the entire world from all its guilt (In Conversation With God, volume 5, Francis Fernandez, page 346).
In his book, Applause From Heaven, author Max Lucado tells a moving story that illustrates this kind of self-sacrificial love. On December 7, 1988, 55,000 people were victims of the worst earthquake in the history of Soviet Armenia. Susannah Petroysan and her daughter, 4 year old daughter Gayane, had gone to Susannah's sister's house, planning to make Susannah a new dress. Susannah's sister's apartment was on the 5th floor of a 9-story building. When the earthquake struck Susannah just had enough time to gather her daughter in her arms before the floor gave way beneath them and they fell into total darkness. The entire building collapsed, and when Susannah regained consciousness she was in complete darkness. She heard her daughter crying in her arms and reaching above her head she felt a tomb-like concrete panel 18 inches above their bodies. Hours passed without any sign of rescuers coming to their aid. Gayane began to cry incessantly that she was thirsty. As time when by, the little girl's cries began to grow weaker until her mother realized it was likely that her child would die of dehydration before rescuers could find them. In desperation she felt around in the rubble and miraculously found a jar of Blackberry jam. Hours later the jam was gone and the little girl was still crying. "Mommy I am so thirsty, please Mommy give me something to drink." But there was no juice, no water, nor any liquids of any kind available to save the life of her child. In desperation she cried out to God to help her save her daughter. It was then that she realized that she did have something she could give her child. She had her own blood. It was all she had so in her love for her child she slashed her fingers with some glass from the jam jar and she gave her daughter her very life's blood to drink to keep her child alive. Eight days after the earthquake they were rescued. Susannah had saved her child's life through the gift of her own blood.
Answer: Sacrifices under the Old Covenant could only offer temporary solutions for sin "only God could offer the eternal solution. The blood of an animal was not perfect enough to remove the stain of sin from a fallen humanity. God saw mankind fallen into darkness and suffering under the wreckage of a world demolished and entombed by sin. His children were crying out and so He answered their cry by sending His Son to satisfy their cries with the perfect sacrificial gift of His life's blood.
And so, for His children thirsting for salvation God the Son gave them from His perfect sacrifice on the altar of the Cross, His very blood to drink and His very flesh to eat that they might have eternal life. This is the turning point in the Beatitudes. Up to this point the focus has been on the most basic aspects of our relationship with God. Up until now the focus has been our need: our need for God, our need for repentance, our need for humility. Now the focus is union with God. The focus turns to Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity and our desire for God Himself coming to us in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, God will give Himself completely to the soul who hungers and thirsts for Him "He will give Himself completely in His body, blood, soul and divinity. He will come to us as the Bridegroom giving all of Himself to His Bride, the Church.
The Turning Point: The fourth step on the road to salvation and the fourth promise:
Blessed are those who hunger
and thirst for righteousness and
seek to receive the King of
Righteousness à to be filled
by Christ in the Eucharist
Questions for group discussion:
Question: There is always warfare between the material and the spiritual "between what the world interprets as pleasurable for us and what God tells us is righteous behavior. Nothing material is inherently evil; it is the application of the material that can be used for evil and not for the good. The amount of money we have isn't as important as our attitude toward it and the way we use it (see 1 Tim 6:10, Lk 12:48, and Mat 6:24). What is your attitude toward your money and material possessions?
Question: Why does Christ give Himself to us, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Most Holy Eucharist?
Answer: The Eucharist fulfills Jesus' promise to be with us always, until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Being united to the humanity of Jesus in the Eucharist we are at the same time united to His divinity. He gives Himself to us in this way as spiritual nourishment for our journey through this life to Heaven just as God gave the manna and the life-giving water to the Children of Israel in their desert wandering on the way to the Promised Land "He gives to us because of His great love for us. God's whole plan for the salvation of mankind is directed toward our participation in the life of the Most Holy Trinity "the communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Question: When does this sharing in the life of the Trinity began and how does it progress through our faith journey?
Answer: It begins with the Sacrament of Baptism when by the power of God the Holy Spirit we are jointed to Christ in rebirth, no long sons and daughters of Adam but adopted sons and daughters of God the Father. This supernatural life is strengthened and increased in the Sacrament of Confirmation and is nourished and deepened through our joining with Christ in the Eucharist where through eating and drinking the glorified Body and Blood of Christ we become united to the person of Jesus through His humanity and His divinity: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him (John 6:56). The result is that we are drawn up into the eternal relationship of love in the Trinity of the Most Holy God with the promise that, at the end of our journey, if we preserver in faith and obedience, we will enter the eternal kingdom of our Father.
Question: How often are we to receive Christ in the Eucharist; the minimum and the recommended; what are the restrictions against receiving? See CCC # 2042; 1343;
Question: Is the Eucharist necessary for our salvation? Read John 6:41-58 (verse 57 is the key) and CCC #1324-27; 1341-44; 1389-1396; 2180.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.