Sermon: Guaranteed Satisfaction
Scripture: Matthew 5:6
In this week’s lessons, we learn of our need to hunger and thirst after righteousness, which only God through Christ can fully satisfy.
Theme: Hunger and Thirst
The third point of advice in Christ’s statement about how to discover God’s righteousness is that a man must desire it intensely. In Christ’s words he must “hunger and thirst after righteousness” if he is to be filled. Oh, how quickly these words pierce to the spiritual heart of a man! And how quickly do they separate real spiritual hunger from mere sentimentality and vaguely religious feeling! Since there is almost nothing in our experience today to suggest the force of Christ’s words, we must put ourselves in the shoes of his listeners if we are fully to understand them. Today almost none of us knows hunger, and few of us have ever known more than a momentary thirst. But it was not that way for Christ’s contemporaries. In the ancient world men often knew hunger. Wages were low, if they existed at all. Unless they were of the aristocracy, men seldom grew fat on the fruit of honest labor, and many starved. And in a desert country where the sun was scorching and sand and wind storms frequent, thirst was a constant companion. To such a world, hunger meant the hunger of a man who was starving, and thirst meant the thirst of a man who would die unless he found water.
It was against this background that Christ’s words were spoken. And they said in effect, “So you think that you would like to be pleasing to God, that you would like to taste of his goodness. Well, how much do you want it? Do you want it as much as a starving man wants food or a parched man wants water? You must want it that desperately in order to be filled, because it is only when you are perfectly desperate that you will turn to me and away from your own attempts to earn it.”
Several years ago, an article appeared in Eternity magazine by Dr. E. M. Blaiklock on the significance of water in the Bible, part of which is quite relevant here. The article was one in a series of articles on Bible imagery, and in one part of it Dr. Blaiklock referred by way of illustration to a book by Major Gilbert called The Last Crusade, an account of part of the British liberation of Palestine in World War I. Dr. Blaiklock wrote of the book,
Driving up from Beersheba, a combined force of British, Australians, and New Zealanders were pressing on the rear of the Turkish retreat over arid desert. The attack out-distanced its water-carrying camel train. The water bottles were empty. The sun blazed pitilessly out of a sky where the vultures wheeled expectantly.
“Our heads ached,” writes Gilbert, “and our eyes became bloodshot and dim in the blinding glare….Our tongues began to swell…our lips turned a purplish black and burst…” Those who dropped out of the column were never seen again, but the desperate force battled on to Sheria. There were wells at Sheria, and they had been unable to take the place by nightfall, thousands were doomed to die of thirst. “We fought that day,” writes Gilbert, “as men fight for their lives…We entered Sheria station on the heels of the retreating Turks. The first objects which met our view were the great stone cisterns full of cold, clear, drinking water. In the still night air the sound of water running into the tanks could be distinctly heard, maddening in its nearness; yet not a man murmured when orders were given for the battalions to fall in, two deep, facing the cisterns.”
He describes the stern priorities: the wounded, those on guard duty, then company by company. It took four hours before the last man had his drink of water, and in all that time they had been standing 20 feet from a low strong wall, on the other side of which were thousands of gallons of water. “I believe,” Major Gilbert concludes, “that we all learned our first real Bible lesson on that march from Beersheba to Sheria wells.”
If such were our thirst for God, for righteousness, for His will in our life, a consuming, all-embracing, preoccupying desire, how rich in the fruits of the Spirit would we be.1
Yes, and how many would become Christians through our transformed life and testimony!
1Eternity, August 1966, 27-28.
What does it mean to “hunger and thirst” for righteousness?
Why do we have trouble relating to what Jesus is teaching?
Reflection: What examples of “sentimentality” and “vaguely religious feeling” do people substitute for true spiritual hungering and thirsting?