“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:6-8).
These words of Jesus stand in stark contrast to the opinions that dominate the thinking of our day. The hunger for money, the thirst for recognition, the desire for sensual pleasure, and even the longing for revenge are considered acceptable pursuits in the world. Man by nature does not hunger after righteousness but for whatever will give him some momentary satisfaction. But the one who thirsts after righteousness is blessed by divine grace to desire that which is of God and of eternal value. Jesus did not say that those who are full of righteousness are blessed. A sensible sinner could never find comfort or hope in such a message. Jesus taught that it is the one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness that is blessed.
The one who knows he is a sinner before a holy God hungers for that imputed righteousness which he knows he cannot produce.
How blessed indeed when we come to see that Christ is made unto us righteousness and we are righteous in him!It was previously declared that the mourner is blessed. So the blessing is not to the one who just acknowledges sin and grieves over it, but to the one who desires to overcome it and live righteously.Arthur W. Pink writes,
When God creates a hunger and thirst in the soul, it is that He may satisfy it. When the poor sinner is made to feel his need of Christ, it is that he may be drawn to and led to embrace him… “They shall be filled” with the peace of God which passeth all understanding. “Filled” with that Divine blessing to which no sorrow is added. “Filled” with praise and thanksgiving unto him who has wrought all our works in us. “Filled” with that which this poor world can neither give nor take away. “Filled” by the goodness and mercy of God, till their cup runneth over.
The Merciful and Peacemaking
As is the case with all good things, God is the source of mercy. After describing the disobedience of his people, Nehemiah 9:31 says, “For thy great mercies' sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.” Apart from his mercy we would all abide under his wrath forever. It is through his mercy that he saves guilty sinners. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).God can be holy and just and still be merciful because mercy is given through Jesus Christ who died for sinners. “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).
Those who have received mercy are inclined to be merciful. The one who is poor in spirit knows he has no claims on God and is shut up to mercy.
The one who mourns over his own sin is merciful to others. The meek, having a submissive spirit, are merciful. The soul that hungers for righteousness is ready to show compassion to others in need. The person who has found peace with God through Jesus Christ will look for ways to find peace with and between others. These are all birthmarks by which the subjects of the kingdom are identified.How might the merciful display that spirit? By feeding the hungry: “the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth” (Psalm 37:21). By caring for the suffering: “he brought him to an inn, and took care of him” (Luke 10:34). By forgiving those who have failed: “forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). By comforting those who are burdened: “that ye may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble” (2 Corinthians 1:4).Not only is the merciful man a blessing to others but he is greatly enriched by this merciful spirit. There is an inward benefit. Proverbs 11: 17 says, “The merciful man doeth good to his own soul.” There is a benefit in his walk with God: “With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful” (Psalm 18 25). There are benefits in the fullness of life. “He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honor” (Proverbs 21:21).While the merciful spirit is the result of the Spirit's work within, we are also admonished to be merciful. Romans 12:8 commends “he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.” And Colossians 3:12 further commands, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.”
The Pure In Heart
There is a problem with man's heart. Sometimes when a person has committed a great offence, a friend comments, “But he really does have a good heart.” No, that is the problem! The heart by nature is corrupt. The scriptures describe it as being a rebellious heart, a stony heart, and a deceitful heart. But by grace the heart is broken and a new heart is given. “I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever… and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me” (Jeremiah 32:39-40).
This transformation does not mean that one becomes sinlessly perfect.
Abraham was called the friend of God, but he lied about his wife while in Egypt. Moses was the meekest of all men, but he disobeyed God when he struck the rock. Peter was a disciple on the inner circle, but he denied the Lord three times. Paul strove continually to walk by faith in Christ, but he acknowledged that “evil is present with me.”So while the new birth brings new interests and desires, there is an ongoing sanctifying process in the life of the believer. In Acts 15:8-9 we read, “God which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as she did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” And Paul was strengthened by the confidence that “he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).The heart is not perfectly pure while yet in the body, but the day will come that the work is finished and there will be complete conformity to the image of Christ. While we are still on our journey here it is our duty to resist all that is impure. We are told to mortify all uncleanness, and have on the breastplate of righteousness.The pure in heart are blessed to see the Lord now. The psalmist writes, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18). Unconfessed sin blurs our vision of the Lord and shuts out our prayers. But the pure in heart, the soul that is sincere in serving the Lord, sees his beauty by the eye of faith; and one day when the heart is totally purified his people shall see him face to face.
We can see, even with just the three we’ve considered in this article, that these Beatitudes tie closely together and build on one another.
Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness find the food for their hunger only in the person and work of Jesus Christ; those who are trusting in Christ as their righteousness are led to resemble Christ in their lives, and are especially eager and purposeful to display the mercy and peace they have received, through Christ, to others around them; and those who are continually emptying themselves of anger and bitterness and selfish dealings toward others find their hearts being purified by grace.
May this chain-link progression of blessedness be yours. And it all begins with seeing first your need of Christ in order to be righteous before a holy God.