Hungering and Thirsting

November 3, 2017

We live in a land of plenty. Fresh, clean running water is available at the tap. Grocery stores and restaurants abound. We hunger and thirst, but our needs are fulfilled so frequently and so easily, we forget how intense these longings can be. Such was not the case for the world in which Jesus spoke these words:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6 ESV

People lived a subsistence life, and travel could expose you to the dangers of thirst.

Kenneth Bailey tells the story of a trip to Bir Shaytoun in his book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. This famous well was located deep in the desert of southern Egypt so his expedition had to travel by camel. The temperature for the journey was 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. Unfortunately, there was no shade. To make matters worse, a water bag made of goat-skin leaked all of its contents. They ran out of water.

For a day and half they pressed on to Bir Shaytoun with the guide reassuring them that the well never ran dry. Bailey was concerned that the armed guards traveling with them might commandeer the camels and leave the travelers stranded in the desert and left to die. If there was no water in the well, they would die of thirst. His mouth became so dry that it was impossible to eat. Swallowing felt like rubbing two pieces of sandpaper together. His vision became blurred. It was arduous to keep moving. He writes:

As I staggered on, my mind turned to this verse and I knew that I had never sought righteousness with the same single-minded passion that I now gave to the quest for water.

Listening to his story makes vivid the longing that living in a world of plenty may dull.

Righteousness is doing what God requires. It is upright and moral living. I long to be pure of heart, and yet I deeply sense that I have not yet arrived. Bailey comments:

The statement presupposes that righteousness is something the faithful continuously strive after. The blessed are not those who arrive but those who continue, at whatever cost, in their pilgrimage toward a more perfect righteousness.

Let us hunger and thirst after righteousness because the God of mercy and love will satisfy.

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Peace LIke a River

July 5, 2013

With what are God’s requirements to be compared? Is God like a cosmic-Simon-says who is attempting to trip us up? Or is God more like a parent setting limits for the protection of his children? Listen to the instruction of Moses in Deuteronomy.

And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. (Deuteronomy 6:24 ESV)

God is not a killjoy. His commandments are for our good, for our benefit. I’ve witnessed too many times people who rebelliously go their own way making a train wreck of their lives. Even my own experience tells me that the instructions of scripture are good for me (even when temptations want to lead me another direction). Blessings come from the path of righteousness.

Moses had warned Israel of this, but despite this warning, Israel paid for their stubbornness with the Babylonian captivity. Judgment came against them. In the midst of prophesying judgment, Isaiah pictured God’s lament that it could have been very different if they had listened.

This is what the LORD says–your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:17-18, NIV).

They could have had peace like a river. The land of Israel does not have many rivers. The land is semiarid with only marginal rainfall in many places. The land does have numerous wadis or dry riverbeds that flow with the runoff from the rains, but those are not constant. The image of a river is a picture of abundance. They could have had peace that was abundant and constant — peace like a river.

Righteousness could have characterized their lives so that it was like waves on the shore. Waves are rhythmical and repetitious. There is always a new wave coming to shore. Again, we see a picture of abundance. What is it like to live in a community where righteousness is the norm — a place where you expect it just like you do the next wave?

What about us? Do we stubbornly go our own way only to reap the consequences of our sinful decisions, or do we have peace like a river? Let us discover the blessings of a humble walk with God.