“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
The other beatitudes have been causing us to look at ourselves and to examine ourselves; here we begin to look for a solution, and thus there is a slight change in emphasis. The others are intended to get us to this destination. After understanding his true condition, the Christian is one who bemoans and regrets and hates it all. Here we turn and look for the solution, for the deliverance.
This beatitude speaks of a strong desire, a driving pursuit, a passionate force inside the soul. Hunger and thirst represent the necessities of physical life. The analogy is that righteousness is required for spiritual life like food and water are for physical life. Thus, the approved of God have a single, all-consuming passion for being righteous before God.
What does righteousness mean? It means that you have a desire to be right with God. It means a desire to be free from sin because sin separates us from God. It is a desire to be free from the penalty of sin, the power of sin and even the presence of sin. It is the desire to be holy.
The present participle is used in each case and signifies continuous longing. Those who truly come to Jesus Christ come hungering and thirsting for righteousness (salvation), and those who are in Him continue to long for holiness.
I believe the truth of this verse to be revealed in Phil. 3:4-16. After salvation, all Paul hungered for was Christ. Before, Paul was trusting in himself to gain righteousness by his own achievements. But on the road to Damascus, that all changed (Acts 9). According to Phil. 3:4-16, it’s no longer about Paul and his accomplishments. He now hungered for Christ.
If you have no longing for righteousness, you had better initiate a careful analysis of your soul. Christ’s words are such a gracious test because each of us knows in his heart of hearts whether he really does long for righteous living. However, if you do hunger and thirst for righteousness, if the Lord has given you a holy discontent with your life, you have His smile!
The result of hungering and thirsting for righteousness is being satisfied. This term was frequently used of feeding of animals until they wanted nothing more. They were allowed to eat until they were completely satisfied. God is going to fill that inward emptiness. He is going to replace hopelessness with hope. He will replace meaningless life with a meaningful life. He will replace sadness, with joy.
The world only offers us empty cups. That is why are text emphasizes that “they alone (those who hunger and thirst) will be filled.” No one can know anything of satisfaction but a believer. The scriptures joyfully attest to the satisfaction that Christ brings:
“…for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)