Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
~ Jesus Christ
The Beatitudes of Jesus is one of my personal favorite portions of scripture. In the Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus teaches though these Beatitudes, or “blessings.” Of these 8 blessings Christ expositions in His discourse, I want to zero in on the fourth mentioned blessing, “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” and I want to zero in on 5 signs of spiritual hunger from one of my favorite theologians, Puritan pastor Thomas Watson’s exposition of the Beatitudes. (Great last name, right?!)
Spiritual hunger is critical to our walk with Christ. The Word of God is literally food for our spirit, whereby we can grow into a mature believer (John 6:35; Ephesians 4:13-15). Jesus claims that He alone can bring sustinence and life as food for our spiritual man. Our friend Watson really shines in his exposition of the reality of this hunger for God and to be fed His truth.
Thomas Watson was an English, Nonconformist pastor of the early 17th Century. Educated at Cambridge, he was a very pithy writer, and you will see here how clear and descriptive some of his writing can be. Here are 5 signs of spiritual hunger, and we will touch on each of Watson’s points.
1. Hunger is a painful thing.
We see Esau, in Genesis 25:32, literally about to die of being famished with natural hunger. Watson adds:
So a man that hungers after righteousness is in anguish of soul and ready to faint away for it. He finds a want of Christ and grace. He is distressed and in pain until he has his spiritual hunger stilled and allayed
~ The Beatitudes, Thomas Watson, p.128
Our desire for the pure and sincere Word of God should make us hungry to the point that we must cling to Christ or perish. We must ever desire the sincere milk of the Word that we may grow (1 Peter 2:2).
2. Hunger is satisfied with nothing but food.
Watson on this point states:
Bring an hungry man flowers, music: tell him pleasant stories; nothing will content him but food…All is nothing without Christ. Shew me the Lord and it will suffice me…Nothing but the water-springs of Christ’s blood can quench its thirst. (p.128)
We cannnot be filled spiritually in monetary, temporal things, and idolatrous desires. Only the gospel of Christ is able to fill the hunger we have in our hearts. He is the only One who can sustain. He is our bread. He is literally our source of life. Nothings else can take His place.
3. Hunger wrestles with difficulties and makes an adventure for food.
Here is Watson, again, on point 3:
The soul that spiritually hungers is resolved; Christ it must have; grace it must have…the hungry soul is almost distracted till it enjoys the thing it hungers after. (p.128)
This point shows us how trials will come to steal the Word planted in our heart by Christ (Matt. 13). The hungry soul sees this as an adventure and a suffering to fight the temptation to sin, through the gospel of Christ alone, and allow Him to nurture the food He gives us by faith.
An hungry man falls to his meat with appetite.
Watson, contuinues his fourth discourse:
You need not make an oration to an hungry man and persuade him to eat. So he who hungers after righteousness feeds eagerly on an ordinance… (Jeremiah 15:16). (p.128)
Taking the sacrament of communion is not only a picture of God’s mercy and Christs sacrifice, but as Westminster says, we: “spiritually recieve, and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all His benefits of His death…” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 29, Article 7). We recieve spiritual norishment with gladness at the communion table. We should not only do so with puropse, but with genuine hunger for Christ’s forgiveness and strength as well. (I’m going to do some blogs on the Reformed view of Lord’s Supper at a later date. Hang tight!)
5. A hungry man tastes sweetness in his meat.
Watson’s final point:
He that spiritually hungers tastes the promises sweet, nay tastes a reproof sweet. A bitter reproof is sweet. He can feed upon the myrrh of the gospel as well as the honey. By these notes of trial we may judge of ourselves whether hunger and thirst after righteousness. (p.128)
We must be able to be content with what God gives us. Sometimes the trial is difficult. Somtimes it is joyous and light. God knows just what we need, and we must crave His Word alone in all situations. These are the marks of a mature Christian, who takes God at His Word alone and understands and allows it to govern their life. This is the heartbeat of Christian piety, hungering and thirsting for His Word alone as our food.