The Beatitudes: Those that Hunger and Thirst after Righteousneess

October 22, 2019

by Barry Fike

             The Hebrew text is the concluding sentence of an ancient Jewish prayer for forgiveness (selihah), which is said, according to the European rite, on the evening of the Day of Atonement and the days which precede it.  The prayer itself consists of a chain of biblical verses which are connected by words of the author.  The concluding sentence is as follows:  Thy people and they heritage, who hunger for Thy goodness, who thirst for Thy grace and who long for Thy salvation, will recognize and know that to the Lord, our God, belong mercy and forgiveness.  

              Words do not exist in isolation; they exist against a background of experience and of thought; and the meaning of any word is conditioned by the background of the person who speaks it.  Very few of us in modern conditions of life know what it is to be really hungry or thirsty.  In the ancient word it was quite different.  In Palestine the working man and the day laborer were never far from the border-line of real hunger and actual starvation.   The same with the man who in the desert would have his nostrils and throat filled with swirling sand until he was likely to suffocate and/or until he was parched with a great thirst.  What this beatitude talks of is the hunger of the man starving for food, and the thirst of the man who will die unless he drinks.  

              In accordance with the verses preceding this one the question asked is, “How much do you want righteousness which means salvation?  How intense is our desire for God to rule and reign in our lives? 

              “For the arms of the wicked shall be broken; but the Lord upholds the [consistently] righteous.  The Lord knows the days of the upright and blameless, and their heritage will abide forever.   They shall not be put to shame in the time of evil, and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.”  (Psalms 37:17-19)

              He whose arms, or power, is broken cannot harm others or himself. Whereas God does for the righteous what earthly wealth and human power cannot do: He Himself upholds them.  The life of those who love God with the whole heart is an object of His loving regard and of His observant providential care. 

               Righteousness is the word tsedakah in Hebrew.  Righteousness in English doesn’t have that much meaning.  It’s a poor translation almost always.  Tsedakah appears many, many times in the Old Testament text and is probably used in the sense of salvation more than the Hebrew yeshua is used.   It’s a great and powerful word that speaks of Gods salvation through his people. 

              Conspicuous among the features which distinguish the moral life is the eager desire to be as helpful as possible to one's fellow creatures who stand in need of assistance.  One of the two methods of charity in the Talmud is almsgiving, which is designated Tsedakah.  Its proper meaning is “righteousness”.  Assisting the poor is not an act of grace on the part of the donor, but a duty.  By giving alms he is merely practicing righteousness, i.e. performing a deed of justice.  All man’s possessions are but a loan from the Creator of the Universe, to whom belong the earth and the fullness thereof, and by his charity he merely secures a more equitable distribution of God’s gifts to mankind.  "Give unto Him of what is His, seeing that you and what you have are His; this is found expressed by David who said, 'For all things come of Thee, and of thine own have we given Thee'” (1 Chron. 29:14).  Nobody is exempt from the duty.  

               What does it mean that they shall be filled?  “In the days of famine they shall be satisfied.”  When is the day of famine, and what does it mean that they will be satisfied? 


"He knows the day of the upright and the blameless.

They’ll never be put to shame in the time of evil.  In the days of famine their going to be satisfied.

 I have been young and now am old, yet I have not seen the [uncompromisingly] righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread.” (Psalm 37:18, 19, 25)


“Wait and listen, everyone who is thirsty!  Come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Yes, come, buy priceless [spiritual] wine and milk without money and without price [simply for the self-surrender that accepts the blessing].  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread?  And your earnings for what does not satisfy?  Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness [the profuseness of spiritual joy].” Isaiah 55:1, 2  Amplified Bible

              Water, wine and milk are not the produce of the Holy Land, but figurative representations of spiritual revival, recreation and nourishment (cf. 1 Pet. 2:2, "the sincere milk of the word").  Since this is obtained without money and without price, their reception is being dependent upon nothing but a sense of need and a readiness to accept the blessings offered.  The way to true satisfaction is indicated in the words, “Hearken unto me": it is the way of obedience of faith.  In this way alone can the satisfaction of the soul be obtained.

“The poor and afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; they shall praise the Lord who [diligently] seek for, inquire of and for Him and require Him [as their greatest need]...”  Psalm 22:27 Amplified Bible

              Who’s going to eat?  The poor and afflicted!  It’s fascinating to see how each of these verses build on each other.  What does it mean to be poor in spirit, to be a spiritual mourner, to be meek and uncompromisingly righteous?  Those to be filled are the uncompromisingly righteous, who are hungering and thirsting after God's salvation (which is what filled means) because these are the people God saves.  Righteousness in Hebrew doesn’t mean holiness.  In a broad sense it is a synonym for salvation.  In a narrow, limited sense, (tzedakah) it means alms giving.   By alms giving he is merely practicing righteousness, i.e. performing a deed of justice.  


“Therefore thus says the Lord God, behold my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame.  Blessed are those who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness because these are the kind of people God saves.” Isaiah 65:13

              “Blessed...and to be envied - are you that hunger and seek with eager desire now, for you shall be filled and completely satisfied...Woe to you who are full now - completely filled, luxuriously gorged and satisfied; for you shall hunger and suffer want.”  Luke 6, 21, 25; Amplified Bible

              There are those in this life that seek their life and happiness primarily in material things.  They do not realize their soul’s need and do not acknowledge their dependence on God.  They are so self-exalted and so rich in their own eyes that they do not flee to Him, and thus remain spiritually poor and lost.  They labor under the delusion that they have no need of Him, thus they starve spiritually.

              The spiritually hungry and thirsty, those that are about to die, that realize a desperate spiritual condition and need for God in their lives. God will bring salvation, wholeness and completion, to their lives and set before them such spiritual food that they will be filled, satisfied and taken care of in the worst of circumstances.