Summary: The promise of this beatitude is that those whose lives are marked by a refusal to want anything second best or second rate, are the ones whose strivings are satisfied.
Good Enough is Not Good Enough
June 5, 2005
Today we are continuing the sermon series on the beatitudes and have come to the fourth: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase in “The Message” renders that verse like this. “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”
In other words, the blessed ones are those whose deepest desire is to claim the goodness of God and the salvation that God offers; to individuals, to the church, and to the whole world.
When you travel south from the Sea of Galilee along the Jordan River, you find yourself in the midst of a lush, green land which is rich with agricultural products that feeds much of Israel.
At Jericho, you can turn up the road that runs to Jerusalem. In just a few short miles,
you leave the valley and enter into the wilderness of Judea. Mile after mile, you travel through some of the harshest county in the world; a world of mountain, rock, sand, and blistering heat. Down in the valley, the water flowed in abundance. Here in the wilderness, water is scarce and becomes even more precious than gold.
If you decide not to go to Jerusalem, you can instead journey to the heights overlooking the Dead Sea. Here you will find the desert fortress of Masada. There, besieged by the Roman army, the last of the Jewish rebels died in the year 70. This is also the area of Qumran, the site at which was found the Dead Sea Scrolls.
From these desolate heights, you can gaze down on the huge expanse of water in the valley below. In our modern day, as we carry plastic bottles of water wherever we go, that sight doesn’t stir the same emotions that it once would have done.
Think about being in the midst of this wilderness with no water when, suddenly in the midst of the desert arises a lake, miles long and hundreds of feet deep. Imagine making your way to this lake to quench your thirst, only to discover that it is so salty that it is useless.
One of the things that I don’t like about swimming in the ocean is the salt water. I know that many people love the ocean, but the salt burns my eyes, and I hate to be all sticky when I get out. Toni loves to vacation in Florida. She loves the ocean and the beach. I usually confine myself to the swimming pool. The salt content of the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans or the Gulf of Mexico doesn’t compare to the salt content of the Dead Sea. That water is so thick, all you have to do is lay back in it and you float.
I remember walking along the shore and getting the legs of my jeans wet. They were stiff as a board when they dried because of all the salt.
So, as you stand at the heights of the wilderness of Judea overlooking the Dead Sea, that poem comes to mind: “Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.”
A couple of the psalmists paint a picture of the thirst of their souls, a thirst even greater than physical thirst in the desert. “O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God (Psalm 42:1).
Let’s face it. Sometimes our spiritual lives are as dry and dusty as the Judean wilderness. Sometimes we just can’t connect with God. Sometimes our prayers just don’t seem to rise beyond the ceiling.
Sometimes it seems as though God is far off. Sometimes our thirst for spiritual refreshment is so great that it seems to be beyond being quenched. Sometimes, we don’t even know how thirsty we really are.
The desert wilderness has taken root in the depths of our being. We don’t know where to turn or who to turn to. Sometimes we indulge in superficial promises of thirst-quenching or hunger easing, only to find them as worthless as the Salt Sea in the desert. When we are that thirsty, we look to the Bible.
The prophet Ezekiel speaks about the fresh river that flows into the Dead Sea making it alive once again.
“…I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east…This water goes down to the Jordan Valley where it enters the sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows” (Ezekiel 47).