Summary: In the first three Beatitudes we are called upon to witness the heart exercises of those who have been awakened by the Spirit of God.
The Preaching of the King -4
The poor in spirit, those who mourn, and the meek are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. In the first three Beatitudes we are called upon to witness the heart exercises of those who have been awakened by the Spirit of God. There is a sense of need, a realization of nothingness and emptiness. There is a judging of self, a consciousness of their guilt and sorrowing over a lost condition. There is an end of seeking to justify self before God, an abandonment of all pretences to personal merit, a bowing in the dust before God. In the fourth Beatitude the soul is turned away from self to Another. There is a longing after that which the poor in spirit, those who mourn, and the meek know they don’t have but need.
There have been many questions about the word “righteousness" in this verse and most commentators has failed to grasp its fullness. In many Old Testament passages "righteousness" is synonymous with "salvation." In verse 6 of the Beatitudes "hunger and thirst after righteousness" means to yearn after God’s favor, image, and mercy. "Righteousness" is a term denoting all spiritual blessings: "seek you first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). In verse 6 "righteousness" refers to the righteousness of faith whereby a sinner is justified freely by Divine grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. As the result the believer stands legally righteous before God. As sinners we have constantly broken the Law in thought, word, and deed, and are utterly destitute of righteousness. But God has provided a perfect righteousness in Christ for all who believe.
Second, this "righteousness," for which the awakened sinner longs, is an inward and sanctifying righteousness. It is an intense desire of the soul. Just as in bodily hunger and thirst there are sharp pangs and an intense longing for their appeasement, so it is with the soul. First, the Spirit brings before the conscience the holy and uncompromising requirements of God. Next, He convicts the soul of its destitution and guilt, so that he realizes his spiritual poverty and lost condition and sees there is no hope in and from him. The Holy Spirit creates a deep hunger and thirst which causes him to look to and seek relief from Jesus.
There is a paradox in verse 6. Is it possible for those who have been brought into a vital union with Jesus who is the Bread of Life and in whom all fullness dwells be found hungering and thirsting? It is. Listen closely to what Jesus said, He said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst.” He didn’t say, “Blessed are those which have hunger and thirst.” Hunger and thirst for righteousness is the experience of the renewed heart
The promise “they shall be filled” has a double fulfillment: an initial, and a continuous. When God creates a hunger and thirst in the soul, it is that He may satisfy it. When the poor sinner is made to feel his need to be delivered from his lost condition, it is that he may be drawn to and led to embrace Him. He is filled with the peace of God which passes all understanding. He is filled with that Divine blessing to which no sorrow is added. He is filled with praise and thanksgiving to Him who has delivered him from his lost condition. He is filled with that which the world cannot give or take away. He is filled with the goodness and mercy of God, till his cup runs over. All that is enjoyed the one delivered from his lost condition has foretaste of what God has prepared for those who love Him: in the day to come. In that day we shall be made "like Him" (1 John 3:2). Then shall we be done with sin for ever: then shall we "hunger and thirst no more (Revelation 7:17).
This fourth Beatitude has been a storehouse of comfort to many a tried and troubled believer, by Satan-harassed believers, by those whose faith is little and weak. There are many in God’s family who sincerely long to please Him in all things and to live in no sin against their conscience, and yet they often don’t trust Him and doubt God’s mercy. Conscious of their doubting faith they question their position before God. Here, then, is Divine comfort for them, if they genuinely hunger and thirst after righteousness, Jesus has pronounced them blessed. Those who are displeased with their unbelief, who truly desire to be purged from distrust, long and pray for increased faith and assurance shall “be satisfied.”