Heart of a Shepherd’s Wife
A Devotional Thought from The Shepherd’s Wife
We continue our study of the blessed in the Beatitudes.
Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness
– Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
The Master focused on an important but often misunderstood concept, that of righteousness. Those who read this article may be familiar with the word righteous or a form thereof. We hear it in sermons, sing it in hymns, speak it in conversations, and include it when we teach. Though familiar to most readers, it may not be a functioning part of daily life.
In this passage, the Greek definition for righteous [righteousness] means observing divine laws, upright, virtuous, and keeping the commands of God. To be unrighteous is the opposite definition: failing to keep God’s commandments (1 John 3.4).
In ancient times, a righteous person who faithfully lived by God’s commandments was called a Tzadik. You may remember the name Melchizedek, which means a righteous king. The root letters that form tzadik are the tzadei, dalet, and qof. If we take a brief look at the meanings of each letter, we find the first letter tzadei, refers to a righteous person and references the Creator. The dalet represents a door, gate, path, and judgment. The qof symbolizes enduring, ancient, circular, horizon, and time.
Another writer says the qof refers to holiness. [Holiness is English for kedushah, which means set apart in nearness to God]. When we combine the three Hebrew letters, they form the root for tsadik. However, we must allow Scripture to assist in understanding to gain greater clarity.
The person who followed the Lord’s Commandments (Torah) was known as being righteous and walked God’s path with honor. We find an excellent example in the book of Luke. The gospel writer says of John the Baptist’s father and mother, “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1.6). As a priest, Zacharias committed the Law to memory. He carefully lived according to the Commandments, not out of legalism but out of love.
To be righteous is not to be robotic. To be righteous means we live above base humanity, focusing on pleasing the Lord according to His prescribed Word. God and His Word are everlasting and immutable; they do not change (Ps. 119. 86, 144, 160). Therefore, we should remember that righteousness in ancient times is no different than it is today.
As the Master taught the disciples, He associated blessing with righteousness. Perhaps the Master hoped to awaken their understanding of the deep roots of righteousness with deep pangs of hunger and thirst – their stomachs. We later observe the disciples making decisions based on food or the lack thereof. More on that later, but not much has changed in 2,000 years.
We may think that a person of “religious” stature has standing with God, but that is a fallacy of man’s judgment. Being a disciple did not positionally constitute righteousness; Judas is an obvious example. The best quality for a disciple is not external position but internal righteousness, which manifests outwardly.
Pursuing and walking [following, living] like the Master was the aim of the mountain message. But lest we become insensitive and narrow-minded, no man is perfect in the fullest sense of the word. A disciple must follow the Lord out of love, diligently studying to walk in His established ways.
Consider Jeremiah, who was more than a prophet; he was also a priest. Being a priest required committing the Torah to memory, which Jeremiah would have done. As a priest, Jeremiah had many conversations with the Lord. During one such exchange, Jeremiah basked in God’s Word, later writing that it satisfied beyond physical sustenance (Jer. 15. 16). Jeremiah’s deep love for the Lord compelled his hunger and thirst for righteousness. As a prophet, Jeremiah shouldered the task of warning his rebellious nation of impending doom. He wept for his fellow man who walked far from God’s instruction and lived precariously close to being carried away by marauding enemies.
– Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Did you know there was no offering the sinner could bring to the Tabernacle or Temple for willful sin? No one could flagrantly demand mercy. The sinner humbly presented himself before the priest, whose duty was to grant mercy based on repentance.
Mercy is a godly trait.
The lesson on mercy was new territory for the disciples. The Master even nicknamed two disciples sons of thunder or thunderbolts, which may have addressed their quick-charged tempers. Each disciple needed these godly attitudes, but the truth they heard during the mountain message required time to settle into their spirit and affect their lives. There would be many opportunities to decide whether they would extend mercy. One such opportunity came many days after the mountain message. We read,
“And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, “This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes” (Matthew 14. 15 – 17).
Initially, the disciples failed.
They lacked mercy and compassion for the crowd, preferring to send them away. We can loosely interpret their excuses in our modern vernacular in some of the following ways:
Send the people away; they won’t find food in this desert. Send the people away; it’s getting late, we’re hungry and tired. Send the people away; they have money, let them buy their own food. Send the people away. It is foolish to think we could feed thousands with five loaves and two fish! Send the people away, just send the people away.
Had the disciples forgotten so quickly? Did they not remember the mountain message? Did they not know the goal was righteousness, not physical bread? Did they not know the Master WAS the Bread? Had they not heard that to receive mercy (compassion), they would have to show mercy? Were these disciples oblivious that the Lord was in that desert place? How sad. The disciples focused on the negatives, lacked faith, and forgot the Master’s presence and power. In their humanness, they made judgments and spoke as though they were in charge.
Mercy is a kindness every person needs.
It is a benevolence every person may grant. Without mercy, we are hopeless. Without mercy, we are a prisoner. Without mercy, we are forsaken. Mercy is a necessary trait for those who seek righteousness.
Again, we focus on Jeremiah, the faithful prophet. He wrote in Lamentations that God’s mercies are new every morning! Think of that! Mercy is a sustainable, renewable resource. Mercy supplies never run out! Jeremiah wrote about God’s mercies with deep conviction. Perhaps he was recalling a near-death experience when he later wrote of how God’s Word nourished him. Do you remember that Jeremiah was cast into a dungeon? The ruling establishment didn’t like his message, so they brought him to the court and sentenced him to a dungeon prison. The guards lowered Jeremiah into a dark hole by a rope and then walked away to leave him in solitude and darkness without sustenance. This righteous, honorable prophet-priest physically sank into the disgusting mire mixed with excrement, rank with decomposition, and rife with disease.
Jeremiah was forsaken.
Yet, the Lord had mercy on Jeremiah, and I believe he found sustenance in that filthy pit because he pursued righteousness. Employing his only available means, Jeremiah rose above his circumstances, drank from the Well of Living Water, and ate the Bread of Life. Lifting his voice to echo throughout the grim prison walls above him, he cried out, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts” (Jer. 15.16).
Jeremiah did not fail. He found the Lord in the desert place, was filled, and abundantly blessed.
To be continued.
Copyright © 2023 – Sheilah Smith
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