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Aug 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 20, 2017 – Matthew 5:6

Troubled Souls In A Troubled World

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6

Intro: This sermon is very different from Jesus’ parables

Here he does not rely on analogies to get his point across
– he uses straight talk and real life examples
• prior to the sermon, Jesus had:
◦ announced that the kingdom of heaven was arriving
◦ demonstrated its supernatural presence (healing and excorcisms)
– now, in the sermon, he reveals how a person is shaped by kingdom of heaven
• in it we learn the practice that is essential to Christian spirituality
• the Beatitudes are a picture of the ideal citizen of the kingdom of heaven
◦ they are heavy with mystery
◦ this is, in part, because they are so contradictory to the values of society

The fundamental truth we must understand about righteousness

Righteousness is relational 
– the Greek word referred to a person’s obligations to God and others
• specific expectations were attached to every relationship
◦ there were “right” things to do in any given relationship

Paul gives us a flavor of this when he tells the Romans, Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor (Ro. 13:7). There is some sort of obligation inherent in every human interaction. Paul goes on to say, Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves the other has fulfilled the law (Ro. 13:7-8). Here is the ultimate righteous standard, to bring love into every interaction allowing it to guide our speech and actions. Love is the obligation that never goes away.

• in the Hebrew Scriptures, righteousness is often paired with justice
◦ the role that righteousness plays between two people is the role justice plays in society
• righteousness and justice are not only God’s will
◦ but he delights in seeing them practiced universally (Jer. 9:24)
– it would be difficult for us to feel the shock Jesus audience felt when he said,

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (v. 20)

• the scribes devoted their lives to copying, studying and interpreting the torah (law)
◦ the Pharisees devoted their lives to following the law and oral tradition
• Jesus is not saying his followers had to be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees
◦ it was not a matter of quantity, but the nature of their righteousness
◦ their problem was that righteousness is relational, but they made it moral and legal

In the first six verses of chapter (and all of chapter 23), Jesus provided clear examples of the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. For example:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Mt. 23:27-28)

◦ a moral righteousness keeps me concerned with myself and my actions
◦ a relational righteousness turns my attention to others and how I treat them

The kingdom of heaven is all about righteousness (cf. Mt. 6:33)
– Matthew’s entire gospel is a development of these combined themes
• the climax is near the end of the book, when Jesus describes the day of judgment

Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty, and give you something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Mt. 25:37-38)

– if I were to identify the focal point of my life, it would be–me
• what problem is upsetting me? How can I solve it?
◦ but it is possible to shift my focal point
◦ what problems do others have? How can I be a part of the solution to their struggles?
• have you noticed how you tend to be more objective, logical, and creative with another person’s problem
◦ perhaps if we do more for others, we will develop those skill
◦ then maybe they will work for us as well

Desmond Tutu, “I have sometimes said to people, when you are stuck in a traffic jam, you can deal with it in one of two ways. You can let the frustration really eat you up. Or you can look around at the other drivers and see that one might have a wife who has pancreatic cancer. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know exactly what they might have, but you know they are all suffering with worries and fears because they are human. And you can lift them up and bless them. You can say, Please, God, give each one of them what they need.”

The blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

There is a beautiful moment in Matthew 9:36 – Jesus is people-watching
– and he felt compassion for them because they were distressed and despairing,
like sheep without a shepherd
• who can look at our world today and be completely okay with it?
◦ the only ones I can think of are those who benefit from the world being as it is
◦ otherwise, there’s enough wrong to be oppressed by it

Lot was oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds) (2 Pet. 2:7-8)

• he was oppressed, because he knew what it was to treat other people right
– Jesus did not merely observe lost and needy people, he responded to them
• he responded with empathy and action – he told his disciples,

The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest (Mt. 9:37-38)

Violence is an indicator of unrighteousness – a world gone wrong

Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence (Ge. 6:11)

– national and international violence can reach a tipping point, where it is beyond fixing

Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh is before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them” (Ge. 6:13)

• animosity can fill the air, like a psychic pollution that grows by feeding on itself
◦ what is being done to effectively reduce the tension between the U.S. and North Korea?
• meanwhile, there’s more than enough violence in our nation’s homes and cities
◦ we don’t need heated protests that do nothing but generate more hostility
– who can watch all this and not hunger and thirst for righteousness?
• that is, for things to be right — and right between all people

Before this sermon, before the preaching and healing,
– Jesus had been in the desert fasting
• and after forty days, He then became hungry (Mt. 4:2)
◦ the devil appeared and tempted him to satisfy his hunger by magic
◦ Jesus refused
• I wish there were a magical solution to evil in world
◦ that God would wave a wand over the world and transform every human heart
◦ so that people were valued more than money and hatred would melt from the earth
– instead, we are left with this gnawing hunger
• hunger and thirst are stronger feelings than desire
◦ hunger and thirst are more intense and gut wrenching
◦ like pain, these are ways our bodies tell us something’s wrong,
that we need something
• if our hunger and thirst aren’t satisfied, we come to a state of misery
◦ we cannot expect the world to turn itself toward righteousness
◦ to put an end to corruption and fix and heal itself

What does Jesus do? He takes this need, this longing that we have,
– and he redeems it – he claims it for God
• he tells us to lay it before God and look to him for a solution
• he also tells us to participate in that solution by becoming righteous
– hunger and thirst are powerful motivations:
• for personal change–i.e., to begin with my own corruption
• for acts of compassion
• for intercessory prayer

Evelyn Underhill argued that intercessory prayer is an aspect of our spiritual life with a vast potential “which is yet largely unexplored by us.” In it, our “emergent will and energy can join itself to, and work with, the supernatural forces for the accomplishment of the work of God . . . .”

◦ this is not an activity that is merely human – it is divine

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Ro. 8: 26-27)
Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us (Ro. 8:34)
Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25)

– we learn from Christians of far greater spiritual depth than ours,
• that intercessory prayer turns not only our minds and hearts
◦ but also our will and our bodies
◦ our destiny is to become intercession in and for the world

Conc: The promise of this beatitude is, “for they shall be satisfied”

The only thing that can satisfy, is to one day see the world transformed
– what will be the first signs of that happening?
• what will be the first victories of the kingdom of heaven?
• the work that God does in my heart – in your heart
◦ what we want to see in the world must happen in us
– if we can sit in prayer with our hunger and thirst,
• our spirit will be joined with God’s Spirit
◦ our souls will be purified as we admit our complicity in the problem

Hunger and thirst make up another gate we pass through into the kingdom of heaven
– another way to connect with God and his will
• so we do not need to be afraid of the nightly news
◦ we do not need to repress the effect it has on us
◦ God means for us to feel it and to hunger for something else
• we have Someone to turn to when all the suffering people cause gets to us
◦ as with everything else, our first response is to take our hunger and thirst to Jesus

He tells our anxious hearts,
“Yes, I too feel this hunger and thirst.
Take My hand and we will feel this together,
we will be moved by compassion,
and then we will move the world.
Rest assured, there is hope.
For by My righteousness,
the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9)


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  1. Nancy Lope / Aug 23 2017

    Such important words. Sorry I missed it in-person, but thank you for posting the notes.

  2. JoAnna Tupman / Aug 26 2017

    Great to be back “in touch”… ahhhh! computers

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