(Proverbs 4:18) The phrase “the path of the righteous” is the chosen steps that God has determined that we are to walk in, the way to God through Jesus laid out for each Citizen of Heaven individually, and yet we also get to walk our paths in parallel, beside other believers during parts of the path.
Righteousness is a path, which means that it’s not so much for standing still on. A path leads somewhere, which means that we’re meant to be moving along it.
Righteousness in the Bible has at least three aspects: legal, moral and social. Legal righteousness is justification, a right relationship with God that is only possible by faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.
Moral righteousness is that righteousness of character and conduct that pleases God. Right-living. Life as a Citizen of Heaven depends on an inner righteousness not achievable by human effort. It’s not about outer works, but the inner attitude of the heart, which will tend to overflow into outward acts of righteousness. Jesus is teaching us what true righteousness looks like. It’s obeying God and loving Him because He first loved us. It’s trusting Him to lead, knowing that He knows what’s best for us. And it’s this righteousness that we are to hunger and thirst after.
Social righteousness has to do with righteousness in dealings with others. The Old Testament is full of examples demonstrating that God is concerned with social righteousness. “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17). God is concerned about Justice, about liberating the oppressed, about integrity in our dealings with others, and conducting ourselves honorably in everything that we do.
If you’ve ever been really hungry or thirsty then you know how they are gnawing, immediate needs where it’s hard to think about anything else. This is the kind of desire for the righteousness found in Jesus that we’re supposed to have. It is an immediate need for righteousness and an awareness that we lack it in ourselves at the same time—which creates a hunger. We aren’t hungry and thirsty for something we already have in and of ourselves. In Romans 3:20 it says “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” It can only be satisfied by Jesus’ righteousness, His perfect righteousness.
Hindrances to this hunger and thirst include pride (lack of meekness), no desire to depart from sin (no mourning) and self satisfaction (not poor in spirit). We must continually let God keep us humble, continually mourn over sin, and refuse to accept anything but the true food to satisfy us. As Jesus said in John 6:54-55 54 The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. We must keep our hunger for Jesus, and not become complacent.
We, as the church, have been provided living water to quench our spiritual thirst, but so often we either take it for granted or refuse what the Lord provides for us. Self-made attempts and schemes designed to find spiritual fulfillment apart from the Lord will inevitably result in failure–they are doomed from the start.
In John 4:13-14, Jesus makes this point when He is talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, saying of the well water 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
One of the reasons that Jesus had so many hard words for the Pharisees is that their self-righteousness was blocking their way to true righteousness. By setting up all these rules that they could keep, they were guilty of the same self-satisfaction of their thirst that their ancestors were in the time of Jerimiah. And this self-satisfaction dulled their thirst for true righteousness. It is not enough to have experiences some momentary satisfaction in the past, we must continue to hunger for future righteousness.
For they will be filled
This word for filled (chortazo) means to be filled, completely satisfied. This spiritual hunger and thirst creates a longing for the day that it will be completely satisfied. And this is something that we only know in a limited way during our life on Earth. We get glimpses of it, we have moments of it, but we do not experience complete satisfaction of our hunger here, and we don’t have our thirst completely quenched here. It is not until we get to heaven that we will ‘hunger no more and not thirst any more’ because we will continually be in the presence of Jesus. David expresses it like this: As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. (Psalms 17:15) One day, this hunger and thirst will be satisfied, and we will be in His presence, in brand new ‘forever’ bodies, just like His. Or as it says in 1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.