Righteousness, 2 August 2020

Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
Blessed: The Beatitudes
Matthew 5:6

Series Big Idea: The greatest sermon in history is radical, revolutionary, and relevant.

Big Idea: You are blessed and satisfied when your passions are for God, righteousness, and justice.

NIV: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

The Message: 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. (Matthew 5:6)

What are your greatest passions? What do you love to do? What are your hobbies. What do you sing about? What do you dream about? What do you cry about?

As we continue in our series on the Beatitudes—the blessings announced by Jesus—Matthew chapter five verse six says,

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

Have you ever been hungry? I mean really hungry! Maybe you were fasting, financially broke, or simply unable to find food. In those moments, you’d consider eating just about anything…and do just about anything for food!

One of the most famous stories of hunger involves two brothers, Jacob and Esau. As the firstborn, Esau was in line to receive a great inheritance, a birthright. In Genesis 25, we read…

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom) (Genesis 25:29-30)

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” (Genesis 25:31)

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” (Genesis 25:32)

But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. (Genesis 25:33)

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:34)

This may have been the worst trade in human history. Hebrews 12 condemns Esau for his stupidity, trading his birthright for a bowl of stew. He must’ve really been hungry!

Jesus and others have gone without food for forty days, but we cannot live long without water. Can you think of a time when you were thirsty? The body aches. The mind can go fuzzy. Our energy drains. There are times when we’d do almost anything—and maybe should do almost anything—for a drink.

In order to understand our scripture for today, we need to think about deep hunger and deep thirst, about craving. The word I used to begin this morning was passion. What really matters to you? What are you devoted to, committed to, willing to do most anything to obtain?

For some, their passion is their work. They’ll spend crazy hours at the office (do you remember when people worked at offices instead of their homes?!), ignoring their family, sometimes destroying their family for the sake of a promotion.

There are people whose passion is their hobby. It might be sports, travel, games, music, shopping, or exercise. They devote their time, money, thoughts, and energy toward them.

website listing the most popular hobbies as

5. Fishing
4. Going to movies
3. Family time
2. Watching tv
1. Reading

Family can be a passion, spending time with one’s spouse and/or kids.

We need hobbies. It’s great to have passions. There’s nothing wrong with self-care and entertainment. We need breaks from work. But remember,
anything you want more than God is an idol. It’s easy to make even good things the most important thing.

Many of you know I have four prayers for First Alliance Church:
direction, protection, unity, and passion.

Obviously I don’t want us to have just any old passion, but a passion for God and the things that matter to God. I pray that Jesus would be our LORD, our Master, our King, our Leader, the object of our greatest passion, love, joy, and desire. When Jesus is LORD, we want to spend time with him, we want to worship, give, serve, and love.

About twenty years ago I was leading a church in Ann Arbor and asked a friend to consult with us. I wanted to find my blind spots as a leader and do whatever possible to help the church flourish. He suggested a tool called Natural Church Development which I think was used at FAC, too. After assessing our church, my friend shared the results with me. They revealed our greatest weakness was “passionate spirituality.” We lacked a hunger and thirst for God. I asked what I could do to increase our passion and the only response was prayer. That’s when I began praying for passion for that church…and why I pray for passion for us.

I can model passion for God.
I can preach on passion for God.
But I can’t manufacture passion for God. I can’t create it in you. So I pray.

I can only imagine how different First Alliance Church and other churches would be if we all had a deep, gut-level passion for God and things of God. If you want a picture of what true passion looks like, you only need to look at the origin of the word.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines passion as “the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and his death.” We think of it as a strong emotion, but Jesus’ passion was demonstrated through action. He expressed his love for you and me by sacrificing his own life, his body. He literally gave everything for us. That’s passion. It’s no wonder that he said to his followers,

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

That’s passion. It’s not a once-in-a-lifetime decision or action, but rather a daily death to ourselves, an ongoing surrender, 24/7/365 commitment.

I’m sure that’s why so many of his followers abandoned him. He wanted too much from them. He wanted everything! He still does! Hunger and thirst are not one-time desires, but appetites that occur regularly. Likewise, the pursuit of God cannot be occasional. It’s a lifestyle. Following Jesus is more than an hour on Sunday and ten percent of your paycheck. It’s a radical obedience in the direction of Jesus.
God doesn’t want to be your hobby. He wants to be your life!

He doesn’t want to be a piece of the
pie. He wants to be the crust that touches every part of your being and holds everything together. God’s passion for us caused him to give everything, and he invites us to return the favor and be wholly devoted, completely passionate for him.

What does it mean to be passionate for God? What does it mean to hunger and thirst for God? Jesus says

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

We often think of righteousness as doing the right thing. If we desire to be good people, we are blessed and filled? Well, that’s a start.

The Greek word,
dikaiosune means righteousness and justice. It refers to equity of character or act, specially justification. It’s the idea of being made right, or making something right. In the Old Testament, righteousness and justice frequently appear together. The New Testament Greek word sees them as one. One writer says whenever you see “righteousness” in the New Testament you should add “and justice.”

Jesus said in the next chapter,

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

We are to pursue the kingdom of God, the things of God, and his righteousness and justice.

We’ve heard a lot about injustice in recent days. We witnessed the murder of George Floyd in what can only be described as an act of injustice, yet that’s hardly the first and will certainly not be the last example of injustice.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

Righteousness and justice flow from who God is. God is righteous. God is just. Justice is a central part of the gospel, the good news, the rule and reign of Jesus as LORD.

The Beatitudes are not instructions of how to live as much as they declarations, announcements of the reality of God’s kingdom now and in the future. Paul wrote to the church in Colossae,

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

Jesus came to our broken world to reconcile to himself all things. The cross shattered not only the body of Jesus, but also sin and death. It released us from bondage. It reconciled us to our heavenly Father. The death of Jesus on the cross changed everything. Jesus came not only to die and rise from the dead, but also to initiate the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. We’re in the middle of the process. It’s certainly not finished, but as we follow Jesus, we become agents of reconciliation and peace. We are his representatives here and now. God’s desire is for righteousness and justice to rule and reign over a world plagued by sin and injustice.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

As Stu G of The Beatitudes Project says, “It’s not about trying to be super holy, but living in the famine and desperation for God’s righteousness and justice.”

God is the source of all righteousness and justice. When our passions are for God, they will naturally be for righteousness and justice, and when we see them absent, we will yearn to be present.

Jesus came to reconcile to himself all things.

He has passed the baton to us.

On a global level we see mass shootings, COVID-19, starvation, the greatest refugee crisis since WWII, pollution, wars, fake news, and divisions of every kind.

On a local level, we see political corruption, opioid addiction, homelessness, domestic violence, and poverty.

On a personal level, we struggle with addictions, comparison, insecurity, fear, and scarcity.

There is an aching for shalom, for the broken to be made whole, for justice to prevail.

So What?

What can we do? Weakness forces us to look to God. He’s right here with us. We need to pause, recognize our brokenness and desperation, and seek first God’s kingdom, His power, His wisdom, His strength.

What do you ache for? What is your holy discontent? That might reveal a clue as to what He wants you to do. For each of us, it will look different. Promoting righteousness and justice might look like more quiet time in God’s Word and prayer. It could take on an activist expression that writes letters, participates in peaceful protests, or raises awareness on behalf of the poor and powerless. Maybe God wants you to use your time and talents to volunteer with Cherry Street Mission, Water for Ishmael, Toledo Gospel Rescue Mission, or The Pregnancy Center. Perhaps He is leading you to gather together some friends and serve together. If you need help, please contact Karen at our office.

This world isn’t what it’s supposed to be…yet. All things will be made new and restored. We can participate! God’s righteousness and justice put things in their right place. God wants to bring light to the dark places in our heart and world. It’s not going to be fixed overnight, but as we hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice, we will find blessing and satisfaction in Him.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

We are blessed, we experience God’s presence when we are passionate for righteousness and justice, when we get involved, when we take action, when we crave God’s rule and reign, the reconciliation of all things to God. In that activity we will be filled, satisfied. The Greek word here for filled means “to gorge,” to feed, to have an abundance of food. Blessed are those who are starving for God and things of God for they will eat and drink until they are stuffed!

What is your greatest passion? Nothing will truly satisfy but the pursuit of God and His Kingdom. Dr. Tony Evans notes, “Discontentment will give way to satisfaction in God.”

The psalmist wrote,

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1-2)

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” ― Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
LORD, I want to want You. Grant all of us a passion for you, for righteousness, and justice.

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. (Matthew 5:6, The Message)

Credits: Some ideas from The Beatitudes Project.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Nake Noah, 15 January 2017

Naked Noah
Series: Ideal Family
Genesis 9:20-25

Series Big Idea:
All families are messed up, including biblical families.

Big Idea: Even the best parents are human and make mistakes.

Today we’re continuing our new series entitled, “Ideal Family.” Whether you like it or not, you’re part of a family; at least one. Ever since God said it was not good for man to be alone, humans have lived with others…for better or worse. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have a biological father and a biological mother. Most people have siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are a vital part of life for many of us. Family is God’s design. It was His idea.

There are two unfortunate things I’ve discovered about families. First, they are all messed up! That’s ultimately the result of sin, our disobedience toward God. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to get along. Pride divides. Greed corrupts. Selfishness hoards. Anger disturbs. Hatred destroys. Misunderstanding confuses.

The second unfortunate thing about families is the mistaken belief everyone else’s family is okay. Listen to me carefully…all families are messed up! This includes biblical families. This even includes Jesus’ family! We all need help…so let’s pray!

Last week we began our series with a look at the First Family, Adam and Eve and their sons Cain and Abel. Today we’re looking at one of the greatest heroes of the Bible, Noah. You know Noah, the guy with the ark and the animals. Many people think his wife’s name was Joan (of Ark)! Let’s take a look at Noah’s highlight reel. If you turn to Genesis 5, he is mentioned for the first time in verse 29.

When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah  and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.” After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died. (Genesis 5:28-31)

Noah’s dad was 182 years old when he was born! Wow! You thought Abraham was old at 100. But Lamech was just a kid compared to Noah the dad!

After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Genesis 5:32)

Let’s take a moment for reflection. Imagine Noah coming to First Alliance Church to dedicate his newborn son and happens to mention he was born in 1517! Sure, people lived longer back then, but 500 years? And that’s when he became a dad!

When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:1-3)

That settles the old-man issue!

A few verses later it says

The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:6-7)

Let that sink in for a minute. God regretted making humans. No wonder He sent a flood.

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:8)

The sentiment is repeated in the next verse…

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. (Genesis 6:9b)

So God tells Noah to build an ark (6:14) because, as He said

I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. (Genesis 6:17)

Of course God had Noah and his family enter the ark along with pairs of animals, and…

Noah did everything just as God commanded him. (Genesis 6:22)

God gave Noah further instructions…

And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him. (Genesis 7:5)

And if you’re keeping score…

Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. (Genesis 7:6)

There are so many details to these Bible stories we simply miss in Sunday School flannel board presentations!

So we have the flood.

The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. (Genesis 7:24)

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. (Genesis 8:1)

Later it says,

By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. (Genesis 8:13-16)

God loved Noah and his family. He was a righteous man. He obeyed God. His obedience essentially saved living creatures from extinction.

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-16)

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.” (Genesis 9:17)

The writer of Genesis mentions again Noah’s three sons and then tell us

Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. (Genesis 9:20)

Great. Who doesn’t love grapes? Grape juice. Raisins! Noah’s dad was a farmer so planting made complete sense. But…

When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. (Genesis 9:21)

Wait a minute! What is happening? Noah is drunk and naked?! The two often go together, by the way! The Japanese have a proverb which says: “First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes the man.” Fortunately, he’s inside his tent where nobody can see him. But this is Noah! Righteous Noah!

God created a garden, Adam and Eve at forbidden fruit, and found themselves naked.

Noah planted a garden, ate—or drank—too much fruit, and ended up naked.

In both cases their sin was shown in their nakedness. They disobeyed God. Sins are felt by the following generations.

Did we need to include this in the Bible? Can’t we just call Noah a superhero and stop after the rainbow? Actually, no! First, we are all descendants of Noah and his sons. Second, we get to see how even the most righteous people in the Bible were not perfect. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). We’ll see this throughout this series.

We also see how sin affects others…families.

Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. (Genesis 9:22)

Was that necessary? Why did Ham enter the tent in the first place? Seeing your dad naked is…well, it’s never good! He could’ve covered his dad and left quietly, but he tells his brothers. He disrespected his father, leaving Shem and Japheth to intervene.

But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. (Genesis 9:23)

Love is looking out for the best interest of another person. It doesn’t condone sin. It doesn’t cleanse sin (only Jesus’ blood can do that). But love does cover sin (1 Peter 4:8). Did you see what I did there?!

The relationship between a father and son is special. The video earlier showed an “ideal” relationship and then a real one. That’s not to say we should be flippant about things such as borrowing/loaning money from relatives, but sometimes relationships can be complicated. Nevertheless, we are to honor our parents. This is one of God’s Top Ten (Exodus 20:12). Honor your father and your mother. Shem and Japheth honored their dad. Ham did not.

So Noah gets drunk and naked, his youngest son, Ham, saw him naked, his brothers to cover him, and…

When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, 

“Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” (
Genesis 9:24-25)

This passage has been wrongfully used to support racial prejudice and even slavery. Ham saw his dad and his son Canaan gets the curse? Actually, this is best understood as a prophecy describing what will happen to Ham’s descendants, not necessarily a curse from Noah to his grandson. Later in Jewish law children could not be punished for the sins of their fathers (Deut. 24:16; Jer. 31:29-30; Ezek. 18:1-4). What we do know is the Canaanites were conquered by the Israelites (Genesis 14:8-12; Exodus 3:8; Numbers 13:29; Joshua 3:10).

He also said, 
“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
May God extend Japheth’s territory;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” (Genesis 9:26-27)

The chapter ends by telling us

After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died. (Genesis 9:28-29)

What a life! What an ending!

So What?

I realize this is an odd passage. The point is…don’t plant a vineyard! Actually, that’s not the point, though alcohol can lead to a host of problems.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18)

Genesis 19 tells an even more bizarre story where two girls got their dad drunk and slept with him in hopes of getting pregnant! Ewww!

I think one takeaway from today’s text is even the best parents are human and make mistakes. Noah made the faith hall of fame.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. (Hebrews 11:7)

Noah was a righteous man, but his story didn’t exactly end on a high note.

How will your story end? Your past righteousness is valuable, but today is the first day of the rest of your life. How will you live it? Every day we hear stories of people behaving badly. But by the grace of God so go I. We’re all susceptible to sin, as we saw last week, especially when we are
HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, tired. I pray you will honor your parents and/or be honored by your children. If you drink, I hope you are of age and do so responsibly. Consuming alcohol is not forbidden in the Bible, but drunkenness is clearly a sin…and can lead to other sins. I hope and your pray your most righteous days are ahead.


Some ideas from Be Basic by Warren Wiersbe.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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