— (November 7th, 2020)
One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry, even what is bitter tastes sweet. (Proverbs 27:7)
The Lord’s Righteousness
“The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet, we have not obeyed him…” (Daniel 9:14)
This declaration of the righteousness of God comes right after the statement about God bringing disaster. What disaster?
“Just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins, and giving attention to your truth.” (Daniel 9:13)
If we do not want to have the wrong side of the blade of justice swinging our way, and want instead to experience the sweet side of God’s righteousness (as opposed to His painful side), then we must seek His favour by turning from our sins and giving attention to His truth. He doesn’t talk about turning away from sin (and leaving a vacuum); you must pay attention to His truth, because God is righteous when He judges. It is righteous for God to judge.
If we look at Matthew 6:1, Jesus says: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Your righteousness is to be practiced. The Lord Jesus then goes on to explain what this righteousness is. As I’ve often said, righteousness means to do what is right as defined by God. So, God defined that when you go against His law, there will be consequences.
It is righteous for God to judge evil. Abraham asked of the Lord, “Will the judge of the whole earth not do that which is right?” (Genesis 18:25) And of course, the answer is that He will. In that instance, what was at stake? The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were about to come under judgment, and what is right was that they be judged. And it was also right that they might be shown mercy if a certain number of people who deserved mercy existed within it. They could have attracted mercy for everyone else.
So, back to the Lord Jesus: what is righteousness? The Lord Jesus tells us, “So when you give to the needy, don’t announce it with trumpets.” (Matthew 6:2) Thus, giving to the needy is righteousness. In the previous chapter, Matthew 5, He speaks very clearly about loving those who don’t love us, acting differently from the rest of the world, being perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, and doing good to those who don’t do good to us (considering how God shows kindness to the righteous and the unrighteous).
Therefore, when He tells you that you should do what is righteous, He is not referring to a condition you have been bequeathed by His blood; He’s talking about your actions that arise out of that gift of righteousness. It is called practicing righteousness. He that practices righteousness is righteous (1 John 3:7). But before that, John said, “Do not let anyone deceive you, little children,” because there will be deceivers who will say (as is often said today) that you only need to believe on what the Lord Jesus has done. No! He expects you to practice righteousness.
As an example, He expects you to give to the needy. In Matthew 6:5, He says that when you pray, you should not be like the hypocrites. So, one of the ways we practice righteousness is through prayer. Matthew 6:16 talks about fasting, which is also the practice of righteousness. In verse 19, He says, “Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Then, in case you didn’t get the point, He goes on to tell you,
“No one can serve two masters – either you hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.” So, refusing to store up treasures on earth is the practice of righteousness.
How do you store up treasures in heaven? The Scriptures are clear; it’s found in Luke 12:31-34. He says, “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The statement, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…” in Luke 12:34 is the same concept in Matthew 6:21, so it is directly linked. Matthew and then Luke put together the picture of how you store up for yourself treasures in heaven; by giving to the poor and the needy.
That’s what He said in Matthew 6:2. This is practicing righteousness; this is righteous living! This is what God has called us to do — to give and share what we have with those that are in need.
Do What’s Right!
He also says, in Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink.” This is righteousness; it is the right thing to do — to not worry about food and clothing. He says more and more about that. In Matthew 7:1, He says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” It’s a form of righteousness — everything He says is the right thing to do. He says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you,” (Matthew 7:7) and that’s the right thing to do.
For now, I’ll stop there, but the emphasis is giving to the needy — acts of righteousness (which you are not to trumpet), praying, fasting and not storing up treasures on earth. Why? Because it’s impossible to serve God and mammon.
“They Will Be Filled…”
This passage gives us a method for testing the hungry. If you see someone who seeks righteousness, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled,” as the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 5. He didn’t say, “They’ll be filled with all sorts of good and wonderful things!” Because certainly, for anyone that has sought the Lord and His righteousness/the Kingdom and it’s righteousness/God’s will/godliness in any way, you’re going to get bitter things, but even the bitter things will taste sweet to you, because you are hungry!
Now, they are not hungry for bitter things. They may be hungry for the words of the Lord, like Jeremiah, Ezekiel and many of the prophets the Lord has had, but as they eat it and it goes into them, it may become bitter in their bellies. Because they desire to hear what the Lord says, when the Lord speaks to them, what they are given may not be sweet at all. It may be most unpleasant, sometimes. All who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), and persecution is bitter.
Bitter? No Problem!
Take the apostles, for example: because they were desiring the will of God, hungry to see the works of God, and welcoming the Messiah, their lives were upturned; it was an invitation to troubles. So, wisdom, knowledge, understanding may make a person strong and cause his face to shine, but at the same time, with much knowledge comes grief. More is expected of the one who is given more. So, when you have hunger (which is absolutely needed, and it will result in satisfaction), you can also be sure, however, that with such hunger will come bitter things.
If you want food, you cannot clear the table of all the bitter aspects of the meal the Lord will serve you. His Passover does not just have the lamb and bread, it has bitter herbs right with it! So, when the Lord satisfies our hunger for freedom [by delivering us from Egypt], on the way to the Promised Land, there’ll be a wilderness.
When the Lord responds to our desire to hear His words, our desire for a prophet of the Lord, rebukes will also come. But to the hungry, all these things will be sweet.
So, child of God, ask yourself, Are you hungry? Because if you are hungry, you should welcome bitter things. This should help us test our hearts. Honestly; for many of us that say we are hungry to see God’s glory, hungry to see God’s Will, desirous to know the will of the Father — how do you respond when bitter things come? Are they sweet to you? Or do they offend you, and you push away or get angry? That reveals your true level of hunger. And if you realize that bitter things drive you off — not untrue things, but bitter things — then you must do something about your state of hunger!
How to Get Hungry!
A few suggestions to help you get properly hungry:
– Fast from all the alternative sources of satisfaction you’ve been taking. If you’re full of junk food, you will not be hungry for good food. But if you’re really hungry and you haven’t eaten for ages, when you come across vegetables or some meal you dislike, you will munch it with relish! You’d gulp down unsweetened yogurt! If you’ve been starving for three days, everything will be acceptable. So, a major way to get yourself hungry is to stop feeding yourself with trash and things that are not good for you — cut away from spiritual things that are not in line with the Word of God.
Many people literally need to stop listening to messages from most of the preachers they listen to, because that alone has stopped them from hearing the true words of God (which can be bitter). So, this is for those who are wondering, how can I get hungry? Fast. Not literally, necessarily. But, from all your sources of satisfaction — hanging out endlessly with friends, hanging out on TV, YouTube, reading novels, and all the things that satisfy you — in some form, cut away from them, and watch your hunger increase. That’s exactly how real fasting works. When you cut away from such things, you will begin to develop an appetite for the unseen realm — for the things that you had hitherto despised.
Your hunger is fanned (and will keep increasing) when you’re left with no alternatives. Then, and only then, can the Lord begin to feed you with His choices. I can assure you that a good part of it will be bitter; for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are His ways above our ways, and His thoughts above our thoughts [Isaiah 55:9]. And as you push away the other things, you’ll find yourself welcoming all these bitter and unpleasant looking things (which you previously wouldn’t have touched with a nine-foot pole). This is how I know everybody else came to a place of loving and embracing God and His ways. I can assure you; narrow is the way that leads to life, and very few find it [Matthew 7:14]. Why? Because very few are hungry.
It will be a lonely path, many times.
But the question is, isn’t it better to hunger and thirst after righteousness, so God will fill you?
– Pastor Ita Udoh
© God’s Lighthouse, 2020.