BibleTools

Topical Studies

 A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Printer-Friendly          E-mail this page


Bible verses about Spiritual Hunger
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Deuteronomy 8:2-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is one of the earliest references to the parallel between physical and spiritual eating. It is not directly stated but implied. God intended Israel's experiences in the wilderness to instruct the Israelites that all of life, both physical and spiritual aspects, depends upon God's providence. These verses also confirm that leading a good life, an abundant life, is dependent upon one's spiritual, mental, and emotional base. These elements of the mind determine one's outlook, goals, and reactions to the myriad vicissitudes of life. These verses confirm that God directly leads us into many of them, as a means of instructing us, producing dual results: first, to experience them and develop certain characteristics; second, to test us so both He and we can see where we stand and how we cope.

A major problem is that human nature compels us to focus almost totally upon the physical. God provides us "wilderness experiences" to let us know that there is a spiritual aspect to life that requires feeding and maintenance just as surely as the physical. Prayer, study, meditation, and obedience are the assimilation process in this parallel. Within this feeding/assimilation process, our relationship with God, worship, and religion should be enhanced to play an effective, positive role in life. Worship is more than adoration and reverence; it is the response of the whole person to the entirety of God's will in all aspects of life. In the church, at home, on the job, and in the community, our direction must always be whatever God wills.

Starvation of the spirit is less obvious on the outside than physical hunger because the spirit starves much more slowly and it resides within. Spiritual malnutrition may go unrecognized for long periods because the body and life goes right on. Yet just as surely as one's body gives signs that it needs nourishment, so does the spirit, and it, too, will eventually be recognized on the outside by its symptoms.

When the body cries out for food, one feels emptiness in the stomach, weakness in the muscles, and even sleepiness. If it goes on long enough, a faintness and headache may arise. But when the spirit is malnourished either from deprivation or a harmful diet, the gradual reaction in life is different.

Spiritual weakness appears, as does sin. With sin comes anger, irritability, exasperation, depression, discouragement, melancholy, despondency, gloominess, bitterness, hatred, resentment, self-pity, hopelessness, despair, paranoia, envy, jealousy, family conflict, arguing, divorce, drunkenness or other addictions, and competitiveness as self-centeredness deepens.

A purpose of Deuteronomy 8:2-3 is to emphasize to Israel and now to us that the source of spiritual nourishment is more important than the nourishment itself. If we have the right source, the nourishment will be good. Otherwise, the situation is hopeless. Our source of nourishment must, of course, be God.

When tempted by Satan, Jesus quotes this verse (Matthew 4:4). He suggests in His answer that, unlike Esau, He received a vitality that sustained Him even though He had not physically eaten. Therefore, He had no need to succumb to Satan's temptation. Israel also demanded bread in the wilderness. They ate and proceeded to die there. Jesus denied Himself bread, instead trusting God in submission to Him, retained His righteousness, and lived.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)


 

Isaiah 55:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Remember who is saying this and to whom. Jesus Christ, the God of the Old Testament and our Savior is speaking, not to the world in general as some may think, but to all those who have made the covenant with God.

Under the Old Covenant, this includes Israel and Judah, and under the New Covenant, the church. Verse 1 essentially invites us to come and eat freely, that is, without restriction, because all that He offers is good to eat. However, the English translation hides a tone of pity. In Hebrew, it pleads for us to take advantage of what God has made readily available. It bears a pleading tone because suffering and discouraged people seem to be doing all but the right things to help them overcome their difficulties. These people are "spinning their wheels" in their preoccupation with Babylon, a type of the world.

By contrast, the tone of verse 2 is mildly chiding as well as urgently warning. It admonishes against spiritual foods that indeed may make one feel "full" but really do not nourish the spiritual life's genuine needs. Eventually, one feels that something is missing. Our Savior does not argue but asks, "Does all this really satisfy you? Is this the end to which you are called? Is this what life is all about?" He implies that those He has invited will have to choose to change their spiritual diet. Then He urges us to listen carefully. It is almost as if He says, "Listen! Listen!"

He then exhorts us to eat what is good, that is, what He has specifically made for this purpose. In verse 3, His admonishment becomes abundantly clear when He says, "Come to Me [and] hear." What comes from Christ truly nourishes, satisfies, and produces spiritual strength and richness, fortifying the spiritual wall that protects us from falling away.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Seven)


 

Matthew 5:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is not at all uncommon these days to hear of an ambitious person as being "hungry" to accomplish significant things. Writers apply this term to athletes who want to make it to the professional leagues, to actors who want to attain stardom, and to businesspersons who seek to become CEO or president of a major corporation. These people drive themselves to work harder than their competition. They push themselves in studying every facet of their discipline, and they practice longer and harder than others. Their ambition knows no limits. They seem to play every angle to bring themselves to the attention of their superiors. They seize every opportunity to "sell" themselves to those who might be useful in promoting them.

Some but not all of these nuances are present in Jesus' use of "hunger" and "thirst" in Matthew 5:6. He describes a person who from the very depths of his innermost being has a driving need to satisfy a desire. William Barclay, in his Daily Study Bible commentary on Matthew, provides a colorful description:

Words do not exist in isolation; they exist against a background of experience and thought; and the meaning of any word is conditioned by the background of the person who speaks it. That is particularly true of this beatitude. It would convey to those who heard it for the first time an impression quite different from the impression which it conveys to us.

The fact is that very few of us in modern conditions of life know what it is to be really hungry or really thirsty. In the ancient world it was very different. A working man's wage was the equivalent of three pence a day, and, even making every allowance for the difference in the purchasing power of money, no man ever got fat on that wage. A working man in Palestine ate meat only once a week, and in Palestine the working man and the day laborer were never very far from the border-line of real hunger and actual starvation.

It was still more so in the case of thirst. It was not possible for the vast majority of people to turn a tap and find the clear, cold water pouring into their house. A man might be on a journey, and in the midst of it the hot wind which brought the sand-storm might begin to blow. There was nothing for him to do but to wrap his head in his burnous and turn his back to the wind, and wait, while the swirling sand filled his nostrils and his throat until he was likely to suffocate, and until he was parched with an imperious thirst. In the conditions of modern western life there is no parallel at all to that. (vol. 1, p. 99)

We see, then, that Jesus is not using "hunger" or "thirst" as we would describe the emptiness or dryness we feel between meals, but a hunger or thirst that seemingly can never be satisfied. With physical appetite, this would be a hunger and thirst that, even after a full meal with plenty of drink, we would still feel as though we could eat and drink much more! Again, as Barclay describes it, "It is the hunger of the man who is starving for food, and the thirst of the man who will die unless he drinks" (pp. 99-100).

Nothing can better express the kind of desire we should have to obtain righteousness. The Bible's writers frequently employ the imagery of hunger and especially thirst to illustrate an ardent desire, particularly for the things of God:

  • Psalm 42:1-2: As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

  • Psalm 63:1: O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.

Even limiting hunger and thirst to our normal, daily need for nourishment illustrates a continuous cycle of consuming a most vital necessity for spiritual life and strength.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Matthew 5:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At first, the question "What is righteousness?" may seem like a "no-brainer" because we know it means "rectitude," or more simply, "right doing." By quoting Psalm 119:172, "All Your commandments are righteousness," we feel equipped with a direct biblical definition of this important biblical concept. None of these is wrong, but the Bible's use of "righteousness" is both specific and broad—so broad that in some places it is treated as a synonym of salvation itself (Isaiah 45:8; 46:12-13; 51:5; 56:1; 61:10).

Though the Bible uses "righteousness" so broadly, its comparison with "salvation" does not help us much in understanding it because "salvation" is one of the Bible's most comprehensive terms. Since none of us has fully experienced salvation, we look through a glass darkly trying to comprehend it.

Righteousness is used in a similar sense in the very familiar passage given in Matthew 6:33, where Jesus commanded, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Here it has the sense of seeking all of God's spiritual blessings, favor, image, and rewards. We see in this verse not only a broad New Testament application of the term but also, more importantly, its priority to life. This dovetails perfectly with the hunger-and-thirst metaphor. It is not enough to ambitiously yearn to accomplish. According to Jesus, God's Kingdom and His righteousness are the very top priorities in all of life. Seeking God's righteousness is that important.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Matthew 5:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One of the types of righteousness for which we are to hunger and thirst is the one that occupies the greater portion of our life after conversion. Notice how Jesus states this beatitude. He does not say, "Blessed are those who have hungered . . . ," but rather, "Blessed are those who hunger [do hunger, KJV]." This hungering and thirsting is a continuous state, and it must be this way for the second kind of righteousness, elsewhere called pursuing holiness, going on to perfection, or growing in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Frequently the Bible calls it sanctification. None of these terms is specifically righteousness, but all are contained within its broad meaning. This righteousness is created in us, imparted to us by God's Holy Spirit following justification as we experience our relationship with God. It is seeking godly character to be prepared for living in His Kingdom.

God cannot create His holy and righteous character by fiat. It requires the willing and freely given cooperation of the called; by exercising their free moral agency, they submit to Him in the experiences of life. Submission is difficult, and thus Christianity is no cake-walk through a garden. Jesus often warns that it will require a devotion to Him of such degree that all else must be secondary to Him. We are to bear our crosses and count the cost (Luke 14:26-28). He also warns, "The way is difficult and narrow" (Matthew 7:14), and "He who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). The trek of the ancient Israelites through the wilderness is a type of the Christian's pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. Their wilderness experiences expose a number of pitfalls that can destroy a Christian's faith and enthusiasm for continuing to the end.

Through this beatitude, God presents us with a serious challenge. Because it is continuously needed, it establishes a demanding requirement. How much do we want goodness, the righteousness of God? Do we want it as much as a starving man desires food or a parched man wants water? Do we so lack vision that we will give up our faith as all the Israelites, save Joshua and Caleb, did in the wilderness? According to Hebrews 4:1, though they heard the good news, they did not believe it sufficiently. They, therefore, died in the wilderness, their pilgrimage finished before they reached their goal. Rather than submit, they resisted God until their deaths. Apparently, they did not hunger for it.

Most of us have a desire for God's Kingdom and His righteousness, but it is, to our detriment, frequently nebulous rather than sharp. When the time comes to make a choice, we are not prepared to make the required effort or sacrifice that the righteousness of God demands. It is situations like these that reveal that we do not desire righteousness more than anything else.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Matthew 5:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Like all the other beatitudes, this one also has a promise. Remember, this is a God-created hunger that begins when He calls us into His Family. When God creates a hunger and thirst in us, it is so that He may fill it. When God creates a need in us to know Him, to understand His will and be like Him, it is for the express purpose of drawing us to Him to embrace all these things as part of ourselves.

Like hungering and thirsting, there is first an initial and then a continuous filling. He fills us with what He is and what we need to negotiate our pilgrimage to His Kingdom safely and securely. He fills us with understanding that we might have His perspective on the affairs of this life and a clear vision of our future life in His Kingdom. He fills us with wisdom that we might apply the understanding He makes available to us. He fills us with a peace that passes all understanding in the midst of an insane world. He fills us with thanksgiving and knowledge of Him that we might praise Him. He fills us with faith, hope, and love that we might be like Him (I John 3:2).

He does all this and much more that we might be done with sin forever. Then, according to Revelation 7:16-17,

They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; . . . for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Matthew 5:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Desire is an inward longing for something we do not have but feel we need. Hunger and thirst are appetites God gave humans to make us aware of a need. Hunger for God's Word and His attributes are the spiritual appetite God gives Christians to make us aware of spiritual needs. Do pagans pray to their idols and ask them for love, joy, internal peace, kindness, gentleness, goodness, meekness, or self-control? They ask for other things—material things, material blessings.

God has given us faith to make us aware of spiritual needs. We are aware of our physical needs by nature, but we would never be aware of these spiritual needs unless God, by His Spirit, makes us aware. It is a loving gift from Him. He expects us to think about these needs and ask Him for them. Our very awareness of the need is a proof that God is working with us.

This adds another step to the process of answered prayer: There has to be an awareness of need followed by the desire to have what we need. The desire moves us to make it known to God, and if it is really earnest and fervent, it fixes our minds on the object of our longing, motivating our pursuit of it. In other words, desire sets the will into action.

What God really wants us to seek after, to desire, is Him, what He is.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency


 

Matthew 16:24-25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

He tells us to deny ourselves. This means we must disown and renounce ourselves and subjugate everything—all our works, interests, and enjoyments—to the standards set by God. Paul commands us to bring under our control every thought that opposes God and His way (II Corinthians 10:5).

Jesus also instructs us to bear our cross. We need to embrace the situations God has set us in, and with faith in Him to bring us through them, bear the troubles and difficulties that come upon us. Just as Jesus accepted His role, even to "the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8), we need to be content with what God gives us to do (Philippians 4:11). As Paul says in I Timothy 6:6, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." What an achievement it is not to be driven by evil hungers!

God has called us to lay down our lives in subjection to Him. The supreme object of our lives is not our personal happiness or fulfilling our every desire. Our goal is God's kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), but notice what Jesus says next: "And all these things shall be added to you." If we yield ourselves to God's instruction and grow and overcome, He will fulfill our legitimate desires!

Matthew 16:25 shows us the two sides of this issue. Jesus says that if we insist on preserving our way of life, with all its wrong hungers and desires, we will lose it eternally! But if we take control of our mind and emotions and destroy our way of life—ridding ourselves of all the wrong hungers and desires that are against God—then God will save it eternally! The better option is obvious.

Satan has filled this world with hungers of every sort to tempt men, including the people of God. Hungers of lust, power, money, and fame seem inviting after the monotony of day-to-day living, but Satan's way is a trap, though an enticing one. It always looks good on the outside, but inside is sin, destruction, and ultimately death, eternal death.

God allows us to make decisions. He allows us to learn from the decisions we make—both right and wrong. The right decision to make about the wonderful calling and opportunity He has given to us is to yield ourselves under the mighty hand of God in faith that He will work in us. His work is always wonderful and good. Once we yield, we can set our mind to overcome, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. And God will satisfy us!

John O. Reid
Do You Have 'the Hunger'?


 

1 Peter 1:22-25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice the implications for one's mental health in this passage. Today, health experts emphasize eating organic foods grown without harsh chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Non-organically grown foods are known to be deficient in nutrients and may also contaminate the body. Modern health practitioners also emphasize cleansing the body internally through certain regimens. Peter is saying a similar thing here in a spiritual, moral, and ethical context. God's pure Word can purify the mind, freeing it from the corruption of our pre-conversion experiences. This will happen, though, only if we consistently—daily—eat it and use it as we would eat and use good foods in feeding and caring for our physical bodies.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)


 

1 Peter 2:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Do babies earnestly let us know when they are hungry? They cry and become red in the face. They let us know without any doubt. They want us and something from us. A desire is created by their hunger.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency


 

Revelation 2:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Revelation 2:5 instructs us to remember from where we have fallen, to repent, and to do the works we did when we had our first love. We have three commands here: remember, repent, and do. If we fail to follow through on these, God says very bluntly, "I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place." This is serious!

Individually, then, we must compare our present attitudes, efforts, zeal, and love to what they were when we were first converted. We should have no trouble doing this because, for most of us, our first months or years in the church are still vivid in our minds. We probably all had similar experiences.

We expressed our first love by diligently obeying all we learned. We took great pains to study, fast, pray, and meditate regularly, giving up valuable time we had once used for our recreation or entertainment. We stood up for the Sabbath and argued with the school system and our employers over Christmas, Easter, and Halloween. We tithed carefully, and the holy days, especially the Feast of Tabernacles, were such a thrill!

We hungered for God's Word and could never get enough of the Bible and the church's literature. We had faith in the ministers God sent to us, seeing them as helpers of our joy. We really worked to overcome every little sin we found, not wanting to disappoint God in the least matter. We had supreme faith in God's purpose, both for mankind as a whole and for us as individuals. We were very serious about our calling.

We would have done none of these things before being called. Our first love was a wonderful thing to behold—true devotion and dedication to God, manifested by zealously bending every effort to conform to His will. We outwardly loved God and trusted Him. He was always in our thoughts.

Some people in this world get a kind of first love for a political party, a team, or a cause. But our first love came upon us because God opened our minds and revealed Himself to us, and what we saw we recognized as truly awesome and wondrous. When we learned that such a magnificent Being wanted us to be members of His Family forever, we caught the vision! This opened our minds to new thoughts, new ideas, new horizons—and so we were filled with first love.

Years may have passed. The "newness" of God's way has worn off. Friends, family, and ministers have let us down. So much has changed in our lives and in the church that those heady days seem impossible to recapture. But God commands us that we must remember what it was like and return to them in spirit, in attitude, and in works because God has not let us down nor has His purpose changed.

Paul tells Timothy to "stir up the gift of God which is in you" (II Timothy 1:6), and in a sense, this is what Christ reminds us to do in His brief message to the Ephesian church. We have to stir ourselves to rekindle our love for God and the brethren and serve them in humility and kindness.

Once we regain this godly love, we will probably notice that it is somewhat different from what we had just after conversion. Most of us have had many years of experience and growth in the meantime. This will tend to produce a more seasoned, mature "first love," which is exactly what God wants. We will be able to pursue godliness with the zeal of youth and the wisdom of maturity.

John O. Reid
Recapture Your First Love!


 

 




The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

Sign up for the Berean: Daily Verse and Comment, and have Biblical truth delivered to your inbox. This daily newsletter provides a starting point for personal study, and gives valuable insight into the verses that make up the Word of God. See what over 110,000 subscribers are already receiving each day.

Email Address:

   

We respect your privacy. Your email address will not be sold, distributed, rented, or in any way given out to a third party. We have nothing to sell. You may easily unsubscribe at any time.
Printer-Friendly          E-mail this page
 A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
©Copyright 1992-2014 Church of the Great God.   Contact C.G.G. if you have questions or comments.