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Bible verses about Thirst Imagery
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 5:6

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

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


 

John 7:37-39

Jesus is prophesying of the giving of the Spirit, which is absolutely essential to the "circumcision of the heart," to "writing God's law on the heart," to enabling us to have a good relationship with God. Notice that He puts conditions on receiving the Spirit, which is a factor that did not appear much in the Old Covenant prophecies about it. But here the time to make the Spirit available is near, so God's Servant - Jesus Christ - tells us what the conditions are to be if we are going to agree to this Covenant.

He says that we have to believe, to come to Him. If we have been called, we have to respond. We have to thirst - to want it desperately - and on top of that, we have to drink. Remember the old cliché, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink"? A lot of people are like that: They can be led to the truth, but to get them to take it in and make it a part of them is very difficult indeed.

In addition, the Spirit would not be given until Christ was glorified, that is, until after His death and His resurrection to spirit life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 12)


 

2 Timothy 3:1

For us, a great deal of that peril exists in the multitude of visible, emotional, and audible distractions that occupy minds nurtured by television, movies, and radio. Through these mediums we invite the world and much of its appeal directly into our homes. We have come to tolerate television's intrusion into our lives. By means of the Internet, some of us have become information junkies, and others can hardly go anywhere without being accompanied by a playing radio. We need to honestly examine ourselves as to whether we are showing God that what this world bombards our minds with through these mediums is really what we hunger and thirst for. How are they preparing us for the Kingdom of God?

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


 

 




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