In Jesus Completeness is Restored

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“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27 ESV)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Our tension with God, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, arises out of our incompleteness. We are created in God’s image, but only as a complement with our spouse, or future spouse, and then only incompletely. We remain separated from God by our unholiness and by our finitude. We yearn to complete our incompleteness; we yearn to be whole. We remain creatures of God’s creation. Yet, gardeners thrown out of the garden.

So we have reminders.

We are reminded by mere physical things: an empty stomach hungers; a dry mouth thirsts; our loneliness.

We are reminded by our limitations. We fail to keep our promises and to realize our potential.

We are reminded also by spiritual deficits. Our sin cuts us off both from our neighbors and from God. We fall short of the mark; we transgress boundaries; we fail to do the things that we should.

So we are thrown out of the garden.

Out of the garden, we feel shame and guilt.

Out of the garden, we cannot realize our destiny.

Out of the garden, completeness and holiness and fellowship with God are out of our reach.

So Jesus offers us a path back back to wholeness.

Back to restoration and healing.

Back to the garden and our destiny.

Back to our completeness and holiness and fellowship with our maker.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6 ESV)

In Jesus Completeness is Restore

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/Release_2020

 

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Hunger and Thirst for God

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As a deer pants for flowing streams, 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? 

My tears have been my food day and night, 

while they say to me all the day long, 

Where is your God? (Ps 42:1–3)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The great irony of faith is that we approach God out of our poverty, not our riches. The riches of Babylon and Egypt flowed from their abundance of water and irrigation systems, while the poverty of Israel blew in with the dust storms from its deserts. Yet, Egypt and Babylon are known for their idolatry and sin, while Israel is known for its law and prophets (Card 2005, 16). What do the Books of the Law and the Prophets say about satisfying the hunger and thirst for righteousness?

The Books of the Law

Hungering and thirsting were not part of God’s original plan, which we know because food and water were abundant in the Garden of Eden, as we read:

And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. (Gen 2:8-10)

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived in direct communion with God and righteousness was a fruit of that communion, which broke down when Adam and Eve sinned (Gen 3:23). When we mourn our sin and the loss of our communion with God, we hunger and thirst for the righteousness, which is a metaphor for the blessings and tangible fruit of that communion.

Restoration of this communion was a goal of the Mosaic covenant, as suggested in Deuteronomy:

And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. (Deut 11:13–15)

Obeying the commandments involves loving and serving God, who will respond by sending rain in its season granting you a full harvest and an abundant life for you and yours. By contrast, reluctant service to God will result in servitude, hunger, thirst and deprivation:

Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you. (Deut 28:47–48)

Destruction follows from disobedience—under the law one literally reaps what one sows in respect to one’s relationship with God. In fact, God’s judgment follows from hungering and thirsting for mere physical things, even things like the law (Exod 17:3).

This is, in fact, the basis for the curse for not accepting the new covenant in Christ. Paul writes: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Rom 1:28) To be given over to one’s passions is a curse and it leads to self-destruction because both the mind and the heart are corrupted by sin.

The Books of the Prophets

In the Law, one reaps what one sows; in the Prophets, the wise are clever and the foolish are ignorant of the ways of the world, as we read:

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. (Prov 25:21–22)

This reward follows for respecting worldly wisdom, because God created both heaven and earth—all knowledge is God’s knowledge (Prov 1:7; 2 Chr 1:10–13). So the wise leave the door open for enemies to become friends by treating their enemies humanly, feeding them and offering them drink, as Jesus teaches (Matt 5:44–45).

Feeding and drinking find metaphorical uses in the Prophets, as we read: “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jer 3:15) Jesus himself is this good shepherd (John 10:11–16), but this hunger is relieved metaphorically through “knowledge and understanding” rather than through physical consumption. Likewise, mere consumption is not the point when Isaiah alludes to abundant water and food, evoking the image of a return to Eden:

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. (Isa 55:1–2)

Isaiah offers spiritual water and food which, like their physical counterparts in Eden, were abundantly provided. He infers (as does the Fourth Beatitude) that by hungering and thirsting for righteousness, God will smile on our efforts and heaven will not be far off (Rev 22:17).

References

Card, Michael. 2005. A Sacred Sorrow Experience Guide: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament. Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Hunger and Thirst for God

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/Release_2020

 

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Passionately Pursue the Kingdom of Heaven

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101Honored are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matt 5:6)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Fourth Beatitude taps into deep physical and spiritual needs expressed in the words: “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Hunger means both “to feel the pangs of lack of food, hunger, be hungry” and to “desire something—strongly, hunger for something” while thirst means both “to have a desire for liquid, be thirsty, suffer from thirst” and “to have a strong desire to attain some goal, thirst, i.e. long for something” (BDAG 2051). Righteousness means the “quality or state of juridical correctness with focus on redemptive action, righteousness” (BDAG 2004.2) that we hunger and thirst for in a sinful world.

The theme of hungering and thirsting—deep need and abundant provision—runs throughout in John’s Gospel. Jesus first reveals himself to a couple of newlyweds in danger of being stigmatized for their poverty, lacking sufficient wine to meet community hospitality standards. Our insufficiencies are contrasted with God’s super-abundant provision—of wine (John 2:1–11), bread (John 6:5–14), and fish (John 21:3–13)—that displays God’s trademark generosity.

God’s generosity is remembered in the Festival of Booths (John 7:2) that commemorates Israel’s desert wanderings after leaving Egypt (Lev 23:34-43), when Jesus says:

Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

The bread here refers to manna and the water refers to God’s miraculous gift of water at Meribah (Exod 17:1–17).

Reminding temple worshippers of God, Jesus stood up and cried out:

If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. (John 7:37-39)

The symbolism of water and bread both point to God’s abundant and everlasting provision that we commemorate in the sacraments of baptism and communion.

More generally, to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” speaks of suffering, where basic human needs are withheld or remain absent, as in songs of lament in the Book of Psalms. There we read: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1) and “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?” (Ps 89:46). It is ironic that God reveals himself most clearly in the deserts of life (Exod 7:16; Card 2005, 16).

Modern atheism feeds from this painful stream. Modern atheists question God’s provision and goodness. They argue that if God is all powerful and all good, then the existence of suffering and evil suggests that God is either not all powerful or not good or not both—he does not exist.  In contrast, Jesus testifies that those who passionately seek righteousness will be satisfied. The Greek word here for satisfy means “to experience inward satisfaction in something or be satisfied” (BDAG 7954). Far from deserting us, in life Jesus suffered alongside of us, on the cross paid our penalty for sin, and in resurrection became our guarantor. “While some continue to argue that Auschwitz disproves the existence of God, many more would argue that it demonstrates the depths to which humanity, unrestrained by any thought or fear of God, will sink.” (McGrath 2004, 184).

In our deserts of suffering and need, Jesus gives us permission to pray for the simplest needs in life. He says: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11), displaying God concern for us just like when God clothed Adam and Eve, even as he expelled them from the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:21). Even in judgment God’s eye is on care for his people: The righteous are separated from the wicked by their attitude about and care for those in need (Matt 25:31–46).

Brueggemann (2009, 31) contrasts the YHWH economy with Pharaoh’s economy providing insight into the Ten Commandments. In the YHWH economy, those who keep the Sabbath need not dishonor mother and father, kill, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness, or covet. In other words, do detestable things for the sake of money. In the unending race to pursue wealth of Pharaoh’s economy we are pushed individually and collectively daily to neglect or break these commandments.

Our needs will be met and expectations exceeded, we are reminded in the Fourth Beatitude and later in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says:

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matt 6:31–33)

Listen to the phrase—”seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”—do you hear an echo of the First Commandment? (Exod 20:3) God’s righteousness on earth is embedded even in the invitation to share God’s peace.

References

Bauer, Walter (BDAG). 2000. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. ed. de Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. <BibleWorks. v.9.>

Brueggemann, Walter. 2014. Sabbath as Resistance: Saying NO to the Culture of Now. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Card, Michael. 2005. A Sacred Sorrow Experience Guide:  Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament. Colorado Springs:  NavPress.

McGrath, Alister. 2004. The Twilight of Atheism. New York: DoubleDay.

Passionately Pursue the Kingdom of Heaven

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/Release_2020

 

Continue Reading