Hunger, thirst, and fear

Today’s Scripture readings for Morning Prayer included one that speaks passionately about the hunger and thirst for righteousness, and two that speak love to fear.

The Psalm was the first twenty-four verses of Ps 119, a very long meditation on the gift of God’s law. The fifth verse reads, in the NRSV, I think,

Oh, that my ways were made so direct that I might keep your statutes!

Paul in Romans 7 talks about the painful struggle within us between the desire to do what is right and the desire to do otherwise. The fourth chapter of James also mentions “your desires that battle within you” in the context of quarrels and conflicts. I don’t think having such a conflicted soul disqualifies one from the blessing of the fourth Beatitude in Matthew 5:6 — “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Indeed, it may be those who struggle the most with their inner conflicts who have the strongest desire for righteousness.

Parts of the Old Testament lesson and the Epistle harmonize beautifully in assuring the people of God’s love and strength to uphold them in the face of fearful circumstances and fearfulness within. These passages of encouragement were not written directly to me but to exilic Israel and the church at Ephesus; nevertheless, I think my membership in the Body of Christ, the people of God, means that these promises can speak to me as well.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look around you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us… raised us up with him… so that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7

As much as Paul irks and perplexes me at many times, I love passages like these where his grasp of God’s love is so deep he just about explodes with words upon words trying to describe it.


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