Integrity: A Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Core of the Bible Podcast Episode 10 – Integrity: A Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

In this episode we will be exploring the deep desire for integrity that is a hallmark of believers. This desire wells up from the deepest recesses of our spiritual being, driving us to be conformed to the life of Messiah, a life of truth and righteousness.

Yeshua stated it this way: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6

In the Core of the Bible paraphrase, I have restated it this way: Crave equity; thirst for doing the right thing, and you will be blessed as you are satisfied.

I like the idea that righteousness or integrity is a craving. We can relate to that sensation from a physical point of view, so it is easy to translate that into a spiritual perspective. A craving or a thirst is something that cannot be ignored, it must be pursued until it is satiated. A life of integrity is one in which those cravings are striven for in every area of life.

Hunger and thirst are the body’s urgent indicators that nutrition and fluids necessary and vital for life need to be ingested as soon as possible. In like fashion, a believer cannot deny the indicators of holy injustice and inequity which can only be satisfied with right actions. Just like the correct food and drink allow us to live healthy lives, believers thrive on righteousness.

Isaiah 41:17-18 NKJV – “The poor and needy seek water, but [there is] none, Their tongues fail for thirst. I, the LORD, will hear them; [I], the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers in desolate heights, And fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, And the dry land springs of water.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 107:9 For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Hunger and thirst are the physical representations of the deeper spiritual needs that we all share, and therefore we have a common bond with all other humans in the pursuit of having these needs met.

According to Yeshua, the life of integrity is a life that is hungry and thirsty for righteousness. The world is a barren desert wilderness where righteousness is not to be found, unless God meets that need for us. And he can, and he will.

The Bible is filled with stories and parables regarding hunger and thirst, and the provision of God. For example, as Moses is recounting to the Israelites their struggles in the wilderness for 40 years, and how God had provided for them, he says:

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. … “

This passage is rich with the imagery that speaks in more concrete terms about spiritual truths. The example of Israel wandering in the wilderness is akin to our own wandering journey through this life. The uncertainty of the daily provision was a real struggle that had to be endured. Yet, God overcame that uncertainty of daily food by providing manna. But the text also says WHY God did this:

He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

Just as their physical hunger was provided for, their spiritual hunger could be provided for if they would seek his word and his wisdom as earnestly as they sought the manna each morning, and with the same regularity. The Bible teaches us is that whatever is needed, God can provide. Wandering Israel needed food; God provided manna. They needed water; God provided miraculous pools and springs to sustain them.

Drawing on this very imagery of the wilderness journeys, Yeshua states further:

John 6:31-32, 35 NLT – After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. … Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Yeshua spoke not only of the bread of life that he could provide, but of the water of life to satisfy every thirst:

John 4:14 But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.”

John 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and called out in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”

God knows we have a need, and he has provided for that need. In some cases, people don’t recognize their need for this spiritual food and drink, and therefore carry on through their lives oblivious to the richness available to them. This is why it is the person of integrity who recognizes this need, and feels the hunger and the thirst for righteousness every moment of every day, and pursue those cravings by drawing near to God. Their cravings drive them to seek for the truth of God’s instruction, and God provides.

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible regarding Matt. 5:6

Blessed are they which do hunger … – Hunger and thirst, here, are expressive of strong desire. Nothing would better express the strong desire which we ought to feel to obtain righteousness than hunger and thirst. No needs are so keen, none so imperiously demand supply, as these. They occur daily, and when long continued, as in case of those shipwrecked, and doomed to wander months or years over burning sands, with scarcely any drink or food, nothing is more distressing. An ardent desire for anything is often represented in the Scriptures by hunger and thirst, Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 63:1-2. A desire for the blessings of pardon and peace; a deep sense of sin, and want, and wretchedness, is also represented by thirsting, Isaiah 55:1-2.

They shall be filled – They shall be satisfied as a hungry man is when supplied with food, or a thirsty man when supplied with drink. Those who are perishing for want of righteousness; those who feel that they are lost sinners and strongly desire to be holy, shall be thus satisfied. Never was there a desire to be holy which God was not willing to gratify, and the gospel of Christ has made provision to satisfy all who truly desire to be holy.

Isaiah 55:1-2 1“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Why spend money on that which is not bread, and your labor on that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of foods.…

Psalm 42:1-2 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul longs after You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God.

How can you tell if you’re hungry? Well, if your hungry you’re most likely going to eat whatever small bit of food is put in front of you. But if you’re full even the most generous portion of delicious food will not seem appealing in any way.

The person hungry for righteousness will eat every little scrap of it that comes their way, while those who are not hungry wouldn’t touch it if it was served in the very center of the most delicious cake. The hungry yearn for even crumbs of righteousness to fall from the table. Those who are full do not value integrity and righteousness at all, and would rather use any means and any methods to get what they want.

So, in my mind, a natural question arises: If those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are filled and satisfied, then could the opposite also be true? If one doesn’t hunger and thirst for righteousness, will they not be filled?

The Bible speaks of it in this way:

Job 38:15 – Light is withheld from the wicked, and the arm raised in violence is broken.

Proverbs 4:19 – The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.

Prov 11:3: The integrity of the upright shall guide them, but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them.

Prov 13:6: Righteousness guards the way of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner.

1 Cor. 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Ultimately, those who choose to follow their own ways demonstrate the lack of integrity that God desires of his people who will accomplish his purpose, and they are therefore outside of his kingdom. The way of the unrighteous is to reject the wisdom of God. In doing so, they seal their own fate, if they remain in that state.

In the first chapter of Proverbs, the Wisdom of God is personified as an individual warning people to abide in God’s ways:

Proverbs 1:30-33 They refused my [Wisdom’s] advice. They despised my every warning. They will eat the fruit of their lifestyle. They will be stuffed with their own schemes. Gullible people kill themselves because of their turning away. Fools destroy themselves because of their indifference.

By contrast, the righteous long for the wisdom of God. They seek his counsel at every opportunity.

1:33 But whoever listens to me will live without worry and will be free from the dread of disaster.

Prov 2:7-8: He lays up sound wisdom for the upright. He is a shield to those who walk in integrity; that he may guard the paths of justice, and preserve the way of his saints.

Those who seek God’s wisdom will walk in their integrity.

Titus 2:7-8 And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us.

By walking with integrity, we provide no opportunity for others to demean the message of the kingdom. In fact, we exhibit the very characteristics that God desires of his people, and that becomes a light to others in a world filled with the darkness of selfish ambition and careless avarice.

In summary, being a person of integrity can be simply stated as someone who strives to do the right thing, according to God’s standards, at every opportunity. They are so focused on righteous living that it can be characterized as a deep and enduring hunger and thirst that drives them. In so doing, God promises their hunger will be filled and their thirst will be satisfied.

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. Integrity is a lifelong pursuit, but one that God promises will be rewarded when we seek his wisdom and righteousness in everything we do.

We need to keep in mind that integrity is one of the concepts that is integral within the core of the Bible qualities of kingdom, vigilance, holiness, trust, forgiveness and compassion. It is my hope you will continue to review with me these aspects of human expression that, I believe, God expects of all people.

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Striving after the passionate faithfulness of past generations

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

Psalm 86:11

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

Psalm 143:10

The person of integrity is one who intently seeks to know the truth of God. They desire to walk in that way, to conform their lives to what God desires of them. They have made seeking God the passion of their life, hungering to know him more and to know the correct way. They will not rest until they have heard a word from God, until he has shown them the next steps on their path.

The Psalms are well-known among believers because they are filled with this type of pleading to God for guidance, for pouring out praise to God and outwardly declaring a desire for righteousness in speech and in action.

As believers, we identify with the passionate expression of these principles, because we are ignited with the same Spirit. The kindred longings and desires of our hearts beat in unison with those faithful who have gone before and expressed their deepest secrets which are immortalized among the pages of Scripture. The integrity that lived and breathed in them inspires us to learn of their ways and mimic their faithfulness.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Hebrews 12:1

Understanding the positive by defining the negative

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

Proverbs 11:3

The book of Proverbs provides a wealth of God’s wisdom in brief statements. The juxtaposition of positive and negative characteristics help to illustrate each other, causing them to stand out in bold relief to one another.

When we understand the characteristics of the negative quality, we look to its opposite in order to understand the positive quality more fully. This is the beauty of the proverbs that contrast good and bad qualities.

In this verse, the integrity, the completeness or wholeness, of someone who is righteous or upright is contrasted with the twisted ways of those who are deceitful, or who act covertly in order to accomplish their own ways, even if it means overthrowing the actions of the righteous.

Many Bible versions will list this negative quality as “perverseness.” While this is not technically incorrect, the word “perverse” tends to have a different connotation in our modern vernacular. Relating the underlying Hebrew word as “crooked” brings out some of the meaning of the original: the idea of twisting or distortion of something by acting covertly in an intentional manner. This is an apt description of how someone who is treacherous would act in order to accomplish their own ends. In the end, it destroys them.

By contrast, the righteous or upright can be guided in the correct way to walk by recognizing the opposite of the crooked, twisting, covert ways of the treacherous. A person with integrity will deal honestly and fairly with others at all times. There is no hidden agenda with a righteous person; what they say, they will do. They are known as a “straight shooter,” someone who can be trusted because they are faithful and loyal. Everything is open and above-board in dealing with a righteous person, and you will always know where you stand.

In Matthew 5:33-37, Yeshua encourages believers to exhibit these characteristics in all of their outward relations: “Be a person of your word, not requiring any oath to substantiate your actions. Simply say yes or no, and do what you say.”

When we act in this way, we can honor God and magnify the positive characteristics displayed in his word.

How to change the world, or at least your corner of it

During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. … Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. … The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service. … But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.

Daniel 1:1, 3, 5, 8

One of our admonitions from Yeshua is to demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands (Matt. 5:20). Sometimes these external commands take the form of direct instruction, and sometimes these “commands” come in the form of allowances or tolerations of our culture that would violate the purity of our relationship with God. We must resist both forms of this type of cultural influence.

In the case of Daniel and his friends, they were removed from their home and brought to a completely different culture under a new political regime. Even though they were favored within this new dynamic, Daniel and his friends, in their integrity, resolved not to be negatively influenced by this turn of events, and to remain loyal to God.

The Hebrew culture that Daniel had been raised in had very specific dietary requirements in order to maintain faithfulness to the Torah, or instruction, of God for his people. Given the “freedom” to eat all types of foods and meats in his new environment, Daniel was committed to remain faithful to those requirements at any cost.

Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.” Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff … “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. … At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king.

Daniel 1:9-12, 15

Daniel and his friends were able to demonstrate to this chief of Nebuchadnezzar’s staff that God was able to meet their needs, even if it meant going against the cultural “mandate” of royal rations.

Integrity has this ability to influence others through maintaining a set of internal commitments that will not be shaken under any circumstance. This is a highly valued commodity among all people because it is rarely seen in common practice.

It is our obligation as believers to be so thoroughly committed to our faith that through our integrity we become the influencers of those around us, rather than allowing them to influence us.

Integrity through persecution

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 5:10

Endure harmful pursuit for doing what’s right, and you will be blessed, having possession of the Kingdom of God.

Integrity involves standing up for what’s right, even while enduring hostile environments. In our day, the concept of persecution has been trivialized into essentially any notion of being ridiculed or spoken out against.

However, in biblical terms, the concept of persecution conveys the act of having to flee from those who are intent on injuring or even killing those who have opposing viewpoints.

In denouncing the corruption of the Jewish leaders, Yeshua foretold the horrendous actions they would perform on the “prophets, wise men, and scribes” that would be sent to continue to warn them of their wickedness:

Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar. Most certainly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Matthew 23:34-36

He also warned his followers that they would experience these things in standing for the truth of his words:

But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] you, delivering you up to synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name’s sake.

Luke 21:12

History bears out that this is exactly what happened, and believers were hunted and rooted out of synagogues for believing in Messiah. They were scourged, stoned, imprisoned, and killed for maintaining the integrity of their faith.

This is a far cry from those today who claim persecution because of receiving negative comments on social media, or having others simply disagree with their views and call them names. While maintaining our integrity is still just as valuable in those situations, to claim those inconveniences as persecution is dishonoring our spiritual forebears who quite literally put their lives and the lives of their family members, their very daily existence, at risk because of their views of Messiah.

While there are areas of the world where legitimate persecution for the kingdom still exists, we can be truly thankful to God that in free societies our voices can be heard, and our lives are not daily in jeopardy for believing in, and sharing the light of, his Messiah.

This should motivate us all the more to demonstrate integrity by maintaining the truth of our faith in all of our words and actions, and in our relationships and interactions with those around us.

Meekness that moves mountains

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5

Conduct yourself with mildness and gentleness, and you will be blessed as an inheritor of the whole world.

Most English translations of this verse use the words like meek or humble instead of gentle to designate those who will be blessed as inheritors of the earth. As is typically the case, in shifting between languages certain meanings are lost and others are gained. What Yeshua is expressing here is not timidity or weakness, but rather strength that is under complete control, having the ability to demonstrate great power without harshness. This is a vital ingredient in the make up of the integrity of a believer.

It’s a non-intuitive way of viewing power in general, as we typically associate power with directness and abruptness of absolute authority or influence. However, the quality spoken of here is one of constancy of purpose and direction, yet having the ability to convey that definitive purpose in a way that is steady and unyielding but without being severe.

Biblical meekness or gentleness can be likened to a forest stream as it winds its way down a mountain in the wilderness. The power of the water is steady and unyielding, yet it doesn’t flow in a straight line from the top of the mountain to the lake into which it empties itself. It flows over and around rocks and obstacles as it makes its journey, softening the edges of hard rock and scooping bits of soil and pebbles in its path and carrying them away. Over time, its effects become more prominent as the channel for the stream becomes deeper and more defined. While, from one perspective, the water can be thought of as yielding to the hard rocks along the way, it is actually molding, shaping, and moving the mountain as it flows over and around the rocks and pebbles in its path,

This is the concept of biblical meekness or gentleness: strength under control, flexible but unyielding, having a powerful purpose but adapting to its environment while accomplishing its ends.

As believers express this integrity of gentleness in expressing God’s powerful purpose ar0und them, anything is possible. This is the type of power that truly inherits the earth.

Lighting the way for others

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Be shining: let your good practices be seen by all. Magnify God.

The life of a believer is a life that is all about others. It’s not just about receiving light for your own path, but about lighting the way for those around you. As that light is received, they can recognize and honor God for who he is.

We don’t have the luxury of receiving wisdom from God simply for our own benefit and use. That does not align with our integrity. Integrity is not only about doing the right thing, but doing the right thing in the sight of, and for, others. In fact, integrity doesn’t exist until it can be demonstrated to someone else, whether it be God or your neighbor.

The reality is that the truth of God can’t be contained. As you act with integrity based on the wisdom you have received, your good works make a difference in the lives around you. Those acts of integrity then act as a light for others who see the consistency of your beliefs and your actions. When that happens, God is magnified, that is, brought closer in reality to them.

Put your lamp on the lampstand where it belongs. Together, our collective lights become a city of righteousness that magnifies and broadcasts a beacon of God’s truths to our world, and a generation of those living in the darkness can be drawn to him.

Blinded by hypocrisy

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:3-5

Don’t be hypocritical.

Hypocrisy is readily understood by all people. Hypocritical actions are the basis of lost trust, strained work relations, and broken friendships. Hypocrisy undermines the integrity of those who exemplify it.

Within each individual there must be a deep desire for fairness and justice, otherwise hypocrisy would be meaningless. Recognizing hypocritical actions demonstrates how all people, regardless of religious beliefs, have the ability to discern a measure of rightness or equity.

When someone doesn’t hold themselves to the same standards they expect of others, they reveal a moral deficiency that invalidates their position. They can become blinded to the true state of any given situation, and then remain unable to be an effective help those around them.

This is why it is critical that we as believers maintain a consistent worldview in all matters of any moral depth. Our ability to maintain our integrity reflects on the One whom we represent, and the kingdom he is establishing. When our integrity is intact, we then have the clarity of vision to keep our own way pure, and also to provide that exemplary guidance as a light to others.

Integrity and Righteousness

Core of the Bible Podcast Episode 3

Integrity is more than just doing the right thing when no one is around – it’s about doing the right thing from the heart in all situations. Uriah the Hittite exemplifies this aspect of integrity.

Episode Notes

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses [that] of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:20

This principle is summed up by its paraphrase: “Demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands.”

A life of integrity is one that is not driven solely by a list of do’s and don’ts. Right actions should spring from a willing heart, not from a grudging sense of obligation. It’s not just a matter of doing the right thing, but doing the right thing for the right reasons, with the right attitude.

The example of Uriah the Hittite – 2 Samuel 11

Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and a present from the king was sent out after him. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. Now when they told David, saying, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing.”

Once the heart is sincere and motives are pure, actions of true integrity will follow.

Right Actions Sustain Life

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Matthew 5:6

Crave equity; thirst for doing the right thing, and you will be blessed as you are satisfied. A craving is something that cannot be ignored, it must be pursued until it is satiated.

Hunger and thirst are the body’s urgent indicators that nutrition and fluids necessary and vital for life need to be ingested as soon as possible. In like fashion, a believer cannot deny the indicators of holy injustice and inequity which can only be satisfied with right actions. Just like the correct food and drink allow us to live healthy lives, believers thrive on righteousness.