July, 1945, Cpl. Edgar Harrell was one of a small group of soldiers and sailors who survived the torpedo strike on the USS Indianapolis in WWII. In a few minutes, the ship was gone and he was floating in the ocean. He tells about some of the horrors of the aftermath in his wonderful book, Out of the Depths. He was in danger of the sharks below the water, the Japanese who sank the vessel, drowning in the water, and, ironically, not having any to drink. Many succumbed to dehydration in the vast ocean because there was no water to drink. He wrote, “By the time the sun reached its zenith at midday, our lips were cracked and bleeding and our tongues were beginning to swell in our parched mouths and throats, making our speech slurred almost beyond understanding. Dehydration was becoming our new and dreaded enemy— one that had taken the place of the sharks that would come and go. The only answer for the dehydration was the one thing we did not have— fresh water.” Unquenchable thirst.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled,” Matthew 5:6. When Harrell thirsted, nothing else could satisfy the great need – water. He must drink or he would die. They desired, thirsted for live giving water. Believe it or not, our culture is hungering and thirsting and striving for a twisted pseudo-righteousness, an arbitrary standard of what is good and right and the only way to be in good standing is to have the perfect righteousness of the zeitgeist. But it’s an ever changing standard and it is never enough.
The righteousness Jesus spoke of is God’s righteousness. Our righteousness is just not good enough. Usually it’s our own standard of good, not God’s anyway. You may feel the weight of condemnation of sin and know you’ve done wrong and know that you should do right. You thirst to be clean. So you decide to live right. Give to charity. Love your neighbor. Get right with God. But you are gulping sea water. Others try to become judge, jury, and executioner of their own standard of righteousness and appease their conscience by setting judging those who don’t live up to their standard. But that self-righteousness is shallow and vain and is a dirty sort of righteousness (Isaiah 64:6) making you worse off than before (Matthew 23:15), dead in sins and dry as bones.
The blessedness of the gospel is God not only forgives sins through faith in Christ’s blood, but also gives us Christ’s pure and perfect righteousness by faith (Romans 3:22). The poor in spirit, desperate for forgiveness and righteousness may come to Christ, without money, without cost and be filled (Isaiah 55:1-2). John 4:14, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.” Do you thirst to be clean and to be free from condemnation? Come and drink and you will be given His righteousness for your own.