Blessed to be a Blessing Gen 27:30-38; Ps 133; Eph 1:3-10; Matt 14:15-21
In the beginning “God created man in his own image …male and female he created them.” And because God liked what he had made, “God blessed them and said…“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion.”” (Gen 1:28). Before they had done anything either good or evil the LORD blessed men and women with the power to multiply – to increase their own number, to multiply finances, friendship, technologies and so on (Gen 17:16; 2 Sam 6:11-12; Prov 10:22cf Acts 14:17). When God sees himself in us he likes what he sees and he always wants to bless and increase it. How is it then that there so much decrease in the world, so much sickness, sadness, sterility, poverty and death?
As Australians we have inherited a disposition that makes it very hard to bless the Lord (Deut 8:10). Very few that landed here in 1788 felt that God had blessed them in the land. Our national ingratitude to God runs deeply along family lines. When his long awaited son was born my father liked what he saw, but by my teenage years he was cursing me with remarks like, “You’re not worth a cold meet pie!” What happened in the heart of the girl from a Christian home when her father stood up at her 21st birthday and pronounced over her a long list of blessings, but her mother said nothing? The crisis of blessing in the spiritual culture of the nation is very powerful; does Alison always feel blessed to be in Australia, do the drunken aboriginal people you see about the place like the image God has placed in them? The crisis of blessing is a crisis over the heart of God as a Father, and it began when Adam and Eve turned away from God’s sphere of blessing and sought the power to bless themselves (Rom 5:12, 15).
Original Blessing Denied
Adam and Eve had the best that God could give them but it was not enough. Though already made in the image and likeness of God the Satanic temptation, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5) led them into disliking what they saw in themselves and wanting something more. Nothing has changed. John D. Rockefeller was the first modern billionaire. When asked, “How much money is enough?” He responded, “Just a little bit more.” We are a thankless nation who always wants just a little bit more. By putting ourselves first we have deformed the image of God, turned blessing into cursing and lost the fatherly favour of the Creator (Rom 1:21, 23; Gen 3:5). God’s solution to our selfishness is to focus the blessings of his personal presence into the sphere of covenant.
A Covenant of Blessing
The Lord made a covenant of blessing with Abraham, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”” (Gen 12:2-3 cf. Isa 51:2). “Blessing” appears five times, “cursing” once; such is the heart of God whose desire was to make Israel “blessed above all peoples.” And through her communicate his blessings to the nations (Deut 7:14). But there was a problem.
At the threshold of entering the Promised Land Moses lined Israel up on two facing mountains, one party to give words of blessing the other to speak words of cursing (Deut 27-28). The length of the covenant curses far exceeded those of the blessings for one terrible reason, the nation was always infatuated with idols (Deut 12:29-32; Hos 4:17). They liked other images more than the image of God revealed to them in creation and covenant. They said to an image carved from a piece of wood, ‘You are my father.’ and to an idol chiselled from a block of stone, ‘You are my mother.’ (Jer 2:27). This devastated the heart of the Father who longed to bless them (Jer 31:20). Behind the moral chaos in ancient Israel, and modern Australia, is the substitution of idols of pleasure prosperity for the blessing of the one true God (Rom 1:22ff.) God had only one way of saving us from the curses of decrease, disease, disability and death we have brought upon ourselves; to multiply blessing to humanity he must send amongst us his own perfect likeness, Jesus the Son of God (Col 1:15).
The Son of the Blessed
The biblical language of blessing finds its most intense concentration around the time of Jesus’ birth; the angel Gabriel blesses Mary, Elizabeth blesses Mary, Mary speaks of herself as blessed, Zechariah and Simeon bless God, and both Joseph and Mary are blessed by Simeon (Luke 1:28, 42, 45, 48, 68; 2:28, 34). Time and again we find a formula like this; “Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit …saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel (Luke 1:67-68 cf. 1:41; 2:25). The Holy Spirit is the one who unleashes the power of blessing; this was also true also true for Jesus. Only after he is baptised in the Spirit and hears, ““You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” do the Father’s blessings begin to pour out of him (Luke 3:22). Once the Spirit communicated how much pleasure the Father had in seeing his likeness in his Son Jesus was filled with the power to bless others with his blessing.
The beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount are famous, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom heaven” and so on. The captivating authority of these blessings comes from Christ’s consciousness that he is the mediator of all these blessings of the Father. Jesus knows he is the truly poor in spirit to whom God’s kingdom belongs, he is the meek one who will inherit the earth, he is the peace maker who is God’s son and so on (Matt 5:3-11). Jesus is at the centre of the hourglass between the blessings of heaven and the needs of earth. The crowds thronged to be in his presence because all the Father’s blessings of healing and salvation flow through him. And, unlike the Old Testament, Jesus never spoke a word of cursing to any living human soul. In his presence all manner of people sensed they were loved, liked and accepted by God. One of my favourite stories in understanding the power of blessing is the feeding of the 5,000.
When Jesus receives 5 loaves and two fish from the disciples he “looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds….And they all ate and were satisfied.” (Matt 14:19-20). When Jesus looked up to heaven he was fully conscious of the presence, power and happiness of his heavenly Father. He knew in his heart the Father’s pleasure in his own desire to meet the needs of the people. The loaves and fish simply had to multiply under the power of commanded divine blessing (Lev 25:21; Deut 28:8 cf. Deut 24:19 etc.).
When Jesus entered Jerusalem the crowds were ecstatically expectant of the arrival of God’s unlimited reign of blessing, ““Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”” (Mark 11:9-10). They were sure that soon sickness, sadness and death would be no more. But Jesus had earlier prophesied, ““blessed is the one who is not offended by me”” (Matt 11:4-6), and the religious rulers of Jerusalem were so offended by his popularity they had decided that he must die (Mark 15:10). They knew how to get rid of the Jesus movement once and for all, they knew that the Law of Moses decreed that a crucified man was a cursed man (Deut 21:23; Gal 3:13).
With great cunning the High Priest posed the crucial question; ““Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am…” Their response was immediate, “You have heard his blasphemy….And they all condemned him as deserving death.” (Mark 14:61-64). As Christ hung on the cross he seemed to embody the very opposite of the blessed life of increase that God had destined for humanity. When he cried out in lonely desolation; ““My God…why have you forsaken me?”” it seemed like the blessedness of Sonship had been extinguished and God himself no longer liked what he saw in Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 15:34). But in the mystery of God the revelation of the limitless blessedness of the Father in the Son was about to take place. Jesus had unforgettably taught his followers, ““Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you…. that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”” (Matt 5:43-45; Luke 6:27-28). So when he prayed from his cross, ““Father forgive them”” (Luke 23:34), the full and final revelation of the heart of the Father as a heart of total blessing had arrived at last. The blessedness concentrated in Jesus as the Son of God has conquered the power of all evil and cursing (Rom 9:5). Soon he would be raised from the dead passing on his ministry of blessing to us.
The earthly story of Jesus ends as it begun, with the communicated power of blessing; “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them….and was carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24:50-51). Jesus’ blessing will be passed on through the Holy Spirit.
Blessed to be a Blessing
The covenant promise to Abraham that he would be blessed to be a blessing to others is communicated through us by the power of God’s Spirit; “Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.” (Gal 3:14). The power of the Spirit to work “signs and wonders…in the fullness of the blessing of Christ” is as great today as it was in the days of Jesus and the apostles (Rom 15:19, 29).
When I was in Sydney the other week one of the pastors there told us a story of going to Gambia in West Africa, a nation that is 90% Muslim and hostile to the gospel. On the first night when he was preaching the crowd tried to stone him to death but when they saw he was supernaturally protected by the power of God they all fell silent. As Moslems they no doubt expected they would come under the judgement of God’s wrath, but Jesus healed every sick person in that meeting, this is the power of blessing. Here is the recipe for the presence of the divine power of blessing; “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.” (1 Pet 3:9). To forgive is to reveal the Father’s heart to bless.
Let me tell another story about the power of blessing. I am part of a prayer group that meets every week in Perth. A 40 year old woman looking ragged, distressed and desperate turned up there the other week. She was up from the country and tried to sleep the night in a park, where she was beaten and robbed. As she was preparing to take her own life that morning she heard a voice speak to her telling her to go to Wesley Church and ask for prayers from the ladies in pink. Frantically she started to ask people where to find this church. After 5 hours of searching she entered the Church met the two ladies in pink received their prayers and came to Christ as Saviour. But she still had nowhere to sleep. The Spirit of God began to speak to one of the women (whose husband is not a Christian) about taking her home for the night, so they hopped on the train together. By divine design it turned out that a former case worker from the department of domestic violence was on the train; and this lady (Christine) testified to her of the love of Jesus saying,” today has been the worst day of my life and the best day of my life.” The case worker responded; “I’m so pleased to see you looking strong, I can’t remember a time when you could talk without crying. I’m so happy for you.” ““I’m so happy for you.”” This is the power of blessing; but blessing in the way of Christ is not costless.
We are all appalled by the number of homeless people on the streets of Perth, but there are many more spare bedrooms in Christian homes than there are homeless in our city. We took Louise in years ago when our children were small. I didn’t get too upset when I realised she had stolen the offering money for the church and forged a cheque, but it was a little harder to bless her when we realised she had stolen the kids pocket money. A great revival is taking place today in Mozambique; Heidi Baker is planting literally 1000’s of churches through signs and wonders. But such miracles are not the greatest power of blessing in her ministry. Heidi once saw a little girl covered with lice, nits and scabies, whilst recognising knowing that if she touched the girl she would come down with these afflictions herself she didn’t hesitate to pick up the child and hug her close in the name of Jesus. (She of course did come down with various afflictions.) If you want to bless people you must get close to them in the power of the Spirit and the love of God.
The Pass-it-Forward-Piggies strategy to raise money for Indigenous children is a great innovation; BUT my mind goes back to being with some Indigenous people in Central Australia, the odour of these drunken unwashed men is as unforgettable as the specialness of the experience. If you want to bless the broken for Jesus you must get up close and personal. If we are serious about the theme, “Blessed to be a Blessing”, Jesus will bring plenty of strange and hurting people into our midst to be blessed. This will all be too hard for us, unless we all experience a new empowering to bless. (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pass-It-Forward-Piggies Bassendean/338863389636085)
If we are to bless others in the name of Jesus we need a new insight into what it means to be blessed by God. We can hear the Great Commission, “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19), as an obligation, or in hearing these words you can sense the Father likes his Son so much he wants the whole world to share in his pleasure. Our heavenly Father “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and so likes us in Christ just as he likes Jesus (Eph 1:3 cf. 1 John 4:17); but only the revelation of the Holy Spirit can turn this truth into the power to bless others (Gal 4:4-6). The Father gave his Son to die for us that we might be free from all evil and cursing and live in the increasing power of commanded blessing. The heart of God longs to fill us with his power to bless others. The Spirit’s power first comes to us through a mode with which we are very familiar; forgiveness. Sunday by Sunday we remember these words; “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16). As we take communion we must ask the Father to give us a greater spiritual experience of his forgiveness so we might bless others with this forgiveness. Day after day we are surrounded by people who have no understanding of what it is to be liked and loved by God as a Father and will never experience this unless we come up close to them and bring them by word and deed into the sphere of the blessings of Christ. I can see how much Jesus wants to fill us with all his spiritual gifts, gifts he likes to give us and gifts we will like, so that we might communicate his life to others. “Blessed to be a Blessing” is not a theme for a church year; it is a total way of life. Will you ask for this blessing today?