Christianity 201

July 5, 2016

Blessing: Favored by God

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. – Genesis 12:3 NIV

blessingOver the weekend, I wrote a very short story at Thinking Out Loud about what I felt was unnecessary use of the word blessing. In the course of writing, I decided to investigate how Biblical dictionaries define the word.

In terms of reliability, my default choice was an entry from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology as sourced at BibleStudyTools.com and partially reprinted below (their rather stern copyright statement prevented us from using it in full as I would have preferred):

God’s intention and desire to bless humanity is a central focus of his covenant relationships. For this reason, the concept of blessing pervades the biblical record. Two distinct ideas are present. First, a blessing was a public declaration of a favored status with God. Second, the blessing endowed power for prosperity and success. In all cases, the blessing served as a guide and motivation to pursue a course of life within the blessing.

The Old Testament Terms for blessing abound in the Old Testament, occurring over 600 times. The major terms are related to the word meaning “to kneel, ” since in earlier times one would kneel to receive a blessing…

…Three common themes are present in formal Old Testament blessings. First, the greater blesses the lesser, a fact picked up by the writer of Hebrews to demonstrate the superiority of Melchizedek to Abraham ( Heb 7:6-7 ). Second, the blessing is a sign of special favor that is intended to result in prosperity and success ( Deu 28:3-7 ). Third, the blessing is actually an invocation for God’s blessing: “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful” ( Gen 28:3 )…

The New Testament The parallels between the Old and New Testament usages of blessing are striking. To be blessed is to be granted special favor by God with resulting joy and prosperity. In the New Testament, however, the emphasis is more on spiritual rather than on material blessings…

…In a general sense, the terms for blessing in the New Testament are used to designate that one is favored by God. Included among these are Jesus ( Mark 11:9-10 ); children ( Mark 10:13-16 ); Mary ( Luke 1:42 Luke 1:48 ); the disciples ( Luke 24:50 ); those who “have not seen and yet have believed” ( John 20:29 ); and those who endure trials ( James 1:12 ; 5:11 ). As in the Old Testament, when these words are ascribed to God they are rendered “praise” ( Rom 1:25 ; 9:5 ; 2 Cor 11:31 )…

William E. Brown

The website CompellingTruth.org provided more background:

Perhaps the meaning of the word blessing can be most accurately understood when these three etymological meanings—blood consecration, praise, and good fortune—are taken in concert. For example, in Genesis 12:1-3, God makes a promise to Abram, saying, “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. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God is promising good fortune, and a good future, to the descendants of Abram, and He is saying that others will gain good fortune through him. It can be said that the nation of Israel, and all who believe in the God of Israel, are consecrated with blood—the blood of Jesus Christ—through faith. The Hebrew word barak means literally “to kneel” and when used in this context, it indicates a relationship between man, who adores God by kneeling, and God, who benefits men with His presence.

One of the best known blessing in the Bible is the Aaronic blessing, as found in Numbers 6: 22-27. Since this is quite familiar to many of you in its original form, here is how Eugene Peterson translates it:

22-23 God spoke to Moses: “Tell Aaron and his sons, This is how you are to bless the People of Israel. Say to them,

24 God bless you and keep you,

25 God smile on you and gift you,

26 God look you full in the face
    and make you prosper.

27 In so doing, they will place my name on the People of Israel—

I will confirm it by blessing them.”

 


Some background about today’s graphic image. It was found at the blog So What Faith, by Greg Smith, where he describes an unusual blessing:

In the April 16, 2014 edition of The Christian Century, a challenging blessing appears (p.9).  It was originally given to Brennan Manning by his spiritual director, Larry Hine, on the occasion of his ordination.

May all of your expectations be frustrated,
May all of your plans be thwarted,
May all of your desires be withered into nothingness,
That you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and can sing and dance in the love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

 

January 19, 2015

Pharaoh Asks Moses to Bless Him

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:27 pm
Tags: , , ,

NIV Exodus: 12:31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”

Did you catch those last four words? We often skip over this in the Exodus story, but Pharaoh asks Moses for a blessing before they leave.  Why?

In the book Slow Church, C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison write,

A good chunk of the biblical story of Exodus is, in essence, the story of Pharaoh’s fearful brutality against the Israelites.  It’s only after repeatedly failing to subdue the Israelites that Pharaoh gives up in exasperation.  He summons Moses and Aaron and tells them to take their people and get out of Egypt.  But before they leave, Pharaoh asks them to bless him. (p. 162)

They then quote Walter Brueggemann from an article called “The Liturgy of Abundance. The Myth of Scarcity”:

The great king of Egypt, who presides over a monopoly of the region’s resources, asks Moses and Aaron to bless him.  The powers of scarcity admit to this little community of abundance “It is clear that you are the wave of the future.  So before you leave, lay your powerful hands upon us and give us energy.”  The text shows that the power of the future is not in the hands of those who believe in scarcity and monopolize the world’s resources; it is in the hand of those who trust God’s abundance.

In Exodus: A Biblical Commentary, Victor Hamilton writes:

Maybe what Pharaoh wants from Moses’ blessing is a cessation of this plague, but vv. 29-30 suggest the plague has already done its work and run its course.  Does he, in making such a request, hope for some ‘payback’, some sort of quid pro quo, for releasing the Hebrew people?  Is this the prayer of a man at his wits’ end?  Can we hear Pharaoh say something like Jacob says to the ‘man’:  “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen 32:26b)?  Predictably, Pharaoh desires a blessing but repenting for his disgraceful, arrogant behaviour never crosses his mind.   p 193

Three things I noticed about Pharaoh’s request:

First of all, this is not a conversion story. It was a polytheistic culture and in conceding that Moses’ God had won the day, so to speak, he is not discarding the gods of his own people, but simply adding Moses’ God to his list of gods now that he feels the Hebrew God has proven Himself. Pharaoh is admitting that God had the ability to bless or curse, but there’s nothing that goes beyond that admission. That can be true of us as well. We say we trust in the atoning work of Jesus for our lives, but we rely on materialism for comfort or on technology to solve problems. We are all, to some degree polytheistic, but we would never think to put it on those terms.

Secondly, the feeling is momentary. He changes his mind again and sends his army after the people, the result being the familiar story of the parting of the Red Sea. To whatever end Pharaoh converts, it’s a short-term conversion. That can be true of people today. Many go forward at major evangelistic crusades, but, to refer to the parable, the seeds are choked out by weeds, wither in the sun, or are scattered by the wind. People are very sincere in the moment, but return to the old mindset. We say we want to rid ourselves of a particular sin, but fall back into it.

Thirdly, Moses does not respond. David Zucker writes:

At an earlier occasion Pharaoh had turned to Moses and said, “Plead for me” (other versions, “pray for me,” Exod. 8:28 [8:24 Hebrew]), and the Bible says that Moses did so (Exod. 8:29, 30). Now, Pharaoh asks again, but Moses is silent.

Pharaoh, representative of Egypt itself, may be pleading on behalf of his empire. Tell me that we will get past this terror!

Or, perhaps Pharaoh is pleading as a parent, a person in pain, a human being hurt by his own hubris. He is seeking a moment of compassion. It is clear that Moses has access to greater power than do the Egyptians. He asks for comfort in his loss, recognition for his pain, and some soothing word of consolation.

Or, perhaps, Pharaoh is seeking life itself? One Jewish teaching suggests that he himself is a firstborn. Bless me that my life will be spared is what he is asking…

Zucker then offers other possibilities for Moses’ silence, and I encourage you to continue reading at Ministry Magazine.

 

 

October 10, 2013

Stressed People Make Bad Decisions

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:10 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This is a reblog of an article from Created to Give God Glory, the blog of Prentis McGoldrick. You can read the article at its original source at this link.

We live in a moment-by-moment news reporting world. I get updates on my phone for each “Breaking News” story. Many of these stories are upsetting.

A young man begins to shoot people, a young woman is shot while using her car like a weapon, another person sets himself on fire, a group of bikers violently beat a man- each of these stories flash across my phone. The news reports look for a reason why. Often they chalk it up to some sort of mental illness.

Shouldn’t we be concerned why these people became ill rather than looking at the illness as if there is nothing that can be done? Nearly every case reveals that those who commit these acts have been under long term significant stress. They lost their jobs, were bullied, live in depression or somehow believe they have been denied something they deserve. This stress multiplied by time has caused them to become mentally ill if even for a moment. They are stressed and have no outlet for relieving that stress.

Think of Saul in the Old Testament. He didn’t believe he should be chosen as king. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, the humblest of the tribes. He hid among the baggage when called out to be recognized by the people. Later, he would offered a sacrifice that was not his to offer because he was afraid that Samuel the priest wasn’t going to get there before he lost to the Philistines. He kept the best spoil from a group of people whom God told to destroy with everything that belonged to them because he was afraid of the people. He opposed his best general when he wasn’t given as much praise as that general. He lost his kingdom because he made bad decisions. He was a man under stress.

Each day I watch people burst into road rage. I believe that most of these people are normally good neighbors and good citizens. What causes them to explode over the insignificant slights of others? I believe they are under such stress that any added stress sends them over what they are able to take. It is like a balloon that can’t take an ounce more air. It simply explodes.

This is so unnecessary. The Bible tells us to pray and turn it over to God. The Bible tells us that God loves us so much that He wants us to give Him our fears and anxieties. But I have observed that few Christians are having Quiet Times with God. They aren’t turning those things over to Him and, therefore, are carrying their stress on top of everything else that stresses them. Eventually the balloon must pop.

So, I urge you to make a very needed decision today before you make a bad decision. You may not do something violent but the decision may be just as harmful. (You might continue to bite your husband’s head off until you have added so much stress to him that he leaves- another bad decision!) Tell your stress to God. Put all of it in His hands. Trust that He will take care of it and you.

Then, laugh for He has healed you from your bad decision.

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)
7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

If you enjoyed this, here is another article from the same writer: Carefully Choosing Words to Bless.

If your internet surfing takes you past any articles our readers would be interested in, or you wish to try writing devotional/Bible study content yourself, please see the guidelines at right and then click the “Submissions” page.

March 28, 2011

A Sure Cure for Complaning

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:06 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

From Our Journey devotional

This reading by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

True story:  A church group from New Bern, North Carolina, had traveled to the Caribbean on a mission trip.   During this particular trip, their host took them to visit a leper colony on the island of Tobago.   While there, they held a worship service in the campus chapel.   As you can imagine, the sight of emaciated lepers filing into their seats on the bare pews bore deeply into the minds and memories of each visitor to this unaccustomed scene.

But no memory left its mark like this one:

When the pastor announced, “We have time for one more hymn.  Does anyone have a favorite?” he noticed a lone patient seated awkwardly on the back row, facing away from the front.   At this final call for hymn requests, with great effort, the woman slowly turned her body in the pastor’s direction.

“Body” would perhaps be a generous description of what remained of hers.  No nose.  No lips.  Just bare teeth, askew within a chalky skull.  She raised her bony nub of an arm (no hand) to see if she might be called on to appeal for her favorite song to be sung.   Her teeth moved to the croaky rhythm of her voice as she said, “Could we sing, ‘Count Your Many Blessings‘?”

The pastor stumbled out of the pulpit, out the door, and into the adjoining yard, tears of holy conviction raining down on his face.   One of the traveling party rushed to fill his place, arguably the most “unblessed” of any spot in the universe.

A friend hustled outside, put his arm around the sobbing pastor, and consolingly said, “I’ll bet you’ll never be able to sing that song again, will you?”

“Yeah, I’ll sing it,” the pastor answered, “but never the same way, ever again.”

Leave it to a grotesquely deformed leper to remind us that grateful people are characterized by grateful words, while ungrateful people are giving to griping, complaining, murmuring, whining.

Some grumble at why God put thorns on roses, while others wisely notice — with awe and gratitude — that God has put roses among thorns.   Hear what people are saying when they talk about the everyday events of their lives, and you’ll see in an instant the difference between gratitude and ingratitude.

“You are my God and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you.  Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Ps. 118: 28-29 ESV

September 7, 2010

Passing The Blessing Along

At the end of the day, the end of the month, the end of a life; we are being changed through Word and sacrament and encounter with the risen Christ.

It does not stop there however; we are changed to bring change to the lives of others.  We’re part of a “thread of grace,” or what others call a “chain of grace.”

This is a powerful worship song I first heard when its composer, Aaron Niequist was working at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids.   This video is an updated recording at Aaron’s current church, Willow Creek in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

In Jesus’ name I’ve been changed, I’ve been filled,
I’ve been found, I’ve been freed, I’ve been saved!
In Jesus’ blood I’ve been loved, I’ve been cleansed,
And redeemed, and released, rearranged

But how can I show You that I’m grateful?
You’ve been so generous to me.
How can I worship more than singing?
And live out Redemption’s melody.

I have been blessed – now I want to be a blessing
I have been loved – now I want to bring love
I’ve been invited – I want to share the invitation
I have been changed – to bring change, to bring change

In Jesus’ name we are changed, we are called,
We are chosen, adopted, and named!
In Jesus’ blood we are loved, we are healed,
We’re forgiven and free of our shame!

We want to show You that we’re thankful
Flooding Your world with hope and peace
Help us to worship more than singing
Giving Redemption hands and feet

We have been blessed – now we’re going to be a blessing
We have been loved – now we’re going to bring love
We’ve been invited – we’re going to share the invitation
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change

Thank You for this new life, thank You for the invitation!
God, we want to live it loud enough to shake the nations in Your name!

We have been saved – we’re going to shout about the Savior
We have been found – we’re going to turn over every stone
We’ve been empowered – to love the world to Heaven
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.