Everyone knows that famous scene from the movie “Life of Brian”. Jesus is preaching his sermon on the mount and at the back of the crowd poor Brian mishears “blessed are the cheesemakers”.
Whenever I hear Christians say “I am so blessed by God” and they are referring to their personal wealth or career or latest holiday then I can’t help but think they may have misunderstood Jesus just like Brian.
‘Blessed’ is such an old-fashioned word. My trusty 2010 Macquarie Dictionary says that to be blessed is to be consecrated, holy or divinely favoured, but that definition is too esoteric.
I was reminded about the true nature of blessing by William Taylor at CMS Summer School this year. Our God is a God of blessing. Blessing originates from God. You need go no further than the first 2 chapters of the Bible to see how thoroughly all creation depends on God’s blessing:
Gen 1:22 – God blessed them saying “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it”
Gen 2:3 – God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy for on it He rested from His work of Creation.
Humanity was blessed at creation yet very quickly Adam and Eve turned their backs on blessing and discovered its opposite - cursing. As human sin entered and marred creation so did humans and creation experience curse. The curse of the Fall in Genesis 3 is the predominate challenge to our current existence and comes in all its forms: death; decay; relational breakdown between God and mankind; and relational breakdown amongst mankind.
In the Genesis account, after the Fall the next occurrence of blessing comes with Noah. God said to Noah, in an echo of his previous words: “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 9:1). However, Noah’s family carried on the tradition of rebelling against God and his good blessing to us. This pattern of human rebellion is well documented in both the pages of the Bible and the stories of human history. Curse, not blessing, seems to be the order of the day for humanity.
Enter Abram in Genesis 12. A no one from no-wheres-ville but decidedly human – the son of Terah – the son ultimately of Adam – the son of rebellion and curse. But God uniquely blessed Abram:
My covenant is with you: you will become the father of many nations. 5 Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. 6 I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. 7 I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. 8 And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.” (Gen 17:4-8)
God’s blessing took the form of promises; some to be realized in Abram’s life and others in the longer term. Abraham was given a new name. Abram meant “the father is exalted” and was probably given by his parents in reference to the moon cult of Ur. However, his new name, as we are told, was a statement of promise – Abraham the father of a multitude.
As William Taylor explained at CMS Summer School, embedded in the new name ‘Abraham’ are the three ideas: father, blessing and fruitful abundance. Abraham’s name is therefore itself a repetition of God’s promises.
Years later, after Jesus came and lived and died and rose again, Hebrews 11:12 pointed out that those promises did find fulfilment. When speaking about Abraham it says: “12 Therefore from one man—in fact, from one as good as dead—came offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as innumerable as the grains of sand by the seashore.”
True blessing is most certainly divinely ordained. However, we mishear God if we do not first understand blessing through the incredible promises of God. It’s no wonder Jesus actually says in his sermon on the mount: don’t worry about the things of this world but seek first the Kingdom of God. Because God’s ancient blessing, first in creation then specifically through Abraham and fulfilled in Jesus is the whole point of all of creation and discovering this is the very purpose of our life.
The Bible ends in the book of Revelation as it began in Genesis - with blessing. Blessed are those who wash their robes in the blood of Jesus – they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city of God (Rev 22:14). What a wonderful and certain hope fulfilled and finally revealed in Christ. We are blessed.
If you would like to think more about the promises of God fulfilled in Jesus then I recommend the William Taylor talks available for purchase and download from cms.org.au/nswact website.
In the coming month there are two opportunities to consolidate some of these incredible ideas. Don’t miss our Sermon on the Mount sermon series starting in February. Also, why not join our PTC courses (Introduction to the Bible or Old Testament 1) starting in February that will push you further to understand God’s promises revealed in the Bible.