Recently I was given the opportunity to share a special blessing for a church which I had pastored for quite a few years. The occasion was the church’s 50th Anniversary. The opportunity sent me thinking a lot about the significance and nature of blessing.
You can’t read the Bible very much without seeing that it has a lot to say about blessing. From the very first chapter of the Bible to the very last it is evident that blessing is an important theme for God’s people. In Genesis 1, after creating people in His own image, we read that God blessed them saying, be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth and subdue it…. In the last chapter He reveals through John the Apostle that … those will be blessed who have washed their robes so they can enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life.
Probably one of the most important occasions of blessing in the Bible occurs when God reveals Himself to Abraham and tells him He will bless him and that through him all the families of the earth will be blessed. As we read the unfolding story of God’s plan, we come to realize that the blessing He promised to Abraham is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ by whom everyone, both Jew and Gentile, are given the right of eternal blessing through faith in Him.
Think of the significance of blessing in the lives of Isaac and his two sons, Jacob and Esau. To Jacob the blessing of his father was so important, he cheated his brother, who was older and the rightful heir, in order to procure it. For the same reason he wrestled all night with the angel of the Lord in order to receive God’s blessing. This is important stuff. Esau on the other hand, apparently had little regard for God’s special blessing and ended up forfeiting God’s best.
The very nature of blessing is to give a good gift to someone. It tends to be very specific, even selective. It is selective both in regard to the object and the content. Esau illustrates that not everyone receives God’s blessing. Later, we read, for example that Jacob was loved and Esau was hated (Romand 9:13). So it is evident that God’s blessing is selective. Not everyone is blessed of God. It depends especially on their deepest response to God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. If the Bible has one main message it is that anyone may receive the personal blessing of God, often described as eternal life, through faith in Jesus (John 17:3) As it is said so eloquently in 1 Corinthians 1:20, All the promises of God are in him yea and Amen by us to the glory of God the Father.
There are several ways in which we can bless others, including God — through what we say, through what we do, and through what we pray. Words, for example, really are powerful tools with which to bless others. So it is that God has blessed us through the mighty revelation of His Word and blessed is the one who meditates in that Word (Psalm 1). And as for our words, one Proverb puts it this way: A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver (Proverbs 25:11). It is evident in the Scriptures (and experience) that words can be used in many different ways to bless others.
But we can also bless others by the things that we do — the gifts that we give and the services we provide. Even the smallest acts of service, including the hospitality of a cup of cold water in Christ’s name (Matthew 10:42), can be used to bless others. Forgiving is also a form of blessing others. Listening can be a form of blessing. In fact every word and action of godly encouragement to others (a smile, a small kindness, attention to need), whether they be to individuals or groups of people, can be God’s kind of blessing to them.
And finally there is the matter of prayer for others. Perhaps one of the greatest way of blessing another is to offer a prayer on his or her behalf. Intercession, the act of bringing others before the Lord for the sake of their well-being, is a very powerful and effective way of blessing them. We see this in the multitude of benedictions that are given to God’s people throughout the Scriptures. A benediction is really a prayer for God’s blessing in some particular way. It often is used to describe a more formal prayer of blessing at the end of a worship service by the presiding leader upon the gathered church community.
There are many, many examples of blessing given to the people of God in the Scriptures. They are among the most beautiful expressions of prayer because most often they come as lofty expressions of praise to God and blessing upon His people at the conclusion of an instruction or exhortation. Some of my favourite benedictions are:
- Numbers 6:24-26 — The Lord bless you, and keep you: The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
- 1 Chronicles 29:10- 13 — Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honour come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
- Jude 1:24, 25 — Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
- Hebrews 13:20, 21 — Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
- 2 Corinthians 13:14 — The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
- Revelation 1:5, 6 — Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen
So it is that we have been blessed through faith in Jesus Christ to be a blessing in ten thousand different ways to the people whom we love, the ones we fellowship in the body of Christ, and the ones with whom we interact in the everyday world. May God help us to see the power that there is in blessing Him and others for His glory.