What is a blessing? A woman sneezes in public and what does the stranger say? God bless you. An Irishman headed out on a trip hears these words, “May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.” Another blessing. And in Christian worship, the final part of the service is called the benediction, or time of blessing. But what is a blessing?
Paul’s letters all end with a blessing, and many open with them as well. Listen to a few of these blessings and consider what is common to each of them: (2Cor. 13:14) May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (Gal. 6:18) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. (Eph. 6:23-24) Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (Phil. 4:23) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
So what exactly is it that each of these blessings share that make them a blessing? They are all requests or declarations, assumed to be from God, for the betterment of someone’s life. The root of the Hebrew word for bless is the word for kneel. To be blessed involves kneeling, or as we will see in a little bit, kneeling is one way of worship. But right now, let me illustrate the concept of kneeling by jumping forward a few millennia to the Middle Ages, the times of Knights and chivalry, sword fights and gallantry. A person preparing for service in the kingdom and ready to receive his commission must come before the king. He must take a kneeling position and the monarch proceeds to pronounce certain declarations over him, all the while being tapped on the shoulders and head with a sword or scepter and this ends in a new life along with a new title, new rights, new responsibilities, new privileges and new abilities to carry forth the charge and commission that has been bestowed. This is a blessing. Without the kneeling of the subject, the blessing couldn’t occur and without the proclamation of the king, the blessing hasn’t happened.
This same reality is true for the person who comes before God. When Christians gather together to worship, they come saying, Help me, thank you, I’m listening, What can I do, I love you and sometimes even asking Why. But all of these questions and words make a profound statement about one’s ultimate position in the world. Christians are needy people, small and insignificant, particularly when confronted with a holy and Almighty God. We come before the Creator of the universe kneeling, worshipping for we need what he has to offer. But in worship, the Christian also hears the good news of a Savior come into the world to rescue the sinner, to free the oppressed, to heal the sick and comfort the downcast. We hear proclaimed the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which declares us free from the wrath of God and pronounces us sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Christ; and yet many times we struggle to believe these declarations. This is why the blessing exists, for in the blessing God reiterates his promises and we leave assured of the plans he has for us, plans for our prosperity and good future. As we kneel in worship, God touches our shoulders and our head, he penetrates our heart and assures us of the new life granted and the new title, position, responsibilities, privilege and ability that he has declared to us. The blessing is like the ancient rite of being knighted, ennobled, to be called Sir or Lady.
This lengthy introduction sets the stage for today’s text. In Psalm 67 you will notice that there is a striking resemblance to the High Priestly Blessing I pronounce every week at the end of the service. This blessing comes from Numbers 6. Normally I just say the blessing, but today I would like us to back up just a bit to get the context, a context that declares the blessing to be from the Lord as his promise to the nation: (Num. 6:22-26) The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ The ultimate blessing proclaimed over the people of God, originated in God. The words are his, not the priests; these are divine words for the people.
In our passage today many of these same phrases and allusions are used, May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us (Ps. 67:1). In these opening words, the psalmist is declaring his desire for all the wonderful actions freely offered by God to be granted to the worshipper. The psalmist is asking for God to turn his gaze toward the worshipping people. Warm them like the sun coming through the window on a cool winter day. Let your eyes and hence, your benevolent actions be directed upon these worshipping people so that their well-being is assured.
A blessing is also like a gentleman taking special notice of a lady. When she catches his attention, he can’t take his eyes off of her and he works his way across the room in order to be with her, to serve her, to care for her. That is what a blessing is like. We see this illustrated in the life of some biblical characters like Joseph and Ruth. (Gen. 39:4) Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. It wasn’t Potiphar who blessed Joseph, it was God who took notice of this man and blessed him. Likewise, Naomi declared to Ruth, (Ruth 2:19) Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” as she returned home with more grain than was reasonable to expect for gleaning. Again it was God who was coming across the fields and the nations, in order to serve Ruth through the wealth of Boaz. Just like that, the psalmist is asking that God take special notice of his people, those who worship in the temple.
A Blessing is God’s word to his people that all will be made right. A Blessing is God’s word to his people that they will triumph and he will stand with them. A Blessing is God’s promise to give them everything they need to live the life of righteousness to which they aspire and which he desires. A Blessing is our way of agreeing with what God has already said, by repeating back to each other, May the Lord go with you. It is a cry of the heart, grounded in the revelation of the Word that God will and in fact is shining his radiant face upon you and me already, just as he shined upon Moses and caused him to radiate the very glory of the Lord to the nation.
Except that the glory will never fade for those who are in Christ, and the promises will never diminish. In fact, those promises will only continue to gain strength and shine brighter, stronger, more clearly on us, through us and in us. Isaiah put it this way, (Is. 60:1, 19) “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. In fact, John carried Isaiah’s declaration to its fulfillment when God gave him these words concerning the New Jerusalem, where sin is defeated and Christians are victorious. Listen: (Rev. 22:5) There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever. This is the promise, this is the blessing for God’s people – He in their midst!
Let me continue to expound on this blessing and others we are promised as worshippers.
- From the opening verses of Ephesians, we are told that God the Father has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship…In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins…(Eph 1:3-7) There is a blessing of everything in Christ, than means nothing is missing, left out, short-changed. There is the blessing of being selected from among all the people. There is the blessing of being declared and remade holy, without sin, and even being a child of God. All of this is unfathomable. It grants us new rights, opportunities and responsibilities. The right to trample upon sin, to defeat evil forces in Christ to not fear. We have the opportunity to preach Christ, to declare hope, and to share joy and the responsibility to love God and neighbor along with the ability to actually do it because the Spirit of God and Christ now lives in us.
- It is a blessed inheritance that can never shift, but is an anchor for the soul, firm and secure (Heb 6:19). It is solid and unmovable.
- Colossians reminds us that the blessing of God comes from his very hand. For you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. (Col 3:24)
- Jesus himself, in the Sermon on the Mount tells us this is a blessing that includes ownership in the Kingdom of heaven for the poor in spirit, comfort for the mourner, inheriting the earth for the meek, being filled with righteousness for the hungry, receiving mercy for the merciful, actually seeing God for the pure, being children of God for the peacemaker (Insert Matt 5:3-10 for .ppt)
- There is a blessing for obedience John 13:17 Now that you know these things (commands and instructions of Christ, service), you will be blessed if you do them.
- There is even a blessing for simply reading the words of Revelation and another for hearing it and taking it to heart (Rev. 1:3). God wants to bless his people.
- Peter tells us that this blessing from God is eternal and can never be lost or diminished. (1Pet. 1:3-4) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you,
Furthermore, This blessing of God is a joy that need never be diminished. It is a nearness to God that can never be reversed. It is a peace that can never be disturbed and a righteousness that can never be tarnished.
So why does God bless his people? Verse 2 answers that question. We are blessed by God so that his ways might be known, his salvation experienced in the world. God’s ways, his saving hand, his help for a troubled, oppressed people, his caring concern for a people unable to save themselves are to be declared, but more than just declared, they are to be experienced. The reason God’s people are blessed is so that your ways (salvation in the second half of the couplet) may be known on earth…among all nations (Ps 67:2). That word known is the same Hebrew word used when a man knows a woman and she conceives. To know something in Hebrew is to deeply, experientially participate in it and live it out. We are blessed so that the world may intimately know, experience and participate in his saving work.
We are blessed so that his holy ways may come to the world. Listen to these Scriptures:
Gen 1:28 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
Gen. 28:4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham (bless those who bless, curse those who curse and be a blessing to all), so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land God gave to Abraham.”
Deut. 30:19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live
Gal. 3:14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
We are blessed so that people may know that God is with us, among us, present today in his world. (Is. 43:12) I have revealed and saved and proclaimed — I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.” We are blessed to worship and proclaim God and his love.
So how can we receive the blessing of having God’s eyes upon us? It is really rather simple. It is kind of like a circle that keeps going, without beginning or end, where the start is no one knows and where the end is no one can tell, and yet the answer is evident. To receive the blessings of God, God must speak and we must praise. We praise God and He blesses us. Then when God blesses us, we praise him more and lead others in praise and when we praise him, and then God blesses us some more. Did you notice verse 5 and 6? May the peoples praise you, o God; may all the peoples praise you. Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us (Ps 67:5-6). If you want to be blessed by God then get on the worship circle. The whole psalm cycles between blessing and praise, praise and blessing. They are intimately tied together. Sing of his praise, thank him for his goodness, listen to his word, act upon his promptings and then you will find the very blessings of God poured out upon you. Praise and worship, it is like a Möbius strip [curious property of drawing line and it twists to the outside and if the line is continued it connects again back to the original.]
You see, the ultimate outcome of God’s blessing is more praise and more blessing. His blessings runneth over. They never run dry. They are new every morning and bountiful as a harvest that never ceases. The banquet table of God that is pictured in heaven never lacks plenty, because his blessing continues forever. With the blessing of God comes the expansion of the people of God. (Is. 27:6) In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill the entire world with fruit. And with the expansion of God’s people comes more worship, (Ps 67:7) God will bless us and all the ends of the earth will fear him. And with more worship comes more blessing. The word fear used in verse 7 also means revere, which is another way of speaking about a deep love and honor for God, aka God will bless us and more people around the world will worship.
Worship the Lord; receive his blessing by practicing the Vertical habits of worship, which we have been discussing these past many weeks. Confession, thanksgiving, the Word, Service, Adoration: These will continue to place you in positions where the Lord can call to you who are found on bended knee saying– “I am your God, you are my people…ask of me and I will give you the treasures of heaven. Trust me and see how I deliver you. Follow me, in good times and bad and experience my never-ending presence as you thank me, cry out to me, ask for help and sit ready to learn, listen and obey. I am the God who blesses.”
Are you ready for the blessing of Christ to be poured out upon you? If the answer is yes, then Get ready, open your buckets, and get some jars like the widow of Zarephath start worshipping the Lord and watch as the rains of blessing descend. Watch as your heart is filled with joy, and the peace of God covers your mind. Watch as the love of Christ spills out of your words and through your actions. And praise him all the more. I have yet to meet a person who worshipped God with all their heart who wasn’t blessed immeasurably. People of God, you have been blessed; we have been blessed so that the world may praise and worship our Lord. Let the blessings overflow!
- What is a blessing?
- 2Cor 13:14, Gal 6:18; Eph 6:23-24; Phil 4:23; Num 6:22-26, Ps 67:1, Gen 39:4, Ruth 2:19, Isa 60:1, 19; Rev 22:5; Eph 1:3-7; 1Pet 1:3-4; Heb 6:19; Col 3:24; Matt 5:3-10; John 13:17; Rev 1:3
- God Blesses us so we will worship
- Ps 67:2, Gen 1:28, 28:4, Deut 30:19; Gal 3:14; Is 43:12
- Worship to receive a blessing from God
- Psalm 67:5-6
- Blessed so earth will worship – Isa 27:6, Ps 67:7