(Benediction, Benefit, Hoped-for Result)
1. What is a blessing?
22 The LORD said to Moses,
23 "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 "' "The LORD bless you and keep you;
25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."'
27 "So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."
KEY BIBLE VERSE: May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)
A blessing is a hopeful prayer. A blessing was one way of asking for God's divine favor to rest upon others. The ancient blessing in these verses helps us understand what a blessing was supposed to do. Its five parts conveyed hope that God would
(1) bless and keep them (bless and protect);
(2) make his face shine upon them (smile);
(3) be gracious;
(4) turn his face toward them (show his favor);
(5) give peace.
When you ask God to bless others or yourself, you are asking him to do these five things. The blessing you offer will not only help the one receiving it, it will also demonstrate love, encourage others, and provide a model of caring to others.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father,
15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
KEY BIBLE VERSE: I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. (Ephes. 3:17)
Christian growth is a blessing. The family of God includes all who have believed in him in the past, all who believe in the present, and all who will believe in the future. We are all a family because we have the same Father. God is the source of all creation, the rightful owner of everything. He promises his love and power to his family, the church (Ephes. 3:16-21). If we want to receive God's blessings, it is important that we stay in contact with other believers in the body of Christ. Those who isolate themselves from God's family and try to go it alone cut themselves off from God's power. But those who live within the body of Christ discover the blessing of Jesus becoming more and more at home in them.
2. God's Blessing
In what ways does God bless?
1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.
2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.
5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.
7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
KEY BIBLE VERSE: I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3)
God blesses through his eternal plans. God planned to develop a nation of people he would call his own. He called Abram from the godless, self-centered city of Ur to a fertile region called Canaan, where a God-centered, moral nation could be established. Though small in dimension, the land of Canaan was the focal point for most of the history of Israel as well as for the rise of Christianity. This small land given to one man, Abram, has had a tremendous impact on world history.
God promised to bless Abram and make him great, but there was one condition. Abram had to do what God wanted him to do. This meant leaving his home and friends and traveling to a new land where God promised to build a great nation from Abram's family. Abram obeyed, walking away from his home for God's promise of even greater blessings in the future. God may be trying to lead you to a place of greater service and usefulness for him. Don't let the comfort and security of your present position make you miss God's plan for you.
3. Human Blessings
In what ways can we bless others?
1 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: "Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
2 "Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel.
3 "Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power.
4 Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father's bed, onto my couch and defiled it.
5 "Simeon and Levi are brothers-- their swords are weapons of violence.
6 Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.
7 Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.
8 "Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons will bow down to you.
9 You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness--who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.
13 "Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon.
14 "Issachar is a rawboned donkey lying down between two saddlebags.
15 When he sees how good is his resting place and how pleasant is his land, he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor.
16 "Dan will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan will be a serpent by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse's heels so that its rider tumbles backward.
18 "I look for your deliverance, O LORD.
19 "Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels.
20 "Asher's food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king.
21 "Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.
22 "Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.
23 With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility.
24 But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25 because of your father's God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb.
26 Your father's blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers.
27 "Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder."
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.
KEY BIBLE VERSE: These are the twelve tribes of Israel, and these are the blessings with which Jacob blessed his twelve sons. Each received a blessing that was appropriate to him. (Genesis 49:28)
We can bless family members. Jacob blessed each of his sons and then made a prediction about each one's future. The way the men had lived played an important part in Jacob's blessing and prophecy. There was a strong tradition at this time of a father passing on special blessings to his children. These blessings were a heartfelt expression of a parent's hopes or vision for his children's future. How often do you share with your children, spouse, or parents the wishes and prayers you make for their future?
27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.
30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them.
33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that.
34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full.
35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
KEY BIBLE VERSE: Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.
We are commanded to bless our enemies. The Jews despised the Romans because they oppressed God's people, but Jesus told the people to love and bless these enemies. Such words turned many away from Christ. But Jesus wasn't talking about having affection for enemies; he was talking about an act of the will. You can't "fall into" this kind of love-it takes conscious effort. Loving our enemies means acting in their best interests. We can bless them by praying for them, and we can think of ways to help them. Jesus loved the whole world, even though the world was in rebellion against God. Jesus asks us to follow his example by loving our enemies. Grant your enemies the same respect and rights that you desire for yourself.