Hebrews chapter 11 is sometimes referred to, throughout much of Christendom, as the “hall of faith.” The author of Hebrews is celebrating those who have, in faith, gone before us and who serve as a blessing to those who are still living out their faith in word and deed.
Jacob is mentioned, among others, for a seemingly non-productive act. The writer of Hebrews is recounting Genesis 48 where Jacob offers a benediction upon his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh. At the protest of Joseph, their father, Jacob begins his providential proclamation; an act of great faith. Faith, to a secular world, will seem non-productive but its foundation lies in the letting go of production while trusting in the faithfulness of God and not ourselves. Where we honor accomplishment and achievement, God honors trust and faith in the One who achieved what we never could. The Gospel is the good news of what Christ has done and not what we can or even could do. What seems foreign to man is right to God and what is right to God seems foreign to man. Don’t expect the gospel to make sense as we are chained down by worldly thoughts, structures, economies and beliefs.
Our pastor recently wrapped up his sermon series on Genesis. His exposition of chapters 48-50 ministered to me deeply as my heart was drawn to the goodness of God through the faith of a patriarch. From this faith we see the continual movement of the trustworthy Providences of God. The blessings and the mercies of God given to those whom He has chosen from Abraham to Christ and then to us. This reminds us of how our agendas never come to fruition and that God is a God of providential actions. His plans will always bear fruit for His glory and the good of His people (Romans 8:28-39).
Since God’s Providences never fail we can trust in the benedictions and blessings of scripture for the covenantal people of God. Of course God has the authority as to how to fulfill his promises and we are to never presume or demand from God those blessings of which he has given. There is however great peace and confidence in those promises as we put our faith in Christ. When Jacob blessed Ephraim instead of Manasseh it was God’s providence to bless the younger instead of the older. When Jacob blesses the rest of his sons in Genesis 49 it is God’s providence to do what he wishes with the tribes of Israel. Blessings in scripture point to the Blesser and His goodness not to the one giving the blessing or even the recipient. At the end of our worship time together we are blessed, “Now may the Lord bless you and keep you…” My faith is strengthened by this and I worship God who would care to keep me; a love that deep is otherworldly and foreign; I’m overwhelmed.
In scripture the greater blesses the lesser. That doesn’t mean that some are greater in God’s eyes of justification or that some ought to think themselves greater for that would contradict the strict commands of scripture to not think too highly of yourself and the command to consider others’ needs greater than your own (Philippians 2:3 & 4). What this does mean though is that we can misunderstand the idea of blessing. We don’t bless the food at meals. We don’t bless our children. We don’t bless each other with words that ask God for things that aren’t promised to us. All of our blessings as believers come as promises which scripture declares toward us from God, for it is God who blesses and when the greater blesses the lesser we are asking God to do it and confess that we do not have any power to give any promise which is not ours to give.
The spiritual role of pastor, elder, father, grand-father, patriarch are roles that God gives and from these there is a hierarchy and a relationship that points to Christ and his authority over us (Matthew 28:18). As Believers we are all under the authority of scripture which does give us a place to bless one another and in turn be a blessing provided that we constrain our words to scripture and not expand our thoughts to our feelings or opinions. We don’t bless others with words that are empty and filled with ideas of prosperity. This blasphemes God by taking what is intended to be holy and making it common. Let us be ever so careful not to pass our agenda on the lives of others or upon our own lives lest we “kick against the goads” and profane Christ. Blessings are from God to us for His glory and good pleasure. We are never to offer what is not true as if it’s from the one who is Truth (Jeremiah 6:14). Do not offer pleasant platitudes which cover up realities when compassion, mercy and truth are needed.
In understanding blessings biblically we are given a wonderful opportunity and responsibility as elders, pastors, fathers/parents etc… to bless those whom God has entrusted to us. Blessings matter and God is praised when they are meant for his glory. When we bless, we pray, when we pray we are speaking to God almighty; might He be high and lifted up. If you are a dad like me, blessing our children can become one of the most deeply spiritual and worshipful prayers we might utter. I share my blessings, my petitions to God, to you for my children and ask that God be faithful to them in the cold and dark places when the moments of their lives meet with the reality of the weight of sin and the fall. Might the Holy Spirit be poured out and Christ become more beautiful than any idol which they could create in a futile attempt to thaw the icy places of their hearts:
May the Lord bless you Brady and William, my sons, and keep you for his good pleasure and will. May you both grow in faith as you grow in mind and body. May the Lord be merciful to you and may he spare you, from the insecurities of my heart and my sin. Lord, grant them the humility of servitude and show your face of love that they might love others in compassion and grace.
My sweet Jesus, hold tender my beautiful baby girl Aubry. Protect her as you see fit from the sinfulness that binds my heart and show her your glory (John 1:14). Grant her a chaste spirit and a heart of compassion that she might serve others with joy and tenderness. Allow her beauty to come from you, by you and for you.
Father might you number their days so that they might gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90) and the ability to see, where so many have been blinded (John 9:38-41). Take not your Holy Spirit from them (Psalm 51:11) as you teach them to trust in your promises and in the work of Christ. Be faithful to your covenant of promise to them as you also were to Israel (Romans 9). Reveal to them their sin and their ever-present need for a Savior.
Loose and forgive my heart of sin from the temptation to make them idols and release my desire to use and mold them for my will and my kingdom building. Grant them the peace of Christ and that like Timothy they might confess that they never knew a day apart from you. Teach them to be loving husbands and a loving wife, generous, creative creators, humble thinkers and restful resters.
Keep them and use them where you wish and grant them salvation that they might see the glory of God revealed in Christ. Number their days for your glory and your use. As Abraham offered Isaac to you as a caretaker of the gifts that he was given so teach us to offer them to you as the most loving and kind King, creator and lover of their souls.
So that others might come to know and profess you as Lord.
And for us all, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14)
God remains the covenant faithful one and his providence, sweet providence, will bring all to his glory. Jacob is eulogized in the book of Hebrews for his great faith in this act of blessing his sons, but truly Jacob only believed that God was the One who would see the fulfillment of all that He is doing. May we also have faith in the one who Jacob trusted to be faithful to us and our covenant children, families, and churches.
“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, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever, Amen!” (Ephesians 3:20 & 21).
If you have a blessing to share that you give to your children or have one that has been give to you please feel free to share as we, who have hope in Christ can encourage one another with the promises of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen, and Amen.