blessings

God thinks differently than we do.

God thinks differently than we do.

2 Kings 4

Well, this whole chapter was about how God worked miracles through His prophet Elisha. The one that really stuck out to me, though, was the very first story about the widow, her two sons, and the olive oil. Just before creditors were going to come and take her boys into slavery because of their debts, Elisha told her, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side." (vs 3-4)

God brings life to dead places.

God brings life to dead places.

2 Kings 2

God is life. No matter how barren a place, no matter how dead, His Spirit can bring new life. At least, that’s what we see happening in this chapter of 2 Kings: "The people of [Jericho] said to Elisha, 'Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.' 'Bring me a new bowl,' he said, 'and put salt in it.' So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, 'This is what the Lord says: "I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive."' And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken." (vs 19-22)

God has no problem with wealth.

God has no problem with wealth.

1 Kings 10

Did you notice that as you read through today’s chapter? Whoa! God certainly has no problem with wealth! I was amazed by the fact that Solomon had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses. Who needs 12,000 horses?! And this was just in addition to his palace and all the other things he acquired over the years as his fame spread far and wide. In the description of Solomon’s palace, the Bible says "nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom." (vs 20) Solomon was, by far, the richest man in the world—probably in the history of the world!

God's way brings peace.

God's way brings peace.

1 Kings 4

At least starting out, Solomon did things the right way. He had a heart for others. With his newfound power, he was more worried about having the wisdom to judge his people fairly than he was worried about accumulating wealth or honor. And here, we see that God was true to His word: He gave Solomon what he asked for... and everything he didn’t ask for.

God wants us to have it all.

God wants us to have it all.

1 Kings 3

Wow! This chapter started out with God coming to Solomon like a genie in a bottle: "At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, 'Ask for whatever you want me to give you.'" (vs 5) I had to wonder what I would say if God ever approached me like that. If you believed you were talking to someone who could give you anything, what would you really want?

The Blessed Curse {gn49:7}

genesis-blessings-the-blessed-curse-poem.png

The sobering fact of life is that our
descendants usually bear their share
of our decisions—either good or bad.
Levi couldn't bend his temper to his
will, and his curse was to
be doled out to his children—who would be
scattered, without a land inheritance,
among their relatives. But
the curse turned into a blessing for the entire
nation, as the Levites became the radiated advocates
of God. They inherited the heart-land of
Israel, permanent tillers of her spiritual soil.

 

Underdogs {gn48}

Photo © Unsplash/Matthew Henry

Photo © Unsplash/Matthew Henry

The last shall be first,
and the first, last.

If Jesus was praised by any
for uttering such
revolutionary ideas,
they unwittingly
exposed
their own ignorance
of Scripture.

The dance of the
last and the first
didn't begin in the Gospels.
It began in Genesis with
the subtle passing over
of the older for the younger,
the giving way
of the greater to the lesser.

Isaac and Ishmael.
Jacob and Esau.
Joseph and his older brothers.
Ephraim and Manasseh.

God must love
a good heel turn.
Blessed are the underdogs,
for they shall
have the last bark.

 

God is not a sore loser.

God is not a sore loser.

1 SAMUEL 11

You know, it’s hard not to think of David when we read about Saul. Knowing how the story is going to unfold, and knowing that it’s David (not Saul) who was eventually called “a man after God’s own heart,” it is hard for me to let Saul’s story just be Saul’s story. Somehow, it always just feels like the prolonged prelude to the story of David. And, in many ways, perhaps it is.

God is tenderhearted.

God is tenderhearted.

RUTH 2

I really saw a picture of God in this chapter, coming through in the tenderhearted nature of Boaz. From the text, it’s clear that Boaz was a man of the Lord—and at a time when the majority of Israel was heading down the wrong path. When Boaz arrives at his fields, he greets all of the harvesters with a blessing from the Lord. (vs 4) Later, he praises Ruth for her commitment to Naomi and calls upon God to bless her because of it. (vs 12)

God believes in a good offense.

God believes in a good offense.

JUDGES 15

If you like sports, you’ve probably heard the old saying that the best defense is a good offense. In other words, in the middle of a game, instead of trying to fight off an attack from the opposing team, you want to be on the offensive. You want to have to make them shut you down... not the other way around. The best defense is a good offense.

The Blessed Burden {gn36}

Photo © Unsplash/Jenn Evelyn-Ann

Photo © Unsplash/Jenn Evelyn-Ann

Esau is known as the one
who sold his birthright
and forfeited his blessing—
not the one "favored" by God,
not the one destined to be in that family tree,
not one of the "children of promise."

As between him and his brother Jacob,
Esau was not the "blessed" one,
but have you ever read a more blessed genealogy
in the entire Bible?

No barren women,
no tragedies,
no hardships,
no scandals,
no poverty—in fact, the opposite—
so much wealth the family had to move to a larger land.

By contrast, those "blessed" of God
met frequent hardship and troubles—
their genealogies littered with innumerable obstacles:
barrenness, injustice, illness, death.

It was after, after!  Jacob decided to
fulfill his vow to God
commit his life to the Lord and
return to the sacred place of his Creator
that his family was besieged by
sickness and unexpected death—
burying, in rapid succession,
first Deborah, then Rachel, then Isaac.

Is burden a blessing?
Is blessing a burden?

How is it they stroll together so comfortably
hand in hand
like lovers on a Sunday afternoon
in the park?

God doesn't forget His promises.

God doesn't forget His promises.

JOSHUA 13

At the beginning of Joshua 13, the Lord comes to Joshua and says, "You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over." (vs 1) And then, He proceeds to outline exactly what areas of land are left for the Israelites to take possession of. I was struck by the specificity of it. He didn’t just say, "There’s still some land to the east over there." No, it was from this border over here to that border over there and everything below this mountain and so on.

God is unorthodox.

God is unorthodox.

JOSHUA 8

How would you like to take part in a two-million voice choir? How incredible would that be?! I never realized before that this is precisely what was happening at the end of Joshua 8: "All the Israelites, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, facing the Levitical priests who carried it. Both the foreigners living among them and the native-born were there. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel." (vs 33)

Change of Heart {gn33:4}

Photo © Robert T. Garrett

Photo © Robert T. Garrett

Esau, Esau,
what happened to you?
The last time we heard from you,
you were muttering under your breath
about killing your brother,
having been "cheated"
(so you claimed)
out of your "blessing."

How is it, then,
that you garnered
the very best blessing of all?

When did you surrender to the
Transformer of Hearts?

Esau, Esau,
you may not have received the birthright,
but you did not escape the blessing
of a contented heart
at peace with What Is in the world.

 

God does not remember our sins.

God does not remember our sins.

DEUTERONOMY 33

I know. No big “earth-shattering” revelation today. We all know that God doesn’t remember our sins, but it’s awfully nice to see it in action. This promise of God’s isn’t just a claim; it’s a reality. In Deuteronomy 33, Moses pronounces a blessing on the people of Israel as they are getting ready to enter the Promised Land. As I read through the list of blessings, I couldn’t help once again noticing the names behind the tribes of Israel: Dan, Asher, Gad, Levi, Judah...

Struggle {gn32:24-32}

Photo © Unsplash/Jason Strull

Photo © Unsplash/Jason Strull

Could I ask for anything more
than to struggle
with You—
to hold tightly
refuse to let go
and demand blessings?

Could I ask for anything more
than to struggle
with You—
to live each day
locked up in Your embrace
engaged so deeply
that it changes my identity?

Could I ask for anything more
than to struggle
with You—
to be breathed on by Your glory
to be blessed by Your presence
and to limp away from Your mighty touch?

O Sovereign God,
may our encounters
forever change the way I walk.

 

God is highly efficient.

God is highly efficient.

DEUTERONOMY 26

It seems like we can't go very long in American culture without asking the social questions: How much should the government play a role in the day-to-day lives of American citizens? Should the government provide universal health care? Should the government take more money from the rich and give it to the poor? Should the Federal Reserve print more money to cover our expanding debt?

God wants all the things He cannot command.

God wants all the things He cannot command.

DEUTERONOMY 16

I direct an adult volunteer church choir. Some have mused that this is akin to herding cats. An adult volunteer choir is a special sort of group. It is made up of people who love to sing but usually, at least subconsciously, believe they really can’t sing all that well. After all, they’re not "professionals." So they assume they could never achieve a "professional" sort of sound. Consequently, the majority of rehearsal time is spent in trying to persuade them to get themselves out of the way so their voices can do what they intuitively know how to do — sing properly.

God places a high degree of importance on knowing.

God places a high degree of importance on knowing.

DEUTERONOMY 13

I found a mantra in this chapter of Deuteronomy: "If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, 'Let us follow other gods' (gods you have not known) 'and let us worship them,' you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer." (vs 1-3)