Blessing or Cursing
“The blessings of God are not a matter of chance but a matter of obedience!”
“There shall be showers of blessing;”
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above,
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy drops ‘round us are falling
But for showers we plead.
Few would deny the truth of this beloved hymn. We need God’s mercy drops falling around us, but we need the outpouring of His showers of blessing perhaps even more. But what is God’s blessing? Can it be identified? Can it be reduced to a basic concept? It is one thing to name some blessings; it is something else again to understand what divine blessing is.
Another hymn writer wrote, “Count your blessings, Name them one by one. And, somewhere along the way, an enthusiastic soul modified the words to, “Count your blessings, Name them ton by ton.” What are God’s blessings, that we want them in such super abundant quantities?
On a less grandiose scale, somebody sneezes and a nearby friend thoughtfully proclaims, “God bless you.” But what does the well-intentioned neighbor have in mind? The Levitical priest of ancient Israel solemnly raised his hands heavenward and reverently intoned these words over the whole house of Israel: “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num. 6:24-26). The priest could not bless; he could only invoke God’s blessing on behalf of his people. Divine blessing was at the core of biblical Judaism. Divine blessing is at the heart of biblical Christianity.
BLESSING OR CURSING: YOUR CHOICE
Choices! Mankind is confronted with an ongoing, almost endless series of alternatives. He may choose up or down, fast or slow, hot or cold, black or white, yes or no. He may also consciously choose God’s blessing or God’s cursing on his life.
The children of Israel had experienced redemption from Egypt; they had been protected and preserved by God for forty years in their wilderness wanderings; they were on the verge of crossing the Jordan River to enter the promised land to inherit their inheritance. But God had some final instructions to communicate to the nation. They would not be left in the dark. A holy God would tell His people what He required. “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth; And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God” (Dt. 28:12). And then, through His servant Moses, the Lord annundated a series of truly wondrous blessings covering the whole spectrum of life. If they obeyed their God, if they truly hearkened unto His Word, there would be showers of blessing (Dt 28:3-14). No people, at any time, in any place, under any circumstances had a greater opportunity for divine blessing opened up unto them.
But God was not done. There was an alternative — a flip side. And so Moses continued, “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day, that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (Dt. 28:15). And then Moses listed a series of devastating judgments that would overtake the nation if they did not hearken unto God’s voice and obey His commandments (Dt. 28:16-29). Blessings or cursings, the choice was theirs. But what is blessing and what is cursing? God continued, “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil” (Dt. 30:15). Here, then, is the divine explanation of blessing and cursing: Blessing is the impartation by a gracious God of life and goodness; cursing is the impartation by a holy and just God of death and badness (evil).
BLESSING OR CURSING: GOD’S INCLINATION TO BLESS
The thoughtful Christian with a grateful heart can, without searching long or far, find endless reason to give thanks to God for His manifold blessings. And all of those showers of blessings descend from the cloud of God’s very nature, which is inclined to bless man — to bestow upon him life and goodness. God desires to bless and bless and bless some more. His is the attitude of a loving Heavenly Father. But Satan brings that goodness into question and whispers into man’s ear, “Yea, hath God said .. . ?” (Gen. 3:1), as though God would withhold some good thing from those whom His very nature is disposed to bless.
After God created man in His own image, after He fashioned him from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life, after He commissioned him to be king of the earth, after He divided man into male and female, there came a truly glorious statement, “And God blessed them…” (Gen. 1:28). The very first order of divine business after creating was blessing. That’s an astounding truth which reveals God’s attitude toward His creation. And since blessing is the conveyance of God’s life and goodness, God said, “.. . Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth…” (Gen. 1:28). In stark contrast to man’s absurd, unscientific, prideful theory of evolution, God created man and then blessed him, bestowing on man life and the ability to reproduce after his kind.
In due course then, man multiplied on the face of the earth. But so too did man’s transgression, and when the cup of iniquity of man’s sin was filled full, a holy God who is “a consuming fire” (Dt. 4:24) judged the world that then was by a universal flood. When the waters receded, Noah and his family disembarked from the ark onto Mount Ararat in modern-day Turkey. There Noah built an altar unto the Lord and worshipped. Mankind was destroyed; only Noah and his family had survived. What would now happen to humankind? What would the Creator and sovereign Lord do? It was a crisis moment. Then come these comforting words, “And God blessed Noah . ..” (Gen. 9:1). Blessing bestowed by God would allow procreation of the species. Man would survive.
But man, beginning with Adam, had sinned, and sin brought separation from God, which is spiritual death. Here was a problem of incalculable proportion. Man could procreate physically, but he could not pass on spiritual (eternal) life. Was this to be an irreversible, hopeless condition?
The answer was not long in coming. “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee; And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:1-3). In these few verses of Scripture are to be found, not simply the fountain of youth, but the springs of everlasting life. Five times in these few verses God uses the term “bless” or “blessing” in connection with the Patriarch Abraham. Is it any wonder, then, that God declared that from Abraham’s loins nations and kings would come, and he would be the “father” of the faithful? God’s immutable promises to Abraham were threefold: He promised to bless Abraham; He promised to bless those who blessed Abraham and curse those who cursed Abraham; and He promised that in his seed (an ultimate reference to Christ) all the nations of the world would be blessed. That is, through Abraham’s seed men and women from every kindred, tongue and tribe would be saved from the curse of sin to experience God’s life and goodness. In the sovereign design of things, the life and goodness of God would be conveyed to mankind through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 24:1; 25:11; 35:9). It is for that reason that the Lord himself informed the Samaritan woman, “. . . salvation is of the Jews” (Jn. 4:22).
BLESSING OR CURSING: TWO MEN, TWO WAYS, TWO DESTINIES
No balm ever devised by man has been able to heal the broken, aching heart as have the 150 Psalms found within the pages of Scripture. For centuries they have brought light in the midst of darkness, courage in the midst of fear, hope in the midst of despair, peace in the midst of turmoil and victory in the midst of defeat.
Psalm 1 is the introduction to the 149 Psalms that follow. Its first word is “Blessed.” According to the psalmist, the blessed man will not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful. That is, he doesn’t do those things because his delight is in the law of the Lord. And so the inspired penman declares that the blessed man will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water. Because he is blessed,he will possess life. Therefore, his leaf will not wither, and whatsoever he does will prosper, for the goodness of the infinite God rests upon him.
In marked contrast, the ungodly (that is, those who are cursed) are not so. Because they possess no life, they are like the chaff which the wind blows away. The ungodly will not stand in the congregation of the righteous. God will not allow the cursed to share in the provision of the blessed. Nor will sinners be able to stand in the day of judgment. The reason is clear: they do not possess the life of God.
Put in simplest terms, the psalmist is describing two men, two ways and two destinies — one blessed, one cursed; one guided by God’s Word, the other by self-will; one in the presence of God forever enjoying His goodness, the other eternally separated from the life and goodness of God.
BLESSING: A PRESENT REALITY FOR BELIEVERS
Writing to the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul made this truly astounding statement: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
Man cannot bless God, He cannot convey blessing to the Creator of all life, the One in whom all goodness resides. The greater blesses the lesser. It is God who blesses man. But what man, for his part, can do is ascribe blessing to God, That is, saved men can acknowledge that their God is alive and that He is a good God. Heathen gods are lifeless. But Jehovah is alive and the source of all conscious life. He alone has always been and will always be. The psalmist wrote of Him, “.. . from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Ps. 90:2).
But not only is God alive, He is also a good God. He is not vindictive, perverted, licentious or changeable with a need to be appeased, as were the heathen gods. By contrast, Jehovah, the God of the Bible, is loving, kind, holy, true, long-suffering and gracious. He is a good God who wants only the best for His children. And we are privileged to ascribe that life and goodness to Him — to tell men what our great God is like. If that were done, as it should be, the church buildings could not hold the multitudes seeking entrance. This living and good God has blessed the believer with every spiritual blessing. These blessings are not a future prospect; they are a present reality. We have been blessed. But note that these blessings have been qualified. They are spiritual blessings. There is no promise here of wealth and health and problemless living. What is promised is infinitely greater, and it comes as a result of being in Christ. Repeatedly in Ephesians the believer is said to be “in Christ,”’ “in him,”’ “in the Beloved.” It is union in Christ that makes God’s life and goodness toward us possible. So excited was the great Apostle Paul at the reality that “in Christ” the believer is blessed with every spiritual blessing, that he breaks into a song. Ephesians 1:4-14 is, in the original language, the longest sentence in the Bible. It is a benediction of praise. In it Paul rehearses the blessings of God graciously bestowed on every believer. So great are they that no Christian who comprehends them can ever have a problem with “self-worth” or a “low self-esteem.” But what are some of the spiritual blessings that the Apostle Paul has in mind? First, he informs us that the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame (that’s our ultimate destiny); He predestinated us to be adult sons and daughters in the family of God with the right of primogeniture; and He accepted us in the Beloved (Eph. 1:4-6). We are chosen, predestinated and accepted by the Father. Second, the Son, for His part, redeemed us by His blood, forgave us our sin and provided for us an incorruptible inheritance in glory (Hph. 1:7-12). We are redeemed, forgiven and made heirs by the Son. Third, the Holy Spirit, who is the Paraclete sent alongside to help, sealed us, an indication of divine ownership and security. The believer
belongs to God. And it is the Holy Spirit himself dwelling within us who is the earnest or guarantee that what God has begun in His child will be brought to consummation (Eph. 1:13-14). We are sealed for eternity by the Spirit.
A quick summary of Paul’s statement indicates that our spiritual blessings are related to three things: the Father, who planned our salvation before the foundation of the world; the Son, who purchased our salvation with His own blood; the Holy Spirit, who processed our salvation and keeps us secure awaiting the marriage of the Lamb. All of that and more is bound up in the truth that the believer has been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ (Eph. 1:3). However difficult the path you may now be walking, however heavy the load you may be bearing, however many tears you may be shedding, you must never lose your frame of reference. You must never forget that if you are a child of God, you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies and that the suffering of this present world cannot be compared to the glory that shall follow. So press on, for,
“There shall be showers of blessing;”. . .
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy drops ‘round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.