From the Preacher’s Pen ~

Thanksgiving is passed and yet we should be thankful for so much! Christmas is just a few days away and we are looking forward to gifts and, even more blessed, the gatherings of family to be together.

Certainly we are a people blessed by God in numerous ways! Each and every day of our lives we see the hand of God at work blessing us again and again. True, like an ungrateful child, we sometimes find ourselves complaining, but I believe that, for the most part, we do recognize how richly we have been blessed. When we count our blessings honestly (is there any other way?), we see that the words of the song have been true for us personally and as a congregation, “He blesses and blesses again.”

Perhaps a more important question for us as Christians is, “Are we a blessing to our God?” Let’s take a look at the subject of blessing and consider how it goes both ways:

Blessing and Being Blessed

The Hebrew word usually translated as “bless” is a word that incorporates the concept of blessing and thanksgiving. The book of Psalms uses the term some 75 times and the entire Old Testament uses it over 330 times to give us the foundation of our understanding of how God uses the word through His inspired writers.

The priestly prayer commanded by God in Numbers 6:22-27 says: Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.

When you think about it, doesn’t that wonderfully set the tone of all our blessings? Should worldly, ungodly people claim to have been blessed, we know that it is not so. God’s blessings are given to those who are His people, covered by His name. True, God has said that He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45), but in those words we see only the natural course of God’s laws of nature benefiting the unrighteous. True blessings (God’s definition) belong to God’s people!

Psalm 115 is a case study in blessings as the Psalmist begins with the injunction Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth. All glory, honor and blessings originate with God and to Him is all our glory, honor and blessing due! The writer continues by contrasting the ungodly and the gods they worship as powerless and unworthy.

Notice the challenges of verses 11-18: You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield. The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us… He will bless those who fear the Lord, the small together with the great…  May you be blessed of the Lord, maker of heaven and earth… But as for us, we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forever. Praise the Lord!

The conclusion of the Psalmist is to both bless and praise the Lord and these commands for God’s people to do so are liberally sprinkled throughout God’s word. Consider a few examples of our challenge to bless Him:

Psalm 16:7: I will bless the Lord who has counseled me. Psalm 26:12: My foot stands on a level place; in the congregations I shall bless the Lord. Psalm 29:11: The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace. Psalm 34:1: I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

There are dozens more calls for God’s people to bless their God who has blessed them and every one is a beautiful expression of understanding and thanks to our God who gives us everything. The Apostle Paul put it like this, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

The lesson for us? Let’s make it our goal to not only enjoy the blessings of God but to offer up and BE a blessing to Him! Let’s be those who, Sing to the Lord, bless His name; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day (Psalm 96:2). Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. (Psalm 100:4) Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits. (Psalm 103:1-2)

Now that’s a lesson and a challenge worthy of the people of Almighty God!

— Lester P. Bagley