The Blessing of The Lord
Author: Dwight A. Pryor
THE ONE, TRUE, living and eternal God according to Scripture is the God of Israel (e.g., Deut 4:35, 39; Isa 45:22; 46:9). There may be many so-called “gods” and so-called “lords”, the Apostle Paul acknowledges, but in truth “there is no God but one” (1 Cor 8:4-5).
Scripture also testifies to the fact that in the last days the exalted Son of Man—the divine agent of Daniel 7—will turn the whole world to the Kingship of Israel’s Sovereign. All nations will worship the one God and stream up to Jerusalem for His blessing at the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech 14:9, 16-17).
The disposition to bless is integral to the God of Israel. His covenant-keeping name, self-disclosed in the Tetragrammaton, Y/H/W/H, is ineffable and impenetrable to us today. But what is clear is that at the core of His character is a profound commitment to bless His creation and covenant partners. Though the Almighty is radically holy, and therefore utterly just, blessing issues from His very being and is intrinsic to His person and His purposes in the earth.
We see this revealed in Scripture from the beginning: the goodness of the Creation is punctuated repeatedly by the Creator’s blessing—of every living creature (1:22); of humankind, both male and female (1:28; 5:2); of time, in the seventh day (2:3); and of Noah and his sons after the deluge (9:1).
Indeed the main story line of Genesis—in contrast to the traditional Christian focus on Creation and the “Fall” (Gen 1-3)—is really about covenant and blessing (Gen 12-50). We should not be surprised therefore to see just how integral, pervasive and decisive the blessing motif is to that covenantal narrative from its inception, in God’s election of Abraham and his seed.
“I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (12:2-3)
In two sentences bless occurs five times! Blessing is the basis and the aim for which God establishes covenant history. Israel and the nations are intended by the Almighty to be in a relationship of reciprocity and mutuality of blessing.
MESSIAH JESUS AS THE SEED of Abraham fulfils and facilitates the promised patriarchal blessing. Through him the nations are brought near to the God of Israel and joined to the commonwealth of Israel. They turn from idols “to serve the living and true God” (1 Thes 1:9) and are grafted into the “cultivated olive tree” of Israel’s covenant history and faithfulness (Rom 11:24).
To enter the Kingdom of God and become Yeshua’s disciple is to be blessed (Matt 5:3-11). When at the beginning of his ministry Jesus announces that the dynamic reign of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, is breaking into human affairs, it is equivalent to declaring that the time of God’s favor or blessing is at hand (Luke 4:19 NIV). And at the end, just before being “carried up into heaven” in his resurrected body, Jesus’ final act is to lift his hands and bless his disciples (Lk 24:50).
Luke’s account evokes the image of the High Priest Aaron lifting his hands and blessing the people (Lev 9:22-23). To Aaron was given the supreme honor of blessing Israel with words dictated by none other than God himself. The revered “Aaronic or Priestly Benediction” of Numbers 6:24-26 (“The LORD bless you and keep you…”) is a striking testimony to the fundamental importance of blessing to the LORD.
Many things can be said about this magisterial blessing, but for now notice this pivotal point, found in the verse immediately following: “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (6:27). Priests pronounce the blessing, but it is God who bestows the blessing. He alone is its source and substance. The Hebrew text emphasizes this by intensifying the subject: va’ani avarachem suggests, “I, I myself, will bless them!”
Blessing is at the core of Y/H/W/H’s character and flows from His being. It brings us under the canopy of His covenantal love, makes His face to shine upon us, and gives us shalom.
© 2013 The Center for Judaic-Christian Studies.
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