By Norm Gipson
There is an element in the word “blessed: which the King James translators tried to express in a few of the verses, Paul considered himself happy (blessed) to stand before King Agrippa (Acts 26:2). The widow has a right to marry only in the Lord; but Paul gives his judgment that she will be happier–more blessed–if she remains unmarried. If you suffer for righteousness’ sake you will be blessed (happy)–I Peter 3:15. “Happy (blessed) is he that condemeth not himself in that thing which he alloweth” (Romans 14:22).
The NIV has Paul to say that Paul considered himself “fortunate” (happy) to stand before King Agrippa.
Let us all go and be happy today.
FRUIT VS. THORNS AND BRIERS
In the letter to the Hebrews there is an illustration showing the need of bearing good fruit when we receive blessing from the Lord. Consider a plot of ground upon which come the rains from heaven. It is receiving blessing from God. When it brings forth fruit that is useful to those who have tilled the field, it is blessed. But if it bears thorns and briers it is rejected, it is near to being cursed, it’s end is to be burned (see Hebrews 6:7-8).
This is in a section which speaks of those who once knew the way of God. They were enlightened, tasted of the heavenly gift, were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come (the gospel age)–and THEN FELL AWAY. After all these blessings, they became unfruitful, therefore the blessings were forfeited.
This stern language reveals their plight: It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the son of God afresh, and put Him to open shame–(Hebrews 6:6). These had received all the benefits outlined in the passage, just as the earth had drunk the rain which often came upon it. Now, they no longer regard the cross as redemption of incomparable love for lost sinners (such as they had been) and are so hardened that they cannot be brought to repentance. What is their fearful state? Accursed. What is their doleful destiny? They are nigh unto being burned by the fire that never goes out, the unquenchable fire of the unmixed anger of God.
Some with anguished consciences have read these verses and felt that they stood condemned by them. But the ones to whom the words were written had not gone that far yet; Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak–(Hebrews 6:9). He then exhorts them to return to the diligence they once had shown in living for the Lord, and for which conduct they were once truly blessed.
WHERE IS THE BLESSEDNESS?
When Paul first went to the Galatians, they received him with such a welcome that they treated him “as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus” (Galatians 4:14). But after the false teachers came in among them, causing them to look backward longingly toward the law of Moses, their attitude toward Paul was different. He asks sadly, “Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? For I bear you record that if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me” (Galatians 4:15, KJV).
Just what is “blessedness” in this verse? The scholars struggle with the translation. “Where is that gratulation of yourselves” (ASV). “What has happened to all your joy?” (NIV). Alford’s Greek Testament put it this way: “Where is then the blessedness you spake of ….is as good a rendering as the words will bear.”
It is clear that the Galatians had felt more than blessed by Paul’s presence and preaching. It is equally clear that they themselves blessed him for his bringing them the truth of the gospel. What changed their attitude toward Paul? The false doctrine toward which they were “so quickly removing” (Gal. 1:6).
To be practical about it, if we feel less devotion to faithful Christians, what has caused that change? If we are not as proud of the body of believers, the church of the Lord, as we once were, why the difference? Had we not better examine ourselves and see if we are “removing” also? “Love the brotherhood” is still a plain command; it has not been removed from the word of the Lord.
UNSOILED… UNSTAINED… UNSPOTTED
The wonderful psalm which is the Bible’s longest chapter begins thus: “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.”
“Tamim,” the Hebrew word for undefiled, is translated in a rich variety of ways. Just what kind of a man is blessed? Here are other translations of the term we find in the Old Testament: complete, full, perfect, sincerely, sincerity, sound, undefiled, upright, whole, without spot–and by far the largest number of times–without blemish. Forty-four times that expression is used in the Old Testament.
Therefore the people who are blessed are SOME people. The New Testament uses of “undefiled” will help us with more description. James talks about God’s view of pure and undefiled religion, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. The inheritance awaiting the righteous is described by Peter as undefiled (I Peter 1:4). Do not expect any graffiti on the gates of pearl.
The purity of faithful partners in marriage is discussed by the writer to the Hebrews: “…let the bed be undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). The defilements of fornication and adultery may be winked at here, but “God will Judge.”
Our High Priest, the pure and holy Savior of the world, is “holy, guileless, UNDEFILED, separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26). With Him as our advocate, we can walk in the light, freely confess our sins, and, by His grace, be the blessed, undefiled people who walk in the law of the Lord.
A BLESSING TOO WELL DISGUISED
When Abraham was old, he sent his servant back to his old homeland to find a wife for Isaac. Arriving at the house of Laban, Abraham’s servant gave beautiful gifts of precious things to Rebekah, sister of Laban. Rebekah ran…RAN…into the house, showing the beautiful presents. Then it was Laban’s turn to run!
It takes several incidents and lapse of many years to reveal Laban’s character fully. Reading backward to the story in Genesis 24 (the search for a wife for Isaac) from his devious dealings with Jacob, we find that Jacob may have not been guilty of much hyperbole when he accused Laban of changing his wages ten times.
Now back to Rebekah and Laban. When Laban saw that beautiful jewelry and heard Rebekah’s report of the man from Abraham, Laban laid it on think: “come in, thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore standeth thou without? For I have prepared the house, and room for the camels” (Genesis 24:31).
What a story! Laban never laid eyes on the servant of Abraham before, yet he says that he had gone to a lot of trouble in preparation for the visitor.
Greed is ugly when looked at straight on, so we may feel the need to disguise it. And what better way than pious talk? “Come in, thou blessed of the Lord…” Laban’s saying was right; the servant was blessed by the Lord, but in the case of Laban’s longing for wealth, his words were fulsome flattery. Laban’s story ends sadly in the text–he eventually goes home bereft of his daughters, his children, his grandchildren, many of his flocks and herds, AND his household goods. Greed exacts its price, always.
Will it not be well for us to check our own motives when we “bless” other people?
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES?
Our master taught us to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who persecute us and despitefully use us. That is a very hard assignment! When we are maligned we are often inclined to strike back, and to do so harshly. We have a very old saying that expressed the idea: “even Steven.” That is a condensed saying from an old poem: “Now we are even” said Steven, as he gave his wife six blows for one.”
The bit of doggerel verse indicates that Steven was really more than even. His wife hit him once, he hit her six times. This is the usual attitude in reprisals. Do unto others as they do unto us and do so harder, more often and with greater violence.
This principle is so important that it is stated often in the Bible. We are enjoined in Matthew 5:44 to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. Luke 6:27-29 is addressed to “those who hear”: “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.” As well as these words from the Lord, we have the exhortation of our brother Paul, “Bless them that persecute you, bless and curse not” (Romans 12:14). I Peter 3:9 makes it clear that we are not to return slurs and ugliness, “but contrariwise blessing.”
What results from such a life of returning blessings for curses? in the context of the verses quoted we find that we are the sons of God, that we inherit a blesssing, that we are stepping aside for the vengeance of God, that we are not being overcome with evil, but are overcoming evil with good. Are those blessings worth the effort to live as the Lord desires that we should? Yea, verily.