THE LESS IS BLESSED BY THE BETTER
Abraham was blessed in many ways. For one thing, his character was so great that he rivals the highest men of history. (Well, he did lie). As far as I know, He lied twice: to Pharaoh and to Abimelech. He lived to be 175. On the average, that is a lie every 87 years and six months. How does our truthfulness compare to that?
Abraham is the one to whom God had promised that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed–and we are. But in Hebrews we find this interesting statement: “Melchizedek…met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him.” Later the text reads, “And without any dispute, the less is blessed of the better” (Hebrews 7:1,7). Melchizedek was a greater man than Abraham! That king and priest has one short story in Genesis14, a mention in Psalms, and the treatment in Hebrews 7. On the other hand, Abraham’s story begins in Genesis 12 and is threaded through the entire Bible. The greatest people do not always get the most publicity.
Surely this principle will help us. When we bless others, we are exalted by the Lord. We may not receive the fanfare of trumpets or the clashing of cymbals to celebrate our efforts, but the Lord knows. That ought to be good enough.
Let us not be greatly concerned about the praises of others. Why not seek daily for the simple ways we can be a blessing? The Lord will notice, for “He is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed to the saints, in that ye have ministered and do minister.” Praise from God is the ultimate praise.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BLESSEDNESS?
THE BLESSED ARE STANDING WITH GOD!
When Paul first preached in Galatia, he was received with great joy by his hearers. They treated him “as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus” (Gal. 4:14). But false teachers had come among them, trying to persuade them to return to the law of Moses in their search for justification. That was wrong, and it diverted their affections from Paul and the simple gospel of grace which he had proclaimed to them. So he asks, “Where is then that blessedness ye spake of?” (Gal. 4:15,KJV). MAKARISMOS – blessedness, being derived from MAKARIOS, blessed. So translations vary, but “blessedness” is the basic idea. In our terms, Paul is saying that when I came you greatly blessed me by your reception of the gospel; but now – now – what has happened? That blessedness is gone, and you yourselves are in the process of going away from the truth.
All who stand firm for truth have such experiences. There are those who praise us, then turn against us. But was it not the same with our Master, as well as with Paul? Did not the prophets have to endure such changes in the hearts of those people they loved greatly? Faithful brother or sister, remember from whence this kind of blessedness comes. It comes from people, not from God. And one who is standing on the rock of truth may have to stand with only a few, but God will be One of the few. And that is where true blessedness is found.
SIMPLE IS NOT EASY
Some simple words are not easy to define. They encompass so much meaning, and such variety of verbal texture, that it may take many words to explain them. “Blessed” is such a word. It occurs so often in the Bible, and in so many different contexts, that the exact idea is elusive. Yet, we all want to be blessed! And the Bible tells us….and tells us….and tells us how to be blessed.
One old testament word “Break” is from a root which means “to kneel.” Then by implication to engage in an act of adoration to God. Example: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name” (Ps. 103:1). That is, give God the praise and the glory for all His goodness. The psalm goes on to relate the reasons for blessing God: His many benefits, His forgiving our iniquity, healing our diseases, His redeeming our lives from destruction, His crowning us with kindness and mercy, His satisfying our desires with good things, His renewing our youth like the eagle. The astounding goodness of God calls forth our blessing toward Him.
We can also “bless” others. A sample: Joseph has brought his sons before Jacob for their final blessing. “And he (Jacob) blessed them that day, saying, In thee will Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh….(Gen. 48:21). That is, the other tribes would be desiring that God would show favor for others as He had done for the tribes of Joseph’s sons.
Paul said, “Bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not” (Rom. 12:14). He was showing us how to respond to ill treatment. Many texts confirm this attitude; “…not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling, but contrariwise blessing” (I Pet. 3:9). Our brother Simon goes on to give us the reason for such action: “for hereunto were ye called, that ye should inherit a blessing.” When we bless others, even if they are undeserving, we ourselves become blessed.
Let us all, this very day, become a blessing.
There is some interesting history involving the sayings of Jesus which we call the BEATITUDES. It goes all the way back to Jerusalem, and back to about 400 A.D. A scholar we call Jerome (his Latin name was longer) came to Jerusalem to translate the Bible into the language of the common people (does that have a familiar sound?). Since Latin had superseded the Koine Greek as the language of the market place, a new version was needed. He called it the Vulgate. The word “vulgar” did not have the dirty edge on it in that sense. It meant that language spoken in everyday life.
In the Vulgate, which was to dominate Bible translating for a thousand years, the words of Matthew 5:3 are “Beati pauperes spiritu…” Blessed are the poor in spirit. “Beati mites”…Blessed are the meek. So, with an ending to make it English, these became the beatitudes.
Of all the Bible descriptions of the blessed man, this teaching of Jesus is paramount. In every blessing is pronounced the reason for the blessedness. To those who are poor in spirit the kingdom of God is theirs. The meek will inherit the earth. The ones hungering and thirsting for righteousness will be filled. The merciful ones will receive mercy. The pure in heart will see God. The peacemakers will be called children of God. The ones who are persecuted have the kingdom as their possession. The ones who are reviled and falsely accused for the name of Christ can rejoice and be very, very happy because their great reward is waiting in heaven.
What will today bring upon God’s people? Never mind, the blessing for going through it with the Lord is already prepared, already waiting, already assured. Take any “beatitude” and work on it. You will be happy…..blessed…..fortunate when you do.
BLESSINGS MAY INCUR ENVY
Blessings may incur envy. When Satan was doing all he could do to turn Job away from his trust in God, he uttered this stinging complaint: Hast thou not made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land” (Job 1:10). Noticed the blessings to which Satan refers:
1. God had protected Job–He had made a hedge about him on every side. How annoying to Satan! The God of glory protects all His people. He will never leave us nor forsake us, as the writer of Hebrews assures us. And Satan doesn’t like that.
2. God had protected Job’s family. In the opening scenes of the book we find some of the details. The brothers took turns having the family over: “each on his day.” Job prayed for them and offered sacrifices, and God accepted his prayers and oblations. And Satan didn’t like that, either.
3. God had protected Job’s possessions. Job had been blessed on every side. Scattered throughout the book of Job are keys to that blessing. He had used his possessions to help many a needy soul: “If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail…if I have seen any perish from want of clothing so that the needy had no covering…if he hath not been warmed with the fleece of my sheep…then let my arm fall from the shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone” (Job 31:16-23). Solomon’s words have an edge of bitterness, but they fit the facts: “Then I saw all labor and every skilful work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbor” (Eccl. 4:4).
What shall we say to these things? Love like the righteous Job lived, be prepared for Satan’s attacks, suffer when necessary for doing right, and never mind the envious neighbors. God will be pleased, and Satan will not like that.
REGARD FOR THE WEAK
Our Master said, “The poor ye have always with you, and whensoever ye will ye may do good unto them (Mark 14:7). Some of God’s great promises are based on regard for the poor. Consider Psalms 41:1-4:
“Blessed is he that considereth the poor; Jehovah will deliver him in time of evil. Jehovah will preserve him, and keep him alive, and he shall be blessed upon the earth; and deliver not thou him unto the will of his enemies. Jehovah will support him upon the bed of languishing; Thou makest all his bed in his sickness.”
Jesus’ own overpowering concern for the poor shows how perfectly He practiced this passage. Think of the words to Paul, “Remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10). And the apostle assures that he did not neglect that urgent duty. He was “forward” to do that very thing.
What will the Father do for one who considers the poor (“regards the weak”–NIV)? Let us break down the list:
1. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive. God values those who recognize the worth of the poor. Those who write treatises on how to lengthen our lives may add this promise to their stressing good eating and exercising habits!
2. The Lord will bless him upon the earth. In bestowing blessings upon the needy, we ourselves obtain blessings. God is not limited in His power to confer the blessings, nor is He indecisive and unable to make up His mind. The heaven of heavens belong to Him, and the earth is His footstool. He can choose and send the blessings. And this negates the charges against “pie in the sky by and by.” The blessings begin “upon the earth,” and are consummated in the world of glory. God’s people have the best of both worlds, along with trials and heartaches.
3. He will not be delivered to the will of his enemies. The worst anyone can do to a godly person is to kill the body. But that only results in an early transfer to a better state. Being promoted to the home office is not a bad thing!
4. The Lord will be concerned about the one who is ill. His “bed of languishing” becomes a place of meditation upon God’s goodness. Think of John’s wonderful prayer for the godly Gaius: “Beloved, I pray that in all things thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” Would that prayer bring us blessings? Suppose we were no more healthy in our bodies than we are in our souls” O U C H.
Let us hear a summary from the Spirit through Paul:
“In all things I gave you an example, that so laboring ye ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35).
Shall we today plan for the greater blessing of the giving?