BLESSED PEOPLE IN SUCH A CASE
The longing of the Psalmist for a blessed land is expressed in the 144th Psalm. He prays for God to deliver him from lying oppressors, and says, — “Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants.” No wild vines bearing bad fruit. Then our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace. Well-mannered daughters adorn a family– “finishing schools” once sought such results for the young ladies. Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Peaceable times produce prosperous days. Our sheep will increase…our oxen will draw heavy loads. Even the animals are blessed by the lives of godly people. There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets. Honored and protected by the Father who sees such godly lives, the land will be safe. Now the encomium:
Blessed is the people of whom this is true. Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord. These verses from Psalms 144:12-15 (NIV) show what a land could enjoy when God was its ruler. Wouldn’t it be great to see that again—in our own time?
EVERYONE ACCORDING TO HIS BLESSING
Jacob’s will is recorded in Genesis. All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is it that their father spake unto them and blessed them, everyone according to his blessing he blessed them (Genesis 49:28).
This impressive section of Scripture details what would come to pass in later times. Clearly, Jacob was speaking as a prophet, as Isaac had done before him, When Esau complained about the prophecy of Isaac, his father said of Jacob, “I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed” (Gen. 28:32). Isaac knew that the words he had uttered were from the Lord, and that he had no power to change them.
The phrase “according to his blessing” is meaningful…Each tribe received the blessing which was best for it. Only one tribe asked for more when Joshua and Eleazar divided the land of Canaaan. Joshua was a bit brusque later about the request of the tribe of Joseph: “Why hast thou given me but one lot and one part for an inheritance seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as hitherto Jehovah hath blessed me?” Joshua told them (probably with a glint in his eye) to go and carve out more land for themselves if they needed more! He was saying, you Can’t have it both ways. If you are as great as you say you are, and if God has blessed you as richly as you claim, surely you are strong enough to drive out the Canaanites and cut down forests. You want more land? Go earn it.
And just as God has blessed the tribes, he will still bless his people, each one as is needful for him. Let us not compare our blessings with others. In some cases that would lead to pride, in others to resentment. Let each of us receive his blessings as God has appointed them, then use them for His glory.
THEY HAD DONE THE WORK
The descriptions of the building of the tabernacle in the Old Testament occupy many chapters in the book of Exodus. The garments of the high priest, the woven linen coats for Aaron and his sons, the mitre which became Aaron’s headdress, the sacred tent itself and all that pertained to it were made according to specific requirements. A climactic verse tells us, “And Moses did look upon all the work, and behold, they had done it as the Lord commanded, even so they had done it; and Moses blessed them–(Exodus 39:43).
These simple words encapsulate the duty of all who would follow the Lord: Listen to what He says, then do it. Nothing complicated about that! Do the work–no problem in understanding that. Do the work according to what God commands. Clear? Absolutely. Result? Blessing. Let us this very day look at the Lord’s commands to us, then do them. The blessing will always be ours. James confirms this: “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22).
WHEN ISRAEL BLESSED GOD
Many times in the Bible the word “blessed” is used with reference to praising or thanking God. One of the incidents is related in the 22nd chapter of Joshua. When the land had been conquered, the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh were ready to cross the Jordan. They were to rejoin their families they had left behind seven years before, and to claim their heritage. When they reached the river, they built an altar. Word came back, and the other tribes jumped to the conclusion that they were preparing to worship other gods. Under the leadership of Phinehas and ten princes with him, they were ready to war against their fellows. (Phinehas was a handy man with a javelin). Once before he had used it to nail Zimri and Cozbi to the ground (see Numbers 25:7-8). In putting away this forbidden union, he was praised, “Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace” (verse 12).
But in this incident of the altar, Phinehas is ready to war against his brethren who had done no wrong! The departing tribesmen protested their loyalty. They had never intended to build an altar to rival God’s altar. They feared that some day some might say that the tribes across the Jordan had no right to have any part in Israel. Their altar was built to witness that they might continue to worship as God required. Phinehas and the princes were pleased. They said, “This day we perceive that the Lord is among us, because ye have not committed this trespass against the Lord…” (Joshua 22:32). So the altar called ED remained and the quarrel ended.
What a lesson is here! Before we go to war against one or all of our brothers, let us find out what they are doing, and whether our own version is not an incorrect one based on hearsay. Many a time of strife will be avoided by this simple procedure–we shall, in fact, be blessed and then bless the Lord for giving peace to his people. Let us first find the facts before grabbing the javelin.
THE BLESSING OF TURNING
“Unto you first God, having raised up His servant, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (Acts 3:26). As Peter was saying these words, the Jewish authorities took him away to prison. Why did they react so? They were grieved that “they taught the people, and proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2).
The violence of those enemies could not stop the truth, for so many believed that the number of the men came to be about 5000.
How does this story apply to us? First, the great promise to Abraham is emphasized, “and in thy seed shall ALL the families of the earth be blessed” (Acts 3:24). Jews were the first to whom this glorious Savior was proclaimed. We Gentiles came in afterward, but the promise is for us too.
How is this blessing then appropriated? Peter’s inspired words are clear: “…in turning away everyone of you from your iniquities.” Who does this? Jesus does! Are we involved in the action? Indeed so. We must “turn again and it (the sinful record) shall be forgiven them” (Mark 4:12).
There is many a problem in continuing in iniquity. It may pay well, in earthly types of reward, for a while. But the end of that way is still death. And when we turn and are turned from sin, blessings fall like rain. Let us all believe in the Risen Lord, who can turn us “from idols to serve the living God,” as he did for those brothers of ours long ago (I Thess. 1:9). From false gods to the true God, from wooden gods to the God of glory. That makes us blessed indeed!
WHEN NATIONS BLESS THEMSELVES
NO PORMISSES FROM GOD FOR THOSE WHO ARE ASTRAY
“And you will swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ In truth, in justice, and in righteousness; Then the nations will bless themselves in Him, And in Him they will glory.” (Jeremiah 4:2).
Since early in time, the nations have stood in great need of blessing. In many lands, there seems to be no national conscience. Goldsmith lamented, “Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, where wealth accumulates and men decay.”
Jeremiah speaks for God, who here takes an oath that he will enable the nations to bless themselves–when they follow His conditions. Notice: “If you will return…” There are no promises from God for those who are astray, and intend to remain in that condition. But there is more: And if you will put away your detested things from my presence…” God allows no admixture of idol worship and truth. “And if thou will not waver…”Steadfastness of purpose must take the place of vacillation; or as Elijah called it, “limping between the two sides.” “And you will swear, as the Lord lives, truth and justice and righteousness…” That is, their oaths also must acknowledge God–then the fortunes of the nation would change. “Then that nation shall bless themselves.”
God has often punished nations. In the view of this writer, our nation is now being punished for its national sins. Until we return to the way of the Lord this nation can never bless itself.