BEWARE OF BLESSINGS THAT DECEIVE
A sober warning is given in Romans 16:7-18, where the Holy Spirit speaks through Paul to say, “Now, I beseech you brethren, mark them that are causing divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine learned, and turn away from them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent.”
It is surprising to me that the word translated “fair speech” in this verse (ASV wording) is the word “eulagias.” That is translated by our familiar word blessings in about a dozen verses in the New Testament. How then can we deal with such men and such teachings? The text makes the matter clear: check the results of the teaching. Do such words of blessing cause divisions and occasions of stumbling? Do the ones who are influenced by such teachers begin to find fault with the church of the Lord, and find themselves the victims of division within the body? Then, the warning is, “Mark” them. Describe these teachers (whether they are male or female), warn faithful Christians against them, enlighten the ones who simply do not know.
Be prepared for criticism when you oppose such people. In my experience, these teachers have kind words for everybody except the faithful Christians who oppose their evil work. Stop and think now of the churches you knew which once were thriving, diligent and united, but now have been torn asunder by such persons as we are here warned AGAINST, and will have to be rendered on judgment day for those who divide the body of Christ.
Such things often begin when there is an unusual emphasis on love and grace. The words may be accompanied by smiles and acts of apparent kindness, mingled with concern over what they will call the problems in the church. Have you heard things like this: “Well, after all, brethren, why should we be so critical of the denominations when we are not perfect ourselves. Perhaps we have been too harsh with people who are just as devout and God-fearing as we are.” If you want to test one of these people they describe, ask them about the way of salvation, or the distinctive nature of the New Testament church, or what God will accedpt in worship. You will find that their devotion may not be as deep as it is advertised to be.
The commandment of Romans 16:17-18 is clear. What shall we do about carrying it out?
GOOD JUDGMENT IS A BLESSING
David’s men had been rejected by Nabal, and David was angry. The prudent wife of Nabal, Abigail, took much food and went out to meet David. She pleaded with him not to regard her husband’s churlish ways. She appealed to David by telling him that later, when he was king, he would have no regret: “And this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offense of heart unto my lord, either that thou has shed blood without cause, or that my lord hath avenged himself” (I Sam. 25:31).
How wise was the appeal of Abigail! She was not the last woman (and perhaps not even the first) who had to apologize for a crude husband. Men, consider what your treatment of others may reflect on your wives!
But now notice the response of David: “Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel, who sent thee this day to meet me; and blessed be thy discretion, and blessed be thou, that hast kept me this day from blood guiltiness, and from avenging myself with mine own hand” (I Samuel 25:35).
This Old Testament example is a sample of the words of our Lord: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”. To David, the matter is saturated with blessing. He praises God- blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel. He praises the good judgment of the beautiful Abigail: Blessed by they discretion. (Are you and I known for good judgment?) Then he praises her for restraining his own anger! Perhaps we can recall times when a wise word from a calm person would have prevented our doing wrong through anger or wounded pride. Search your memory, and see.
What a story! When others would restrain our sin, let us listen to their voices and accept their persons. Abigail had a husband that no one could even speak to. The Lord smote him, and she got a husband who would listen to her advice. Great!
WHO WAS BLESSED-JOSEPH OR POTIPHAR?
Marvelous things come to pass in the lives of those whom God calls blessed. Potiphar made his smartest move when he put Joseph in charge of his household. “And it came to pass from the time that he made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake, and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house and in the field” (Genesis 39:5).
The character of Joseph is one of the models of the Bible. Sold by his brothers, bought by his cousins, “his feet hurt with fetters, his body laid in iron chains,” betrayed by Mrs. Potiphar – none of these things made him reject the Lord. “But God was with him” is the refrain of his life’s song. EVERYBODY was blessed because of Joseph. You and I may bring numberless blessings to an uncounted number of people, by treating them as Joseph treated all men. What blessings – for them and for him and for everyone who follows the worthy example of his noble life.
A TASTE WILL CONVINCE YOU
There are many Biblical illustrations to show us blessings from learning the word, living by the word, trusting in the Lord who gave the word. A precious one is found in Psalms 34:8; “O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” The psalm had begun with tributes to the Lord. He is praised continually; the soul of the singer makes his boast in God; the Lord heard his seeking, and delivered him from all his fears.
Peter reinforces this attitude for Christians. He exhorts the scattered saints that all bad motives and actions be laid aside; that the longing desire for the spiritual milk that is without guile be as strong as the longing of the newborn babe’s desire for the milk to sustain it. He says it will enable us to grow thereby unto salvation, but then states the condition: “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (I Peter 2:1-3). The Psalm commanded, “O taste and see that the Lord is gracious; Peter’s words shows what happens when we fulfill that command.
The Old Testament verse simply says the man who enjoys this taste is blessed. Peter amplifies the promise by saying that such people are built up a spiritual house to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Would you be assured that God is pleased with your prayers? To have this blessing, taste and see that the Lord is gracious. Do not doubt – taste. Then go on from there in the blessing of the Father.
WHEN CLAIMS CONTRADICT TRUTH
Many people speak glowingly about our God, while giving little heed to His word. Hear this claim of King Saul: “And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord” (I Samuel 15:13). Saul had done no such thing. He had violated God’s precept by offering his own sacrifices without waiting for God’s annointed one to come and do that priestly work. Look at the contradictions:
1. Saul was pretending to be righteous, and was talking piously to Samuel as if he (Saul) were in any position to bestow a blessing on anyone.
2. Saul’s words, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord, “stood in direct contrast to his behavior. He had NOT performed that which God cmmanded him, and as soon as Samuel began to show him his wrongs, Saul attempted to explain, speaking of his distress and his fear of the enemy, and finally saying (we don’t know if it was altogether true or not), “I feared the people and did obey their voice” (I Samuel 15:24). But even this may have been a mere play, because at once he asked Samuel to “…turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord” (v25). He seemed more interested in the outward appearance of things than in true devotion to God. All these things and the rest of Saul’s downward course brought him to his further heinous sin of seeking counsel from the woman of Endor, who had a “familiar spirit.” Saul died in disgrace with no hope for his future. But didn’t he SOUND good for a while!
Saul forfeited the blessings of a true worshiper, all the while saying he had done God’s commands. Let none of us purvey pious platitudes about blessing while our lives are deserving of censure from the Lord. When we say, “Blessed be thou of the Lord” let us be living in a way that will make the words themselves a blessing to others.
HOLDING ON FOR THE BLESSING
Genesis 32:22ff, tells the story of a very unusual wrestling match. Jacob had risen in the night and taken his family across the Jabbok. He sent also “that which he had” – all his belongings. Left alone, Jacob found himself in a wrestling match with “a man.” The wrestling continued through the night. Jacob’s adversary did not prevail, so he touched the hollow of his thigh and “it was strained.” Yet Jacob did not give up the contest. He held on. When his opponent said “Let me go, for the day breaketh,” Jacob answered “I will not let thee go except thou bless me.”
Jacob clearly discerned that this was some heavenly visitor. When Jacob was asked, “What is thy Name?” He replied, “Jacob.” The reply to Jacob revealed a blessing: “Thy name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel; for thou has striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, “Tell me, I pray thee, thy name?” But the reply was, “wherefore is it that you dost ask after my name?” And the statement is added, “And he blessed him there.” “Peniel” means “the face of God” – and that was the name Jacob gave the place, saying “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
We do not know all that may be involved in the blessing bestowed on the patriarch. But surely his new name was involved. Before he had been called “a supplanter.” He was “one who takes the place of another.” Esau had bitterly said that Jacob was rightly named. But now God gives him another name, an honorable name.
Hosea the prophet later commented on this. He wrote of Jacob, “In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his maturity he contended with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed. He wept and sought His favor. He found him at Bethel, and there he spoke with us, even the Lord the God of hosts; the Lord is His name. Therefore, return to your God…(Hosea 12:3-6). The visitor is called an angel; he is called “the Lord, the God of hosts.”
Hosea said that Jacob found God at Bethel. That was years before the wrestling contest; that took place years after at Peniel. Jacob was a changed man, and his attitude toward Esau shows it.
Whatever adversary wrestles agains us, let us hold on. That will ensure our being blessed.