Episode 46: What is a Spiritual Privilege and Power that Most Christians Today Neglect, but Those in the Bible Treasured? #Achoo!
Today’s passages include this encouraging little ditty from our depressed friend Job, “Anyone born of woman is short of days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1), and it only gets worse from there. This chapter is all depressing and absolutely hopeless. Fortunately, it’s wrong. God tells Job this at the end of Job, and Job confesses that he spoke out of ignorance. Job wasn’t sinfully wrong – he was ignorantly wrong in his assertions and claims. In the second half of Luke (from vs. 38 on) we see Mary’s beautiful song of praise and Zechariah’s stirring prophecy. 1 Corinthians 2 sees Paul contrasting the power of speech with a different (and higher) kind of power. Our focus passage in Genesis 48 for today, and it is all about blessing…and it’s high time we talked about blessing on this podcast. Let’s read and then discuss this neglected command, calling and privilege that Christians have today.
A few days ago when we read Romans 12 together, we heard this COMMAND from Paul. (all caps!) in verse 14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. ” Dozens of times in Scripture, the people of God are called to bless people. Unfortunately, In current times, when I say the word blessing, the first two things that most people think of is #1 prayer before a meal, and #2 something you give to people when they sneeze so that demons don’t fly up their nose in a vulnerable moment. Neither thing is remotely related to the biblical idea of a blessing. Before we go deeper in blessing, I do want to rabbit trail on sneezing for a moment.
Sneezing is a very interesting human phenomenon that religious people have made a big deal about over the centuries. In Islam the prophet Muhammad instructed Muslims who sneeze to say ” “Thanks to Allah”, and whoever hears them say that should reply “may Allah have mercy on you“, and the person who sneezed should reply “May Allah Guide you to the right path and calm your mind”, and for repeated sneezes, they keep replying the same reply for a maximum of three times, by then the reply is changed to meaning “May Allah heal you“ and the replies stop. According to the Hadiths, the Islamic god likes sneezing, but yawns are from the satan.
Lest you think I am making fun of Islamic people, Christians have also had peculiar ideas about sneezing. The early church father Augustine wrote of a number of superstitions he was familiar with:
Some people are often so superstitious that they even dare to strike a dog that has run between them, but not without paying the penalty. Sometimes the dog sends his smiter quickly away from a ridiculous practice to a real physician. Other practices like this are: to tread upon the sill when you cross in front of your house; to go back to bed if you sneeze while putting on your shoes; to return home if you stumble on your way to a certain place; to be more disturbed by the premonition of a future calamity than concerned about the present damage if mice gnaw at your clothing.Augustine of Hippo, Christian Instruction; Admonition and Grace; The Christian Combat; Faith, Hope and Charity, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, trans. John J. Gavigan et al., Second Edition., vol. 2, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1950), 89.
Our friend Augustine also had some pretty interesting rules that he laid down to Christians about sneezing:
At banquets, we should not be forever spitting or violently coughing or blowing our nose. We must consider the feelings of our companions at table, and avoid disgusting or nauseating them by our crude conduct, testifying to our own lack of self-control. Not even cattle or asses relieve nature at their feeding troughs, yet many people blow their nose and keep spitting while engaged at table. Again, if a sneeze take us by surprise, or, even more so, a belch, we need not deafen our neighbor with the noise and in so doing exhibit our lack of manners. A belch should be released silently, as we exhale, with our mouths shut, not wide open and gaping like the masks of the tragedy. The irritation that causes a sneeze may be relieved by quietly holding the breath; therefore, we should suppress the accumulated force of the breath politely by controlling our exhaling, so as to try to pass unnoticed if some of the excessive air, under pressure, escapes.Clement of Alexandria, Christ the Educator, trans. P. Simon Wood, vol. 23, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1954), 145.
It is a sign of boorishness and of lack of discipline to want to add to the noises, rather than lessen them. And those who scrape their teeth so much that they draw blood from their gums, besides injuring themselves, also annoy their companions. And beyond a doubt, scratching the ear and irritations to prompt sneezing are gestures proper to swine, suggestive of the search for immoral pleasures.
I hope you learned something about sneezing from that – but this pod is NOT about sneezing, it is about blessings. A blessing is a theological reality and a biblical privilege that we do NOT walk in enough. Right before Jesus left – what did He do?? THE VERY LAST THING….
50 Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. 51 And while He was blessing them, He left them and was carried up into heaven. 52 After worshiping Him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. (Luke 24:50-52)
Before we had kids, we made some great friends who were slightly older than us, and they did have kids. It was such a treasure to be around people that had experience with such things, even though they were only a few years older than us. One thing I learned from the dad, Michael – every night before his kids went to bed, he would call them over (or go to them) and bless them. I don’t mean pray for them, though he would do that some too. I mean, he would bless them. Some might be asking – what does that mean?
Let’s look at Numbers 6, 22-27: “The Lord spoke to Moses: 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 May Yahweh bless you and protect you; 25 may Yahweh make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 may Yahweh look with favor on you and give you peace.27 In this way they will pronounce My name over the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
DO you see that at the end? The priest Aaron blesses the people, and then God says – I WILL BLESS THEM. WOW – if only we were priests, right? Then we could bless people too – AND GOD WOULD BLESS THEM!!
And here it is – WE ARE! Take a look at 1 Peter 2:9 and see that WE ARE PRIESTS!
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.1 Peter 2:9
WE ARE PRIESTS! Not just the pastors among us, but ALL CHRISTIANS! We are the Light of the World, We are a City on A Hill. We are a Royal Priesthood, we are the Body of Christ – We are Jars of Clay, in and of ourselves, but inside us is the incredible treasure of Jesus – Christ in us, the Hope of Glory! So, we are commanded to bless, and I believe God blesses what we bless. SO I BLESS MY KIDS OFTEN, and bless my friends and strangers often too. Earlier this week, I had the privilege of blessing some people in the hospital with me. Fellow patients, as well as nurses and medical professionals. Not because I’m a pastor, but because I’m a child of the King with the privilege and honor to bless people.
And – here’s some more good news: NOT ONLY DOES GOD BLESS WHEN WE BLESS – HE WILL BLESS US FOR BLESSING OTHERS!
Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, 9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing1 Peter 3:8-9
There is power and benefit in the blessing of a person of God – power so serious that Jacob fought for it and Isaac wept when he realized that he had blessed the wrong person.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse….If your enemy is hungry, feed him.If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head .21 Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.Romans 12:14 and 21
Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.Luke 6:28
When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we respond graciously.1 Corinthians 4:12-13
When we bless we are CONQUERING with GOOD because there is LIFE CHANGING POWER IN BLESSING. It brings the presence of God and the purifying power of God into a place that is desecrated and tainted by the stain of sin.