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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Blessings of God...Why?

Why does God bless us?  I was meditating on the following passage and wanted to share what I found.

When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. [Deuteronomy 6:10-13]

The land was promised by God: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land...” – no “ifs”, just “when.” The gift of a new homeland was settled hundreds of years before with Abraham just as the declaration that the people would be slaves for 400 years. God knew.  God also knew something else: the Hebrews would be going into a land flowing with milk and honey, taking houses that they didn’t have to build, vineyards they didn’t have to plant, wells they didn’t have to dig, and, the temptation to begin to take it all for granted would be as close as their next breath.

The warning was clear and the danger anticipated: “then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Day after day, month after month, the Israelites ate and slept, living in the amazing blessings of God. How were they to be able to avoid succumbing to the temptation to forget? God’s answer to the dilemma as straightforward:   Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. But what exactly did that mean?

In “fearing God” they would have an awesome reverence for Who God was, a reverence that would lead to serving only Him, in total dependence on Him. God had led them through the wilderness for 40 years, providing for their every need and protecting them from harm; He was worthy of their respect and worthy of their service. Another way of considering the command might have been that God was calling them to remember what their purpose for being here was.

When God made the covenant with Abraham, He declared “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” [Gen. 12:2-3] From the very beginning, God’s blessing would have a purpose beyond self-enrichment, but to share the blessing of God to others. Later, God clarifies, even more, what that the blessing would include the land as an inheritance: “Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be resident aliens for four hundred years in a land that does not belong to them and will be enslaved and oppressed. However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterward, they will go out with many possessions.  But you will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age.  In the fourth generation, they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure. [Gen. 15:13-16] 

Years later speaking to Moses, God says: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” [Ex. 19:5-6] God clarified further what being a blessing would be: a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Centuries later this passage is used by Peter: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” [1 Peter 2:9-10] Those whom Christ had redeemed by His blood have now become the people of God, and as God’s chosen people, they assume the role of the royal priesthood. The role of the priest was to be God’s representative to the people, to minister to the people and to God. As the people of God, we now have the privilege to share the news of that blessing He has given in His Son, – the restored relationship with God through Christ, and to minister to others in obedience to Him. We are not to just enjoy the blessings of salvation, or assume that we deserve the richness of His grace; the blessing is the eternal relationship with Christ and to remember that the purpose to become bearers of that good news to others.

After years of being surrounded by God’s provision and grace, we need to take to heart the warning God gave the Israelites in Deuteronomy: not to take the blessings of God for granted, nor to believe that we were entitled to them. We need to be ever grateful and remember the purposes for which they were given.