eikon - blessing
Genesis 1:26–28 || 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” [CSB]
You and I are created in the image, in the likeness of God. What does that mean to you?
We are created to reflect God
We are created to be image bearers of God. We were made in God’s image. So, what does that mean?
The Greek word that we use for imitation is ikon. It literally means to imitate.
We are created to emulate and reflect the values, nature and character of God.
Iconic. That is what we are. Made to be smaller representations of the God who created us.
It is natural for us to imitate others.
OBSERVATION: As Laura and I were discussing this concept on Friday, Laura made a really good [point that kids naturally imitate their parents, coaches, teachers, etc – those that they look up to. You and I are wired from birth to imitate, because we were created in the image of God to imitate or reflect Him.
Perhaps the most current social experience of this is seen in the myriads of children who are running around talking about going on holiday with British accents. They are imitating what character? PeppaPig.
It is natural for us to imitate others. We do it with movie actors/actresses, accents, parents, cartoon characters, the Wiggles… but you are I have been created to imitate something much greater than just our entertainment or earthly idols. We were created to imitate, to represent the Creator God.
We cannot do this perfectly.
When we make a photocopy of something, the copy is never quite as good as the original. We call this generation loss.
Similarly, you have all seen a beautiful sunrise, sunset, large moon and then when you take a photo of it, the image is good, but we often say, “the picture doesn’t do it justice”
In the same way, we are to be snapshots of God, copies of his character and imitators of is actions. We will be imperfect at it for sure!
I know we have talked about this before. What we have not done is unpack some of the details of what that could or should look like.
If it is true that we are to emulate and reflect the values, nature and character of God, then we must ask ourselves what God looks like, values, behaves and stands for so we can be like that.
NOTICE: it can and should take the rest of our lives to truly understand the nature of God, and even then, we will NOT have a complete picture.
1 Corinthians 13:12 || 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. [CSB]
The more we know God the better we can reflect Him. This morning let’s start by looking at the nature of God as seen in our passage in Genesis 1 & 2.
- God created the birds of the air and fish of the sea and blessed them [Gen 1:22]
- God created for six days and the 7th he blessed [Gen 2:1-2]
- God created the animals and the man and woman, and then he blessed Adam & Eve [Gen 1:28]
Perhaps some of our fuzziness about the word “bless” comes from the many ways it is used in the Bible? People are blessed, days are blessed, buildings, animals, food – all blessed. And, God, the creator of all things, is to be blessed. When I think of blessing a loaf of bread and the God of the universe I get two different images in my head. Similarly, when I think of God blessing Adam and Eve and Jesus blessing a cup of wine, I get two more distinct images.
What does it mean to bless?
The word BLESS. It is a peculiar word in the English language. We do not use it much, do we?
- “bless their heart” – which is normally meant in a derogatory manner (not kind). “He couldn’t find his way out of a cardboard box, bless his heart”
- I have read of monks blessing turtles and priests blessing motorcycles.
- When someone sneezes, what do we say to them? Bless you! Or God bless you! Why?
- So how else could this phrase have caught on? Well, the Library of Congress lists one other reason for why we might say “God bless you.” This explanation comes from the Plague of Justinian from 541 AD - 542 AD, which was a pandemic that spread across the Eastern Roman Empire. It's said that Pope Gregory I decreed that anytime a sneeze was heard, the sneezers were to be blessed by saying, “God bless you,” while making the sign of the cross over their mouth as protection against the plague. [Library of Congress]
בָּרַךְ, בָּרַךְ [barak /baw·rak/] v. to bless, kneel
- BLESS, BLESSING — the act of declaring, or wishing, favor and goodness upon others. The blessing is not only the good effect of words; it also has the power to bring them to pass.
I guess the best quick definition of bless is: “to show favor or preference”.
- When God blessed the Sabbath day, he gave it preference over the rest of the days. It is a special day that is to be set apart for God.
- When God blessed mankind, he gave it preference over the rest of creation, giving us dominion and stewardship over it. He set man and woman apart by making us in his image and then putting us in charge.
- God blessed Noah after the flood – he certainly proved that his favor was on Noah by saving him and his family
- God blessed Abraham and his descendants by picking them over all the other peoples of the earth to be “his own possession”.
When God pronounced his blessing on Abraham we read this:
Genesis 12:1–3 || 1 The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. [CSB]
So, what does bless mean? To show favor.
- “I will show favor to you, and you will show favor to others”
- “I will make you favored above others, and you are to favor others above yourself”
- “I will make your name great, I will multiply you, I will provide for you like you are my own, and you are to do the same for others”
There is a kind of flow through in this passage, and I think it shows part of God’s heart for us:
- I will bless you -> you will be a blessing (unconditional)
- I will bless those who bless you (conditional)
- All peoples on earth will be blessed through you (prophetic)
We are created to bless others.
Implied in this covenant passage is the idea that you are blessed to be a blessing. That one of the ways we are to imitate God is to bless others the way He blesses us.
Isaac blessed Jacob with a similar blessing:
Genesis 27:28–29 || 28 May God give to you— from the dew of the sky and from the richness of the land— an abundance of grain and new wine. 29 May peoples serve you and nations bow in worship to you. Be master over your relatives; may your mother’s sons bow in worship to you. Those who curse you will be cursed, and those who bless you will be blessed. [CSB]
Blessings are not just words, however. To show favor to someone or something is to give them preferential treatment not just with our lips but with our lives.
We bless others not just with compliments, but with service. We show others favor not so much by talking to them as by listening to them.
ASK: What are some ways to bless others? What are some ways we can elevate or show favoritism to others? [see if they come up with the same list as I have below!]
CONVERSATION: if we are always talking about our experience, we are really giving favoritism to ourselves. That is not blessing. Blessing is giving the other person preference – listening to their story, their joys, their concerns.
GIVING: I can bless others, show them favoritism, but using my resources for their benefit. EX: my allowance 😉 Small gifts as well as sacrificial giving are both ways to bless as long as it is not done so that you can be favored.
SERVING: God gives us gifts and abilities so we can use them to bless others! How cool is that?
1 Peter 4:10 || 10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. [CSB]
PRAYER: you can bless others by praying for them. When our prayers focus on us all the time, we are favoring ourselves. When we pray so that others will think better of us, then we favor ourselves and bless ourselves. Jesus warned against this when He taught us how to pray in Matthew 6.
But when we pray for others, like Jesus did in John 17, our prayers can be blessings as well.
NOTE: I am not implying that praying for ourselves is a bad thing! The Lord’s Prayer is a model prayer that includes praying for ourselves! However, if we want to be a blessing in our prayers, we need to pray for others.
On Sunday mornings I often get a text message from one of the other pastors in the region letting me know that they are praying for our church. I can attest that it is a huge blessing to me!
AGENDA: perhaps one of the larger struggles in our day is giving others our time. Favoring others means that their time is a priority, so we try to adjust our agenda to be with them.
Jesus is the better blesser.
When God promised Abraham that the entire world would be blessed through him, he was referring to Jesus – the Messiah.
Jesus came to earth as a baby, grew to be a man and reflected the Blessing nature of God perfectly.
- He served us and not himself
- He made time for his disciples and the crowds
- He gave everything he had, even his life, for us
- He prayed for us
But he did more than just those things. He demonstrated his love for us in how he chose to bless us:
Philippians 2:3–11 || 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. 7 Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, 8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. 9 For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— in heaven and on earth and under the earth— 11 and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [CSB]
Verses 5-11 tell us how Jesus was the better blesser – he lives the ultimate life of blessing by making you and me such a priority that he gave up heaven, became a baby, grew into a man and obeyed God to the point of giving his life for you and me.
He not only blessed those that loved him, but he blessed those that did not love him yet. As a matter of fact, he set the standard high when he said that we are to bless that that curse us – because that is exactly what He did!
Blessed to be a blessing
Verses 3-4 tell us to bless others – show them favoritism, put them first. Consider them more important than ourselves. Basically, we are being exhorted to bless others.
If you and I want to live to the awesome calling we have, we need to be people who bless other people. You and I can show God’s love and character to the world around us by blessing others. We get to, we have the privilege of, blessing others.
Very few new habits form in us without intentionality. That is especially true with good habits. If we want to be iconic – to reflect God to the world around us, we need to be intentional.
I want to encourage you like Paul did in out Philippians 2:3-4 passage to bless others. For the month of April, I want you to pray for the opportunity to bless 3 people each week.
- Words of encouragement (text, letter, email, etc)
- Giving gifts
- Spending time
- An act of kindness or service