eikon - why God blesses
That question can exhaust or exhilarate, annoy or energize depending on the context, right?
- Why is the sky blue?
- Why do bad things happen to good people?
- Why do people put salty little fish on their pizza?
- Why do I have to make my bed – it’s just going to get messed up again?
- Why did God create mosquitoes?
From a very young age we are obsessed with why. Did any of you have a “why-child?” – were any of YOU a “why-child”?
I think God knew exactly what he was doing when he made us, and he made us with this ability to know and to want to know. And I think he demonstrated that in the garden with the first “do not eat” command.
Genesis 2:15–17 || 15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— 17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” [NLT]
Don’t eat from that tree. Why? Because if you do you will die. God gives the command and immediately answered the why question as if he knew it was coming.
I often find myself asking why and not getting an answer. This even happens with some of my questions for God.
Though WHY can be frustrating and eluding, it can also be a exciting and rewarding.
It is by answering the WHY question that many of our scientific discoveries have taken place, medicine has been advanced, and knowledge expanded. Knowing why can help us understand the meaning of something as well as cause and effect relationships.
Though God may remain silent on some of the why questions we have, there are many times where he allows us to know and discover the WHY so we can know more about Him and his heart.
Last week we talked about blessing others the way God blesses us. I asked each of you to make it a point this month to bless at least three people each week.
Do you feel that you have been blessed by God? Have you ever wondered WHY God has chosen to bless you or why He would even want to? Why does God bless us?
Last week we looked that the Abrahamic covenant, where God pronounced his blessing on Abram:
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]
There are at least 4 pieces of this promise:
- I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you and make your name great
- You will be a blessing
- I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you
- Through you all the people of the world will be blessed
Last message we looked at #2 – you will be a blessing. If we are made in the image of God then we need to do what God does. God blesses and he gives us the privilege of blessing others.
Today we are going to look at #1 by asking the big WHY.
When it comes to the activity of God, the WHY always trumps the WHAT.
For instance, Jesus died. That is the what. Without the WHY, the WHAT has no meaning to us:
John 3:16 || For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. [CSB]
What did God do? He gave his only son. Why? So that you and I can have eternal life.
God could have provided life for us in any number of ways. He chose to sacrifice the Son. That is significant! But the WHY tells us the meaning behind the sacrifice – God does not want you and me to perish but to have eternal life.
One of the fun things about “Why” questions is that they can be directed at either the cause or the effect of something.
“Why did Jesus die on the cross?”
- CAUSE – ‘cause God sent him to do it (he gave his Son)
- EFFECT – so that those who believe can have eternal life
“Why do you drive the speed limit?”
- CAUSE – ‘cause it’s the law 😉
- EFFECT – so that I do not get a ticket or go to jail
The first answer to the question of “Why does God bless us” is really aimed at the cause.
God’s blessings are a manifestation of his nature
Why would God want to make Abram into a great nation and give him preference over other people and make his name great? To answer that question, I want to jump ahead a bit.
Numbers 6:22–27 || 22 The Lord spoke to Moses: 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. You should say to them, 24 “May the Lord bless you and protect you; 25 may the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 may the Lord 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.” [CSB]
God blesses us because it is his nature to bless. Because he wants to.
The word “bless” appears 85 times in 66 verses in the book of Genesis along (CSB) which accounts for about 20% of the occurrences of the word in the entire OT. From the very beginning of our introduction to God and His Story we see blessing as a dominant theme.
“Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this prayer is that it is a provision for God’s desire to bless his people. Blessing is his idea, his purpose. It is not something his people must beg for, but it is the outreaching of his grace.” ~ The Expositors Bible Commentary
This pronouncement of blessing on Israel was NOT because of anything earned by the Jews. It was simply because of the grace of God and came as a manifestation of his nature.
This passage in Numbers is written during the wilderness wanderings before entering the Promised Land. BUT the command to bless is also given to Aaron while God knows the following:
- The golden calf
- The people complain about eating manna
- The Levites rebel and get swallowed up by the ground
- Aaron rebels against Moses
- Moses disobeys God strikes the rock instead of speaking to it
- 10 of the 12 spies say they cannot enter the promised land
- Thousands of Israelites get wiped out by plagues and sword because of rebellion
- God says he is going to wipe them all out (several times) and Moses begs God not to
God did not give this command to Aaron because the Israelites deserved to be blessed.
Similarly, it is not based upon our merit that God chooses to bless us. However, our actions can certainly limit or multiply the blessings that come from God. God blesses because it is his nature to bless and he wants to bless.
God’s blessings are a witness to His Greatness
The second answer to the “Why” question is the effect.
There are three lines each with the divine name Yahweh (“Lord”) The three statements of the blessing mention the name of Yahweh. They then proceed to talk about the blessing he will bestow. It is very poetic.
Numbers 6:22–27 || 22 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘You will bless the Israelites: You will say to them: 24 Yahweh will bless you and keep you; 25 Yahweh will make shine his face on you and be gracious to you; 26 Yahweh will lift up his face upon you, and he will give you peace.’ 27 And they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” [LEB]
- Bless & keep you
- Make his face shine upon you & be gracious to you
- Lift his face to you & give you peace
Yahweh will keep you / protect you.
For the Israelites this is a very big deal because they are about to go into the Promised Land which is inhabited by people who do not want to move! They will be protected by God in such a way that God will be put on display.
Yahweh will protect. Not just from certain danger, but also through dangerous situations. This is not a promise of a life free from trouble. This is a promise that He will keep you through that trouble.
Yahweh will make his face shine upon you.
The words “make his face shine upon you” take us back to the experience of Moses on Mount Sinai. There the theophany of the Lord appeared to Moses (see Exod 34:29–35), and he experienced in a dramatic and direct manner God’s presence. As his glory had caused Moses’ face to shine, so the Lord desires to make his presence known to all his people.
Yahweh will make his presence known among you so that it will be obvious that He is with you.
Yahweh will smile upon you and give you peace
The expression “turn his face” suggests pleasure and affection. This terminology has the functional equivalent of the word “smile.” Here the people are led to pray that the Lord will turn his face toward them in a gracious smile!
He will be pleased to provide for you peace. Certainly NOT the absence of conflict! But a peace and joy that comes from knowing that God is in control and has a reason for everything. Joy in the midst of adversity, which is certainly peculiar.
While I have heard this blessing repeated many times and have seen plaques and jewelry with this on it, it is not so much the 3 blessings that should be the focus.
In Numbers 6, the WHAT is the blessing we receive.
God gives this 3-pronged blessing to Aaron as a prayer he is COMMANDED to say over the people. It is not the blessings that are most important. It is the name of God that is of utmost importance. And after giving the prayer to Aaron, God answers the WHY:
Numbers 6:27 || In this way they will pronounce my name over the Israelites, and I will bless them.” [CSB]
Numbers 6:27 || Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them.” [NLT]
Numbers 6:27 || And they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” [LEB]
The blessings were designed to stamp the name of God on the people of God, just like wearing a jersey or a cap form your favorite sports team.
The WHY is:
…so we experience God and show Him off to the world.
When God gives you peace (in the midst of trials) when God gives you success in the midst of opposition, when God gives you victory over your enemies (physical, health or spiritual) then it becomes obvious to the people around you that God did the work.
While you and I may experience the blessing of God, the focus of the blessing is to point people to God. THE GOAL is that the Lord’s name, Yahweh, will be stamped upon you and me.
All of life exists to declare the supremacy of God
You and I get to be billboards for God! The blessings he bestows on us are designed not so much to make our name great, though that may happen. They are not given *just* so we can know him, but also so that he may be known to others.
We spend time praying for God to bless us, our food, and others. But to what end?
- “bless this food to our bodies” – WHY?
- “bless so-and-so this week” – WHY?
I believe that when we truly grasp the WHY of blessings it with change the very way that we pray. I know it has changed my prayers!
If the chief end of man is to glorify God, then the chief end of the blessings we receive should be to point people to the God who has blessed us.
The Israelites did this by talking about the ways God had blessed them, and by living in such a way that God’s blessings were evident to the world around them. It was words and actions. Lips and life.
Today I encourage you to think about all the blessings you have from God and ask yourself, “How are these blessings pointing others to God?”. And when you pray, I encourage you to pray like the example the Lord, Yahweh, gave Aaron – pray that God would bless not just so that you can have peace and know him better and be protected – but so that AS God blesses you HE can be glorified through you.