I confess however that until I read this chapter I didn't have much depth of understanding of what the concept of "blessing" is all about. I am guessing I'm not alone in that lack of understanding of one of the most profound biblical concepts we can appropriate. While we might equate the word "blessed" with a state of happiness, uttering common Christianese such as "I'm blessed," can we say we understand the Biblical depth of this word? How can we when it's not a subject well taught or understood in our affluent society where we think we have everything and saying "we are rich" (Revelation 3:14-18). While we live in the most "Blessed" nation in history we really do need to evaluate that against God's mission.
We might know from the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) that Jesus gives us the pathway into a blessed life with some pretty challenging ideas. I mean, after all, who really wants to be "poor in spirit?" The fact however that is where our blessings begin but digging into the Beatitudes is beyond our scope here. God's blessings plan actually begins not even with humans but with the very first created life (Genesis 1:22). God ties his blessings directly to his creation purposes. It is easy to think of blessings as what God will do for me but not so much what God is doing for Himself. in fulfilling his missions and requires for the mission of God's people. If it was otherwise we would no doubt see many more living sent today.
Fortunately, Dr. Wright informs our thinking with some depth of understanding. Wright takes us again back to the Creation account to begin to consider this incredible reality provided by our amazingly incredible God. Incredible might not be the right word because it implies something impossible to believe but by faith we can say, "with God all things are possible." Do you remember the scene in movie the "Incredibles" where the little boy on his trike is waiting for Mr. Incredible? Mr. Incredible steps out of his undersized car, turns to the little lad asking incredulously, "so what are you waiting for?" The boy responds, "I don't know, something amazing, I guess!" The disheartened Mr. Incredible replies glumly, "me too kid."
Isn't that kind of how most Christians go through life, waiting for something amazing to happen, and miss the amazing blessing of God. Like Mr. Incredible many aren't finding the amazing. not realizing the blessings of God are ours as we live out his mission, not our own. God's blessings aren't tied to our 5 or 10 years plan. They are a direct response to his timeless mission. And, that truly is amazing!
Wright begins to define blessing for us:
"Blessings...at the very beginning of our Bible, is constituted by fruitfulness, abundance, and fullness on the one hand, and by enjoying rest within creation in holy and harmonious relationship with our Creator God on the other.""Fruitfulness, abundance, and fullness...enjoying rest? " Doesn't that sound amazing!? But there is a caveat...
"...Blessings are set within relationships that are both vertical and horizontal. That is, blessing is dependent on relationship with God, and blessing is something to be shared in relationship with other human beings."All blessings flow from a right relationship with God to us and through us they are to flow to others - to the nations. In the last post we looked at the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 12:1-4. There God directly ties his blessings to how his covenant people bless the nations among them. God will do his part in blessing for it is his purpose to bless the nations but we need to do ours otherwise our blessings get short-circuited.Then we go through life, filled with incredulity toward others that negates being a blessing, just like Mr. Incredible in this scene.We were made for a purpose and our blessings come as we live that purpose out.
Wright quotes Richard Bauckman here to bring some further definition to the concept of biblical blessings.
"Blessing is the way God enables his creation to be fertile and fruitful, to grow and to flourish. It is in the most comprehensive senses God's purpose for his creation. Whenever human life enjoys the good things of creation and produces the good fruit of human activity, God is pouring out his blessings. Wherever people bless God for his blessings, to the extent God is known as the good Creator who provides for human flourishing, God's blessing is universal. But it is not the case that blessing is God's goodness as distinct from his goodness in salvation, as has sometimes been proposed."This leads us into a holistic perspective of God blessings, material and spiritual, united together in God's cosmic plan of the ages. Bauckman tells us that God blessings are two-fold - human flourishing and spiritual flourishing. Two sides of the same coin. The Lausanne Theology Working Group warns that "we must not dichotomize the material and spiritual in unbiblical dualism." (I discuss that here). That is why we must understand of the whole Gospel I have been blogging about.
To experience the true blessings of God requires obedience to the whole Gospel that seeks to bless the nations. Wright states however that while "Obedience...is the means of living within the sphere of blessings and enjoying it; obedience is never the means of earning or deserving the blessings." We praise God from whom all blessings flow because God freely gives us all things (Roman 8:32) - that he knows we need. And, that truly is amazing!
Next time we'll look more at how blessings intersect with the mission of God's people, and further at the Abrahamic covenant, for living sent today.