16 Jan

Considered a polite response to a sneeze, the phrase “God bless you” is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great, who said it to people who sneezed during a bubonic plague. Aside from the idea of protecting against the spread of disease, “blessing” someone after they sneezed originated from the erroneous beliefs that the soul escapes the body during a sneeze and the heart momentarily stops as well. Therefore, saying “God bless you” was a way of welcoming the person back to life. Read more: Common Superstitions at - History of Superstitions - Woman's Day

This Sunday past, my message came from the book of Genesis chapter 12:1-3. Our church is in the middle of a eight to ten week examination of what the Bible teaches concerning evangelism, particularly what the Old Testament saints proclaim as the promise God made to them concerning a Savior. It is this promise, that I am convinced we are to be proclaiming to the world as fulfilled in Christ Jesus.

Even so, as I prepared the message last week, I was engaged by the little phrase in the text, “I will bless you”. So often in my life after someone sneezed, before I thought about it, I blessed them. Most of the time I end a conversation with that little phrase. Even so, as I consider my blessing of them now, I can hardly say that my blessing did them any good. The Lord’s blessing of Abram was not that sort of blessing. The Lord God brought Abram to a new land. He created for him a family and a heritage. The Lord God secured for Abram righteousness all due to his simple faith in the Lord’s promises. The Lord God really blessed Abram!

Reading the next phrases in Genesis should be convicting. In Abram’s case, God promised that he would be made a blessing, even to every family from earth, Abram would be a blessing. Abram’s new blessed nature was so distinctly connected with God that to curse this man was to incur the curse of God. To bless this man was to incur God’s good favor and blessing. This makes me think twice about flippantly promising blessing on someone merely for expelling air from their nostrils.

Further, since this is the nature of God’s relationship with Abram, a man held up as an model throughout the Scriptures as to how we can have a right relationship with God, perhaps we should examine how it is that God would bless Abram. Though God did certainly expand Abram’s possessions and influence, remember in his lifetime Abram did not own a single piece of his Promised Land save the cave in which he buried his wife. While God promised a great nation and even many, many children, such was only a hope so long as Abram had breath. He had only one of his eight children who actually was the son of the promise. Finally, though Abram was promised great blessings that all the earth then and now would praise, the most enduring thing Abram received was a covenantal promise and sign for his people.

You see the Lord called out to Abram and promised him great things once Abram stepped off the steppes of Haran and surrendered to following wherever the Lord would lead Him. Like a good shepherd, the Lord inspired in Abram faith that he was an awesome and wonderful God who would keep this promise. Abram responded in faith not to test God but so that the Lord could lead this wandering herdsman. The Lord God acted to keep his promises and bless Abram so as to prove He is capable of such kind, benevolent, and gentle leadership. Abram was made a blessing when through his life the world saw God’s true nature as a God who could lead those who trust his revealed promises.

So before the next time you utter blessings on someone take just a moment and examine your motives and your heart. Are you rightly seeking and offering God’s leadership in that person’s life, or are you promising that person will be healthy, wealthy, and wise? We have enough politicians, psychologists, and prosperity preachers who offer such messages. Make sure that what you proclaim with your mouth is substantiated by a life that testifies to the reality that the Lord can lead those who take him at his Word.

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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Ministry of the Word, Shepherding


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