The Very First Blessing

We continue our series of exhortations to confession based on the idea of blessing. Receiving our blessings well is part of our worship as well as part of our witness to the world. We’ve considered already that forgiveness is God’s blessing, as is fruitfulness.

The very first blessing of God to man came on man’s very first day on earth. It is the second use of the word “blessing” in Genesis 1, but applied to human beings in verse 28.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on earth.

God looked on His newly created image-bearers with favor. He had given them life and, in light of how Genesis 2:15-25 fits between verses 27 and 28 in chapter one, God had given them each other. For Adam, breath and a bride were both blessings. But verse 28 makes the blessing seem like still more, and I think the blessing is connected with the rest of the verse. Blessing is purpose.

This is a big purpose. On the large scale, you are blessed to make family and culture and technology. But on the day to day scale, this is hugging and feeding your kids, this is filling the car with gas so you can get to work, this is trying to figure out how to help your boss or co-workers or clients better, this is putting the laundry away and baking bread.

We complain often about some of God’s best gifts to us. Our bodies are tired or hurting, but what an amazing grace that they work at all! Our spouses and our kids give meaning to our accomplishments and they provide stories to tell and retell, but we grumble about the challenges. The long task list doesn’t excite us, it overwhelms us, and it may be because we don’t see the blessings. Are you tired because there is a lot to do? Good, God gave you a lot to do.

Our unbelieving neighbors have been given no less purpose. They are made in God’s image. Though they don’t deserve all the meaning that is around them, their failure to recognize it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it means that they are more accountable for their denial. Life seems to them like vanity and striving after wind, but that’s because they refuse to relate their purpose to their Maker.

God didn’t have to give you relationships or responsibilities. But He did. A person with only potential isn’t finished, and we often give such a person grief, but many having many potentials to pursue is good. God blessed you with purpose. How are you receiving those blessings? Does how you’re receiving them make others jealous?

Forgiveness Equals Freedom

Of all the things that Christians have, what would make an unbeliever most jealous? Of course those who are outside of Christ, those who don’t have the light of the gospel, are in no better position to determine value than a blind man could count the stars through a telescope with the lens cap still on. For those of us whose eyes are open in Christ and who have His Word about things, we’re actually in a better position to know what the unbeliever should want whether he can express it or not.

The Bible describes how men should want God’s blessing. Our eschatology anticipates that an entire people group will envy what we have from God so much so that they will repent and believe in Christ (for example, Romans 11:11-12). What blessings are such a powerful pull?

There are many blessings that God gives. Last week I wrote that stability and fruitfulness are His blessing, and I started with Psalm 1 because it is a timely reminder as we make plans for a new year. But the verses we read in the liturgy that reminded us of our forgiveness from Psalm 32 state that forgiveness itself is a blessing, and it may be the most important one of all.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
(Psalm 32:1–2)

This blessing of forgiveness comes to those who confess that they are sinners. This happiness (the plain meaning of “blessed”) does not come to liars, suppressors, or even to hiders. Verse 3 refers to David’s “bones” that “wasted away” in his silence. Verse 4 describes God’s heavy hand of conviction, drying up strength “as by the heat of summer.”

But when he “acknowledged” and “confessed” (verse 5) he received blessed forgiveness. Men cannot cover their sin on their own, they cannot escape God’s righteous requirements or His all-seeing judgment. Sin is an agonizing burden in the consciences of men. While there is a sense in which discipline equals freedom, and another sense in which gratitude equals freedom, first and foremost forgiveness equals freedom. We who own up and come clean are covered by Christ’s atoning work. How blessed we are.

Really Blessed

For a few months I have been in a #blessed mood. In a sermon near the end of the summer I recommended The Blessed Option as a way to think about our influence in the world. We ought to see His blessings and thank Him for them in such a way that would provoke others, not just to want similar blessings, but more so to come to the God who gives them. Could we want something other, or even in addition to, God’s blessing? We can’t, at least not as consistent Christians.

But “blessing” is one of those Bible words that we hear and use and have only a vague sense about what it actually means. So I’m going to do a series of confession exhortations based on different descriptions of God’s blessing in the Bible. I think it will be especially timely as we count down the beginning of a new calendar year.

There are some famous blessings in the Bible; we will get to some of them. For this morning, consider that the very first word in the hymnbook of the Old Testament is the word blessed: “Blessed is the man…” (Psalm 1:1).

The immediately following lines in verses 1-2 do not describe this man’s blessedness but rather his chosen source of information and direction. He does not spend time listening to sinners and scoffers. He doesn’t hang with them or identify with them. They don’t dominate his radio station presets or podcasts, his favorite cable news channel, or his social media feeds. Instead he delights in and mediates on the law of the Lord. He marinates his mind in God’s Word.

The blessing, more accurately, blessings plural, are found in verse 3.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
(Psalm 1:3)

The blessings of God are stability and fruitfulness. The blessed man’s roots are established and he is not easily moved by the wind. His source of life is abundant so he is not threatened by the heat. He bears fruit when it is time.

To be blessed is not to be driven by fads or driven by fear or driven to doubt by the wicked chaff. Blessing grows out of our chosen meditation. What do you plan to really think about this next year? It will affect whether you or not you are really blessed.