Friday, January 07, 2011

Favor and Blessing

Column reader Gary Doggett told me how this scripture blesses his life: “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3). He said, “I have this one taped inside my briefcase so I can be constantly reminded to count my blessings.” Gary further said, “For so many folks, the briefcase is the epicenter of countless references each day.” His comment fit this week’s Genesis scripture – about the words “bless” and “blessing.”

Whenever anyone asks me, “How are you?” I typically reply “I’m fine.” And I am because I have clothes on my back and pantry shelves of food. The apostle Paul said, “But if we have food and clothing, we are content with that” (1 Timothy 6:8). Statistics prove that when we can stave off hunger and we’re robed that we’re among the most blessed of the earth. So, I think “fine” describes my life, even if some ornery circumstances scuff the edges.

I longed for my answers to the common greeting “How are you?” to better reflect the generosity of God. Soon after those thoughts, an office worker, at the nursing facility where my mother resides, asked:

“How are you?”

“Blessed,” I replied.

“And highly favored,” she said.

I see this woman once a week, and she turned my thoughts toward God with her answer “and highly favored.” Those three words continue to lift up my spirit and cause reflection. The angel Gabriel spoke those exact words to Mary when he told her that she would bear and mother the Christ child.

God chose a role for Mary, and God chose a role for you and me. Our scripture this week comes from Genesis, the first book in the Bible. That book gives details about the beginning of our earth and God favoring people to continue blessing others in his name. The word “favor” means “grace in person.” God favored chosen people with his presence, and they in turn blessed others.

Even in the beginning, perfect people were not chosen. God chose pliable people, who when exposed to his grace (favor), could bless others. Abraham gave into fear and trickery and caused two different leaders to take his very beautiful wife into their harems, but God protected her from molestation. Much later, God tested Abraham’s devotion to him, and Abraham proved that he esteemed God even more than he loved his son Isaac.

Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, whose early life also illustrated deceit, was chosen to be the father of the nation of Israel. Twelve male heirs would become twelve tribal leaders of Israel. God changed Jacob’s name (figuratively meaning deceiver) to Israel (meaning struggles with God). When God rubs shoulders with man, his holy character rubs off on us, if we will allow it.

Genesis reveals that the chosen people had a charter to “bless” those with whom they came in contact. The Hebrew word “bless” come from a root word meaning “to kneel.” As in man blessing God by kneeling in adoration, or vise-versa, God kneeling to bless man, to serve mankind. It only takes a minute to connect the thread through the Old Testament to the psalmist David who wrote that God in blessing “reached down from on high and took hold of me” (18:16), on a successful rescue mission.

This image of God stooping down, kneeling down to help us threads to the New Testament when Jesus took up a towel and washed his disciples’ feet. John, who was present and had his feet washed, wrote that Jesus showed “the full extent of his love” (John 13:1). God kneeling to bless us – it’s an accurate picture, and it takes my breath away.

God blessed Abraham. Abraham, in turn, blessed others. God chose the role of servant for all his children, and he patterned our role after himself, God Most High. Bask in God’s choosing, you who are “highly favored.” Allow God to mold you into his servant as you focus on God’s commission to Abraham this week:

“[Y]ou will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2, write on your index card).

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