By Rhonda Maydwell
Rhonda Maydwell works at Veterans United and is part of the Home Buying Concierge team. She currently lives in Columbia, MO. Rhonda studied English and Religious Studies at Mizzou and is using her talents as a staff writer for GotQuestions.org. She’s also a wife, mother, and friend to many.
In today’s vernacular, it is easy to miss the richness of blessing another person. Today, “Bless her heart” indicates a worry for the wellness of a particular person. Jack was in his third fender-bender this month—bless his heart. Sometimes we worry about another’s very survivability in this cruel world. Karen came to work wearing her slippers. She drove in slippers. Bless her pea-picking heart. Pea-picking indicating the extreme vulnerability of the “blessed” one. It is the kinder, gentler SMH with a side of sweet tea.
The biblical tradition of blessing, however, is one rich with meaning and power. Something for which one will strive. Fight. Trick. Beg.
The Bible depicts blessings as gifts from God that impart favor, happiness, prosperity, fruitfulness, and faith. Likewise, men and women can bless one another. In this instance, a person seeks God’s blessing on behalf of another in the presence of the intended recipient of the blessing sought. More on that in a second. First, let’s look at blessings in the Bible.
Genesis tells the story of the Jewish and Christian faith’s patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Isaac fathered twin boys—Esau and Jacob. Esau was born first but with Jacob literally and figuratively clutching Esau’s heel. Tradition at that time was that a dying father would impart a special blessing on the eldest son before passing from this earth. Israelites viewed this blessing as extremely valuable. Jacob so desired this special blessing from his father that he deceived his older brother in order to receive it.
From the dew of heaven
and the richness of the earth
may God always give you abundant harvests of grain
and bountiful new wine.
May many nations become your servants,
and may they bow down to you.
May you be the master over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
All who curse you will be cursed,
and all who bless you will be blessed.
For those who trust that God answers prayers, and blesses abundantly—it isn’t difficult to understand why a blessing such as this was coveted. Jacob did, indeed, go on to become wealthy, powerful, respected, and blessed.
Jude, in his letter to one of the early Christian churches, also prayed a powerful blessing for those reading or hearing his letter. His letter was originally intended as an encouragement to their faith based on their mutual salvation. The tenor abruptly changed, however, when Jude discovered that false teachers had slipped into the church unnoticed spreading a distorted, false gospel message. Jude had a very difficult conversation with his beloved brothers and sisters and ended with a blessing for their protection from stumbling and preserving their faultless and joyful presence with God (see Jude 1: 24-25). Does it make a difference when prayers for others are uttered or written for them to hear or read?
I think the answer is yes. Hearing others pray for our good, our strength, our comfort, or for God’s favor become echoes in our hearts and minds for a long time. They give us reason to hope and expect God to move according the prayer. They open our eyes to those movements of God, lest we miss the blessing and count them as mere coincidence. Blessings increase hope and build faith.
Recently, a dear friend surprised me in the wee hours of the morning with a blessing. Proving God’s omnipresence in this present age, this blessing came in the form of a text message.
Praying for you this morning.
Was reading Ephesians 3,
and in the ESV your last name appears in verse 17.
So I prayed 17-21 over you this morning!
Thankful for you, Rhonda!
So, of course, I opened Ephesians 3 and scroll to verses 17-21…
“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Before I had brushed my teeth or wiped the sleep from my weary eyes, my friend had prayed and sent me a powerful blessing. In the quintessential I’m not crying, you’re crying experience, I felt the love of God pour down on me. I was reminded that He would provide for all my needs and abundantly more than I would even think to ask. His power, which was already at work in me, was kindled into a blaze of purpose, encouragement, and hope.
And guess what? You and I have the authority to bless others in a manner every bit as impactful and meaningfully as I was. As Jacob was. As Jude’s audience was.
Doubt the power of God’s blessing? Follow me to one more example from the Bible.
Many of us know the story of Jesus feeding 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Super cool miracle, am I right? How did He do it? He blessed the bread and fish! “Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people” (Matthew 14:19). The NIV version of the Bible reads “gave thanks,” but the Greek verb eulogeō is better translated as blessed, meaning: to consecrate a thing with solemn prayers to pray to God to bless it to one’s use.
Ok, walk with me here. This is about to get weird.
Jesus knew there were thousands of hungry people far from home with not nearly enough food to satisfy them. Food is not negotiable. God created us to need it. Jesus could have blessed the people. Supernaturally filled their bellies to a satisfying feeling of fullness. He could have done that. But He didn’t. Instead, He blessed inanimate bread and dead fish. Flour, oil, salt…and smelly, dead fish got the blessing. The blessing that Jacob stole, Esau begged for, Jude fervently imparted, my friend graciously whispered in the dark morning… Really?
Yes. Jesus blessed the bread and the fish—even these particles fall within His command. And they multiplied. They multiplied to not just enough—to more than enough. To lavishly enough. To almost wasteful enough! After every man, woman, and child had eaten their fill of good food, twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish remained.
Want some more?
I couldn’t possibly. I am stuffed. And was it just me, or was that the best bread and fish you have ever eaten? Like the wine we had at that wedding in Canaan… The finest I ever had.
Jesus blessed bread and fish so that His hungry and weary followers would be filled with all the goodness they could handle. Goodness. Generous. Gracious. That’s Jesus.
When we truly bless one another, we are calling down the power of God the Creator of the universe to fill one we care about to overflowing with His love, grace, goodness, and favor with the expectation that He will gladly do so. It’s encouraging the intended recipient and letting them know the bread and fish they need—is coming! Grab some extra baskets. You won’t be able to hold all that blessing in your hands.
I bet that someone came to your mind while reading this. Someone who could stand to hear God’s blessing called upon them. Sweet words coming from your lips. Someone who drove to work in her slippers. Exhausted, anxious, desperate for someone to notice. To care. To bless.
God bless her. God bless you.