Genesis 27:26 “26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.” 27 So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed. 28 May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness– an abundance of grain and new wine. 29 May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”
Luke 6:28 “28 Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
I want to talk to you this morning about the concept of blessing from the Old Testament. It is a practice that is still very much a part of the orthodox Hewish home. Hear these words from a book on Jewish family life and practice:
“Before the children can walk, they should be carried on the Sabbath and on Holy Days to their father and mother to receive their blessing. After they are able to walk, they should go to them of their own accord, with body bent and with head bowed, to receive the Blessing”. (From the BRANTSHIEGAL, a book on Jewish family life and practices written in 1602).
The blessing we read from Genesis 27 was intended for Isaac’s oldest son, Esau. But through deception the blessing was given to Jacob instead. As you may remember, Isaac and Rebecca had twin sons, Esau and Jacob, who were not anything alike. Esau was an outdoorsman with hairy arms and hands and he loved hunting and fishing. Jacob was more of a homebody and spent a lot of time with his mother.
Now in the 27th chapter of Genesis, their father, Isaac, has grown old and blind, and he decides it is time to pass on the blessing to his oldest son. Now a Jewish father’s blessing was a formal passing on of the father’s honor and authority to his oldest son. And since the oldest son was assuming the leadership responsibilities of the family or tribe, he also received a double share of his father’s possessions. So the bestowing of the blessing was a very important event indeed.
This idea of blessing is very important because we see from the Scriptures that when people live without blessing, when blessing is absent, they come broken and then bitter.
Esau walked in after Jacob had received the blessing that had been intended for him. Let’s read the rest of the story in Genesis 27: 34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me–me too, my father!” 35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.” 36 Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”(Can you hear the anguish in his voice? It’s like he’s saying, “Isn’t something left for me?”) 37 Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud. 39 His father Isaac answered him, “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above. 40 You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.” 41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
It wasn’t just that Esau was mad at his brother for taking something from him. It wasn’t just that Esau felt betrayed or that his father shouldn’t have been so easy to trick. It was that Esau understood the power of the blessing. He knew it made a huge difference in a person’s life. He knew that it held power to enable him to walk into a destiny that would now be forever altered. When the blessing is absent, children and people in general become broken and bitter. Esau’s was broken hearted. He wept. He begged. He pleaded. He was brokenhearted and that led to bitterness. He held a grudge against his brother. He became angry and then wanted to harm his brother. He grieved over not getting the blessing that was intended for him. He missed out on his father’s blessing and it caused him anguish because he knew the blessing represented hope of future prosperity. This blessing not only included financial prosperity, but also emotional well being and peace of mind knowing that their lives would be useful and full of purpose.
This blessing that parents would pass on in OT times would give the child’s life meaning. Without it, they had no sense of significance. John Maxwell has said, “Without hope in the future, there is no power in the present.”
I spoke with someone recently who through brokenness and tears said they had longed all of their life to be significant and now they had come into the later years of their life and realized their life had been completely the opposite. They recalled a lack of blessing in their childhood and formative years. They missed the kinds of things the OT blessing passed on. That’s what I want to unpack a little for us this morning. What does it mean to bless someone? How can we know if we have received the kind of blessing that will enable us to walk into our God-given future? Using the Old Testament family blessing, I want to show us a formula for blessing our children, our spouses, our friends, our family and our community. This formula is detailed by author Gary Smalley in his 1980’s book, “The Blessing.”
The OT blessing had some key elements. The first one is:
1. Meaningful Touch–
Years ago a freelance reporter from the New York Times was interviewing Marilyn Monroe. She knew that Marilyn lived in many foster homes and so she asked her if she ever felt loved. “Once.” Marilyn replied, “When I was about seven or eight the woman I was living with was putting on makeup. She reached over and patted my cheeks with her rouge puff. For that moment I felt loved by her.” Marilyn had tears in her eyes when she remembered that event. It was such a small act but it was like pouring buckets of love over the parched life of a little girl starved for affection. Why does that story touch our hearts? Why do you think Marilyn Monroe allowed her body to be exploited in her adult life? Was it only about money or was it about something deeper?
Almost every time a blessing was bestowed in Hebrew culture, there was a kiss, a hug, or the laying on of one’s hands that communicated something special to the person being blessed. Did you know that physical touch is key if you want to communicate warmth, acceptance and affirmation? Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near to me and kiss me” in Genesis 27:26. In other words, let’s get close so I can touch you.
The 10th chapter of the Gospel of Mark says that people brought children to Jesus so that He could touch them. Jesus took them and placed them on his knee, and laid His hands upon them, and the scripture says, “He blessed them.” Jesus knew exactly what children need to feel loved and accepted. So He touched them and blessed them.
Unfortunately we live in a day and time where everyone is afraid to touch anyone. An innocent touch of the arm, hand, or an appropriate hug has, in many homes and churches, fallen by the wayside. Isn’t it just like Satan to try to pervert and destroy something that was intended to bring blessing into people’s lives? There are children going through daily life without being hugged and held. There are people who are living alone who long just for the warmth and acceptance of a holy hug.
“Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” (1 Timothy 4:14 NIV) “God implanted in our bodies about five million touch receptors. One third of those receptors are located in our hands. Dr. Dolores Krieger, professor of nursing at New York University found that hemoglobin levels in both people’s blood streams rise with the touch of their hands.
As the hemoglobin levels increase body tissues receive more oxygen which energizes a person and aids in the regenerative process. Both the toucher and the touched receive a physiological benefit. Some studies show that meaningful touch can increase our life span by up to two years.
In a study at the UCLA it was found that to maintain emotional and physical health we need eight to ten meaningful touches each day. Drs. Schanberg and Butler at Duke University Medical School found that without maternal touch, rat pups do not produce a type of protein crucial to their growth and the development of major organs was shut down. Put the pups with their mother and production of the enzyme resumed.
God designed meaningful touch to promote wholeness in us. Jesus commands us to administer his love and acceptance to our world. All of us know from experience the touch of acceptance. We’ve all had the handshake that says, “Welcome” and the handshake that says, “Keep your distance.”
When God wanted to communicate that we could have hope, when He wanted to show us the demonstration of His love, when He wanted to show us that our future could be secure, He didn’t write it in the sky, but He came in the flesh so that we could be touched by Jesus. He washed feet and touched eyes. He held children and wiped tears from the eyes of countless people. He came to touch us. Do you feel blessed?
If you are a parent, perhaps you know there is no more tender moment than the request of one of your children to sit in your lap or snuggle with you on the couch. That close physical position communicates so much that goes unspoken but not unnoticed. Kids who are touched and allowed to come close, spouses who are shown affection and brought close, people in our community whose hands we extend ours to, they receive an element of blessing into their lives that says to them, “I approve of you. I care about you. You are important to me.”
How can we touch our community in meaningful ways? How can we communicate that we care with physical action? We have to get close to people in order to touch them. If we want to bless people we’ve got to develop relationships and build trust with non-Christians. Being physically involved like we were when we picked up trash at the Scott Teays playground and collecting little toys that could serve as prizes for the teachers and taking treats and gifts to the teachers helped us build credibility and trust so that by the end of the year, we were actually receiving prayer requests from some of those teachers. Because we met a physical need, we were able to move to meeting some spiritual needs as well. I believe a great foundation of partnership has begun with the school and that the best is yet to come.
The second element of the OT blessing was:
2. A Positive Spoken Message
Sadly, many parents today believe being present in the home communicates the blessing. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A blessing becomes so only when it is spoken out loud. For a child in search of the blessing, the major thing silence communicates is confusion. Children who are left to fill in the blanks when it comes to what their parents think about them will often fail the test when it comes to feeling valuable and secure. Proverbs 18:21 declares, “THE TONGUE HAS THE POWER OF LIFE AND DEATH.”
That is an amazing truth. You see, good words back up the acceptance that meaningful touch conveys and create life and vitality and energy in the lives of people we want to bless. In order to help our children, our family, our friends to receive blessing through our lives we must speak words of acceptance, love, and encouragement to them. One of the phrases in our English language that is often used to communicate that someone is special is really one of the saddest phrases that could be used. I know I’ve used it myself. It is “You will never know how much you mean to me.” While the phrase is intended to communicate that there aren’t words to describe how special someone is or how much they mean to you, it also is used often in place of taking the time to tell someone just what they mean to you. Take the time to tell your friends and loved ones what they mean to you.
Even though some of us are more emotionally demonstrative than others, we all have been created with an emotional capacity to not only process good and bad things that we experience, but we’re also given an emotional capacity in order to help us express ourselves. When we hide behind the idea that we’re just “not good with words” we cheat others from blessing that God wants to speak through us.
Get Hallmark to help you if you struggle to come up with words, but get the basic phrases in your vocabulary and use them often. In other words, talk like I cook. I’ve got about five basic recipes of things that I don’t mind making, so I use them over and over and over and over. Of course I think four out of the five include a can of cream of mushroom soup and a bag of cheese. Yes, feel free to invite the Pratt’s over for dinner in order to rescue my family from the same tiring menu. Listen. There are words or phrases, however, that never get tiring; phrases like, “I’m proud of you.” “I believe in you.” “I think you’re special,” and “I love you.” They feed our soul. We never tire of hearing them, and we all need to hear them as often as possible.
It doesn’t have to be a special occasion either. I think you can bless people with your words just as a lifestyle habit. One person that I know who does is Nancy Parsons. She is always speaking “can do” “faith-filled” words over people no matter how dire their circumstance is. Her words lend strength and hope to people. I’ve told you before that my good friend, Dr. Teresa Boggs, our dentist, rarely ends a conversation without saying to me, “Mel, I believe in you. I think you are amazing, and I love you.” That spoken blessing over my life feeds my soul and gives me energy to run on for days.
If your words don’t just flow, write them out. Read them to the person. But don’t withhold positive, encouraging words from those you love.
As we go through life, we’ll hear a lot of negative messages. “You’ll never amount to anything. Why can’t you be as good as so and so? You’re just lazy, that’s your problem.” The world’s message is clearly negative. Listen, as Christians, we ought to set the standard for positive speech and words of encouragement.
If you call the office, you’ll hear at the end of the voice mail message after hours that “We hope to see you here at the Teays Valley Church of God where the community is our concern.” Pastor Thom and I have had countless people ask us, “How is the building of the new church coming along?” People have assumed because they saw a road being put in that we were building a new church on our church property. It has given us the opportunity to speak a message to community people that reflects how we feel about the community. The community is the priority when it comes to building buildings on that property. Softball fields, gymnasiums . . .they are great needs of our community. Our message that we care is being spoken as people inquire. When we offer Divorce Care and open our doors as a polling site, when we give the Boyscouts their own key for the meetings that take place here on Monday night, when we teach quilting classes and tell the community they are welcome, when we say “Our house is your house. Come hold your neighborhood association meetings here,” we are saying, “You are important.” Did you know three different neighborhoods held their association meetings here last year? You can be the friendliest church in America, but if you never let people know your doors and hearts are open, they won’t know what is inside that they are missing. You have to speak it.
It’s interesting to me that Jesus is called “the logos” in Greek. The Bible says in John chapter 1, “The Word (logos) became flesh and dwelt among us.” Hebrews 1:1 says, “ 1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” Jesus is the Living Word of God.
3. The third element of the OT blessing involved attaching high value to the one being blessed. To value something means to attach honor to it. In fact, this is the meaning of the verb “to bless.” In Hebrew, the word blesses means “to bow the knee”. This word was used in showing reverence, even awe, to an important person. Likewise words of blessing should carry with them the recognition that this person is valuable and has some redeeming qualities.
We value people not based on what they can do for us. We bless them before they deserve any kind of praise. We bless them before they prove themselves in some area.
One thing I am thankful for in my childhood was people who took the time to tell me they saw great potential in me. They’d tell me they could picture me becoming a famous Christian singer or actress. They’d tell me God was going to use me in a special way. Their encouragement empowered me to develop some of those God-given gifts. They helped set me on a course that has allowed God to use me in His service.
We have it backwards sometimes. We give people praise when they succeed. The components of the OT Blessing tells us to give people praise before they succeed. In other words, when praise precedes performance it empowers people to achieve their potential!
When Isaac blessed Jacob, he attached a high value to Jacob with his blessing. He said, “29 May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.” He said, “You’re going to be a leader. You’ll have authority. You’ll be someone others look up to.” Wow. We know the end of the story with Jacob’s life. That’s exactly what happened.
When Isaac decided it was time to bless his child, he ordered a private meeting. It was going to be a special moment. He was going to set aside time for this blessing. Quality time with people, putting aside distractions, not just listening with one eye on the TV and one eye on your computer, but Isaac was going to give undivided attention to his child. It was going to take place over a meal. You know he rehearsed what he was going to say. He knew it backwards and forwards. I know it’s true because you don’t just come up with words like, “28 May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness– an abundance of grain and new wine” unless you’ve thought of it ahead of time.
Those special words spoken in private, where quality time is spent and there is no distraction, communicate a value and worth in people who receive this element of the blessing. One of the great things my dad did in parenting us was giving us two or three times a year when we would have a daddy date. We’d get to decide where we went and what we did and it was just the two of us. You talk about feeling valued. We felt so special to have our father’s undivided attention. I remember in those moments dad would give instruction and speak words of encouragement and inspiration over us. Those “just the two of us” moments have such sticking power in my memory.
God has communicated great value to us in sending Christ to die for us. John 15:13 “13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” How valuable does that make us? If we are the people for whom Christ died. How valuable are we to Him? Does anyone feel blessed?
4. The fourth element of the OT Blessing involved picturing a special future for the one being blessed.
Isaac painted a word picture for his son Jacob: “May God give you of heaven’s dew and earth’s riches – an abundance of grain and new wine. And the nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be Lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed”. (Genesis 27:28-29) It would be an incredible future to become a person that people honor and respect and follow.
Even today, Jewish homes are noted for picturing a special future for their children. I heard a story that illustrates this. A young Jewish mother was proudly walking down the street pushing a stroller with infant twins. As she rounded the corner, she saw a neighbor. The neighbor said, “My, what beautiful children. What are their names?” Pointing to each child the mother said, “This is Bennie the doctor, and Reuben the lawyer!” This woman believed that her children had a special future and great potential. Isaac believed that about his son. We should communicate that message to those we seek to bless.
One thing I have tried to do with our kids and even with the kids in this church is to dream with them. I love to say, “I can’t wait to see what you will be when you grow up. I know God has big plans for you. God is going to use you in a special way. I am so proud of you. I can see you as a pastor or in some kind of Christian ministry. I think you’d make a great Christian schoolteacher or whatever I’m dreaming at the moment.” Kids need people who will help them dream. Someone once said, “If you shoot for the stars, you just might land among them.” There is no limit to a person’s potential when they allow God to control their destiny.
Think of all of the wonderful pictures Jesus painted about the future of those who would follow them. They would become “fishers of men.” He said of our futures in John 14:12 that we would do greater works than He himself did!” He said in Jeremiah 29:11 that the future He had in mind for us was filled with hope and a future. Do you feel blessed?
In the providence of God, our biological families are the primary place for us to receive blessings. It is, however, not the only place. The family of God is also expected to be a place where blessings are given. The Body of Christ or the church exists to bless people. God expects us to bless one another.“From earliest times God’s people have been called to be a blessing to others. When God first called Abraham, He gave him a specific promise. In Genesis 12:2-3 God said to Abraham: ‘I WILL BLESS YOU…..AND YOU SHALL BE A BLESSING.” Some people don’t have biological families to bless them so God seeks to bless them through the family of God.
We are living in a time when more people have missed the spiritual blessing they were supposed to have received from their family than those who have received it. God wants to bless you today. He wants to touch you today. He wants to speak words over your life that will knock your socks off and give you courage to march as fast into your future as you can. He wants you to know you are valued and loved. He wants to bring healing to your brokenness.
Moms and dads, I’m challenging you to come and pray that God will use you to bring blessing into the lives of your children. Christians, I’m challenging you to come and pray that God will use you to bring blessing into the lives of all who are hurting and broken who need to be touched with God’s love and need to hear the messages of affirmation that He came to bring. You are chosen. You are wanted. You are loved. You are special. You are important to God and you are important to me.
Make up your mind today to be a channel through which God’s blessing flows to the whole world!