Connections 02.28.2021: Blessings

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-22

In recent years, the word “Blessed” has become a common hashtag in social media—a trendy way to signal to others the pleasant state of one’s life. The hashtag “#blessed” might accompany photos of loved ones, a vacation spot, birthday or holiday gifts, a pet, or even a cup of coffee. Now, instead of writing “Sincerely” or “Love,” people close their emails with “Blessings.” Some people say to others, “Have a blessed day!”

For all the popularity of this idea, I wonder if we’ve lost the true meaning of what it is to be blessed. The Bible is full of God’s blessings on people, which usually contain a pronouncement of prosperity, fertility, or some other form of success. Sometimes the blessings come with a change of name that signals a new path for the person being blessed. But there is always a requirement along with the blessing, whether it’s to populate the earth, care for nature, keep a sabbath day of rest, etc. In today’s passage, God’s blessings to Abram and Sarai (renamed Abraham and Sarah) are given alongside reminders of the covenant God has made:

• “I will make my covenant between me and you” (v. 2)
• “this is my covenant with you” (v. 4)
• “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring…for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring” (v. 7)
• “I will establish my covenant with [Isaac] as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him” (v. 19)
• “my covenant I will establish with Isaac” (v. 21)

In this story, blessings are inseparable from the covenant. The covenant is a promise between God and the people: the people will obey God and follow God’s law, and God will bless the people. One doesn’t occur without the other.

I wonder if sometimes, in our ease of using the idea of blessings, we forget the cost of being blessed. Something great happens to us, and we claim that we are blessed. While I believe we have good intentions—maybe we’re trying to show our knowledge that these gifts are from God, who deserves all the praise—I also think we tend to forget our end of the bargain.

What is our role as people of the covenant? We are Christians, living in the Way of Jesus Christ. Jesus says our part of the covenant is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… [and] love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37-39). When we fulfill our end of the bargain, we will not only be able to laugh the way old Abraham did over the news of a baby; we will be able to sense God’s blessings in our lives no matter what circumstances we face.

Blessings!

Discussion

• What makes you feel “#blessed”?
• When you think about your blessings, do you recognize God as their source and give thanks to God for them?
• How often do you consider your role in the covenant with God?
• How can fulfilling your end of the covenant bring blessings to your life that aren’t necessarily material?
• What can you do to ensure that your sense of being blessed is truly a sign of God’s hand in your life?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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