* Blessings come to the faithful
God honored the desires of faithful Hannah. We never hear about Peninnah or her children again, but Samuel was used mightily by God. God also gave Hannah five children in addition to Samuel. God often blesses us in ways we do not expect. Hannah never expected to have a child at her age, much less six children! Don’t resent God’s timing. His blessings might not be immediate, but they will come if we are faithful to do what he says in his Word. (NLT)
1 Samuel 2:21 – And the Lord gave Hannah three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.
* Five parts of an ancient blessing
A blessing was one way of asking for God’s divine favor to rest upon others. The ancient blessing in these verses helps us understand what a blessing was supposed to do. Its five parts conveyed hope that God would (1) bless and protect them; (2) smile on them (be pleased); (3) be gracious (merciful and compassionate); (4) show his favor toward them (give his approval); (5) give peace. When you ask God to bless others or yourself, you are asking him to do these five things. The blessing you offer will not only help the one receiving it, it will also demonstrate love, encourage others, and provide a model of caring for others. (NLT)
Numbers 6:24-26 – ‘May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.’
* Limiting blessings by lack of faith
The woman and her sons collected jars from their neighbors, pouring olive oil into them from their one flask. The olive oil was used for cooking, for lamps, and for fuel. The oil stopped flowing only when they ran out of containers. The number of jars they gathered was an indication of their faith. God’s provision was as large as their faith and willingness to obey. Beware of limiting God’s blessings by a lack of faith and obedience. God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. (NLT)
2 Kings 4:6 – Soon every container was full to the brim! “Bring me another jar, “she said to one of her sons. “There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing.
* Blessings received through humble obedience
Naaman, a great hero, was used to getting respect, and he was outraged when Elisha treated him like an ordinary person. A proud man he expected royal treatment. To wash in a great river would be one thing, but the Jordan was small and dirty. To wash in the Jordan, Naaman thought, was beneath a man of his position. But Naaman had to humble himself and obey Elisha’s commands in order to be healed. Obedience to God begins with humility. We must believe that his way is better than our own. We may not always understand his ways of working, but by humbly obeying, we will receive his blessings. We must remember that (1) God’s ways are best; (2) God wants our obedience more than anything else; (3) God can use anything to accomplish his purposes. (NLT)
2 Kings 5:9-15 – So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of leprosy.”
But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would surely come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! Aren’t the Abana River and Pharpar River of Damascus better than all the rivers of Israel put together? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.
But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply to go and wash and be cured!” So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his flesh became as healthy as a young child’s, and he was healed!
Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, “I know at last that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Now please accept my gifts.”
* Prosperity not always an indication of blessings
Jeroboam II had no devotion to God, yet under his warlike policies and skillful administration, Israel enjoyed more national power and material prosperity than at any time since the days of Solomon. The prophets Amos and Hosea, however, tell us what was really happening within the kingdom. Jeroboam’s administration ignored policies of justice and fairness. As a result, the rich became richer, and the poor, poorer. The people became self-centered, relying more on their power, security, and possessions than on God. The poor were so oppressed that it was hard for them to believe God noticed their plight. Material prosperity is not always an indication of God’s blessing. It can also be a result of self-centeredness. If you are experiencing prosperity, remember that God holds us accountable for how we attain success and how we use our wealth. Everything we have really belongs to him. We must use God’s gifts with his interests in mind. (NLT)
2 Kings 14:28 – The rest of the events in the reign of Jeroboam II and all his deeds, including the extent of his power, his wars, and how he recovered for Israel both Damascus and Hamath, which had belonged to Judah, are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel.
* Don’t use blessings to impress others
Hezekiah had been a good and faithful king. But when Isaiah asked him what he had shown the messengers from Babylon, he replied, “I showed them everything I own–all my treasures.” Hezekiah’s prosperity, success, and deliverance from sickness had made him proud. Rather than giving credit to God for all his blessings, he tried to impress the foreigners. When God helps us, we must not use his blessings to impress others. A testimony of victory can quickly degenerate into vanity and self-congratulations. (NLT)
2 Kings 20:12-19 – Soon after this, Merodach-baladan son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent Hezekiah his best wishes and a gift, for he had heard that Hezekiah had been very sick. Hezekiah welcomed the Babylonian envoys and showed them everything in his treasure-houses–the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils. He also took them to see his armory and showed them all his other treasures–everything! There was nothing in his palace or kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.
Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked him, “What did those men want? Where were they from?” Hezekiah replied, “They came from the distant land of Babylon.” “What did they see in your palace?’ Isaiah asked. “They saw everything,” Hezekiah replied. “I showed them everything I own–all my treasurers.”
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Listen to this message from the Lord: The time is coming when everything you have–all the treasures stored up by your ancestors–will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. Some of your own descendants will be taken away into exile. They will become eunuchs who will serve in the palace of Babylon’s king.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “This message you have given me from the Lord is good.” But the king was thinking, “At least there will be peace and security during my lifetime.”
* Balancing God’s blessings & judgment
Uzzah died instantly for touching the Ark, but God blessed Obed-edom’s home where the Ark was stored. This demonstrates the two-edged aspect of God’s power: He is perfectly loving and perfectly just. Great blessings come to those who obey his commands, but severe punishment comes to those who disobey him. This punishment may come swiftly or over time, but it will come. Sometimes we focus only on the blessings God gives us, while forgetting that when we sin, “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” At other times, however, we concentrate so much on judgment that we miss his blessings. Don’t fall into a one-sided view of God. Along with God’s blessings come the responsibility to live up to his demands for fairness, honesty, and justice. (NLT)
1 Chronicles 13:10-14 – Then the Lord’s anger blazed out against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God. David was angry because the Lord’s anger had blazed out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “outbreak against Uzzah”). It is still call that today.
David was now afraid of God and asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” So David decided not to move the Ark into the City of David. He took it instead to the home of Obed-edom of Gath.
* Don’t let God’s blessings make you forget him
Sometimes the very blessings God has showered on us make us forget him. We are often tempted to rely on wealth for security rather than on God. As you see what happened to the Israelites, look at your own life. Do your blessings make you thankful to God and draw you closer to him, or do they make you feel self-sufficient and forgetful of God? (NLT)
Nehemiah 9:35 – Even while they had their own kingdom, they did not serve you even though you showered your goodness on them. You gave them a large, fertile land, but they refused to turn from their wickedness.
* Some of God’s blessings are conditional
God promises great blessings to his people, but many of these blessings require our active participation. He will set us free from our fears, guard and rescue us, show us goodness, supply our needs, listen when we call to him, and redeem us, but we must do our part. We can appropriate his blessings when we seek him; cry out to him; trust him; fear him; reverence him; refrain from lying; turn from evil, do good and seek peace; are brokenhearted; and serve him. (NLT)
Psalm 34:1 – I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.
* What keeps us from God’s ultimate blessings
What keeps us from God’s ultimate blessings (entering his “rest”)? Ungrateful hearts, not worshiping or submitting to him, hardening our hearts, testing God because of stubborn doubts. We are warned not to harden our hearts, but to reject the glamour of sin and anything else that would lead us away from God. (NLT)
Psalm 95:11 – So in my anger I made a vow: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’
* Blessings come from reverencing God
Many blessings are available to us–honor, prosperity, security, freedom from fear–if we fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands. If you expect God’s blessings, you must revere him and gladly obey him. (NLT)
Psalm 112:1 – Praise the Lord! Happy are those who fear the Lord. Yes, happy are those who delight in doing what he commands.
* Messiah’s life-giving blessings
The chapter is a hymn of praise—another graphic description of the people’s joy when Jesus Christ comes to reign over the earth. Even now we need to express our gratitude to God, thanking him, praising him, and telling others about him. From the depths of our gratitude, we must praise him. And we should share the Good News with others. (NLT)
Isaiah 12:1-3 – In that day you will sing: “Praise the Lord! He was angry with me, but now he comforts me. See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation!
Isaiah 44:3-4 – For I will give you abundant water to quench your thirst and to moisten your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit and my blessings on your children. They will thrive like watered grass, like willows on a riverbank.
* Blessings may lead first to pain
God’s favor does not automatically bring instant success or fame. His blessing on Mary, the honor of being the mother of the Messiah, would lead to much pain: her peers would ridicule her; her fiance’ would come close to leaving her; her son would be rejected and murdered. But through her son would come the world’s only hope, and this is why Mary has been praised by countless generations. Her submission was part of God’s plan to bring about our salvation. If sorrow weighs you down and dims your hope, think of Mary and wait patiently for God to finish working out his plan. (NLT)
Luke 1:30-31 – “Don’t be frightened, Mary,” the angel told her, “for God has decided to bless you! You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus.”
* Being hardhearted despite our blessings
The Pharisees considered wealth to be a proof of a person’s righteousness. Jesus startled them with this story in which a diseased beggar is rewarded and a rich man is punished. The rich man did not go to hell because of his wealth but because he was selfish, refusing to feed Lazarus, take him in, or care for him. The rich man was hard-hearted in spite of his great blessings. The amount of money we have is not as important as the way we use it. What is your attitude toward your money and possessions? Do you hoard them selfishly, or do you use them to help others? (NLT)
Luke 16:19-31 – Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed and who lived each day in luxury. At his door lay a diseased beggar named Lazarus. As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. Finally, the beggar died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Lazarus in the far distance with Abraham.
“The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish in these flames.’
“But Abraham said to him. ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. Anyone who wanted to cross over to you from here is stopped at its edge, and no one there can cross over to us.’
“Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, send him to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them about this place of torment so they won’t have to come here when they die.’
“But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read their writings anytime they want to.’
“The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will turn from their sins.’
“But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’ “
* How persecution is a blessing
Have you ever thought of persecution as a blessing, as something worth rejoicing about? This beating suffered by Peter and John was the first time any of the apostles had been physically abused for their faith. These men knew how Jesus had suffered, and they praised God that he had allowed them to be persecuted like their Lord. If you are mocked or persecuted for your faith, it isn’t because you’re doing something wrong but because God has counted you “worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus.” (NLT)
Acts 5:41 – The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus.
* Blessings come from staying in contact with God’s people
The family of God includes all who have believed in him in the past, all who believe in the present, and all who will believe in the future. We are all a family because we have the same Father. He is the source of all creation, the rightful owner of everything. God promises his love and power to his family, the church. If we want to receive God’s blessings, it is important that we stay in contact with other believers in the body of Christ. Those who isolate themselves from God’s family and try to go it alone cut themselves off from God’s power. (NLT)
Ephesians 3:14-15 – When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.
* Blessings don’t always come as material possessions
We are often partial to the rich because we mistakenly assume that riches are a sign of God’s blessing and approval. But God does not promise us earthly rewards or riches; in fact, Christ calls us to be ready to suffer for him and give up everything in order to hold on to eternal life. We will have untold riches in eternity if we are faithful in our present life. (NLT)
James 2:2-4 – For instance, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in shabby clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”–well, doesn’t this discrimination show that you are guided by wrong motives?
* Blessings of eternal life
The “cowards” are not those who are fainthearted in their faith or who sometimes doubt or question but those who turn back from following God. They are not brave enough to stand up for Christ; they are not humble enough to accept his authority over their lives. They are put in the same list as the unbelieving, the corrupt, the murderers, the immoral, the idolaters, the liars, and those practicing magic arts.
People who are victorious “endure to the end.” They will receive the blessings that God promised: (1) eating from the tree of life, (2) escaping from the lake of fire, (3) receiving a special name, (4) having authority over the nations, (5) being included in the Book of Life, (6) being a pillar in God’s spiritual temple, and (7) sitting with Christ on his throne. Those who can endure the testing of evil and remain faithful will be rewarded by God. (NLT)
Revelations 21:7-8 – All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
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