Today, most likely when we think of a blessing, we think of someone giving us permission to do something–a father’s blessing to marry his daughter comes to mind–or we ask someone to “bless” the food before we eat. Recently, an experience with a small Nigerian boy gave me cause to reflect upon the traditional meaning and role of blessings and as usual with things of God, there is much more than meets the eye.
In biblical times, patriarchs often on their deathbeds would pronounce blessings upon their children. These powerful edicts did not just convey a father’s wish, but more importantly commanded the favor of God. It’s important when reading the Old Testament, not to confuse blessings with birthright. A person’s birthright was their physical inheritance–the land, sheep, cattle, etc. that they would inherit upon the death of their fathers. Their blessing on the other hand, was their spiritual inheritance. The blessing conveyed God’s spiritual wishes and favor upon them.
For this reason, blessings once given could not be reversed. Esau, for example, begged his father Isaac to reverse his blessing on Jacob because Jacob was deceitful, but alas he could not because Isaac was only the conduit for the blessing. The blessing came from God.
As John reminds us the blessing was the Word of God–the same word that made the heavens (Psalms 33:6). As Matthew puts it, it is not us who speaks the Word but the Spirit of the Father. Thus, a blessing in the name of God had real, irreversible power and conveyed spiritual inheritance.
A blessing in this sense is far more than a request for favor. For the person who is to be blessed, the mere asking for a blessing is a tremendous act of faith. It is an acknowledgement of the power in the Word of God and in the person’s ability to serve as a conduit for God. Moreover, a blessing is a request for restoration–an overt request to receive your spiritual inheritance. In short, a blessing in this sense is spiritual dynamite. In the right hands, a blessing has real explosive power, not just to grant permission or convey grace on food but to change lives.
This point was driven home recently by a little boy. Not long ago a friend of mine and tremendous man of God, was invited to preach in London and I was fortunate to accompany him. The trip was a spiritual and preaching success with my friend preaching three different services on the same day–each with more people and a more raucous reception. I’m sure Britian has not seen a revolution like that since 1776. As amazing as the spiritual reception was though, it paled in comparison to the experience we had on a London street corner late one night.
Dressed in very casual clothes, we decided to take a late night stroll through a shopping district. On our walk, we happened upon a street musician which we had seen intermittenly during our stay and my friend stopped to talk with the singer. As they were getting acquainted a young boy, whom we would later learn was just 6 years old and from Nigeria, approached me and asked who was the man talking with the musician. I remarked that was my friend from America, but the boy persisted. “But who is he,” he said referring to my friend. I replied that it was my friend, a bishop, that was in London to preach. Immediately, the boy looked up and spread his arms wide and said, “Would he bless me?” I was so floored at the force and faith in the boys request that all I could get out was: “Excuse me?” Undeterred, this 6 year old boy emphatically repeated, “Would he bless me?” My friend came over and not only blessed the boy but one by one, by their request, the entire family. In fact, strangers on the street gathered around because they too wanted blessed.
Three church services and seven hours of fabulous preaching paled in comparison to the spiritual reward in this single act of faith. This boy understood that the simple act of asking a man (or woman) of God to declare favor over his life would in fact not only bring God’s goodness upon him, but would also restore him so that he could receive his spiritual inheritance. This is true the power of a blessing indeed!