Thwarted Blessings


I found myself blessing God this morning. Then I began to ponder just what is involved in blessing.

I remembered that blessing is speaking well of someone, affirming their good characteristics, praising their good qualities. Of course that is very easy to do with God because that is all that He has, He doesn't have any negative character traits. So to bless God is simply to acknowledge and affirm all the good things about Him that I can think of and to dwell on those in my mind and heart. That in turn begins to allow my own heart to begin to reflect those same things in how I relate to others.

But then when I immediately think about wanting Him to bless me, I start to think about all the reasons in my life why it would be much harder for Him to affirm my positive traits. But that is not how God sees me. He looks beyond what I tend to view as my identity, those things that I have failed to become, the many mistakes I have made, the screw-ups in so many relationships that I have managed to ruin – God sees instead the real identity that He placed deep inside of me before I was ever born, and that is what He is constantly seeking to affirm in my life.

Blessing is the passing to another person a sense of their value and true identity. Just to read those words leaves the immense potential of that statement very obscure. If we really understood the enormous implications of this and the intense inner need that we all have to feel valued and to have a secure and God-like identity, we would cry out with passionate desire to God to bless us far more often, something like Esau did with his father Isaac.

I began to think about that story and to listen to what the Spirit might tell me about 'blessing' there.

Esau had a surprising reaction, at least from my viewpoint, when he discovered that his father apparently had little left in the way of a blessing for him. That has puzzled me all of my life. I could never really understand either Isaac's inability to affirm and bless Esau the way he wanted or Esau's deep craving for something that he seemed to have little value for up to that point. I could understand maybe a little better if the blessing was primarily about inheritance rights and possessions that Jacob's blessing had kept Esau from receiving. But it seems to me that there was far more than just getting lots of money and land that spawned the wrenching cries of Esau pleading for his father to bless him too.

Likewise, as I thought about Jacob using deception to get the first blessing from his father I have never understood very well all the dynamics of why he craved that blessing so intently as to resort to all sorts of tricks, deceptions, manipulations and such to steal it away from his brother, not just once but repeatedly. What did these two boys see in a father's blessing that led them to act so bizarre and to get so worked up over something that to us seems nearly irrelevant today?

Another thought occurred to me as I pondered Jacob's ill-advised scheme to steal the blessing of the first-born from his father. Most people seem to be quick to censure Jacob for stooping to such activities to deceive his father and to cheat his brother. But his mother too was a very intimate part of this scheme and so this blessing of the father had to have had far more importance to all of them than anything we seem to value in our culture today. But is that 'blessing' simply something of a cultural quirk unique to ancient near-east families, or is it something deeply ingrained into our very psyche that we simply have become oblivious to but that actually undermines all of us from experiencing life in a fuller measure?

As I thought about Jacob's deception of his father I have many times wondered what viable alternatives he really had. After all, if I am honest about it I can't really imagine myself doing anything much different than Jacob did if I really craved whatever it was in that blessing that he seemed to want there. Desperation had clearly set in on the part of both Rebekah and Jacob and they had exhausted all their ideas and resources and were right down to the last few minutes before the promise of God to Rebekah – the promise given her before these boys were even born – would be ruined. Rebekah felt it her responsibility to see that God's words came into fulfillment for her favorite son Jacob, and she was just as frightened and frustrated as he was at how impossible it all seemed to appear.

Isaac was also part of the problem and certainly didn't seem to be trying to follow God's instructions in spite of the clear revelation given to his wife about his two sons. He was not unaware of God's plans for who was supposed to receive the primary blessing for his boys. Yet because of his own favoritism and indulgent attitude he seemed very intent on ignoring the plans of God and passing along the birthright blessing to the one he wanted to see get it. I can't imagine that there was much peace and harmony in this marriage leading up to this traumatic event in all of their lives and God's sweet presence certainly must not have been felt very much around there.

So, everything seemed stacked against the promise of God. Isaac was dead set on giving the birthright to his favorite son Esau no matter what God had said, and he seemed to have all the advantages and power to be able to do that no matter what his wife wanted. Esau had gotten in so thick with his father by indulging him over the years through his appetite and thrilling stories and camaraderie, that he felt little danger of losing the blessing no matter what his mother, brother of even God thought about it. He had little use for God and had come to depend on his own skills and personality to take care of himself. He also had his dad in his pocket on this one and so he had little concern that anything could happen to bring about what God had spoken. His dad had likely assured him of his intentions to give the birthright to Esau no matter what so he felt quite confident that their mutual plans could not be thwarted, even by God Himself.

But then I wonder, given all the odds stacked against Jacob, how Jacob should have approached this situation. It is all too easy for us, knowing the end of the story and at such a distance from it, to piously proclaim that Jacob should have just trusted God and done nothing to intervene to prevent his father from doing the wrong thing. That is easy for us to say in our arrogance and smugness. But when it then comes to our own situations where it appears that God's word is impossible to be fulfilled for us it can be a totally different situation. Then we suddenly find ourselves under intense pressure to jump in and help God out and do whatever desperate measures we find appealing to make sure that God's gets all the help we can give Him to fulfill His promises to us, even if that means bending the rules or compromising our integrity to some extent.

As I thought about what maybe God might have done if Jacob had actually chosen to trust Him instead of taking things into his own hands, the story of Balaam came to my mind. If Israel had maybe known what was going on behind the scenes as Balak was seeking to curse them using a prophet of their own God so they would no longer be a threat to him, they too might have become a bit desperate as it seemed that nothing could prevent this selfish prophet from carrying out his plans so he could be enriched at their expense. In spite of every warning and even a talking donkey trying to slow down Balaam's greedy desires, it seemed that not even God could stop Balaam from carrying out Balak's plans to steal the blessing away from Israel. Balaam went all the way that he could to pronounce a curse on Israel to the very point of offering the sacrifices and opening his mouth to execute the final nail in their coffin.

But what happened in that case? Most of us know that story and find it even rather amusing from our perspective. When Balaam opened his mouth to cast a curse on the people of God using the name and authority of their God, he found instead pouring out of his mouth words of blessing despite all his inner protestations and embarrassment. Try as hard as he could he found it impossible to overcome the will of God no matter which way he twisted and turned and tried to carry out his own selfish desires.

If I put these two stories side by side it is easy to see that God could have just as easily done the same for Jacob as He did for his descendants years later; He could have caused words of blessing to come out of Isaac's mouth no matter what the intentions of Isaac and Esau were. Of course Jacob did not yet have that story in his Bible so he didn't have the advantages that we have, but he was still in relationship with the same God that can do anything that appears impossible and he didn't need to know ahead of time just how God might choose to implement His will.

That is the very same issue for everyone, not just in Jacob's case. God requires of us that we must come into a trusting relationship with Him if we want to free Him to fulfill some of His higher promises in our lives. There are many things that God is going to do for us no matter what we think or want simply because it is His nature of love to provide grace to even lost sinners. But there are other promises that are dependent on our willingness to trust His heart, that are waiting to be released into our lives if we will believe in Him. These kinds of blessings cannot be extracted from God by our manipulations or our use of desperate measures simply because we want them so badly for ourselves. There is a precondition, a need for a bond of trust and faith that must be in place between our heart and the heart of God before He can release certain powerful blessings into our experience.

I must come to trust in the abilities of God to fulfill His word and His promises to me no matter how impossible circumstances seem to appear to me. God's promises are never dependent on my helping God out when it appears He can't quite pull something off by Himself. But that is actually an insult to God and it allows the enemy to come in and block us from receiving the very thing that we thought we could get by helping God bless us. Even though Jacob externally seemed to get what he desired and tricked his father into saying – words of blessing to him, he actually missed what he craved the most – the deep, heart-felt affirmation and love of his father pouring out his affections for his son and awakening within him a secure sense of identity and value. That is the real essence of a blessing and Jacob ran away from home in the face of his brother's wrath still craving and missing the most important part of the blessing that he still had not received.

It was not until many years later that Jacob finally found resolution for his deep pain of missing his father's blessing. As he was returning back to the scene of the crime and heard that his still very angry brother was coming to settle the old score, Jacob found himself wrestling all night not only with a mysterious stranger who seemed to be threatening his life but even more so with his internal frustrations, guilt, shame and fears that had never been resolved since all of these things had transpired. It was not until the real Father of his own father – God Himself – showed up that Jacob finally received that deep sense of secure identity and value that he had so desperately craved all of his life.

Like Jacob I find myself craving and hungering for that deep, heart-felt sense of knowing that I am cherished, loved, affirmed and protected by a father. I never received that from my own dad and very few people today seemed to have experienced it either. But like Jacob that is not the only option that we have when we feel we have been stuck with father's who failed to affirm our true worth and identity. Many people have suffered under the curse of failed father's who in turn have never received a blessing in their own hearts. The curse of sin is nearly wiping out even our awareness of what a blessing is all about or how vitally important it is for us to experience it.

But God....
Oh yes, but God.... Now that is the option that all of us have no matter how our father's treated us. Every one of us has the option to allow God to still receive all the things that we so much needed in a real dad but never got; and He is eager and ready to put that vital core of blessing into its proper place within our hearts. But sometimes we find ourselves facing all kinds of facts and circumstances that seem to indicate that it will be impossible for Him to do that for us. Like Jacob we just cannot see any way possible for God to repair all of the damage that our earthly fathers have caused in our lives.

But if God can make donkeys rebuke humans in their own language and replace words of intended cursing coming out of the mouth of selfish prophets with fountains of blessings, then He can just as easily find ways, even humorous ways at times, to defeat the curses of our enemy and even the plans of our relatives if we will choose to trust His heart.

Father, I desperately want Your blessing in my heart and mind today. I have no doubt that I need it. As I look inside I see all too much of the malfunctions of my own father still deeply embedded in my own heart and habits. I too have caused so much damage to the characters of my own children and I am ashamed of all of that. But You – You God - You are the God of the impossibilities and I seek Your face to show me at the deepest levels of my soul how You really feel about me and how valuable and cherished I am by You. Show me my true identity and what You see when You look at me. Remind me of who I really am in Your eyes and cause me to trust fully in Your heart no matter what my surrounding circumstances might suggest.

I trust You and praise You for Your faithfulness, Your compassion, Your unwavering and unconditional love for me. I rest in confidence that You are leading me deeper into Your heart as You grow me up with a deeper knowledge of Your character and cause me to reflect You more clearly. Thank-you so much.


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