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For some years now, I’ve developed a habit of reading through the whole bible. I formed this habit out of the rediscovery of the gospel of grace. I heard these words from several people, that “the bible is all about Jesus”, and these words ignited a desire in me to read this ancient text to find out if what they told me was true. It is true. The bible, this ancient text is all about Jesus.
This year, I got myself a new bible and begun following a bible reading plan. If you are interested, I use the Olive Tree app. The app has several bible reading plans. I use the Chronological plan. This plan helps you to move through the bible in chronological order—according to recent historical research as the order of events occurred. I enjoy it. Try it.
Genesis 1-3 was my first reading of the year. Genesis 1:22 reads and God blessed them. Them? Swarms of living creatures in the waters and the birds of the sky.
Vs 28 and God blessed them and said to them. Them? Adam—a general term for humankind. By this time, Eve wasn’t there yet. So, in a generic sense, God blesses all humankind—Adam.
What did God say over them?
Genesis 1:28 NLT
Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
As usual, some words give me an itch I have to scratch. The word blessed is such. The Hebrew word for blessed is barak, which means lightning (noun). Its verb form means to kneel, be adored, to lavish with praise and affection.
Barak is directed to a greater being or object. We barak God. We kneel and adore, lavish our praise and affection to one greater than us. We sing songs and dance before God, thanking him for what he has done for us. It’s akin to a lesser person in authority or stature kneeling before a greater person in authority and stature and the greater person pronouncing words of blessing over them. You see this often in traditional cultures. A person goes before a chief, headman, husband, and even some Christian leaders, kneels, bows his head and blessings are pronounced on them. This can be very uncomfortable for people who live in the West. But that’s the idea.
But if we use the same idea in Genesis, barak seems out of joint. The infinite kneels before and then adores, lavish praises and affection to finite beings—fishes, birds and humankind. Finite beings are supposed to do the opposite. They are supposed to kneel before the God of the universe. It is the other way around. God does the kneeling, lavishes praise and affection on us. God speaks words over humankind. “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” And when I saw it (eureka moment), with joy, I jumped off my seat. I think the neighbours heard me laugh and shout. It was too good to be true.
This is the gospel of grace. Right in the beginning, in Genesis, we see the gospel. What is grace? Grace is this idea that the God of the universe, in the person of Jesus, lavishes on us who don’t deserve undeserving, unconditional, unrelenting and extravagant love. In the Genesis account, God is just an abstract and impersonal figure. He is just a concept. But in the gospels, this abstract impersonal being takes the form of a human being. God stooped down in the person of Jesus. This is the gospel of grace. And we see this act of blessing in Jesus’ ministry. In Mark 10:13-16, he held some kids up in his arms, and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. The greater stooped low and blessed the lesser.
This idea where God is the one kneeling and blessing is counterintuitive to people in traditional cultures and western cultures. The traditional person rejects the idea that the greater stoops low. The westerner rejects the idea that you need someone outside of yourself to affirm and praise you. The gospel of grace cuts through both worldviews. The gospel of grace says that God stoops low to bless undeserving beings. The lesser is blessed by the greater.
The purpose of this post is this, in 2020, allow the God of the universe to kneel, tenderly hold your head, look you straight in the eyes and speak words of blessing over you. See him as a father kneeling before you, getting to the floor, tenderly holding your head, look you in the eye and speak words of blessing, comfort, praise and affection. “My child, I want you to know that I love you so, so much. I will do anything in my power to make sure you have the best. I will provide for you. I will protect you. I will take good care of you. You are mine. I love you.” Notice the “I wills”? It is God doing it for you. This is what grace looks like.
You need to hear God’s declaration of barak over you. Without these words of blessing, you will be a rudderless ship in the stormy seas buffeted by strong winds in 2020. If you don’t hear these words, the challenges of 2020 will overwhelm you. Think of it, before Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, Jesus heard these words, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” In the wilderness, he overcame the temptations that came his way. The words of blessing that preceded his wilderness experience empowered him to overcome. Same with you and I. We have to hear the words of blessing, barak, to rise above the challenges that will come our way in 2020.
Bad news. The barak will come to you at a cost. It won’t come cheap. Someone has to foot the bill. This adage is true, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.
Here’s the good news. You are not the one paying the price or footing the bill. Phew. You don’t have to fast 21 days (for those of you starting your New Year’s fasting extravaganza). You don’t have to be perfect and obedient. You don’t have to do anything because God stooped down for you. This is what it cost him to bless you, to barak you. He stooped and died for you. Jesus was cursed so that you could be blessed.
Hear God’s barak over you and go enjoy your 2020.
That’s what grace looks like
Photo by The Honest Company on Unsplash