Blessings all around

Genesis 30:25-27 And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.” And Laban said to him, “Please stay if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the LORD has blessed me for your sake.”

God had promised Jacob that “in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 28:14). And even though most of that promise was centuries away from fulfillment, Jacob experienced a taste of it now. The blessing of God was upon his life and it spilled over into the lives of those around him. And it was so obvious to Laban that he couldn’t help but admit that the Lord has blessed him because of Jacob.

This same blessing moved through his father Isaac’s life. The king of a nation came and sought peace with Isaac because “you are now the blessed of the Lord.” (Gen 26:29)

They said this of Isaac before he was in possession of all that God had promised. But he was a man in covenant with God and the favor that accompanied this covenant relationship was apparent to those around him.

Isn’t that how our lives should be as we walk with Jesus….blessed and blessing others? Our presence in a work environment should bring the blessing of God. Our presence in a classroom should bring the blessing of God. We may not yet be in possession of all that God has promised us, but we are in covenant with Him. The blessing of God is your inheritance and whether you are aware of it or not, that blessing is affecting others around you.

The faithful blessing of the Lord

Ezekiel 29:18-20 “Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon caused his army to labor strenuously against Tyre; every head was made bald, and every shoulder rubbed raw; yet neither he nor his army received wages from Tyre, for the labor which they expended on it. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Surely I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he shall take away her wealth, carry off her spoil, and remove her pillage; and that will be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor, because they worked for Me,’ says the Lord GOD.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was a pagan man and an ambitious ruler. He laid siege to Tyre out of his covetous desire to possess their land and their wealth. Just read through Ezekiel 28 to see how wealthy and influential the city of Tyre was. So for 13 years Nebuchadnezzar labored to overtake the city of Tyre, and when the city finally surrendered to him, they received little benefit from it. Commentators speculate that the wealth of Tyre was relocated during the lengthy siege. Because this overthrow of Tyre was the fulfillment of will of God against this proud city, and Nebuchadnezzar was His unknowing servant, the Lord granted Egypt and all its wealth to Nebuchadnezzar as payment for his service.

Needless to say, it was a little shocking to read that. If this is what God does for His enemies, imagine what He will do for His friends.

If He will not fail to reward a pagan king who doesn’t even acknowledge Him, then how much more will He delight to reward His sons! But here is the thing that was most helpful to me – Nebuchadnezzar expected to get the wealth of Tyre for his labors. Instead he received the wealth of Egypt. And maybe, just maybe, when God chooses to send some reward or some blessing to us it may come from a totally different direction than where we’ve been laboring.

What grace!!! What amazing grace!! Maybe you have been discouraged as you’ve served the Lord in a particular way (or ways), laboring faithfully, knowing you are in the will of God but seeing little fruit and receiving little blessing. But remember this:

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

The blessing of the Lord may be ready to overtake you at any moment, from a totally unexpected direction.

Just do what He says

Mark 1:40-45 Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.

I can understand the excitement of the leper. Who knows how long it had been since he was even able to approach anyone to talk to them. Now he has been cleansed and all the limitations of leprosy have been removed. I can imagine that it must have felt nearly impossible to keep quiet about it. But Jesus had stated his purpose just a few verses prior to this incident:

Mark 1:38 But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.

This is what Jesus had planned to do but because the leper had done what he was told not to do, Jesus had to change His plans and instead of going into the city He had to stay outside in deserted places. I’m sure this ex-leper had no idea that it would cause such problems. But what it comes down to is this….He is to be obeyed even when it runs contrary to all our feelings and desires and when we don’t even understand why it’s necessary. The problem today is that everybody wants to be blessed, but few want to be obedient. We need to just do what He says.

Your blessing is my testing

And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ Matthew 20:11-12 (For the complete story, read verses 1-16)

What a curious and ugly bit of human nature is exposed by this story. We all like to have good things happen to us. We rejoice when we receive a promotion at work, or an unexpected financial blessing, or some undeserved benefit. But when it happens to someone else, our hearts become tainted with envy. We can think of 100 reasons why they didn’t deserve it and we did, convincing ourselves that life (and God) is unfair. Oh let the pity party begin.

But who is our complaining directed against? This story tells us that the laborers grumbled against the master of the house. We may think it is against the apparent unfairness of the situation, but in actuality, it is directed against God. Have we not realized that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above”? This Master who is so generous to others has also been generous to us in 10,000 different ways that we have long since forgotten or become too busy to notice. They forgot that had it not been for the master, they would still be idle in the marketplace with no denarius at all.

However, in spite of the horrible response of the laborers to the generosity of the master, his response to them is “Friend, I am doing you no wrong.”

Friend – the word means comrade (intimate friend or associate) and mate (an assistant to a more skilled worker). This implies that they not only worked for the master, but with the master. They had begun to know him. A relationship was being formed – a benefit of working the whole day with him. But these are the very ones who complain – those who have been laboring with the master the longest, yet apparently do not yet know his heart.

And the saddest part of this story is the master’s words to these complaining laborers in verse 14 – “Take what belongs to you and go.” So now having reviled the kindness of the master, they are sent away from his presence.

Oh let us take this story to heart, being mindful that all we have received from God is a gift of grace. We may live in an entitlement society, but God’s is not an entitlement kingdom, and He is not pleased with those who are angry over His kindness to others.

So let us rejoice with those who rejoice and learn to celebrate the goodness of God, not only in our lives but also in the lives of others.