I’ve long known that God is a blessing God. The very first act God performs after shaping man and woman and breathing into them the breath of life is to bless them (Gen 1:28).
He commands his priests to regularly speak over his people words which show God turning his face toward them in blessing (Num 6:22-27).
And when Jesus speaks of his Father, reassuring his disciples that they don’t need to worry about the details of their lives like food and clothes and shelter because they have a loving Father who knows what they need and promises to provide it, he paints a picture of generosity and extravagance:
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Others may promise up to half their kingdom (Esther 5:3,6; Mark 6:23); our Father delights to bring us right in, making us heirs with his Son so that, with him, as part of the family, we inherit all that he is and has.
“The saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever” (Daniel 7:18; c.f v. 22, 27, Rom 8:17, 32).
But the bit of God’s blessing I’ve been delighting in this week comes through Moses’ words in Deut 33. Moses is blessing each of the tribes of Israel before his death, and I’m struck that while each of the tribes is blessed, each receives a different blessing, related to his particular history and calling and gifts.
Moses asks God to “bless all [Levi’s] skills, O Lord, and be pleased with the work of his hands” (v. 11).
Benjamin receives the blessing of rest, “Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders” (v. 12).
And for Joseph, there’s the blessing of a fruitful land: “May the LORD bless his land with the precious dew from heaven above and with the deep waters that lie below; with the best the sun brings forth and the finest the moon can yield . . .” (v. 13ff).
All God’s children receive blessing upon blessing: God’s love and presence, wisdom and guidance, an invitation to soul rest, and a million other blessings which you can likely list as well as I can. But the shape of these blessings, their timing and the specific way God works in our lives to draw us closer and give us Himself (the Ultimate blessing!), is unique to each one of us. And it’s both through soaking in Scripture and paying attention to our own lives, noticing the moments of tenderness, the sparks of joy in each day, that we learn to recognize not only the shape of the story God is co-writing with us in our lives, but the character of the One who is writing it.
A settled commitment to bless
Have you ever struggled to make sense of the stories in the Old Testament where God changes his mind, set alongside the statements that God doesn’t change his mind? How can it be true that “I, the LORD, do not change” (Mal 3:6, c.f. Num 23:19, 1 Sam 15:29, Ps 110:4), while we see God changing his mind about Hezekiah’s death (2 Kings 20:1-6), the judgment of Ninevah (Jonah 3:8-10, 4:2) and the destruction of the people of Israel after the incident with the golden calf (Num 14:11-20)?
Old Testament professor David T. Lamb helps me here, with a wonderful insight that not only offers understanding but leads me into worship. (Actually, his whole book helps me with his wise, accessible, and often humorous wrestling with the hard questions of the Old Testament, but that’s not the point here.) Context matters, and in the situations where God is said not to change, “the main point that these texts are making is not simply that God is unchangeable, but that God is unchangeable about his commitment to bless his people” (God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?, p. 143, italics mine).
Contrasting the situations where God is said not to change his mind with those where he changes his mind, Lamb says,
“In contexts where there is doubt as to whether or not God will be faithful, the text declares that he does not waver from his commitments. Yahweh has promised to bless his people, so he won’t suddenly start to curse them (Num 23:19-20). Since Yahweh does not change, his people Israel have not perished (Mal 3:6). It’s not simply that God doesn’t ever change, but specifically that he doesn’t change regarding his promises to his covenant people.
In contexts of imminent judgment from God, when people repent, he changes his mind and shows mercy. Not only did Yahweh change to show mercy to his people the Israelites but he also did it for Gentiles, specifically the Ninevites. . . .” (p. 150)
To put it simply, each time God changed his mind, it was so he could bless someone.
And each time he refused to change his mind, it was so he could carry out a commitment to bless.
God’s settled intent is to bless, and wherever he can possibly do that without violating the rest of his character, he will do so—even when it means taking our own punishment upon himself in order to show us mercy.