The Prayer of Blessing: Notes from the Sermon
There is a theme of blessing in the Old Testament. As the children of Israel entered this new land with new adventures, the Lord was making sure they had an environment of blessing. You might recall the story of Balaam who was hired to curse the people, but every time he tried, the Lord forced him to speak blessing.
[I love this story absolutely so much, that I'm putting it in here, below. Please read, just because, it's completely awesome and very funny. Or, you can skip it and go on with the sermon notes.]
A Pause, Numbers 22-24 (NIV): Balaam attempts to curse Israel, but can only bless them, because it was the will of the Lord to do so
Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.
2 Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, 3 and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.
4 The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.”
So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, 5 sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the Euphrates River, in his native land. Balak said:
“A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. 6 Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”
7 The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.
8 “Spend the night here,” Balaam said to them, “and I will report back to you with the answer the Lord gives me.” So the Moabite officials stayed with him.
9 God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these men with you?”
10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message: 11 ‘A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.’”
12 But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”
13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”
14 So the Moabite officials returned to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”
15 Then Balak sent other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first. 16 They came to Balaam and said:
“This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, 17 because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.”
18 But Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God. 19 Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me.”
20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”
21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 But God was very angrywhen he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.
24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.
26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”
29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”
30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”
“No,” he said.
31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.
32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.[a] 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”
34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”
35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.
36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite town on the Arnon border, at the edge of his territory. 37 Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send you an urgent summons? Why didn’t you come to me? Am I really not able to reward you?”
38 “Well, I have come to you now,” Balaam replied. “But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.”
39 Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and gave some to Balaam and the officials who were with him. 41 The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, and from there he could see the outskirts of the Israelite camp.
Numbers 23: Balaam's First Message
Balaam said, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 2 Balak did as Balaam said, and the two of them offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
3 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your offering while I go aside. Perhaps the Lord will come to meet with me. Whatever he reveals to me I will tell you.” Then he went off to a barren height.
4 God met with him, and Balaam said, “I have prepared seven altars, and on each altar I have offered a bull and a ram.”
5 The Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth and said, “Go back to Balak and give him this word.”
6 So he went back to him and found him standing beside his offering, with all the Moabite officials. 7 Then Balaamspoke his message:
“Balak brought me from Aram,
the king of Moab from the eastern mountains.
‘Come,’ he said, ‘curse Jacob for me;
come, denounce Israel.’
8 How can I curse
those whom God has not cursed?
How can I denounce
those whom the Lord has not denounced?
9 From the rocky peaks I see them,
from the heights I view them.
I see a people who live apart
and do not consider themselves one of the nations.
10 Who can count the dust of Jacob
or number even a fourth of Israel?
Let me die the death of the righteous,
and may my final end be like theirs!”
11 Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!”
12 He answered, “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”
Balaam’s Second Message
13 Then Balak said to him, “Come with me to another place where you can see them; you will not see them all but only the outskirts of their camp. And from there, curse them for me.” 14 So he took him to the field of Zophim on the top of Pisgah, and there he built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
15 Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your offering while I meet with him over there.”
16 The Lord met with Balaam and put a word in his mouth and said, “Go back to Balak and give him this word.”
17 So he went to him and found him standing beside his offering, with the Moabite officials. Balak asked him, “What did the Lord say?”
18 Then he spoke his message:
“Arise, Balak, and listen;
hear me, son of Zippor.
19 God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?
20 I have received a command to bless;
he has blessed, and I cannot change it.
21 “No misfortune is seen in Jacob,
no misery observed[a] in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them;
the shout of the King is among them.
22 God brought them out of Egypt;
they have the strength of a wild ox.
23 There is no divination against[b] Jacob,
no evil omens against[c] Israel.
It will now be said of Jacob
and of Israel, ‘See what God has done!’
24 The people rise like a lioness;
they rouse themselves like a lion
that does not rest till it devours its prey
and drinks the blood of its victims.”
25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all!”
26 Balaam answered, “Did I not tell you I must do whatever the Lord says?”
Balaam’s Third Message
27 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Come, let me take you to another place. Perhaps it will please God to let you curse them for me from there.” 28 And Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, overlooking the wasteland.
29 Balaam said, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 30 Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not resort to divination as at other times, but turned his face toward the wilderness. 2 When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came on him 3 and he spoke his message:
“The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,
the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
4 the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,[a]
who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:
5 “How beautiful are your tents, Jacob,
your dwelling places, Israel!
6 “Like valleys they spread out,
like gardens beside a river,
like aloes planted by the Lord,
like cedars beside the waters.
7 Water will flow from their buckets;
their seed will have abundant water.
“Their king will be greater than Agag;
their kingdom will be exalted.
8 “God brought them out of Egypt;
they have the strength of a wild ox.
They devour hostile nations
and break their bones in pieces;
with their arrows they pierce them.
9 Like a lion they crouch and lie down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse them?
“May those who bless you be blessed
and those who curse you be cursed!”
10 Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands together and said to him, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. 11 Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the Lord has kept you from being rewarded.”
12 Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell the messengers you sent me, 13 ‘Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the Lord—and I must say only what the Lord says’? 14 Now I am going back to my people, but come, let me warn you of what this people will do to your people in days to come.”
Balaam’s Fourth Message
15 Then he spoke his message:
“The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,
the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
16 the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,
who has knowledge from the Most High,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:
17 “I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
the skulls[b] of[c] all the people of Sheth.[d]
18 Edom will be conquered;
Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,
but Israel will grow strong.
19 A ruler will come out of Jacob
and destroy the survivors of the city.”
Balaam’s Fifth Message
20 Then Balaam saw Amalek and spoke his message:
“Amalek was first among the nations,
but their end will be utter destruction.”
Balaam’s Sixth Message
21 Then he saw the Kenites and spoke his message:
“Your dwelling place is secure,
your nest is set in a rock;
22 yet you Kenites will be destroyed
when Ashur takes you captive.”
Balaam’s Seventh Message
23 Then he spoke his message:
“Alas! Who can live when God does this?[e]
24 Ships will come from the shores of Cyprus;
they will subdue Ashur and Eber,
but they too will come to ruin.”
25 Then Balaam got up and returned home, and Balak went his own way.
Comments about these chapters
Continued Sermon Notes
3 Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty[a] appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me 4 and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’
5 “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. 6 Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers. 7 As I was returning from Paddan,[b] to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath” (that is, Bethlehem).
God has a heart of blessing
Jacob and Esau
His brother came upon him making stew after a long hunt. He was famished. Jacob asked him to trade his birthright as an older brother with him for a bowl of stew and he agreed. Thus, Esau disrespected and despised his birthright.
Later, when Isaac thought he was about to die and blind from age, he was about to give the blessing to Esau and asked him to bring savory meat. Esau went out to hunt, and Isaac's wife Rebekah schemed with Jacob to steal the blessing. Jacob went in to his father with a meal before Esau had come back, and Isaac blessed him instead. When he found out, Esau was broken-hearted and wept. Though he despised the birthright, he did want the blessing, and illustrates how much it meant to him and how much he valued it.
Jacob left home for relatives far away, because Esau wanted to kill him. He became prosperous, married and returned, and was able to reconcile with his brother. But, you might recall that before he met with Esau, he wrestled all night with the angel of the Lord and would not let him go until he blessed him. He was always struggling, striving, to achieve greater things. The Lord did bless him and changed his name from Jacob to Israel, which means governed, guided, directed by God. He redeemed his name.
[Jacob thought he was scheming his way into the blessing, but really it was the Lord's choice the whole time. This reminded me of how I thought about knowing the Lord before recently, that the Lord was hiding things from me, but really, He was teaching me the whole time.]
Genesis 32:22-31, Jacob wrestles with the angel of the Lord
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[f] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[g] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[h] and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
The Lord blesses Jacob again
11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty[f]; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.
14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.
How do we have a house of blessing? A look at the rest of Genesis 48:8-22
9 “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father.
Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”
10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.
11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”
12 Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. 13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.
15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,
“May the God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life to this day,
16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
—may he bless these boys.
May they be called by my name
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly
on the earth.”
17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”
19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.”20 He blessed them that day and said,
“In your[c] name will Israel pronounce this blessing:
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”
So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.
21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you[d] and take you[e] back to the land of your[f]fathers. 22 And to you I give one more ridge of land[g] than to your brothers, the ridge I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.”
The true source of blessing is from God; and validation
Yet, Jacob made a lot of mistakes in his life. He could have said he wasn't worthy of blessing anyone and refused. But no, the Lord redeemed him from all evil, when He changed his name. Jacob knew and had experienced the mercy and grace of God. It was part of his history with God. Buddy will often say to me, if God's telling you to do it, then do it.
Blessing validates the future of God in their lives. Once, a father's 3-4th grader wanted to be a marine biologist. He picked him up from school one day and took him to the acquarium, just to look at the fish, and it meant so much his son. It validated him. By it, the father was saying that I recognize this in you, see it and you and it is valuable to me.
How do you say a blessing? Physical touch is important. It's always there in the giving of a blessing and is so significant. It has been shown that a person needs 8-10 meaningful touches a day to be emotionally healthy.
One person did a study to look at the significance of touch in other countries. In Puerto Rico, they gave each other touches 180x an hour. I have no idea how they did that. Maybe they were salsa dancing through life. In Paris, it was 110x. In Florida, it was 2x. In London, zero. There have been those who have been hurt by touch - damaging touch - but the Lord is capable of restoring and redeeming evil from that too. It is good to give people meaningful hugs and hands on shoulders, holy to the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 5:25-26, Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 26 Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss.
Not just touch but words
A father once said to a son, "Unless your grades improve, you'll never amount to anything." This is a form of cursing. One asked how does one offer correction without cursing? The answer to never associate the negative with someone's future, but tell them the potential you do see in them that God has put there. Tell them of who they are in the Lord, whom He's making them to be.
Lastly, there is time. We repeat it and have a culture surrounding us of blessing.
Comments and thoughts
I thought a lot of thoughts, while the pastor was speaking. The baptist mindset comes at things from a very logical perspective. Maybe this is why people raised so have trouble hearing the Lord *sometimes* and are not generally open to Him doing crazy things. I've found this to be so. I was that way for years.
I was wondering how it was that I seem to have somehow experienced more of the Lord. I've been shot through both with the joy of the Lord and the power of the Lord. I remembered Juan praying blessing over me, how he talked to me of hearing the Lord and feeling His power and how much I wanted that. I think of Juan a lot. The blessing he prayed on me gives me a lot of strength as I go about things and helps me believe that yes, the Lord can do strange things like that sometimes. But it appears to only happen in great need. That's what Juan said. I wonder a lot of things. There is so much I don't understand.
Perhaps, we don't experience that because we're not open to it, that the Lord does such unusual things. But the Lord is unusual. He doesn't "act logically." He's perplexing. I tried to find the Mark Batterson book, to post about that, but perhaps it wasn't meant to be, because I couldn't find it. This is what the Lord wanted me to write about today, I think.
Esther was telling me about people in her church, a pastor specifically, who asked those who wanted a fresh touch from the Lord to come forward. He started praying and was eventually in such fervor of prayer that he was sweating and could no longer move and had to be be moved to people to touch them. It was as if He was somewhere else with the Lord, so deeply was he in the Spirit. I really want that to be true of me. I want to know the Lord and be able to pray just that deeply. I want to go deeper in Him.
I look forward to seeing what the Lord does. I think the Lord opened me slowly to the possibility of Him working in unusual ways, so that when it happened to me, it wouldn't kill me and scare the crap out of me. I often wonder what He's doing and why He's doing it, and hoping and trying to believe what He's told me. He's told me though that He won't let my faith in Him fail, and He won't disappoint me. And I believe Him. I've found it to be true so far.
Appendix: Awesome Songs
In Your light I find my strength
In Your truth I overcome
In Your praise I lose myself
For in Your love
You’ve turned my tears of sadness into such joy and gladness
My heart can’t keep it in I’m shouting, shouting
In Your joy I find my strength
In Your hope I overcome
In Your grace I lose myself
For in Your love
Even in the wilderness
Through confusion and barrenness
You are beautiful, God
Even in my brokenness
Through this pain I will confess
You are always good
Deserts will bloom in the light of your love
Valleys make room for the River of God
You never run dry
You never run dry
You never run dry
You're my source, never-ending
You're my life, I'm never lacking
(originally by Misty Edwards)
Oh Lord bless me and keep me
Cause Your face to shine on me
Lord be gracious
Lift the light of Your countenance
Give me peace
For I live only to see your face
So shine on me
Let the light of Your face shine down on my heart
And let me feel it