Sunday, July 24, 2011

The happy life of blessing

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 128:1-6

TO CHEW ON: "Blessed is every one who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways." Psalm 128:1

Yesterday, as I was watching "Property Virgins" (an HGTV show where we follow home buyers in their attempt to purchase a first property) I was struck by a statement made by the young woman of the featured couple. After they encountered road block after road block to the closing of their purchase, the host Sandra asked them how they were feeling. The wife answered, "As if I'm depending on someone else for my happiness."

Happiness is what Psalm 128 is about. Eugene Peterson in the chapter on this psalm in his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction describes how the "blessed" [or happy - asher - Psalm 128:1-2; barak - Psalm 128:4-5] state is what Psalm 128 is about, beginning with the promise: "blessed is every one who fears the Lord" to the pronouncement of the physical blessing of seeing our human descendants in, "Yes, may you see your children's children."

He explains how the Bible is one long exposition of God's blessing from Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:28), to Abraham (Genesis 12:2), to the twelve tribes (Genesis 49), to Jesus' beatitude blessings (Matthew 5:3-12), to the seven "salvos of blessing" in Revelation (Revelation 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:714).

So, is Peterson saying that for those who "fear the Lord" there will be a smooth sailing happiness for the duration of life? That's certainly not been my experience, and I'm sure it's not yours. If it doesn't mean constant situational happiness, what does the happiness of God's blessing mean?

Peterson again:
"As we read this story of blessing and familiarize ourselves with the men and women who are experiencing God's blessing, we realize that it is not something external or ephemeral. Not a matter of having a good day, not an occasional run of luck. It is an
'inner strength of the soul — and the happiness it creates, ....the vital power, without which no living being can exist. Happiness cannot be given to a person as something lying outside him...The action of God does not fall outside but at the very centre of the soul; that which it gives us is not something external, but the energy, the power of creating it ... The blessing thus comprises the power to live in its deepest and most comprehensive sense. Nothing which belongs to action and to making life real can fall outside the blessing....Blessing is the vital power, without which no living being can exist.'*
It is this that fills and surrounds the person who is on the way of faith." - p. 117.
I must admit I have been where the young house hunter of my opening paragraph was — wishing circumstances would change so I could again feel happy. But such happiness is shallow and transient. Oh to have, on a daily basis, that "inner strength of the soul," the "power to live" in the faith that God is in every situation, that He loves me and that He is working all the time for my highest good.

PRAYER: Dear God, please grow my faith in Your goodness and Your good plans for me. May I experience and live Your blessing over the long haul of discipleship. Amen.

MORE: No tricks, no luck
"There are no tricks involved in getting in on this life of blessing, and no luck required. We simply become Christians and begin the life of faith. We acknowledge God as our maker and lover and accept Christ as the means by which we can be in living relationship with God. We accept the announced and proclaimed truth that God is at the centre of our existence, find out how he has constructed this world (his creation), how he has provided for our redemption, and proceed to walk in that way. In the plain words of the psalm: "All you who fear God, how blessed you are! how happily you awoke on his smooth straight road!" - Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p. 119-120.

"If you go against the grain of the universe, you get splinters." - H. H. Farmer (quoted in Peterson, p. 121).

* quote from Johannes Pedersen, Israel: Its Life and Culture, 1926; pp. 182-199.

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