A few years ago the idea of blessing spread through social media like wildfire. Initially, the popularized #blessed was used to show appreciation. But it wasn’t long before it prompted a response of – instead of heartfelt compliments – a rolling of eyes.
What started as a trend to express gratitude for simple joys in life, quickly became an excuse to brag or tease. So, what is a blessing and what isn’t? Are we all blessed or is it only for the privileged?
Blessing or Beatitude?
The church sometimes can cause a disconnect with the simple idea of blessing. The synonymous words ‘benediction’ and ‘beatitude’ are confusing. They sound lofty, and therefore distant.
They sound like they belong in a glass cabinet, behind a church altar. Inaccessible and foreign. I cannot relate to the showy words like benediction and beatitude. Do I have to measure up to deserve them?
But all of these words mean something that actually can accompany us at every step of our life journey.
So, let’s strip these foreign-sounding words of their extravagance and take a closer look at the meaning of BLESSING.
The Hebrew Way
Every Jewish prayer starts with words “Baruch Ata Adonai” – blessed are You, Lord. To welcome someone into your home you bless them already at the door saying, Blessed are you who arrived (Baruch Haba). The first blessing recorded in the Bible is over Adam and Eve, with instruction to multiply. And then, there’s the Sabbath day. The seventh day of the week is all about declaring blessings left and right – and God blessed this day when He first created it (Gen 2:3).
As the rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof said, there truly is a blessing for everything. In the Hebraic tradition, it is very common to bless and acknowledge blessings on a daily basis, and in all circumstances. The Jewish scholar, Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo notes:
“How wise were the sages of Israel when they instituted the custom of making a blessing on almost anything, whether it is eating, drinking, observing natural phenomena, or smelling extravagant aromas. They depicted all these activities as nothing less than totally miraculous.”
For an idea this common, it’s astounding how the true power of it has been overlooked. To bless and be blessed is a fundamental part of our relationship with God, as well as relationships with other people.
“Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” Psalm 112:1-2
In Order to Increase
Blessings, whether given or received, help us recognize God in our lives and draw closer to Him. It is not a recognition of riches, rather a humble confession that we are not self-sufficient.
We do not control or dictate the power of blessing – it is all God’s.
Jewish thinkers explain that to bless means to increase (in joy, in peacefulness). Often in the Bible and in most Jewish traditions, as mentioned above, prayers begin with blessing God. But how can we bless the One who lacks nothing?
By blessing God, we give Him honor for His grace towards us.
If we speak of increase – when we bless God, it is His presence that increases in us. When we bless God, we acknowledge how He in fact blesses us. This blessing points to the increase of His goodness in our lives.
Thus, “Blessed are You, Our God” is a declaration of trust and the greatest hope, for Him to reign over our circumstances.