My daughter-in-law has Covid, so I took them supper last night. Three little grandboys were standing behind the glass door when I arrived, talking all at once, big smiles on their faces, eyes flashing,
“Hi, Ma’am! I miss you! I love you! What did you bring? Mama has Covid! Papa says we have to keep the door closed! I wish we could hug you! Bye, Ma’am! Goodbye!”
It was as glad a greeting as I have ever had, and it blessed me more than I know how to tell. Suffice it to say that I drove away delighted, with far more than I left on the doorstep.
Savoring their blessing segues me into today’s reading.
Genesis 11-13:4 tells about the Tower of Babel and Abram’s call out of Ur to go to Canaan. While “they” (an unidentified group) build a tower to make themselves famous, Abram builds altars to talk to God, Ge 11:1-4; 12:7-8; 13:3-4.
God’s obviously not delighted with tower-building and confuses “their” language so that it stops, but God must be delighted in Abram because he blesses Abram and makes him rich, Ge 11:6-9; 13:1-2.
What’s more, God’s said, “I’ll make you great…I’ll make you famous…I’ll bless all the families of the earth through you,” Ge 12:2-3.
It’s a stark contrast—scattering these anonymous builders over the face of the earth so that their influence disappears right along with their names, versus speaking personally to Abram about every family on earth being blessed because of him. Who doesn’t want to receive such news about their kids and grandkids who come after them?
And I’m wanting to figure out the formula, you know, what Abram did to deserve God’s delight in the first place. I look back at my Bible. After a dull run down of his family tree at the end of chapter 11, we get right to it in the very first verses of chapter 12,
“God told Abram: ‘Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you. I’ll make you a great nation and bless you. I’ll make you famous; you’ll be a blessing. I’ll bless those who bless you; those who curse you I’ll curse. All the families of the Earth will be blessed through you.’”
Did you catch it?
Because it’s God who simply starts out with the good stuff, before Abram’s done a thing. Notice how many times God says what he will do. Sure, Abram might have already been a God-worshipper. But considering that his father worshiped idols and that he lives among an idol worshipping community, it’s not likely, Josh 24:2-3.
God acted first. He came to Abram. He gave the blessing for no reason other than he wanted to.
What Abram did is believed God, which is a lot, as it turns out. Abram up and leaves his home and moves elsewhere, just as God’s said. And he builds an altar and worships once he gets there, Ge 12:4-7.
Abram doesn’t grab at glory like the tower builders did; he gives God glory instead. But it’s in response to what God does first. God initiates the goodness. Not Abram. God brings the delight and the blessing.
I kind of love this, because I’m at a loss for how to strike out and save the world. And I mess-up way more than I ever get it right. But responding to God’s blessings? Well, I can do that. I can pray and thank. And sometimes I can even believe and trust.
The longer I walk with God, the more sure I am that all of what I do in response to him is his gift to me. God initiates the goodness. God gives the faith and trust. God delights first. Not me.
Jesus tells more about who gets God’s blessing next.
Matthew 5:1-26 writes that on a hillside, Jesus said
—those who let go,
—those who lose what they love most,
—those who accept their weakness,
—those who want him first and most,
—those who care for other people,
—those who humble themselves,
—those who make peace,
—those who suffer for loving him,
…are the ones who are blessed, v 3-12.
These are opposite behaviors of Babel-builders. Blessing comes when we stop trusting ourselves, when we look to him, when we let go of building towers for our own glory and grab hold of faith and trust instead. This is who God esteems. This is the one who delights him.
Jesus tells how these attitudes should work themselves out in daily living. As to our purpose—to be salt and light. As to Scripture—to take it seriously. As to other people—to have kindness, not contempt, 5:13-24. The beatitude-attitudes are to permeate every part of our daily living.
Jesus goes on in later verses to cover how these attitudes work in marriage keeping, promise making, enemy loving, religious posing, simple praying, and so on. Jesus tells us, practically speaking, what God’s blessing—and our responding blessedness—looks like day-to-day.
And then David comes along and tells me how a beatitude-attitude is transferred to me.
Psalm 5 says that in the morning, as I lay my life on the altar to God and give him all the pieces, trusting him to give me direction and get me “safely through enemy lines,” I wait.
“I wait in expectation,” NIV and “…waiting for directions,” MSG. I give my life to God morning by morning, and I wait to see what he will do with me, v 3, 8.
Who wants to wait?
But here’s what happens…
God opens his “inner sanctum” to those who seek him, welcoming us with open arms when we “run for cover to him.” And he throws an all night party, celebrating, v 7-8, 11 MSG.
There’s plenty to do while we wait, and none of it has anything to do with cleaning ourselves up and trying-harder-to-do-better. God’s got us. God’s got this.
What he wants is our full on party-selves, whooping it up, hanging out with him, “Let the party last all night! Stand guard over our celebration,” the Message says. “Let them ever sing for joy,” says the NIV, v 11.
God is “famous for welcoming God-seekers, for decking us out in delight,” v 12, MSG. “For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous, you surround them with your favor as with a shield,” NIV.
What made Abram great was God, not Abram. Abram simply responded to God by trusting him, laying his life on those altars he built, praying and believing what God said. He didn’t set out to become great. He simply acknowledged that God was great. And God did all the rest.
God rewards anyone who seeks him like this. He works a beatitude-attitude in us. He throws an all night party to celebrate with us. He decks us out in his delight.
What more could I ask?
Give me faith as I wait.
O God, you are very great.
The selected passages for January 5 come from The One Year Bible, 2004.
Quotations come from the New International Version and The Message translations of the Bible.