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The Blessings of Obedience

June 19th, 2014

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you … Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Genesis 22:16-18

A remarkable fact is that though Jews only comprise 0.2 % of the world’s population, more than 20% of the Nobel prizes have been awarded to people of Jewish descent. No other ethnicity comes even close to matching this record. It is exactly as God said to Abraham almost 4,000 years ago, through his offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.

We could call this chapter of Genesis, A Lesson on How to Become a Blessing to Others. Obedience to God blesses others. Doing each day what God has called us to do blesses others. It is not just in the big moments of life that opportunities come, but also in the ordinary, the seemingly obscure, and the well-disguised.

We are often keenly aware that our sinfulness will impact others, that our moral slippage will be carried on beyond the borders of our own life, past the people whom we know and whom we speak to. The commandment says that God is “a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:5). Our wrong choices do impact future generations, and this tells us to take sin seriously. Jesus said, “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Luke 17:1-2).

Solomon wrote, “Do not … encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; and he will take up their case against you” (Prov. 23:10-11). These truths should call us to watch our lives, to repent from wrong, and to seek to make amends when we have acted wrongly and influenced people to sin, or hurt others and deprived them of what is rightfully theirs. God promises to forgive and to cleanse all who turn to Him in repentance.

Often, however, we forget the many more promises of Scripture that assure us of blessings for obedience. The passages above all are followed by promises of gracious rewards to those who obey. Exodus 20:6, for example, says, “But showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  The nature of God is governed not only by justice but also by grace, and in truth He leans toward grace.

Paul in Galatians 3:16, wrote that God did not say that that promise was to the descendants or seeds of Abraham. Instead He used the singular, “descendant,” “offspring,” or “seed,” and this means that the promise would ultimately lead to the coming of the Messiah, a would be fulfilled through Christ. Paul went on to write, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). Through Abraham’s Seed, or through Christ, we believers today are able to touch others.

This means that each day we have the possibility to bless the world, today’s world and the future world, through our obedience to Christ. By speaking the truth in love, by being faithful in our dealings, by loving and serving, by following the path Christ has marked out for us, by doing right in small things as well as big matters, we are blessing the world. When a parent takes time to read a Bible story to his child, he is making an investment that will live far past his own life. When a neighbor seeks to be gracious and kind, demonstrating Christian graces, he also makes an investment that, like ripples on water, impact others.

Life is not always so neat, and in the day-to-day effort to fulfill our obligations we often fail to notice the hearts of those around us. Abraham knew his greatest trial because of its very nature, but often we miss ours, unable to clearly see the opportune moment for what it is. Our spouse’s heart may be near breaking, but we are concerned only with our own issues, and say something hurtful. Our child has an inner struggle that we are unaware of, insensitive to, and we are too busy for him that day. Our neighbor, colleague, or friend needs encouragement, but we are busy with our own concerns.

We thought that we would be prepared if our God called us to offer ourselves and those we love as sacrifices, yet we expected a clearer understanding of what was required, and the call came instead amid busy circumstances, without fanfare. The answer, I believe, is to plan each day to be good to others. We must intentionally do good, intentionally seek to do the right thing, put aside time each day to visit with those around us, to love and to encourage, to listen to, and especially to pray for them. In truth we have offered nothing in sacrifice if we have not put it on our calendar to give to God. To neglect something is not to sacrifice it.

If you want to be a blessing to the world, seriously follow Christ each day and your faith will touch others for generations to come.

Gleanings from Genesis ,