If you have received an email or letter from me over the past 15 years you will know that I nearly always have the word “Blessings” in the salutation or final greeting. Here is a current sample, “Blessings as we, with God, transform the Pacific”, “Blessings as we become a thriving disciple-making movement” or “Christian blessings”. According to various business schools, there are appropriate and inappropriate ways of signing off a letter or email—blessings is rarely used. However, I believe blessings is an appropriate way for a pastoral leader of a church to greet others because of the rich biblical background.
Blessings comes from the Hebrew word barak—to kneel (Genesis 24:11)—and is related to berakhah or gift. There is another Hebrew word, esher, translated blessing or happiness (Psalm 1:1–3). In the Old Testament we find fathers who bless, barak, their wives and children (Genesis 27:27-29, 1 Samuel 2:20), rulers bless their subjects (2 Samuel 6:18, 1 Kings 8:14,55) and priests and Levites bless God or worshippers of God (Genesis 14:19, Leviticus 9:22, Deuteronomy 10:9, 21:5). The blessing was a verbal declaration of desiring favoured status from God and could include a wish for prosperity and success. Blessing God was about giving the Godhead honour for the goodness and blessing that come to all beings from God (Psalm 103:1,2,20–22).
Blessings were part of the first covenant. They were the promises of God if Israel kept in obedient relationship (Deuteronomy 28:1–14). These blessings were contrasted with the curses (Hebrew Qal) or consequences of not staying in relationship with the Lord who saved them (Deuteronomy 28:15–46). The covenantal descendants of Abraham were to be a blessing to the whole earth (Genesis 12:3).
In some cultures, still today, people not only verbally curse others, but also place a spiritual curse on their enemies by pointing the bone or putting a needle in a voodoo doll. The major curse on earth is sin (Genesis 3:14,17, 4:11, 5:29, Isaiah 24:6). The devil brought sin and wants humans to be cursed forever. God’s antidote is blessing. Jesus redeemed us from the curse of sin and the law (complete exacting obedience without grace) by hanging on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:23) and taking human sin and its penalty. The end result was that the blessing God promised to Abraham and his descendants would be ours (Galatians 3:8–14).
Our curse has become a blessing. In Jesus we have every spiritual blessing available (Ephesians 1:3).
Knowing that we live in the blessing of God because of Jesus, have identity, are forgiven and have a secure future, Christians have a mandate to be a blessing in word and action to others. We can even bless those who curse us, love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Luke 6:27,28, Romans 12:14).
The priestly blessing recorded in Numbers 6:24–27 is my favourite blessing. In the form of a silver scroll, this blessing is the oldest biblical text found—dating back to the time after Solomon’s temple. Today, Christians as well as Jews use the text to bless others. Some Jewish families even recite the blessing for their children as they welcome the Sabbath.
“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face towards you
and give you peace.
‘So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them’” (NIVUK).
Just before the global COVID-19 pandemic, Christian song writers Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes, Steve Furtick and Chris Brown wrote a song, using the words of the priestly blessing. This song has become an instant hit among Christians. The pandemic has brought hopelessness and despair, but “The Blessing” brings hope and favour. Cities and countries all over the world have recorded “The Blessing” as couch choirs (check out YouTube).
As Christians we are the priests of the world (1 Peter 2:5,9). I invite you to invoke and live out the blessings of God.