If I say I’m from Florida to someone who’s not overly familiar with the state, they tend to picture one of two things. First, Disney World. Second, beaches.
Florida, however, is quite a large state and I don’t actually live in either of those places (although I do actually go to those places more than non-Floridians, I suppose). We’re about four hours north of Disney, and the closest good beach is about two hours away.
This may actually come as a surprise, this area where I live, Florida’s panhandle, is more deep south than anything. About 20 minutes from the border of Georgia, and an hour from Alabama, we’re located firmly in the Bible belt.
Here in North Florida, people say yes ma’am and no ma’am, they drive pick-up trucks and go hunt’n and fishin’ on the weekends (I’ve lived here for 15 years and still can’t say hunt’n quite right), and they looooove the word “bless.”
Bless your heart, God bless, blessing in disguise, bless this mess (that’s for when you’re really hungry and ain’t got no time for your son’s 5 minute prayer), blessed by the best!, or, if you just want to shorten the whole thing, simply say “bless.”
Now all of these expressions are fine (I guess), but none of them really gets to the true meaning of that word, bless. What does it really mean to be blessed? How do we know if we’re blessed? Well, thankfully, Scripture has a lot to say about this little word, and it might not mean exactly what you think it means.
Blessed is the Man
There are typically three main passages in the Bible that I think of when I consider this word “blessed,” and the first is Psalm 1, where David says:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stands in the way of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And on his law he meditates day and night.
Here’s what’s interesting about this text. I think we imagine “blessing” as something disconnected from how we live our lives. Sort of like a magical fairy godmother that will show up when we need her most. But it’s pretty clear from this that a blessed man is one who loves God’s law, considers it throughout his days and nights, and obeys it.
How does he obey it? Well, he doesn’t walk into wicked counsel, but rather takes the narrow path. Because when you walk with what is wicked, chances are you will stop, and stand there as well. And eventually, you’ll take a seat, and you’ll be scoffing with the rest.
There is no blessing in the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, the seat of scoffers. Because blessing isn’t a tangible thing. Blessing is the presence of God himself. And we can’t have both him and the sin that entices. So we meditate on his way, and there we are blessed.
It goes on to say that this man, the man who meditates on God’s law and obeys it, is “like a tree planted by streams of water.” I like this image because it’s not one of sudden, super miraculous growth. It’s not fruit appearing on the branches overnight.
Rather, it’s the picture of a seed sprouting up, and daily drinking the water supplied by the stream as its leaves appear and its branches grow and it goes from seed to sprout to sapling to full grown tree. It does this over a long period, and then, when it is ready, it bears fruit.
This is the blessing of daily immersion in God’s truth through His word – we get to grow and bear fruit as He has ordained, and simply rest in the knowledge that we are near the stream and it will supply our every need.
Here in Psalm 1, we have God’s presence through His Word; but as we move into the New Testament, we get an even greater experience of His presence through His Word made flesh. We get Jesus.
We get Jesus.
Blessed is She Who Believed
In Luke 1, Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth and then sings her song of praise, better known as the Magnificat. It’s here that we get another glimpse into the true meaning of the word “blessed.”
There are actually a couple of different words that are translated as “blessed” in this passage. First, there is the Greek word eulogeo, which Elizabeth uses when she sees her cousin, and John leaps within, and she knows that the Savior has arrived and that he is now growing within Mary’s womb.
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Elizabeth declares this as Mary approaches. She says “eulogeo,” and thus pronounces blessing in the form of praise. She’s celebrating God’s kindness, while also invoking his blessing (which, as mentioned above, is primarily his presence), on Mary.
Interestingly, though, Elizabeth goes on to say of Mary, “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord,” but uses a different word for blessed, makarios. What does this word mean? Well, simply put, it just means to be happy.
Ok, so here’s what I’ve always found fascinating about these words, as well as why I think they’re important. Here we see Mary’s situation causing both praise and happiness, but in actuality, she was in a TERRIBLE situation. Try and separate yourself from your 21st century cultural lens for a minute and think about Mary’s predicament (to put it mildly).
She’s not yet married. But she’s pregnant. She’s dependent upon her future husband for her livelihood. Unless the Lord intervenes, her betrothed will, at best, break their engagement, and, at worst, have her stoned. If he does “divorce her quietly” – as he planned to do before the Lord did indeed intervene – she brings shame and harm to her family, if they even receive her back into their home.
My point is this: by worldly standards, Mary has no reason to be happy, and no reason to celebrate. By heavenly standards? Every reason. Because she believes. She believes God is true to his word. She believes his plans are right and good, even when he fulfills them in the strangest ways imaginable.
If we are Christians, we can, no matter what the circumstance, consider ourselves blessed if we put our hope in God’s promises and rest in the assurance that he will fulfill them. And we are blessed because his most important promise was fulfilled when he sent his son to be born of a woman and bear the sins of his chosen children.
Now we not only have God’s presence through his holy inspired words, and through the Word made flesh, but also through the life-giving words of that man, our Savior.
Probably the most famous “blessed” passage of Scripture, the Beatitudes are those well-known statements uttered by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted on account of their righteousness. Why? Because their rewards are eternal, not temporal. Take a look at why these are called blessed.
- They get the kingdom of heaven.
- They’re comforted.
- They inherit the earth.
- They are satisfied.
- They receive mercy.
- They see God.
- They are called God’s children.
- They gain the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus ends with this: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Guys, I’ll be honest, I worry about the level ease we’ve embraced in this wealthy American culture. I have concern about raising my kids in it. Because all of this that I experience earthly comfort has nothing to do with what it means to be blessed, but my flesh begins to believe the lie that it does.
Real blessing that comes from God remains, even if, like Job, all we have is stripped away. If we lose everything, we can still say “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
What does it mean to be blessed? It means nothing more or less than this: we get Jesus. May his presence be enough for us to count ourselves eternally blessed.