What’s in a Blessing?
How often do you suppose you use the word “bless” or “blessing?” And how often do we
really think about what we mean when expressing this profound word? We use this
word when we break company with others, at the end of a conversation, after someone
sneezes, or to sign off an email. In prayer, we can toss the word “bless” or “blessing”
around with a nebulous ambiguity or use it as a catch-all filler when interceding for the
needs of others. Is it possible we as followers of Christ have become too casual or
flippant with this word that is so rich in biblical meaning?
Biblically speaking, a blessing is something that is graciously given for the benefit of
someone else. In Psalm 67, we have one of God’s divinely inspired songs that bring
back in view the amazing reality of what it means to bless or to be blessed. In just seven
short verses, this Psalm reveals at least five realities of what God’s blessing entails, and
it serves to reclaim the word “bless” from flippancy to fervency.
The Psalm actually begins with a benediction. In verse one the psalmist proclaims, “May
God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us” (Ps. 67:1;
italics mine). No doubt this opening line is a restatement of the well-known Aaronic
blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26 which says,
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be
gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
What the opening line of Psalm 67 and the benediction in Numbers 6 make clear is that
God’s blessing is primarily about who he is and secondarily about what he does or
gives. God’s blessing arises out of his gracious character which then extends to his
merciful dealings with humanity. The emphasis here on God’s face redirects the reality
of blessing from a self-focus to a Godward focus.
God’s blessing is primarily about who he is and secondarily about what he does or gives.
Christians often proclaim the phrase “God bless!” with great multiplicity. Yet even within
that phrase the person of “God” comes before the word “bless.” In other cultures and
languages, this phrase is constructed a bit differently to remind the speakers and
hearers of what is meant when one extends the saying “God bless!” From my
experiences serving alongside missionaries in Haiti, I was told once that the Haitian
Creole word for “God” is a compound of the following two words: “bon” which means
“good” and “dye” which means “God.” So in other words, when Haitians declare “God
bless you,” they are essentially saying “May our God who is good, bless you” (or in
Creole, ‘Bondye Beni ou!’). A reminder of who God is built into the well-used phrase that
gives fresh meaning to the word “bless.”
We need to be reminded daily that our greatest blessing is to know, love, cherish, and
be affectionately and reverently aware of God’s gracious and shining presence in our
Next in the psalm, we are given a straightforward connection to the purpose of God’s
presence amongst his chosen people. Verse two says, “…that your way may be known
on earth, your saving power among all nations.” The direction of God’s blessing in this
Psalm is clear – it’s not meant merely for our inward enjoyment but outward
multiplication. In its original context, the singers and hearers of this psalm were the
chosen people of the nation of Israel. Yet God’s purpose in choosing and making his
presence and power known was never meant to stop with Israel, but it was meant to
flow through Israel and out to all the nations of the world.
This Psalm points us back to the beginning of this blessing when God chose Abraham
and said “…I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing…in
you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12: 2; 3b). Moreover, this
Psalm points us forward to the fulfillment of this blessing in Christ. In Galatians 3:7 the
Apostle Paul makes the connection by declaring “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God
would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying,
‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’
God’s blessing of his saving power will one day be extended to “every nation, tribe,
peoples, and languages” (Revelation 7:9), and we who are blessed to know God’s
presence have been commissioned to partner with Christ in bringing the gospel of his
saving power to the ends of the earth.
We who are blessed to know God’s presence have been commissioned to partner with Christ in bringing the gospel of his saving power to the ends of the earth.
The next facet of God’s blessing comes in verse three and is repeated in verse five.
With exuberance, the psalmist declares, “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the
peoples praise you!” Once again we are directed back to a Godward focus. It is an
immense blessing to praise and celebrate who God is, and it is a privilege we will enjoy
for all eternity. This psalm has a strong missionary trajectory that redeems the term
“blessing” from something we just enjoy ourselves to being extended to all peoples of
If we’re honest, this is where most of our minds go when we think about God’s blessing.
We often speak of the blessing of the various ways God provides for us and our loved
ones. Whether it be our homes, jobs, education, or opportunities we know that “Every
good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights
with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
Psalm 67:6 puts it this way, “The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God shall
bless us.” This can serve to remind us of our loving heavenly Father as the source of all
our needs and his gracious power to meet those needs. Just as the earth is dependent
upon its Maker to bring about its fruits and resources, we as God’s blessed people are
dependent upon our Creator for everything. While God’s blessing is always about
people over possessions, even the material things God provides are meant to be
shared for his kingdom’s purposes.
While God’s blessing is always about people over possessions, even the material things God provides are meant to be shared for his kingdom’s purposes.
While there are certainly more facts regarding the reality of God’s blessing, one last
aspect that emerges is the blessing of God’s protection. The Psalm closes in verse 7
with the confident assertion that “God shall bless us, let all the ends of the earth fear
him!” As God’s chosen and saved people, we can have strong confidence that as we
walk in the fear of the Lord ourselves, God’s presence goes before us and is with us as
we live life in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity. When we walk in the
blessing of God’s presence, power, praise, and provision, we can trust him for his
protection that will bring recognition of him even among those who do not yet know
Christ. Yet may we remember that the blessing of God’s protection is not intended to
increase or maintain our comfort, but to guard our hearts against compromise and to
walk victoriously in the spiritual battle before us.
So may we as followers of Christ redeem our use of the word “blessing” from a self-
focus to a Godward focus, from a flippant phrase to a fervent declaration, and from an
ambiguous statement to a specific proclamation rooted in the deep truth of the
May the Lord bless you today with a tangible awareness of his presence, a humble
expression of his power, a fresh song of praise upon your lips, a renewed dependence
for his provision, and the peace of his promised protection from the evil one.
©2022 Justin Jeppesen. All rights reserved.