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How Do You Read the Bible? (part 5)

Post Title: The Reciprocity of Blessing

If you look at Scripture hebraically, the overriding themes are creation and consummation, covenant and blessing.

If the Bible indeed presents a bigger picture of God—one that sheds light on essential ideas like sin and redemption—then all of the Hebrew Scriptures become essential to helping form our Christian doctrines and beliefs. We don't play leapfrog and ignore all of this revelation.

If you look at Scripture hebraically, the overriding themes are creation and consummation, covenant and blessing. I'm only able to skim the surface in this overview; the subject needs and deserves considerable expansion. The shift in thinking has enormous implications.

For example, suddenly, Israel is no longer incidental or, even worse, accidental in God's economy to consummate blessing for his creation. It is precisely the opposite; Israel is integral and essential to God's plan to bless this world.

In Genesis 1-11, God creates and blesses the work of his hands. In Genesis 12-50, we witness the consequences of God blessing Abraham. Keeping all this in mind, let's look at a familiar text with fresh eyes.

God, in his love, elects Abraham. "Now the LORD said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.'" (Genesis 12:1)

Now, notice the refrain of blessing in verse 2, "And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing." I want you to see that already in place here is the reciprocity of blessing, the mutuality of blessing. First, God blesses, in turn, the blessed ones are going to be a blessing.

"I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:3) Does that blessing include you and me? Yes, all peoples! It is the ultimate irony that the church has tried so vigorously, as has the world, to eliminate the very source of its blessing. In so doing, it has brought curses upon itself.

Of all people, it should have been Christians standing in the railroad yards of Germany, and again standing at the gates of the death camps saying, "No, these people will not go. They are the source of God's blessing to this earth." You tell me how the tables got so turned and twisted that the very SS officers who would herd people into the crematoria would take communion every morning at the church building right outside of Auschwitz.

When we alienate ourselves from a right relationship with him, when we go astray and do our own thing, then we bring the opposite of blessing upon ourselves. We bring curses. Though we separate ourselves from him, in the divine economy of blessing from beginning to end, God has said, "I am going to bless the nations through my covenant with you, Abraham."

Blessing is what God is all about.

I am suggesting to you that the very existence of the Jewish people against all the odds is still vitally important to God, to us, and the consummation of blessing in his end-time purposes. In Scripture, blessings are always a matter of mutuality. They come through another.

God intended to bless the nations through his covenant with the natural offspring of Abraham, the people of Israel. Said another way, God's primary purpose for covenanting with Abraham's family was to bless the human family. Our attitude toward the big picture of God's covenant and blessing should be that of Psalm 98,

1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things!

His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.

2 The LORD has made known his salvation;

he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.

3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

To whom is this song? Israel! How has God revealed his salvation and His righteousness to the nations? By being faithful to his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel! By the way, steadfast love in verse 3 is from the Hebrew word hesed, which is translated grace in the New Testament.

Do you understand now a little more why in John's Gospel, he quotes Jesus saying, "Salvation is of the Jews." We would have no salvation and have no hope; we would not be a people if it were not for the Jewish people who gave us the scriptures, the promises, the patriarchs, the prophets, and Messiah Jesus.

4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;

break forth into joyous song and sing praises!

5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,

with the lyre and the sound of melody!

6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn

make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!

7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

the world and those who dwell in it!

8 Let the rivers clap their hands;

let the hills sing for joy together

9 before the LORD, for he comes

to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with righteousness,

and the peoples with equity.

Remember the reciprocity of blessing. At the end of history, which is His-story, God will complete the consummation of all things by showing his covenant faithfulness to the house of Israel. The result will redound in definitive and dramatic fashion to the blessing of Israel,

AND to the blessing of the nations,

AND to the blessing of the creation itself.

Yes, even the universe shall be liberated to the splendor for which it was designed and destined. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, but there will also be a "new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."

Next week, we'll complete our study on this subject.

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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.

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