The Israelites cried out to God and he heard their groaning. Therefore, God led them out of Egypt and freed them from horrific slavery and oppression. For forty long years they wandered in the wilderness. God promised that they would soon enter into the fertile region of Canaan, a land rich with milk and honey.
But lest the people think that the land was a reward for their good behavior, God reminded them that it was because of the wickedness of the other people that God was driving them out. “Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me into possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you” (Deuteronomy 9:4 ESV).
This is a strong reminder that we should be careful not to tout our righteousness and say that God is blessing us because of our faithfulness. Rather, God blesses because of His righteousness. He protects the vulnerable and drives out the wicked. This certainly is good news for people who are facing troubles in their lives. God will lift people out of the mire of poverty and oppression because he is righteous.
The name Jacob means “follow” and is also the root word for “heel.” Jacob was a heel grabber in the Genesis account. Even from birth, he grabbed his twin brother Esau’s heel. Later on, Jacob tricked his brother into selling his birthright. When their father Isaac was dying, Jacob tricked his father into blessing him instead of Esau. Jacob rightfully earned his name of follower. Jacob also over took his father-in-law, who deceived Jacob, by taking off with all of his kids, his wives, and scores of flocks.
When he fled, Jacob found out that Esau wanted to meet him. Esau sent 400 men to meet Jacob, and Jacob was terrified. He began splitting his family up in case there was an attack so that at least some would be spared. At one point Jacob was alone. It was then that a man began to wrestle with him throughout the night. Jacob was holding his own then the man dislocated Jacob’s hip.
When morning came, they were still wrestling and the man asked Jacob to let him go. Jacob answered, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26 ESV). Then the man asked what Jacob’s name is. “Follower.” Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be follower (Jacob) but Israel, for you have striven with God and with man, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28). Israel means “he strives with God.” To strive means to go to great efforts to achieve something. It was at this point Jacob realized he was wrestling with God himself.
God allowed Jacob to overtake him in that fight. From the time Jacob was born, he was determined to receive blessings. Throughout his life he would deceive, labor, even beg in order to receive a blessing. It’s fitting that God changed his name to Israel. When Esau met Jacob, he blessed him. He was not coming to kill him; he was coming to bless him! This story is clear evidence that God is a God of revival!
When we hear the word “blessing,” we often think of rewards. Think about it. What is the context of “blessing” that is used over and over again? Typically we talk about rewards, and most often we use it in the context of our rewards. What we don’t hear very often is blessings being placed in the context of righteousness and repentance.
In Isaiah, Israel will bless other people by displaying righteousness and calling people to repentance: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:6-7 ESV).
Israel is kept by God, who holds their hand. They do not walk this path alone. God does not abandon His people or leave them stranded on some vacant island. Rather, God walks with His people, hand-in-hand, to instruct them in how to live as children of light. He gives them as a covenant for the people, to open the eyes of the blind and to call people out of the darkness of the prison of sin.
Through God, this is how we bless people still today. We free the oppressed. We give to the needy. We sit with the broken. We teach them to do right by our righteousness. We call them to repentance in the name of Christ. Transformed lives are the beauty of blessing!
Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash