How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish. Psalm 1
To be blessed, according to the Amplified translation is to be fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God. However, this Psalm 1 blessing is a conditional one, dependent on who we associate with and our orientation to the law of the Lord.
How is a born again Christian, living out of a new covenant and a new life in Christ supposed to relate to conditional promises from the Old Testament? Let’s be honest: we cannot help but be attracted because of the richness of the promises, but do we really want blessing as our motive and obedience as our means? Do we really want to enter into a relationship with God that is dependent on us delivering the goods? What if one only meditated in the day and not the night or happened to keep company with the unregenerate? I believe I know the answer to these questions, but I tell you the truth, I believe every child of God is going to have to work the answers out for themselves.
I have friends who relate passionately to the Old Testament because of their attraction to prosperity. They are devout and seemingly beyond my appeal that there is a better way. Because I bought into it as a younger believer, I am sensitive to quid pro quo religion, where, if I do this or do that, I will position myself to receive God’s blessing.
It may sound arrogant, but I am a blessed man, before I ever pick up my Bible, because I have a new life in Christ. I am a child of God before I even read or quote the scriptures. By trusting in Christ, I was grafted into him—the Vine. The fruit I bear is directly related to this reality, not my adherence to the law of the Lord or my proclamation of it. The laws of the Lord originated out the Lord’s own being and you and I now live in that being and he lives in us. In Christ, we have the ultimate blessing. In him we are heir to everything he is and has. In Christ, we truly have an unfathomably rich inheritance. It is a huge step backwards to try and receive promises by virtue of our initiatives, compliance, or recitations.
If I just trashed your doctrine, you’re welcome. If I did, you are probably also thinking that Rob does not hold the scriptures or obedience in high regard. I promise I do, but I don’t think about them as a means to anything. My love of the scriptures and any inclination I have to live in harmony with them is a byproduct of the eternal life that is in me, which is compatible with the scriptures. I love his word because his word first loved me. When I obey his word, it is because his word already lives in me and beckons me, for the good of my heart, to agree and comply.
I am very familiar with the schools of Christian thought that have us confessing and declaring his word so that particular outcomes will be produced. I gave this theology a thorough test drive and found it incompatible with the new life that was in me. The very practicing of it placed God in a box that was much too small. Is God, our good, good Father, withholding his blessing until we incant his words as if they were some magical or mechanical trigger to release a blessing? If we proclaim his word, it should be because our soul exults in those words, not because we want something from God we cannot have otherwise. In him we have it all. He, the person of God, is our all in all.
God is a better parent than us. Did we withhold our children’s provision until they ask us with just the right words? The childlike, trusting heart I believe God wants to produce in us is one that simply trusts that he knows our needs and delights in meeting them. I think he likes us to ask, but, oh, the things we do beyond the childlike asking.
I am saying this as one who is feeling pretty desperate for some relief. Pain showed up on my doorstep 17 years ago in the region of my lower back and never left. It has just kept moving in on me a little at a time to the point where I’m not sure how to tolerate it any longer. That will sound like a pretty shabby confession to part of my faith family, but not to my Father. At this writing, he did not just recoil at my negative confession. I can’t explain why pain has been woven into my story but I am unwilling to credit my lack of faith or positive confession with its presence. If pain continued to encroach on my earthly comfort, would it diminish his goodness? Discredit his affection for me? Reflect poorly on his fatherhood? I echo a sentiment with Paul: “I speak as if insane” (from 2 Corinthians 11:23).
Until we are set free from these earthly bodies, which are so prone to decay and degeneration, what response does God want from us? What is he looking for in our hearts? All I know is that even sons sometime ask their Father why he has forsaken them only to discover that resurrection life is just around the corner.
Father, I pray that you would heal my body, specifically the degenerated, arthritic components of my spine. Please mend the nerves and the inflamed tissues that surround these areas. You are the healer of every facet of my being. And by the way, thank you for every minute of the previous 17 years. While I would not trade them for anything, please note that I am currently negotiable. Amen.