Blessed Is Everyone Who Fears the LORD | Psalm 128

Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
            you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the LORD.

The Lord bless you from Zion!
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life!
May you see your children’s children!
Peace be upon Israel!  

Psalm 128

 

As we continue our journey through the Songs of Ascents, we now arrive at the conclusion of the center “trilogy” within the collection. Although these Pilgrim Songs largely meditate upon the pilgrimage of life, these psalms explore how everyday life is a part of that journey.

YOU SHALL BE BLESSED

The predominate theme of Psalm 128 is the promise of being blessed. The word itself occurs four times within these six verses, and the verses that do not contain it (verses 3 and 6) describe the condition of being blessed. It would seem, therefore, most fitting for us to begin by defining what it means to be blessed.

Defining Blessedness

It’s not hard to find people who are blessed. The secular world is obsessed with blessedness, as evidenced by the popularity of #blessed. Within these circumstances, the word takes on malleable connotation that seems to indicate an overall feeling of happiness. Date night with my spouse: #blessed. Kid pooped in the toilet: #blessed. One cookie with two fortunes: #blessed. The Bible can even seem to support this impression. The NASB, KJV, NKJV, CSB, and RSV all translate blessed in verse 2 as happy. But is the feeling of happiness what the Bible means by being blessed?

Happiness is certainly a crucial element of being blessed, yet blessedness is not identical to happiness. I can be quite glad that the latest Marvel movie is finally on Netflix, but that doesn’t mean that I am blessed in the biblical sense of the word. Instead, the Bible’s concept of being blessed is a joyful gladness that stems from experiencing God’s favor. We are blessed because God looks upon us with grace and kindness. He freely establishes us as His people, becoming our God. The God who made heaven and earth unites Himself to us, intending to promote our welfare. What can be more blessed than that?

Verses 2-3 and 6 provide practical implications of this, which form a natural continuity with Psalm 127. You will enjoy the benefits of your work. Your wife will flourish like a vine that bears a lot of grapes, and you will have many children sitting around your table.

These blessings certainly fit with the overall picture in the rest of the Old Testament as well. When God made a covenant with Abraham, He promised to bless him. An integral piece of that blessing was the birth of Abraham’s son, Isaac (not to mention his descendants who would number like the stars in the sky). Even though he lived a nomadic life, the peoples near Abraham viewed his material wealth as sign that he was blessed by God.

Furthermore, when God made a covenant with Israel through Moses, He spells out the blessings for keeping the covenant and the curses for disobedience in Deuteronomy 28. In verse 11, God promises: “And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.” Sounds familiar, right? God promises fruit of the ground and livestock (work) and of the womb (children) as their blessings.

Jesus’ disciples also presumed that material prosperity signaled the LORD’s favor. In Mark 10, Jesus encountered a rich, young man who was seeking eternal life. After Jesus lists out some of the ten commandments, the young ruler claims to have obeyed them all. Jesus then tells him to give away all his possessions to the poor and follow Him, but the young man cannot. He walks away in sorrow, and Jesus comments to His disciples how difficult it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of heaven. They respond with a telling question: “Then who can be saved?” (v. 26). They assumed that the rich had more favor with God, making salvation easier for them. Jesus declares wealth to be an obstacle in the path to eternal life, which was obviously a startling concept.

Does the Old Testament in general and this psalm in particular disagree with Jesus? Should we again to prosperity as the barometer for measuring our position with God? In a word, no (to both questions). If you look within the account of Abraham, we find that God blesses Abraham, so that Abraham’s lineage would become a blessing to the entire world. In Deuteronomy 28:10, God speaks these words: “And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you.” Their physical blessings were a sign to the rest of the nations that their God was the one true God. Their prosperity was a witness of God’s glory to the world, God’s light shining in the darkness.

The LORD has by no means deviated from this principle under the New Covenant, but its appearance does shift. When Jesus entered humanity as the God-man to solve the problem of sin with His life, death, and resurrection, He brought to us blessedness in its purest form. He delivered to us the supreme blessing of peace with God, of our adoption by God. He paid once for all the debt of our sins and signed over the account of His righteous into our name. We are made co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). We have “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). Indeed, we are blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3).

Yet this superior blessing comes with a caveat:

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17)

Our blessedness in Christ requires our willingness to suffer with Christ. Don’t miss the importance of that particular wording. To say that we must suffer for Christ is not inaccurate, yet here Paul states that our suffering must be with Christ. He suffered for us; now we must suffer with Him. Soon, though, we will be glorified with Him, but even now, we are blessed when we suffer with Christ. Jesus said so Himself (Matthew 5:10-12).

Throughout history, Christians have known and displayed this truth. They have displayed to the world a vast blessedness that cannot be contained in this life, a blessedness of which the world is not worthy. Tertullian affirms this with his beloved declaration to the Romans:

The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed. Many of your writers exhort to the courageous bearing of pain and death, as Cicero in the Tusculans, as Seneca in his Chances, as Diogenes, Pyrrhus, Callinicus; and yet their words do not find so many disciples as Christians do, teachers not by words, but by their deeds. That very obstinacy you rail against is the preceptress. For who that contemplates it, is not excited to inquire what is at the bottom of it? Who, after inquiry, does not embrace our doctrines? And when he has embraced them, desires not to suffer that he may become partaker of the fullness of God’s grace, that he may obtain from God complete forgiveness, by giving in exchange his blood?

I recently came across this quotation: “no assessment of the early days and subsequent success of Christianity can ignore the fact that in their own ways the rise and persistence of both Judaism and Islam are equally remarkable and equally ‘miraculous’” (Introducing Jesus, loc. 553). First, as Christians, we certainly assert the statements validity with Judaism, to which we are necessarily attached. But Islam did not experience an equally remarkable and miraculous growth. Muhammed preached peace until he was able to assemble an army. Islam spread by force of the sword; Christianity conquered even when killed by the sword. Tertullian’s assessment still stands today. The blood of Christian martyrs is seed because it displays to the world our blessed hope. As they rejoice in a hope beyond this world, their faith becomes visible evidence of that eternal life.

None of this, however, is to discount how the LORD may still use physical blessings to give evidence of His love. We simply no longer stake of primary hope in them. In Christ, we can still be blessed, even if the fruit of our labor is taken from us. In Christ, we can still be blessed, even when barrenness strikes our family. The physical blessings of this psalm are shadows of Christ’s reality, and our blessedness in Jesus is meant to serve as a beacon of hope for those walking toward the gate of destruction.

Fear the LORD

If now we have a better conception of blessedness, how it achieved? The psalmist declares that those who fear the LORD are blessed. How then does the fear of God relate to our blessedness in Christ? If God has adopted us as His children in Christ, is there no longer any need to fear Him?

The fatherhood of God and fear of God do not stand in opposition to one another. If anything, our adoption in Christ gives greater clarity to how we are called to fear Him. In a healthy relationship, a child ought to have a healthy fear of his or her father because the father is always prepared to use corrective discipline. The child fears the father’s rod of correction. Yet (once again in a healthy relationship), the father also leaves the child without any doubt of his love toward them. Indeed, fatherly love must include discipline. If I do not correct my toddler’s tantrums now, they will lead to greater “tantrums” in the future that will be destructive to herself and those around her. If I do not force her to sleep in some kind of schedule, she quickly becomes fatigued, which thrusts chaos upon herself and those around her. Both are acts of discipline. She is rarely pleased with either. Announcing bed time can even cause her to run from me. But I discipline her for her own good.

The fatherhood of God is so much better than my own. He is perfectly right in all His ways, and His discipline is never too hard or soft. Even still, we are right to fear His hand. We are right to fear His correction, even though in Christ we need not question His love. If we do not know this fear of God, we do not know God at all. To use the psalm’s language, we are not blessed. C. S. Lewis’s poignant observation still rings true:

We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’, and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’. Not many people, I admit, would formulate theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds. I do not claim to be an exception: I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction. (Problem of Pain, 31-32)

God is both love and to be feared. Any theology that cannot cling to both realities is false. True blessedness comes from knowing that God is God, fearing Him, and being loved by Him. Such an understanding can only lead us, then, to walk in His ways. A failure to obey God proves that we do not love nor fear Him. Such a claim isn’t legalism. After all, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). A stubborn refusal to walk in God’s ways and obey His commands is evidence of failing to love Christ. It is also a rejection of blessedness. Our refusal to fear and obey God separates us from Himself, the Source of all blessings. We choose, like Satan in Paradise Lost, to attempt reigning in hell rather than serving in heaven. Trying to be gods, we flee from the only God. To sin, therefore, is to forsake blessedness.

Is that how you view your sin? Do you see it as luring you away from God’s presence and the blessings therein?

Or perhaps even more basic: is your concept of blessedness fundamentally connected to God, or do you look for other streams of blessings?

THE LORD BLESS YOU FROM ZION

Verses 5-6 add another crucial detail to our understanding of blessedness: community is an essential aspect of God’s blessing. Verse 5 both prays that our blessing would come from Zion and that we would be so blessed as to see the thriving of Jerusalem all our days. As we have noted previously, Jerusalem and Zion are often symbolic for the gathered people of God for worship, and the Bible assumes that those who fear God will long to worship with God’s people.

Interestingly, the prayer for the LORD to bless from Zion, therefore, indicates Zion as an instrument for God’s blessings. And why would God’s gathered people not be a channel for receiving the blessedness of the LORD?

Is that how you view church? Do you eagerly anticipate gathering with other brothers and sisters in Christ, believing that the LORD’s blessing will be found there? It is tragic how gathering together on Sunday is increasingly viewed as a chore rather than a blessing, as a work instead of a grace. The author of Hebrews, after all, teaches that our gathering for worship should be a time of encouraging “one another to love and good works” (10:24), which is another way of saying to walk in the LORD’s ways. We bless one another by encouraging each other to continue walking in God’s blessedness. If we neglect to meet together, we essentially forsake the LORD’s blessing from Zion, while also denying how God might have used us as instrument of His blessing to others. As the body of Christ, we are meant to build one another up in the LORD. We are members of one another. We are Jerusalem, God’s dwelling place. Therefore, the prosperity and blessedness of Jerusalem is our prosperity and blessedness. The peace of Israel is our peace. The maturity of the church is our maturity.

Returning a final time to Jeremiah 29, God commanded the captives to seek the welfare (which in Hebrew is a variant of the word for peace) of their new city, Babylon, and through that action they would find their own welfare. Since we’ve discussed that Babylon is often used to represent the unbelieving world, our welfare is secured as we seek the welfare, the peace, of the world around us. According to Merriam-Webster, a blessing can be defined “a thing conducive to happiness or welfare.” We are blessed whenever we seek to bless those around us.

Yet Psalm 128 is longing for the blessing of Jerusalem, not Babylon. How then do these ideas connect? The greatest peace, the greatest welfare, the greatest blessing that could come upon those who do not follow Christ would be for them to start following Christ. Even as we live in Babylon, we are still exiled citizens of Jerusalem, and we long to take citizens of Babylon with us as we return. Our blessedness must a sign and beacon, a testament to the goodness of Jesus Christ. Fortunately, Jesus told His disciples how the world come to recognize this in them: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). A love for God’s people reveals our love for God Himself. As we experience the blessings of this holy community together, we fervently invite those around us to pull up a seat at the family meal and join us.

This isn’t, of course, to say that a church should be primarily inward focused. We must be outward focused, seeking to care for the orphans, widows, and other vulnerable members. Yet we can never forget that our love for one another that provide solid ground for our missions and evangelism.

Have you experienced the blessedness of Christ? If not, come to Him today.

More specifically, have you experienced the blessedness of Christ’s people? Poor, sinful, and broken as we are, the church is Christ’s body and His bride.

May we long to see the prosperity of Jerusalem, to see the flourishing of God’s kingdom as it advances.

May we see our children’s children, the generational fruit of our discipleship as we obey the Great Commission.

May peace, welfare, and blessedness be upon God’s people.

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Blessings & Curses (a meditation on Deuteronomy 29)

A man stands on the street corner,
proclaiming despite the murmur,
“come and drink the living water
that the Most Holy Potter
blessedly offers
to sinners
bound for the slaughter!”
His message is one of good news,
of redemption if we so choose
to forsake all else for the Savior’s cause,
but often i fear that we forget to pause,
we fail to stop and consider
that good’s synonym isn’t chipper,
that the message of the cross is a bitter
pill to swallow for wretched sinners
like ourselves. We forget that
to proclaim Christ is to combat
all of the sin in their life.
we are cutting with a knife
the heart’s of those we love dearly
so shouldn’t our words be not merely
thrown to the wind so cavalierly
but rather be spoken clearly, sincerely,
and with great solemnity
because without Christ their very identity
is an enemy,
an enmity
of God’s great sovereignty.

You see, the Father, Most High,
when He spoke to the Israelites
through Moses, His instrument,
pleaded for them to be diligent
in following His Words with care
for if they decided to whore
after other gods and idols made
His wrath would not be stayed
it would not be swayed or delayed,
but it would come in a cascade
of fury and destruction
for such is the penalty for disobeying instruction.

The Son of God said it best
when to the hypocrites He professed
that it was their vision of the Light
that would leave them without respite
on the great Day of the LORD
for He will then recall each ignored
word that they had ever heard
but instead they preferred
to follow their own heart’s leanings
despite God’s own bleeding
on their behalf.

Thus, we must understand
that hearing the command
of the LORD invokes
both despairs and hopes,
blessings and curses
that its not just verses
of empty poetry
meant to be shared openly
instead, this is a oracle
that will become either
a great miracle
or a terrible
and unbearable
weight upon the soul
cause acceptance does console,
but rejecting drills a hole
further blackening the heart into coal
we must always realize
that the Gospel does not equalize
rather it draws closer those who are close
and further hardens those who are hard.

but now the question remains,
should we, then, refrain
from speaking such a difficult truth?
Brothers, we must NOT stop for it has never been smooth,
the Word has never been soothing to men’s ears
it has never been responded to with great cheers
and gladness, but rather with anger,
with broken mourning and sadness.
The human heart is prideful after all
and when the truth begins to maul
away after its very nature
calling out all sinful behavior,
the tendency is not to repent,
not to weep over their sin with great lament,
but to further harden or to retaliate.
To share the Gospel is to create
a moment when men must choose
either to accept or refuse
the message that they received,
and they will almost never be relieved
to have the Truth come into their mind
because most would rather remain blind
than to have the Light sear
through their heart and severe
all that they once thought
and all that they had ever been taught.
But still it remains that the Light
is still better than the night
even if it is too bright
and sends most to flight.
But Truth revealed
is better than Truth concealed
therefore, speak it in love,
not like it is some sort of
requirement that we must
complete each day just
to earn our stay in the Kingdom,
but we speak it with wisdom
knowing that we are
shattering with care
all that they once knew to be true,
showing that all of reality is only through
the risen and glorified Son of God,
before Whom we have awed,
in His name we share, not
flippantly, but as we ought:
with great care and weight
because our task is great.
Our Christ destroys the selfish
allowing them to fully relish
His absolute completeness
to have His joy that is never less
than the highest
good for our rebellious
hearts. Thus, we proclaim
despite how it might maim
the souls of those who hear
but we do it while being aware
of its burden that we bear
so that Christ and His grandeur
might be displayed now and forever.

The Vanity of Blessings Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 6

Listen to the sermon here. 

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 6:3 | If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.

Ecclesiastes 6:9 | Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

OPENING THOUGHT

While it isn’t meant to be depressing, the portrait that Ecclesiastes paints of this life is brutal, honest, and bleak. The bleakness of Ecclesiastes is immediately apparent, but it is also real and tangible. This book studies the monotony of everyday life and puts some of those thoughts and feelings into words. It provides a voice to the weariness of life that we all know lurks around each corner.

Thus far, the Preacher has presented before us his investigation to find something under the sun that isn’t vanity. He attempted giving himself to unmitigated pleasure. He studied the rhythms, randomness, and inevitability of time. He observed the necessity of community, while also noting how we each threaten to destroy that community. He has presented what he learned about God and wealth. Yet in each topic, his conclusion is still the same: all is vanity under the sun.

After warning of the vanity of wealth, Solomon now expands his focus beyond the monetary and onto the full breadth of blessings in this life. He soberly declares that even if a man lived two thousand years and had one hundred children, there is still no guarantee that he will actually enjoy the blessings of his life. Like our appetites, our souls constantly crave more, making satisfaction always sought but never gained. Fortunately, there is an answer to the endless desires.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 6 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 6 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. How are verses 1-6 related to Ecclesiastes 5:18-20? Why is the failure to enjoy life such a tragedy?
  3. In what ways do you attempt to satisfy the appetite of the soul? What is the alternative to the wandering appetite?
  4. What are the final questions that Solomon asks in this chapter? How does the rest of the Bible answer them?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?

The Blessing of Wisdom

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. (Proverbs 3:13-14 ESV)

The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew. (Proverbs 3:17-18 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Proverbs is generally divided into two main sections. Chapters 1-9 are the introduction, and chapters 10-31 are the actual collection of proverbs. These nine chapters continue to teach us that wisdom does not come from the proverbs themselves. Wisdom comes from God. The proverbs teach us what wisdom looks like and to turn to God. But wisdom itself only comes from the hand of God.

Let us also remember that wisdom is applied knowledge, the skill of living life well. When we talk about wisdom, it has its root in knowledge and understanding, but wisdom is primarily about living well. When you make good decisions and life goes well for you, you are living in wisdom. And true biblical wisdom is only found in knowing God.

Today we will view the blessings that wisdom has for those who find her. In these verses, wisdom is described as being better than gold, jewels, or anything else we could ever desire. This is because God built wisdom into the foundations of the earth, so that when we find wisdom, we walk away from sin and towards the LORD.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Proverbs 3:13-35 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 3:13-35 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  • Verses 13-18 describe the riches of finding wisdom. How does someone find wisdom? Why does Solomon consider wisdom to be of greater worth than gold or jewels? Do you agree? How have you been blessed by wisdom in life?
  • In verses 19-20, Solomon claims that God founded the world by wisdom. What does this mean?
  • Solomon urges us to do good to our neighbors when we are able. What does this look like practically? How does this relate to what Jesus claims are the two greatest commandments?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

The Value of Wisdom | Proverbs 2

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call our for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Primarily written by King David’s son, Solomon, the book of Proverbs is a unique one in the Bible. Most known for his wisdom, Solomon became wise through a supernatural blessing from the LORD. It should be no surprise then that Solomon is the primary author of this book of wisdom.

Thus far, we have studied the first chapter, which very nicely sets the stage for the remainder of the book. There are two big thoughts that we need to keep in mind going forward. First, we should also keep in mind the thesis of the book: the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. Second, remember to pay attention for the main literary devices of these first nine chapter: paternal speeches (where Solomon speak to us like a father teaching his son) and Lady Wisdom’s poems (in which wisdom is personified as a woman speaking to us).

After hearing the first cry of Lady Wisdom, we arrive now at the second paternal speech in Proverbs. In many ways, Solomon repeats here Lady Wisdom’s plea for us to embrace her and become wise. The primary structure of this chapter involves if-then statements, wherein Solomon lists the blessings that will befall us if we seek after wisdom with our whole heart.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 2 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 2 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  • The first four verses encourage us to listen to, ask for, and seek after wisdom. Do you do that? Where should we listen to and seek after wisdom? How often do you ask for wisdom?
  • God uses wisdom to guard us against the consequences of sin. How does wisdom help us to defeat our sin? Why does Solomon mention the sin of adultery specifically?
  • This chapter promises many blessings for those who follow wisdom. How can these promises be true when many Christians suffer greatly?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

The Beatitudes | Matthew 5:1-12

Week 2 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  (Matthew 5:3-12)

OPENING THOUGHT

Last week, we began our study of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount primarily by studying Jesus’ call for repentance because the kingdom of heaven is at hand. In fact, the proclamation of God’s kingdom was the core of Christ’s earthly ministry. He is the great King, the son of David, to whom the Father would give an eternal throne over all the earth. Knowing that Jesus is the King, ushering in His kingdom, is crucial to our study of the Sermon on the Mount because the sermon is essentially the handbook for living as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.

As we now dive into the sermon itself, it opens with the Beatitudes, one of the most famous biblical texts. Each Beatitude is composed of three parts. First, they open with a blessing, which biblically means to have the full favor of God. Second, they provide a characteristic for the one who is blessed (poor in spirit, mournful, meek, etc.). Third, they list the reward for embodying each characteristic. Together, these characteristics and rewards of a blessed person form a challenging introduction to the greatest sermon ever preached.

Christ’s followers, the citizens of the His kingdom, are favored by God, blessed. Thus, we should understand these characteristics to be the characteristics of a Christian, and the rewards are the rewards of a Christian. Though, in this life, we will never perfectly embody these descriptions, their presence in our life reveals the fruit of our belief in the good news of Jesus Christ. Though they stand against the world’s values and ideas of success, the Beatitudes succinctly proclaim the qualities and nature of God’s kingdom.

Read verses 1-12 and discuss the following.

  1. How are the characteristics listed by Jesus in the Beatitudes opposed to society’s ideals?
  2. If the Beatitudes are so different from what we would expect, why does Jesus say we are blessed for being them?
  3. Jesus concludes each Beatitude with a promised reward, but what is the ultimate reward that Christ’s followers will receive (the reward to which each of these points)?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Since the Beatitudes are characteristics that should define a Christian’s behavior, slowly and prayerfully consider each one, evaluating how much your life displays them.
  • Pray. Ultimately, we will never be able to live out the Beatitudes in our own strength, so pray for grace to live as Christ has called us to live.

Jacob & Laban | Genesis 30:25-31:55

Week 7 | Study Guide & Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION 

Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you. (Genesis 31:3)

If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night. (Genesis 31:42)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)

OPENING THOUGHT 

Jacob’s life is one massive proof that the patriarchs of the Old Testament were just as dependent upon God’s grace as followers of Christ today. Left to his own devices, Jacob is far from being the epitome of a faithful servant of God. Thus far, at his mother’s prompting, he has deceived his father in order to steal his brother’s blessing. When his brother became murderous, he fled to his mother’s homeland. Jacob met his future wife there, but soon found himself deceived by his father-in-law into marrying both Rachel and her sister, Leah. His polygamous marriage quickly created a destructive family situation where Jacob was thrown back and forth between his two wives and their maid-servants.

But even in the midst of these conditions, God continues to bless Jacob. The family drama of Jacob’s multiple wives may have been both sinful and avoidable, but God used it to give Jacob eleven sons and a daughter through whom the covenantal blessing could continue. That God-given grace continues in our present text as Jacob parts ways with his father-in-law, Laban.

The relationship of Jacob and Laban was far from ideal, but these events only cause that divide to separate further. Laban attempts to rob Jacob out of his wages, and Jacob flees from Laban without allowing him a moment for saying goodbye to his daughters or grandchildren. Though we see both men act sinfully, it quickly becomes clear how much the LORD is growing Jacob. While Laban’s blatant idolatry is seen throughout the text, Jacob only continues to become emboldened because of his reliance upon God. From this text we can see that God’s followers will certainly encounter many hardships in life, but the LORD will faithfully see them through each one.

Read verses 25-43 and discuss the following. 

  • Laban relied upon divination to learn that his prosperity came because of God’s favor toward Jacob. Divination is any practice of attempting to gain special knowledge through supernatural means. Why is divination a sin? What are examples of divination today?

Read verses 1-21 and discuss the following. 

  • In appearing to Jacob, God claims responsibility for blessing Jacob’s flocks while he was shepherding for Laban. Since being blessed means to be favored by God, are all Christians blessed? Why?

Read verses 22-55 and discuss the following.

  • When Laban catches Jacob, he is furious that his son-in-law would leave without allowing him to say goodbye to his daughters and grandchildren. However, we soon realize that Laban is even more upset about his household gods being missing. What are a few examples of modern household gods?
  • Jacob and Laban share a meal together and make a covenant to do no harm to each other. Why were meals important to forming a covenant? How does this relate to the Lord’s Supper?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER 

  • Obey. Laban was angry at Jacob for leaving with his daughters and grandchildren, but he was even more furious about his gods being stolen. Like Laban, the idols of our life tends to be what would make us most upset if they were missing. Use this thought to consider what things might be idols in your life.
  • Pray. Even during this conflict with his father-in-law, Jacob was still blessed and provided for by God. Take a few moments each day this week to give thanks to God for His blessings and provision.