Will God bless me regardless of my spiritual position in life, or does He bless us because of our spiritual position in life?
We've experienced several things lately in pairs, and Mr. Welty's reminder of daylight savings time added to that list. This will be the second time in two weeks we've changed daylight savings time in three weeks because when we went to Latin America for the Feast in South America, they're moving into springtime. So on the Saturday night just before the Feast, we had to change our watches forward, three weeks later, we're changing it back, so I'll probably show up at work at ten o'clock on Monday. I hope it goes the right direction.
But the second thing we had in pairs was much more enjoyable. That was the second blessing of little children we've had in the last about week and a half or so, because we had it at the Feast in Argentina. There are so many members who don't have local churches to attend, and so they have it at the Feast of Tabernacles. And when they called for the parents to come forward, they just started lining up way down the row there. There must have been twenty of them. And it was rather remarkable because we had the same reaction there, too, as here, only one out of all those children even whimpered just a little bit, didn't even affect the prayer, and they were remarkably well-behaved that time. But there were a lot of them, and it was just really enjoyable, very enjoyable, and it truly. . . even though there were a lot, it took a long time, it truly fit the phrase — the more the merrier. I like Carl Sandburg's statement about children: he said, "Babies are God's opinion that the world should go on." And life goes on in a very good way with them.
Well, everything today, so far, has really fit together with what I have to say, from Mr. Metzel's — even his general comments about reminding us that we're all children of God, to every one of the songs, the sermonette, and the ceremony; it fits together. You know, we heard these beautiful prayers just a while ago, heartfelt, full of love for these little children; we don't know them well yet, but we still love them immediately upon seeing them; we're concerned about them knowing how much they need God overseeing their lives. And it's with deep feeling that we ask God to be with them in a special way that we call — blessing. It's a wonderful word — blessing. It makes a remarkable study. It's a big topic in the Bible.
What will you parents do with the request that was made today? What will your children do with this request as they grow older? What will all of us do with the prayers that we heard today? What are we going to do with those concerning God's blessing? What do I mean by that?
Well, what I mean is it wasn't simply these children that had prayers go up to God today asking for blessing. Those were special, but what about all the rest of us, who asked earlier this morning, last night, whenever we prayed; we asked for God's blessing. It's a rare prayer that goes by without us asking in some form or another for God to bless us. We're asking that all the time; it's commonplace. We daily seek His blessings, if not in specific things, in very general ways. How often do we pray, "God, bless Your people. We don't know all their needs, but we just put it under the big umbrella." We're always asking for blessings.
Sometimes, maybe because it's so commonly asked for, is it possible that we may miss some of the deeper principles involved concerning blessings? One of the deepest principles that I'd like to cover today is the question that we should often ask ourselves as we ask for God's blessing, that we should ask ourselves, "Am I in a position to be blessed?" "Am I in a position to be blessed?"
You take these children, for example. Eventually, they're going to grow. And as they grow older at some point, they will have some say in the matter. They're going to have a little bit of say in the matter as to how today's prayer and request to God is fulfilled. The position that they eventually will take toward God in life will determine to a great degree how much or whether the request made today will be applicable. And it's not just for these children, for us grownups who are also God's little children, the position that we take toward God and toward life will determine to a great degree whether and how much God's blessings are fulfilled.
There are several critical lessons that really stand alone as important factors, but they are also closely related. But the great overall lesson that we're going to keep coming back to today is the need to position ourselves to be blessed. The need to position ourselves to be blessed. One of the greatest blessings that a parent can give their children is to position themselves to be a blessing to their children. We position ourselves as parents so that we will be a blessing to our children, and as our children grow, one of the greatest blessings parents can give to their children is to teach them how to position themselves in a relationship with God so that they can insure His continued blessings. And one of the greatest blessings that we can procure for ourselves as God's children is to position ourselves as individuals and as a church in a place where we can expect to be blessed. We would do well to consider that on a regular basis. Will God bless me regardless of my spiritual position in life, or does He bless us because of our spiritual position in life?
Now that leads to the first of several lessons that I'd like to bring out today. The first one is, I'm not going to spend much time on it, but it really is important in that we need to understand that blessings from God are not a divine right. They are not an entitlement. We live in a society that has a highly developed sense of entitlement, so much so that it has become, I believe, a huge national character problem. And it tends to be in the wealthier, more blessed, nations of the world where we see this.
I know someone who works in human resources who once told me of a situation where they had to take some disciplinary action against an employee. This employee just happened to be an immigrant. And this person was nearly speechless when the employee came out with something that they had never heard before in all of their training for what you run into with human resources. The employee said, "You can't fire me. I'm in America now." "You can't fire me. I'm in America."
Well, after recovering from the shock of the statement, they were very happy to correct the misunderstanding that the blessing of working in America does not entitle you to show up late for work every day. And they finally got the message across that — look, once you're fired, you can that that argument to the human labor relations board and see how well that flies.
But it was a sense of entitlement — I'm in America; you can't fire me. This sense can grow, and it is a common problem throughout people of wealthier nations. We're so blessed in this nation. We're so richly blessed that so many people have almost come to seem that we're entitled to blessings. We expect it; we deserve it. It's our entitlement.
Well, in the same vein, by virtue of being born in the church that does not entitle us to having God at our disposal like a spiritual ATM. He's not a genie that we carry in our pocket. You know, whenever we need something, just rub the bottle, and He says, "Your wish is My command." That's not what God is. Blessings involve something far greater and deeper, much deeper. Blessings are a benefit from God.
We sing a song, often around the Passover, "Forget not all His benefits to those who fear His name." And that song lists the blessings and the benefits of God. Forget not all His benefits to those who fear His name. Now that scripture introduces some other thoughts, too, two closely related concepts that are very important to consider. Blessings are a relationship issue, and because of that, they work on a cause and effect basis. Blessings are a relationship issue, and they work on a cause and effect basis.
First, the concept that blessings are a relationship issue — it has to do, obviously, with our relationship with God. And that's not hard to understand because we can relate to our relationship with other people, let's say, people within our families, the ones we're close to. Humanly, we bless each other. We enjoy giving extensions of favor and blessing to other people. We do it in our families on a regular basis; we like to give good gifts. We probably did that many times at the Feast. It wasn't what anybody asked for. We had that happen; we did it to other people at the Feast, and you did, too. Somebody would come up, a stranger, and say, "Here's a bottle of wine I want you to have. That's a little blessing, but that's the way we work as humans. We enjoy doing that. We sometimes extend special kindnesses, and we sacrifice to help. And we become a blessing to other people.
Since we do that, then we understand the mind of God. But even with our children, oftentimes when we want to do something special and extend to them special favor, we're often motivated. We notice they've been particularly obedient; they've been particularly responsive, and we want to somehow show appreciation in some way. I can guarantee, if you go through a period of time where the child's been a little stiff-necked and rebellious and disobedient, it effects — when you're thinking about doing something special, you ponder that a little bit, whether — I'm going to do this right now or not. There's a relationship issue; there's a cause and effect issue, and we are God's children; He wants to bless us just like we do our own.
You know, part of the purpose of the ceremony of the laying on of hands, it teaches us something about relationships. This is a totally different subject; it's an extensive subject to study how the laying on of hands, why that is a basic doctrine of Hebrews 6 and all the ramifications and the meanings of it, but part of it has to do with the symbolic relationship with God and with each other. But to summarize it, just like we symbolically come under the protective hands of God, and that's what we were asking for in those prayers, that God would take these children under His protective hands — you know — you're in good hands — type of thing, except it's not All State. But you're in good hands in that way. In the same way we can be under God's protective hands symbolically, we can also get out from under God's protective hands.
It was peaceful today. It reminded me of a laying on of hands service we had a number of years ago. And we had four or five children; every one of them was just all over the place, and carrying on, I could hardly pray, and I went back to the seat, and I told Dee, I said, "Man these little kids were sort of rambunctious today."
And she said, "Let me feel your hands." And she said, "You feel your hand."
And I put my hand up. . .ice cold! My hands were ice cold, and I thought — I started thinking — that's when they started wiggling. The moment they had the laying on of hands — UUMMMPPPHHH. A little reminder to all elders, always check your hands and warm them up before you have the laying on of hands.
But at the same time, we can figuratively wriggle out from under God's hands, too. Not because His hands are cold, but because our human nature can get cold sometimes in our relationship with God. Humans have always done that. "I don't WANT to be under God's hands." Or, "I want to be under His hands when it comes to blessings, but I don't want to be under His hands when it comes to Him controlling me." You know, that's just the human struggle that humans tend to have with God.
But when we are under the hands of God, when we're in God's hands, we reap certain benefits from that. Well, we always reap something, whether we are or are not under the hands of God. Something is always reaped, and that's the law of cause and effect. One of the greatest Biblical lessons is that of cause and effect, actions and reactions in our relationship with God.
There's a wonderful Proverb, Proverbs 26:2 that says: Like the flitting sparrow and like the flying swallow, so a curse without cause shall not alight. The King James version words it very simply, . . .the curse causeless shall not come. It simply says, There's always a cause for every curse. Well, it's unspoken in that verse, but what's the corollary? The corollary is, there's always a cause for blessings, too.
There's a cause and effect. Certain things bring blessings. The blessing causeless shall not come either. One of the great lessons in the Biblical record is that we position ourselves to be blessed or cursed because as you read through the Biblical record, you see one word popping up a lot when it relates to blessings, short, big word, the little big word, you might say — IF. If — there's always something there about the relationship with God, and if the relationship is in a certain way, expect to be blessed. It will come; it will be there. All actions have long term and short term consequences, and if they are good, they're what we call blessings. They will have their rewards.
Sometimes those rewards are built-in consequences to the behavior. The consequence itself will bring a reward, and I'll explain that a little bit momentarily. At other times, God says, "I will directly intervene. I will step in, and by My discretion, and by My power, I will add rewards to your life. They're all blessings whether it's built in, or whether it's direct intervention, they're blessings, but it always has that contingency. These lessons are exemplified in many ways. It can be personal; it can be family; it can be national; it can be church; it can be the whole world.
I think nationally, right now, we're pretty concerned, aren't we? We have situations going on with the economy and the world. We have situations going on that we just don't know where the direction of the country will be determined next Tuesday. We don't know. But you know, nationally, the greatest issue in this election year has not yet been discussed, publicly, at least. I haven't heard it.
The greatest issue facing this country has not yet been discussed, and that is, who can lead us to a different spiritual position than that which we've been taking? That's what our country really needs. We need to be repositioned. We need desperately to reposition ourselves in many, many ways because our blessings as a nation are slipping out of our grasp. We're squandering the blessings God gave us; they're slipping away from us in so many ways. Economically is one. And this isn't a "Republican/Democrat" issue. It's a spiritual issue. Notice Deuteronomy 15. There are several sets of scriptures that we are seeing fulfilled today that were written three thousand years ago. And the reason why we're seeing them is because they're timeless. They are just built in principles of life. Take the economic problems here. God puts them nationally in the context of blessings. And blessings are tied to behavior.
Deuteronomy 15:5 — Only if you carefully obey the voice of the Lord, your God, to observe with care all these commandments which I command you today. There's that word — IF. There's a condition. He said, If My people will carefully obey, observe the commandments.
Verse 6 — For the Lord, your God will bless you… Just like He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow;. . . Where are we on that one? . . .you shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you. That's a national situation. Now He comes to — it's sort of individual, but as individuals, we make up a community as well in Verse 7.
Verse 7 — If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord, your God has given you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand from your poor brother,
Verse 8 - but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. It doesn't say sufficient for his wants; it says sufficient for his needs. There is a way to go about this wisely.
Verse 9 - But he says, "Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, "The seventh year — (uugghh) — this year of release is at hand,' I may not get my money back. . . ."and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the Lord against you, and it become a sin among you.
Verse 10 — "You shall surely give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing, . . .," If you have this approach, if you position yourself to be generous to those in need. . . . "the Lord, your God, will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand." He doesn't say what percentage of blessings; He doesn't tell us exactly what form; He says, "Just trust Me; I'll take care of you. I will bless you if you take the position of being generous to your brother and not being hard hearted, not being conniving, not trying to figure the angles, but just have a type of heart." This type of a heart leads to a blessing.
You read all of this; you read other sections in Deuteronomy and you realize — we have not positioned ourselves as a nation to be blessed lately. It may be a long time since we've really positioned ourselves to be blessed. In fact, we've taken ourselves out of the position as a nation where we could look to God and say, "Would You please bless us?"
This is just one of many similar instructions about God's relationship with a nation being dependent upon the position that the nation takes regarding His instructions about how to live well, how to live generously, how to live righteously, how to live with a heart that benefits all of those in society. It's very clear. Take a different position? Don't expect a blessing.
Notice an extension of this principle in Malachi 3.
Malachi 3:8 — We read — I don't want to read this from the standpoint of trying to prove a doctrine. We can prove a doctrine on tithing out of this section. But let's look at it from a different perspective. "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings." Now, I want to point out here, there's a much larger issue at work as we go through than money. There's a bigger issue than just money. Inherent in this whole discussion we're going to read is the relationship with God, the relationship, the position that people take with God. God is asking some questions along the lines that are very deep in terms of the relationship.
"Can you trust Me?" "Will you trust Me?" "Do you believe I am true to My word?" "Do you believe that I love you?" Relationships are two-way streets, and God's plea throughout this is to understand Me, believe Me, obey Me, identify with Me, and let's build a bond here. But He said:
Verse 9 — "You are cursed with a curse,. . ." For you've taken a different position. ". . . (for) you took the position to rob (have robbed) Me, even this whole nation.
Verse 10 — "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove Me. . ." . . .prove Me now, that has to do with something to do with our belief in God, our relationship to God, the way we see God; prove Me, now. I'll extend Myself to you, God said. I understand human's doubts, and humanity's skepticism and weaknesses. But, He said, " Just step toward Me, and I'll step toward you." "Prove Me." . . . says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it." That's pretty big. That's a pretty big statement.
I think we all got a bit of a chuckle and enjoyed Mr. Smith's story that he told on the Feast video this year about the other Ed Smith? Back years ago? The one who told Mr. Armstrong, "I can't afford to tithe?"
Mr. Armstrong told him, "Mr. Smith, you can't afford not to tithe." Now whether what Mr. Armstrong said and what Mr. Smith heard were the same thing, we don't know. You can hear the same words, but you don't interpret it the same way. What Mr. Armstrong was telling him was that, "You are putting yourself in a position to not be blessed. If you chose to assume the position that — I can't afford to — then you're cutting yourself out on a blessing."
Tithing on paper sometimes just doesn't seem like a logical economic position to take. But God says, "It's not about what's on paper. It's not about what is on paper; it's about what is in your relationship with Me, your trust in Me, your faith in Me. It's not about logic; it's about obedience. It's about identifying with My labor, with what My house is doing. Bring it to My house because we've got a work going on in My house, and your relationship with Me. You're putting yourself in a position to be blessed, not on trying to calculate the rate of return on your ten percent investment, but simply relying on the return that I will decide upon based upon My generosity and My desire to bless you." It does take faith. It takes obedience. But God says, "We're in a relationship here, but I want to bless you this way. And in:
Verse 12 — "And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,. . ." You will be a delightful land. . . says the Lord of hosts. Malachi was addressing the sons of Jacob, as you read a few verses earlier. Tithing is a very individual, a very personal act of obedience, but if most of the people, if most of the individuals in a nation were doing it, the effect is that the nation would be positioning itself to reap blessings from God, and then there'd be some spinoff effects. Other nations would see it, and probably one of the reasons why they would see it is because they would also be reaping some extensions of blessings from that nation. One of the spinoff effects that we find in the Bible, too, is that Godliness spreads on its impact. It's like the pebble thrown into the pond, it has a ripple effect that does not, is not contained just within the person who's practicing Godliness. Godliness affects other people in very positive ways.
God even used the term in the Bible, "Blessed that others would be blessed in you." Others will be blessed in you. Three times, God said this of Abraham. God said, "I will bless you, Abraham," but He also said to Abraham, "All the nations of the earth will be blessed in you." There's a ripple effect. When the descendants of Abraham are being blessed of God, it affects other people. But you also find, in all three of those places, where God told Abraham that, you also find that God pointed out that those blessings were relationship based, and it was a cause and effect matter. Every place. That's in Genesis 18, and Genesis 22, and Genesis 26.
In Genesis 18, when He said — "All the nations will be blessed in you, He said, "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment." He's saying, "Abraham positioned himself in a place to do justice and judgment and to keep My ways — I'm going to bless him."
Genesis 22, He said, "Because you obeyed My voice…."
Genesis 26:5 — The verse that we may be more familiar with, ". . .because Abraham obeyed My voice, kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws." Abraham positioned himself to be blessed. He did not obey God in order to be blessed. He did not obey God because he figured the angle. He did not obey God because he calculated selfishly out of some kind of different motive than was pure. Abraham did it out of faith, out of love and out of obedience to God. But because he took that position, that attitude positioned him in a very favorable light in God's sight. And God said, "You know,. . ." This is God's nature. "I'm going to bless him. I'll give you more than what you put into it. You can't outgive Me. I'll give you more." So those blessings have come through this very day through Abraham's seed and to other nations through various means, very different means.
In that lies something else that takes a couple of minutes to consider, blessings can come to us through several means, primarily two means. Blessings will come either directly or indirectly. One is not more valuable than the other necessarily, but they just come in different ways. Blessings can come directly, straight from God, straight to you. This happens when God, Himself, considers your situation and intervenes in a direct manner. He may send His angels; He may exert the power that He has through His spirit, whatever.
I think somebody mentioned today, maybe Mr. Welty, that we all know many stories how God has directly intervened, miraculously, to help children, to help all of us. We ask for protection. There's a Psalm that says His angels camp around them. It can help us with people problems.
Sometimes your children may be bullied at school, and so you pray about it, and you ask God's direction, and all of a sudden, God takes away the problem or helps you deal with it. Maybe He helps you on an important test or something like that and you know that, "I just got some help." Whatever it might be.
You know as you get older, you go through certain stages in life, and there are certain things at other stages in life where you seek God's blessing at a particular stage, maybe you didn't seek it at a different stage. The child grows up, becomes a young adult, they start having this desire to marry. And often times we go to God, and we ask directly for God to make this work, and for God to bring the right people together in the right way.
I remember reading as a freshman in college the Proverb that said, "A good wife is from the Eternal." Hmmm. Maybe we ought to ask, started asking, started praying about that. Many of us in this room believe that the greatest blessing we've ever had besides God's calling, and the gift of His spirit to conversion is the spouse that we have. And many of us in this room believe God provided that spouse. That God worked it out. I have no doubt that He does for us. You're right.
I remember Dee's Dad came to Big Sandy on a business trip when we were freshmen. He called her up, he said, "I'm going to be in Big Sandy on the Sabbath. If you want to ask somebody out, I'll take you to dinner."
Okay, so she asked me. We went out to dinner, had a couple of hours together, he drove us back to the campus, dropped me off at my dorm, and it was much later that I found out that he had a conversation with her in the car later that night, and he told her, "That's the person you ought to marry, or somebody just like that."
I was — what could I do? But you ask, "How'd he know that?" How'd he know that? Because after eighteen years of living with a child, you know your child pretty well; you know their temperament. Sometimes you can spot certain types of things in other people, you know, this would be...you just know. You have a keen sense of insight.
Now, he said that out of concern for his daughter, but he didn't have a whole lot of power in the process. We're not in the days where you have the power to arrange the marriage anymore. When you're young, you don't want that. When you're a parent, you'd really like that. We just don't have it today.
But why was he thinking that? Because as parents, we all want our children to be blessed with happy marriages. We know that that would be one of the greatest blessings that our children could have. And if we parents want that, how much more does our heavenly Father? But you see, unlike us, as parents, God can do something about it. God can pull strings; He can bring people together; He can work things out. God can say, "I see these people over there, and boy, these are the people that ought to be married." He's a much more effective matchmaker; He can intervene directly. He wants to bring that type of blessing to somebody. But at the same time, romance, and emotion, and the physical pulls can be dangerous, and if we position ourselves to take an approach to say romance and sexuality that is out of position with what God wants, we can take ourselves out from under the blessings, from under the umbrella. We can push God away. That's just one example, you know, answered prayer, we could talk all day long about stories where we know God has directly blessed us.
But on the other hand, there are indirect blessings, and these are sometimes less discernable but powerfully important where He sends blessings our way maybe through other people for example, other means. Children, as I said earlier, are blessed to a huge degree through their parents, through their parents' relationship with God. We heard that in the Psalm. You know, the children first begin to learn about God and about concepts about God through the parent. They're not learning it directly from God; God's using the parent, and they're learning that through the parent's teaching, through the parent' child rearing, and the grandparents and other extended family that can have a powerful influence on a child. It's a blessing to that child to have that, but that blessing comes because God is working in somebody else.
Sometimes another indirect means of blessing somebody is a good church environment. To this day, I look back and count one of my biggest blessings as a teenager was being in a church area where there was a good sized group of other teenagers that were positive. Positive peer pressure. That was a blessing. Why was it positive for some of them? It was because of their families, their moms and dads, were following God. That blessed their children, and their children in turn behaved certain ways, and their behavior affected other people. And when you get a group together, there's a positive dynamic there that's a tremendous blessing that comes through God's working through other areas.
Sometimes there is personal character development. We think in terms, you know, of "I have to overcome this; I have to work on this character trait." And we're thinking we need to do it, and we want to do it to obey God, and that's the best reason possible. But one of the benefits of that is that you grow in character. And oftentimes character has it's built in rewards. The rewards are there. You become the right kind of person, and that inevitably creates future blessings.
God said, "If you want to try to be like I am in character…" That's what Matthew 6:33 means — Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. If you're really seeking to do things right, that righteousness becomes ingrained in character, He said, "All of these things will be added to you." What things? He talked about the necessities of life, things you need to get by in life.
Well, how are they added? So often, the development of Godly character reaps automatic blessings. Blessings come automatically from Godly character. Building Godly character positions you to be blessed, puts you in a position of strength. It just does. It puts you in a position of being principled. Building Godly character makes you smarter, makes you wiser, puts you way ahead of the field out there. God's way works in relationships with other people. God's way works and makes you a better worker. Makes you a better friend, makes you a better husband, a better wife, a better father or mother, makes you a better student. The character traits of God just make us stronger, and as we are stronger, we reap the benefits, indirect blessing, but very powerful blessing.
This is why God says in I Timothy that Godliness is profitable for all things having promise of the life that now is and that which is to come. Godliness brings benefits in the life that now is. Blessings come from Godliness.
You know, when Paul wrote that to Timothy, all he was doing is restating an age-old principle. You can see it throughout the Bible. There are parts of the Bible that you might have marked called — the blessings and cursings chapters. Deuteronomy 28 is one. You go there, and what it tells you is fundamentally — its cause and effect in its relationship. Relationship — position yourself in a good relationship with God, and here's what happens to an individual, to a family, to a nation — Deuteronomy 28 — we call it the blessings and cursings chapter, but it's really a study into a relationship with God. God wants to bless His people, and He wants his people to have a certain heart position toward Him.
Solomon's prayer, at the dedication at the temple was just a rephrasing of Deuteronomy 28 in so many ways. It was just applying the principles to the times that they were in. His prayer at the dedication was a plea to God; it was all about knowing the character and the nature of God and the subsequent relationship on how his people would position themselves. And he was basically praying there, "Help us in this house that we have built, this physical building that we have constructed toYour honor. Help us come here and be reminded and to learn and to understand how to keep ourselves in a right relationship with you.
Let's to go I Kings 8. It's worth noting some of the ways that he stated this because it is so relevant to life, so meaningful to the way we are.
I Kings 8:37 — Solomon in his prayer — by the way, in Verse 54, it says that he was kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven. Solomon was deeply into this, a very moving time for him. And he said in Verse 37 — "When there is famine in the land, or pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sickness there is;
Verse 38 — "whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all of Your people Israel,. . .Whether it's somebody in their private closet or whether it's the whole congregation, the whole nation together. . . . when each one knows the plague of his own heart. . ."
Have you ever had something in life that you said, "That was the plague of my own heart?" We all do. That's just a different way of saying some of the things that we wrestle with in life. . . .when we know the plague of our own heart, ". . .(and) spreads his hands toward this temple:
Verse 39 — "then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive,. . ." Well, that's another blessing. . . . ". . .and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You even You know the hearts of all the sons of men).
Verse 40 — "that they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You gave to our fathers."
Verse 46 — He said — "When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to the land of the enemy, far or near,. . ." We love the way this is worded.
Verse 47 — "yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of those who took them captive saying,. . ." . . .say, ‘We're going to take a little different position on this matter now than what we were. . . ". . ..‘We have sinned and done wrong, and we have committed wickedness.';
Verse 48 — "and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who led them away captive, and pray to You toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which you have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name.
Verse 49 — "then hear in heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and (their) supplication, and maintain their cause,. . ." . . .Sort of like — and let the blessings come back.
Verse 50 — "and forgive Your people who have sinned against You, and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You; and grant them compassion before those who took them captive, that they may have compassion on them,. . ." He was saying, you know, bless us by giving our captors compassion because if You give them compassion, that will come back to us as a blessing.
The blessings can take so many forms, but Solomon was just projecting into the future all of the possibilities, and he was saying help us to always keep ourselves in the right place. "And we know that You will turn your heart to us," he said.
Verse 55 — "(Then) He stood and blessed all the congregation of Israel with a loud voice, saying:
Verse 56 — "Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses.
Verse 57 — "May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our Fathers. May He not leave us nor forsake us." The only reason He would was if they changed their position first, if they left Him. They knew the relationship then, the gap could start to widen
Verse 58 — "that He may incline our hearts to Himself,. . ". Well, that's one of the greatest blessings God can give us, is to help us to incline our hearts to Him. ". . .to walk in all His ways, (and) to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, which He commanded our fathers.
Verse 59 — "(And) may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the Lord, be near the Lord our God day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day may require,
Verse 60 — "that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; and there is no other.
Verse 61 — "Let your heart therefore be loyal to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, as at this day." God was pleased with that prayer.
But you know, as you go into I Kings 9, although God was pleased, He also pleaded with Solomon in I Kings 9. You can read through the first nine verses of I Kings 9. He pleaded with Solomon. "Solomon, stick with Me, now; stay with Me, Solomon, because if you pull away; if you start repositioning your heart and affection in other places. . . . It says here, if you embrace other gods, the wall will start to build between us, and fractured relationships have built-in curses. They just have penalties, and we probably know the story.
Sad to say, later in life, Solomon began to reposition himself in terms of his relationship with God. He assumed a new position and attitude and approach. He decided the position now I'm going to take is to experiment, see what makes me happy. Read the book of Ecclesiastes. He decided — My new position is for various reasons, political, selfish, whatever, I'm going to multiply wives, and they turned his heart. He took himself out from under God's hand; he lost the relationship with God, and lost the blessings. You know who else lost? God lost, too. God lost that relationship with one of His children. God lost the joy that comes from that family tightness and relationship that He has with obedient children, and eventually, the whole nation was affected.
It's critically important, critically important. You can go through so much of the Bible; there's about three hours worth of sermon lying on my floor at home because there was so much material to use as examples. You can go through it. We sang songs today. Every one of those songs, if you go back and look at them, have embedded in those songs lessons that you see in the book of Psalms, blessings, relationship, cause and effect, positioning ourselves to reap these blessings. They're there.
One of our old-time songs is, "Blessed and Happy is the Man." If you read that song, and consider it from this angle, it's all about how we position ourselves. It's all about rejecting one position; don't sit in the chair of the scorner; don't walk in the way of the ungodly; don't get into these relationships; don't stand in the way of sinners; but for somebody who chooses to say, "I'm going to position myself to delight in the law of God; I'm going to adopt the position of meditating in His law day and night."
And God says, "You know what's going to happen? You're going to be like a tree that grows by the river; you're going to flourish."
You go to Mendoza, Argentina, they get eight or nine inches of rain every year, but the city is full of beautiful trees. Because when the Spaniards came there, they found the Indians had constructed an intricate system of irrigation, ditches to capture the runoff from the snow in the Andes. And the Spaniards in their wisdom kept it; they preserved it.
You go through Mendoza today, and there are little ditches, maybe two feet deep, most of them are lined with stones or cement. They have gates at each one, and they control the water. But the water is flowing, and these trees sometimes are right there with the water, just flowing around it, and they're fertile and lush and it's a beautiful city that way. And God says, "That's the way; that's the blessing that's going to come."
Now it's in a song, it's in poetry, and we have to stop and think, "Well, what does that mean in practical life?" In practical life, it means many, many ways, direct and indirect blessings come from that. He said, "The person who meditates in My law will be blessed."
Dave Evans gave a Bible study here a few months ago about the book of Proverbs, and just being immersed in Proverbs. The person that takes the position that, "You know, I need this material; I really need this, and they start meditating in it, they're going to be blessed. It'll have built in blessings because those blessings will come through the accumulation of wisdom. The accumulation of wisdom puts you in a strong position; it generates its own blessings, blessings that come with gaining new perspectives on how to handle life.
Gaining new understanding on how to relate to other people, how to handle situations more wisely, being smarter, all those things result in blessing. Wisdom is better than riches because it's a blessing. The Psalms are full of them.
Well, as a church, what can we do to ensure God's blessings? In Luke 12:32 -
Luke 12:32 - Jesus said: "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." That's not a blessing we can earn. It's just God's desire to give us the ultimate blessing in life, eternal life in His kingdom. But He says; He goes on to say:
Verse 33 — "Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys." In other words, He says reposition the value system, the way you handle life so that the way you handle the physical things in life aligns with the eternal values of God.
Verse 34 — "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Verse 35 — "Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning;
Verse 36 — "and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately." They're responsive.
Verse 37 — "Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and will have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them." What a remarkable event. Matthew's version says — adds - He will make them ruler over all His goods. God says, "I'm storing up some rewards for you that we're going to share, and it will be incredible."
Verse 38 — "And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants." These are servants who have taken the position to be focused on doing the work that God has given us.
You know, brethren, I truly believe that many of the blessings we have today as a church are directly because of this, of God's people having their hearts in the church in doing the work of God as a whole and in attending to the work that God is doing in their own lives, and that's a blessing. On the other hand, God's people are not without their human problems. There's another cause and effect element that's directly related to being blessed, and that is a repentant church will be a blessed church. Let's go to Psalm 32. A repentant people, a repentant church will be a blessed church. We sing this one too.
Psalm 32:5 - "I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden.. . ." That demands a position we take in life. Will I take a position of self-examination, being honest with my iniquity and my state. . . . I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Verse 6 - "For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely in a flood of great waters they shall not come near Him." He talks about being preserved, about being hidden, about being surrounded with songs of deliverance.
Verse 9 — He says — here's a different position; he says, "Don't take this position;" "Don't be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with a bit and bridle, or else they will not come near you." What can God do in a relationship with people where He says, "I have to put a bridle on them, keep them there.
We just put up an electric fence for our dog. Poor thing, went up to it the first day we put the collar on, got the shock, and fell down on the ground, yelping, you know. Now she won't go near it, but God doesn't want people where He has to put up an electric fence to keep them. . ., you know, in the right confines of a relationship with Him.
Verse 10 - Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. What a blessing.
Psalms 34:8 — Oh, taste, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! This is something to pass on to the children. As they grow up, they're getting. . . daily, they're getting taste. Every Feast of Tabernacles, what do we call it? A taste of the wonderful world tomorrow. We get these tastes of what God's blessings are like, and the children need to understand that. They need to see- taste the way of life and make the connection that God is good. . . .blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Verse 9 — (Oh) fear the Lord, oh you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.
Verse 10 — Young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
Verse 11 — Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Every parent's mantra, if you will. Come, my children. . .let me teach you the fear of the Lord.What a blessing to pass on to the children.
Verse 12 — Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? Anybody want that blessing? Your list blessings? Yep, this would be one. Okay.
Verse 13 — Keep your tongues from evil, and your lips from speaking guile.
Verse 14 — Depart from evil, do what is good; seek peace, pursue it. Take the position, and the blessings come. Assume the position, and the blessings come.
Verse 15 — The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.
Verse 16 — The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
Verse 17 — The righteous cry out, and the Lord hear them, and delivers them out of all their troubles.
Verse 18 — The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. This is what God says in Isaiah 66 — I will look to the person who assumes this position. . . a poor and contrite spirit and trembles at My word. Tremendous, tremendous blessing.
What else, as a church? Let me sum up in a way, something we all have in common. How would this be for a blessing? What if God said to all of us, individually, but collectively as well as a church, very personally. "Here's what I've been thinking about. I've been thinking about you lately. Let Me tell you what I'm thinking about for you. Obviously, I want you to be in My kingdom. I've got some really rewarding responsibilities lined up for you in the kingdom of God. But between now and then, I also know that physical life can be hard and tough at times, and I promise you that I'm going to give you some special encouragement and comfort. I'm also going to give you a special gift of knowledge and the help with the character to understand and do the right things in life because I know that's hard, too, living in this world it's hard to do that, but I've decided I'm going to bless you with a boost. I'm just going to be there for you and I'm going to boost you in that way.
"Furthermore, let Me tell you something else I'm going to do. I'm going to be tremendously forgiving and merciful to you. I'm going to work in the minds of other people to try to give them the same compassion and extend extra kindness to you in that way, sort of grease the skids for you when problems come up. That's not all. In addition, I want you to have some special insight to the way that I am and to really see and understand who I am; and I'm going to reveal that to you in a way you've never understood it before.
"And again, something else, furthermore, I want you to really understand that I consider you as My child, you're My son; you're My daughter; you cannot know the love that I have for you, but as time goes on, I promise you our relationship is going to grow." That make anybody happy if God came and gave us a little talk like that? What a tremendous blessing, a relationship that would be. You know what, brethren? He has told us that. He's told us that. I just rephrased it in a little different way.
He tells us that in a very familiar place, but before we go there, once again, that familiar place and those scriptures also tell us that God's very clear on His intent and His actions and His blessings are specific and dependable; this is what He wants to do, but in the midst of those list of blessings, He tells us we have to position ourselves in a certain way. He tells us that if we take certain positions in life, you will be blessed. What I've just mentioned are the blessings; now here are the positions.
Take the position of being poor in spirit; take the position of mourning; take the position of being meek; take the position of hungering and thirsting after righteousness; take the position of being merciful; take the position of being pure in heart; take the position of being a peacemaker. You recognize where the list comes from now? Matthew 5 — we call them the beatitudes. The blessings are real. He says these are the blessings.
What kind of blessings would we reap as a church if we spent a year focusing on these seven points? I mean, just really thinking about them, praying about them, studying, asking God to bless us, to turn our hearts that way, we put our energy into practicing those things. God says if we take that position, here are the blessings that will come. They're there. Matthew 5.
The study would have us digging out many details and many other scriptures. Many examples, but they all have this in common back to the main point. Anyone striving to follow God's word, God says, "I'll pay attention. We will have something in life, and He will be involved in our lives." He doesn't say everything, what He's going to do, but He says, "Just leave the door open, I'll take care of the blessings." But it will be for our good. We don't have to tell Him what the blessings are. Sometimes we ask for specific things; that's fine. But we don't have to tell Him what we need, or what we want. It simply means focusing less on our expectations and more on our positioning. Focusing on the position of our responsibility of doing the right things in the sight of God. And striving to do the right things simply only because it's the right thing to do. But knowing that if we commit to the right things to do, we can leave it to the Dispenser of the blessings to know that He will abundantly pour out this.
This is one of the greatest blessings that we can give our children after today, for all parents is to teach them to position themselves to be blessed, have the right relationship with God. And the blessing for all the rest of us little children, no matter what age we are, is the same, building, having the right relationship with God and each other will position us as individuals and as a church to be immensely blessed.