Hebrews: Passing on the Blessing

A father’s role is different with every culture and every era. Dads today are more involved with the care and nurturing of their children than they were even in my generation. My Dad was the provider first and he taught my brother about working on vehicles. But the emotional care of my brothers and me was largely left to my Mom. He wasn’t really a disciplinarian either. He usually forgot that he had grounded me after a couple of days. But if Mom grounded me for a week it stuck to the minute. 

Still, some things haven’t changed. Fathers in the days of the patriarchs were also providers, then teachers especially of religion and the family trade. First-century fathers had one other very important role in their family – passing on the blessing. In Hebrews 11:20-21 we see Isaac and Jacob doing just that. “By faith, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.” That’s pretty cut-and-dried without any of the drama that surrounded them.

Isaac and Jacob were passing on the promise of God that had been first given to Abraham for a land of their own – Canaan. The author of Hebrews said those blessings were given “by faith” because the land that had been promised was not yet in their possession. Abraham believed God would be faithful to the promise and he passed that confidence and faith to his son and grandson. But it would be many more generations before they would take possession of the Promised Land.

But the promise and the blessing were about more than the land. The “everlasting covenant” the Lord made with Abraham was “to be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Gen 17:7). For a season the Jewish people lost possession of the land. From the fall of Babylon in 586 bc until May 14, 1948, Israel was under foreign rule. But she was never without God. Nor are you. In their seasons of disobedience and rebellion, God disciplined them, but He also kept a loving eye on them and brought them back to the land – and to Himself. I find a lot of hope in that. You can too. Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:20). He meant it Beloved. Every word.

Christmas Promise

baby-jesus-nativity-cindy-singleton“Sovereign Lord, as You have promised . . . My eyes have seen your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32, sel.)

The words we most commonly associate with Christmas are “peace,” “love,” and “joy,” and rightly so.  These are fruits of Christ’s birth as well as the evidence of His presence in our lives (see Galatians 5:22-23).  The angel proclaimed “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). Jesus is the flesh-and-bone expression of God’s love (John 3:16).  And the angel’s announcement to the shepherds was “news of great joy” (Luke 2:10).  But there is another word that I think fits the Christmas season best: “promise.”

In our western, largely Protestant culture, we see Jesus’ birth differently than the Bible reveals it, partly because we focus only on the text in Luke as the foundation of the Christmas story.  But to truly understand Christmas, we need to go back – way back – all the way to Genesis, to a garden and a tree and the first humans.  You know the account – God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden and blessed them with perfection.  Until a serpent and a piece of fruit caused the first sin, an act that forever changed human history.  With their act of rebellion, all of God’s creation was cursed with death. The man and woman were banished from the Garden and from God’s intimate presence.  But not without God’s promise of redemption.  He said to the serpent who tempted them into sin, “I will put enmity between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).  In this statement God made a promise to save His creation from the wages of sin.  He fulfilled that promise with the birth of Jesus.  Salvation came in the form of an infant.

My dear friend, God is the perfect Promise-keeper.  Paul said that “All God’s promises are ‘Yes’ in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 1:20).  His promises of peace and comfort, hope and joy, and power and presence are all met in Jesus Christ – because He is the fulfillment of the very first promise at the very first Christmas.