Will God make you rich? Will he give you long life? Will he make you healthy? If you are rich and healthy, does that mean God favors you? Doesn’t the Old Testament promise prosperity in this world for obedience?
These questions and many others are tackled in William Osborne’s short book Divine Blessing and the Fullness of Life in the Presence of God. Another excellent entry in the “Short Studies in Biblical Theology” series, Divine Blessing is a careful overview of the concept of ‘blessing’ in Scripture and how we should think about it today.
As just one example of the thrust of Osborne’s argument, he (rightly) argues that the promises of the Old Testament are ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Commenting on Galatians 3, Osborne writes:
“As a result of what Jesus has accomplished for his people, both the curses and the blessings we encountered in Israel’s Scriptures find their fulfillment in Christ. The promised ‘seed’ of Abraham… now mediates God’s blessing of salvation and life in the Spirit. And like the Sacrifices of old, Jesus’s death is a substitutionary sacrifice whereby he takes the curse from us that we deserve… As Christians, we cannot reflect on blessings and curses in the Old Testament Scriptures without coming to understand their fulfillment in Christ.” (123)
What does this mean for us today? If nothing else, it means we need to recalibrate how we judge blessing. We shouldn’t think in crass material terms. Instead
“So the question that contemporary Christians should ask when evaluating whether this thing or that circumstance is God’s blessing should be: Does this ‘blessing’ draw me closer to the triune God? Does this need being met bring me nearer to the giver, or is it a distraction? No perceived ‘good gift’ will ever drive you away from the Lord, because in God’s economy that is not good.” (126)
Material blessings are neither always bad nor always good. Instead, they are bad or good depending on how they bring us to greater perceive and worship God in His glory through the atoning work of Christ.
That’s just one small part of a rich and complex view of blessing that is well worth your time.