Intimacy with God

Which comes first, the blessing of the Lord or the favor of the Lord? Enabled by grace, we believed and experienced the blessing of God’s salvation act in our behalf. Luther translated the Greek word soteria into the German language as Heil, salvation.[1] Claus Westermann argues that Heil refers to the condition created by the saving act of God, not to the act itself. So, there is the act of salvation and there is the condition, the life that is to result from the saving action, a kind of sphere of salvation in which we are to live, in which we are enabled by grace in an on-going way, to grow in maturity, and for missional purposes. This is the state of being saved, having been saved. Salvation then, is both an event, a doorway, a new status, and a dynamic that is ongoing in our lives. That is what it means to live a blessed life. God blesses us, that is, He saves us to bring us into a new realm, a new life. The salvation moment, the event, is at the beginning of what should be a lifetime of walking in the ever-renewing power of God’s gracious blessing. This new spiritual state is characterized by holiness, wholeness, health, and vitality.[2] To be saved is glorious, it is the escape from wrath, the deliverance from sin and death, and a doorway out of life’s storm. But being saved is more glorious, it is the daily exposure to life itself, to heaven’s influence on us and through us, and to resurrection power by which we overcome the active elements of sin and death that are all about us.†

In Ephesians 1:11, Paul seems to identify favor with our inheritance in Christ. That inheritance, in turn, is connected to God’s purpose and the counsel of His will. The Bible declares that God blesses the righteous and covers them with favor – favor that acts as a shield (Psalm 5:12). Psalm 84:11 calls God Himself both a sun and a shield, that bestows favor and honor to those who walk uprightly. Those who keep the commandments and who write them on their heart, have life and peace added to them (Proverbs 3:1-4), along with favor and success. These themes are bound together – the blessing of the Lord is the essence of life, a life of inner peace, and a life that is favored for a purpose. Therefore, they are blessed to be successful, yet with success that is measured more by mission than money. Psalm 90:17 is a prayer for the ‘favor of the Lord,’ but note the effect – to ‘establish the work of our hands.’ Therefore, favor typically has a purpose, a functional edge, and a missional objective. According to Proverbs, God shows favor to the humble (3:33-35).

In Genesis 6:8, the globe came under judgment and nearly all of humanity perished, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” That favor had the effect of saving mankind. Psalm 102:13 speaks of a time of favor, indicating that favor has seasons. In Genesis 18:3, Abraham appealed to the favor of God, when he asked the Angel of Yahweh with the two angelic companions to not pass by – and that was the turning point in the life of Abraham and Sarah. This favor broke the barrenness and brought to fruition a twenty-four year old promise. The promises of God are one thing; but the favor of God transforms promises into reality. Joseph found favor in the eyes of Potiphar (Genesis 39:4) and was trusted to run his household. Subsequently, he saved Egypt and his family from starvation. Even Jesus, Luke 2:52 says, “…increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

In a time of national crisis, Esther (5:2) found favor in the sight of the king and the result was the salvation of her people from genocide. Favor takes the edge off our fear (Luke 1:30), especially when it calls us to venture out to the edges of unknown experiences in behalf of the will of God, “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’” To navigate difficult times in a foreign and sometimes hostile government, God gave Daniel favor (Daniel 1:9). The Lord told Moses, you have found favor, and God granted Moses’s request (Exodus 33:17).

Initially, David found favor in the eyes of King Saul (1 Samuel 16:22) who essentially adopted the lad, but later the relationship became toxic and deadly. Joshua told the people that meditation in the Book of the Law and obedience, would result in favor (prosperity/Joshua 1:8). The prophet Isaiah declared of the Lord, “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people…” (Isaiah 49:8).

Where have you seen blessing and favor in your life?

[1]       Claus Westermann, Blessing in the Bible and the Life of the Church (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1978), 1. The word was compounded by German theologians – Heilsgeschichte (salvation history), Heilslehre (doctrine of salvation), Heilsgewissheit (assurance of salvation), Heilsweg (way of salvation), Heilsbotschaft (message of salvation), Heilsglaube (saving faith).

[2]       Ibid, 2-3.