The Hebrew word ‘ashrei’ in the Old Testament can be translated as ‘oh how joyful!’ or ‘what joy!’ or ‘how happy!’, but most English bibles have chosen to say ‘blessed!’ I think the word ‘blessed’ has always carried with it the understanding that it’s God who’s giving us good things in our lives, although I notice that the word ‘blessed’ is now being widely used in social media by people who don’t claim to believe in God.
All of us want to be blessed in our lives, but how can we best position ourselves to be in that place of blessing? The psalmist tells us it’s in the Lord’s presence (Psalm 84). ‘How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!’ (Psalm 84:1). Even the birds like to make themselves at home there. ‘Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise’ (Psalm 84:4).
In the Old Testament times the people of God had to go to the temple to be in God’s presence. If they lived far away from the temple they needed to travel to get there. This pilgrimage ended when they appeared before God in Zion. What was in the hearts of the pilgrims? For those who were really seeking God there was blessing. ‘Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion’ (Psalm 84:5). On the way they would turn the dry valley of Baca into a place of springs, and go from strength to strength.
Those who longed for close relationship with the Lord were willing to humble themselves and serve Him. ‘For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness’ (Psalm 84:10). They would be doing their best to obey God’s will and walk in His ways.
When God sees this longing in the hearts of His people, He responds in love. He protects them from harm, and bestows favour and honour on them. He withholds no good thing from them. They enjoy His blessings on their life. The psalmist concludes by saying ‘O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! (Psalm 84:12).
As Christians we too can be in this place of blessing, walking close to the Lord and enjoying His favour, worshipping Him, and trusting in Him. We don’t have to travel to the temple to be in His presence now, because our Lord Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, wherever we are in the world. ‘Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places’ (Ephesians 1:3). The apostle Paul says ‘He has blessed us in the Beloved’ (Ephesians 1:6).
Are we actively seeking to receive all that God has to give to us?
Prayer: Lord, I choose to seek Your presence and worship You alone. I choose to sing Your praise. I choose to trust in You and find my strength in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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