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Genesis 22:18 - Count Your Blessings


Audio Sermon

Count Your Blessings

In your seed, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:18)

A song was written in 1897, called “Count Your Blessings." The words were by Johnson Oatman, Jr., and the music was by Edwin Excell. I remember singing it as a teenager in a little Baptist Church. It seemed to be just another song at the time, but I have begun to understand its importance. Here’s the refrain from “Count Your Blessings” –

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

The Hebrew word for “bless,” “blessed” and “blessings” in its various usages, is often a form of the word, “ehsher,” which simply means “happiness.” Forms of that word are found over forty times in Scripture, including the beautiful statement of David in Psalm 144:15 – “Happy (blessed) are the people whose God is the Lord.” As it has been said, most people “look for happiness in all the wrong places” - real happiness comes when your “God is the Lord.”

But there is another Hebrew word for “bless” or “blessing,” found in the Old Testament about four hundred times. It is the Hebrew word, “barak,” in its various usages, and it is the one in our Scripture for today. The word reflects something promised to someone lower in rank. A parent would promise to give his or her estate to a child. A slave-owner would pledge to bless his slave at a point in the future by setting him or her free. Most important for us, it refers to the promise of God, given to those who TRUST in Him.

Today’s Scripture is a 4000 year-old promise made by God to the man who is often called “Father Abraham,” because of his important role in history. God gave him a promise, a blessing that extends even to you and me. In Abraham’s life we see a clear glimpse that God will accept us on the basis of FAITH in our Lord. Abraham “BELIEVED in the Lord and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). The promise to Abraham included that, “ALL the nations of the earth shall be blessed” through him. The word for “nations” in that promise is very interesting. It is a form of the Hebrew word, “goy,” which we today would express by the word, “Gentiles,” referring to people who are not Jews.

Does this mean that the people called “Israel” are somehow NOT a part of this promise?” Never! God will NEVER forsake His blessing, His promise to Israel. That’s what Paul the Apostle emphatically asked and answered in Romans 11:1-2 – “Has God cast away His people?” And then he answers his own question: “Certainly not!” And he continues, “For I also am an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has NOT cast away His people whom He foreknew.” And He will not cast you away, either.

Let’s count our blessings now and for the rest of our lives. It’s a choice, isn’t it? A choice we make every time we think about our circumstances. Here’s an example: I was born with a spinal column that’s sort of like a “time bomb.” My spine contains what the doctors called a “hidden spina bifida,” an opening in the spine, but one that is not seen outwardly. I have scoliosis, a bend in my spine that seems to effect just about everything, especially on the left side of my body. The scoliosis has led to other problems in the spine, for it seems that every time they X-ray some part of it, they find a couple more discs that are crushed or out-of-place.

It’s painful. I have chronic neck, back, hip and leg pain, especially on that left side. And here’s where I make the choice. I can dwell on the pain and decide that I really don’t want to get out of bed today. I can think about preparing a sermon for this week, but then decide that sitting in that computer chair is part of the problem and not do it after all. But here’s what actually happens: I thank God almost every day that I can sit and walk! - we know MANY who can’t. Those who CAN should praise God every moment of every day. I remember the years I was in a wheelchair and could not walk. If it happens again, I will hopefully praise Him for the OTHER blessings He has placed into my life.

And in preparing sermons and studies, I praise the Lord every time, for I remember when I could not do it. You may know my story. God called me to His service, but I refused. Later, I expected His call to be immediately renewed, but it was not. I longed to teach His Word for decades, but very few doors opened. Last year, over 800,000 visitors came to Friday Study Ministries, the First Church on the Net, and heard the words that God ENCOURAGES me to speak. When I sit at the computer, I do not care about pain because God is here in the ideas, the preparation and everything else. He is the most wonderful blessing of all.

Count your blessings, name them one by one.” The tendency of humans, whether there is pain in the body or depression in the mind, or both, is that we tend to avoid life, to withdraw through angry responses that drive others away. People do it by overeating or self-imposed starvation, labeled “anorexia.” Many try to “stuff” pain with alcohol, drugs, overwork, thrill-seeking adventures and endless “fun.” But it isn’t enough.

There are many who look at their lives and decide they have few blessings to “count.” If that is you, try a new approach this year. Prayerfully make a list of the blessings from God that you HAVE received. If the list is short, it may be your count is off, but it also may be time to come out of your sorrow and FIND the blessings that God has for you.

I recently was privileged to do the memorial service for Barbara Davenport, a lady who could not move her arms and legs for the last 31-years of her life. She was depressed after she was paralyzed, but then decided to enter life. We knew she was an active person, but in preparing the service, I learned that she logged 11,500 actual hours as a volunteer at the local Veterans hospital. She who needed a friend BECAME a friend, helping many others.

My wife, Genevieve, and I have decided to “count” our “blessings” this year. She is one of my blessings, by the way – God’s gift to me. This year, let’s PRAY for what we need and then write those prayers down. And let’s honestly COUNT the blessings when they come. Prayer itself is a blessing. Why would the King of Glory listen to people like you and me? – He does, every time. Join a prayer ministry and actively pray for others. Like a muscle that must be exercised, your prayer life will grow by simply doing it. Nobody telephones you? Do something different this year – call THEM! Do you need help? Like Barbara, make a friend, be a friend, and no matter how helpless you may be, receive a blessing by helping those who God sends your way.

Father, open my eyes that I may see your blessings, and show me how to BE a blessing to others today. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
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