Every good parent wants to see their children do well. They want to see them thrive in their lives, not having to struggle, finding success and being rewarded for every effort. When parents know Christ they want their children to walk in God’s favor and receive God’s blessing.
In an earlier post we talked about when God began blessing those He had chosen to be His people. God blessed Abraham and continued to bless the following generations. A practice that has caught a lot of attention over the years is that of parents giving blessings to their children, asking God to bless that child’s life. Parents are encouraged to bless their children, regardless of their age or stage of life.
But if we take a look at the biblical record for bestowing the blessing of God, we find a different pattern. The timing of the blessing is crucial. It could be that parents are bringing harm on themselves while they are giving blessings to their children.
Let’s first take a look at when the patriarchs gave these spiritual blessings to their children.
The two great blessings of the Old Testament come at the hands of a father and son. Isaac was the son of Abraham. He was the son of promise, the physical fulfillment of God’s blessing to Abraham. After Abraham passed into eternity, we are told that God blessed Isaac. He did not receive a blessing from his father, which is important to note. He was blessed, and he did receive the same blessing from God as his father. But he received it directly from God.
After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi. (Genesis 25:11)
The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.” (Genesis 26:2-5)
Yet when his own death approached Isaac called his firstborn to him in order to give his blessing. It is the first time we see this in the Scripture, a father giving a blessing to his son. Though the text tells us that Isaac told Esau, “that I may give you my blessing before I die,” it was not really his blessing that he gave to his son. He gave God’s blessing. And though he had intended to give it to Esau, it was given to Jacob.
“May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness–an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.” (Genesis 27:28-29)
This blessing is similar to what God promised to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. It was not formed in the mind and heart of Isaac as a means of asking God’s touch on his parental hopes and dreams for his son. He passed on the blessing that he and his father received from God. When Jacob left to journey to his uncle Laban, Isaac further gave God’s blessing to Jacob (Genesis 28:3-4). It is this blessing that God confirmed in the life of Jacob when He appeared to him at Bethel (Genesis 28:13-15).
If we fast forward into the future we come upon the day that Jacob called is own sons to bless them. At that time Jacob chose to pass on God’s blessing, not to his sons directly, but to his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph (Genesis 48). Jacob recalled and explained the blessing God gave him at Bethel (verses 3-4). Then he declared that the sons of Joseph would be like his own sons, called by his name (verses 5 and 16), and he blessed them.
It was after this blessing that Jacob gathered all of his sons together and prophesied over them (Genesis 49:1-27). Though verse 28 says “he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him,” the words spoken over several of his sons were anything but blessings. They were both personal and prophetic, but not always a blessing. The greatest word was reserved for Joseph (verses 22-26), whose sons had already received Jacob’s blessing.
Rethinking the Blessing
Notice that these patriarchs believed in the power of the blessing, undoubtedly wanted God’s on favor on their children, and yet waited until a specific stage of life to pass this special spiritual blessing to following generations. It was not a the child’s birth, graduation, marriage, or other event in the life of the children. It was as the parent neared death.
Also consider that the blessing was not given equally to all children. Isaac planned to bless Esau, his firstborn, over his younger brother Jacob. Thanks to the scheme of his mother, Jacob deceived Isaac and received the blessing. When Esau questioned his father, Isaac was quick to point out that Jacob would indeed be blessed (Genesis 27:33). To ease the heartbreak of Esau, Isaac attempted to bless him, but it was a far lesser blessing.
When Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph he clearly showed them favor, even over his own sons. By the time of his death, his sons were grown and advancing in years. They had already chosen paths for themselves, fallen into sin, made reputations and lived in the consequences of their life choices.
It appears that the spiritual blessing has some key elements that often go ignored when teaching about a parent’s opportunity to bestow God’s blessing on their children.
The biblical pattern was to give the blessing as one neared his own death. Clearly he considered it valuable to his own life and spiritual favor if he should keep it for so long. This means that when one has received the blessing s/he should cherish it and expect to live in its power for the whole of their lives. Only when their time is nearing its end is it appropriate to pass on the blessing. The implication here is that if the parent passes on the blessing of God at the wrong time, they are forfeiting the favor that was given them. Though they may have walked in the blessing for a number of years, when they pass it along, it is gone.
Not every child is meant to have the blessing. Some will squander the blessing. The sad truth about Esau is that he considered some parts of life with little regard. He gave his birthright to his brother for a bowl of soup. Perhaps he would have made a similar trade with his blessing some day. He was not the right son to receive the blessing. And the same can be seen within the sons of Jacob. Several were hotheaded, selfish, ignorant, and mean-spirited. It would not have been right to give them the blessing, either.
Perhaps this is one reason for the timing of such a blessing. Not only does the one who is living in the blessing keep it and cherish it, walking it for all of their days, but s/he has the opportunity to allow God to direct the blessing to the one who will follow in those footsteps.