I start to play a strange, unconscious game when I’m nervous about something.
I know how I want this thing to go. I know I want to ask God to help. But at the same time, I’m aware of the hypocrisy of asking God to bless me even though earlier that week or even earlier that day, I was actively sinning against Him.
So I start to bargain with myself, and I guess with God, even though I know He’s not playing. I tell myself that if I am good for the next 3-5 business days, then God will help me get through the thing I’m nervous about.
If I start acting right, then God will bless me.
But what if there’s a simpler way to get to my goal? Is there a hack or some sort of quick fix that will make it so God always blesses me with what I need?
After all, look at people like the Israelites. So imperfect, so flawed, yet we have been reading chapter after chapter about the blessings of wealth and land that God is giving them, and this chapter is no different.
So what did the Israelites know? How do you get God to bless you?
I think the only blessings handed out in this chapter is land, but that’s okay! It’s the same thing. Three different groups of people are blessed by God in this way.
First, there’s Caleb. Caleb’s approach is simple – he straight up asks for his flowers.
Caleb reminds Joshua, the one with the keys to the big patch of land being divvied up, that he had worked for this.
Everyone else was scared, he recalled, when he and a few spies had first cased the Promised Land, but he had “followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly” (verse 8). He hadn’t been scared of the battles they’d have to fight to win the land – he had known God would lead them.
Because of his faith, God had promised him a place in the land he had bravely explored. Now, Caleb believed that promise would finally be fulfilled.
And it was. Caleb settled down in a lovely city called Hebron.
Caleb had been obedient to God. He trusted God. Then he boldly claimed God’s promises. Sounds like a plan, right? This is how you get God to bless you.
Except, then you have the rest of the Israelites. They just get their inheritance handed to them.
It’s been a bumpy road for the Israelite nation. “Obedient” probably isn’t the word you’d use to describe them. They had intermittently whined, complained, distrusted God, disobeyed God, dramatically pleaded for forgiveness, and then started the whole cycle over again.
In a word, the Israelites didn’t deserve to be blessed. They didn’t deserve the land, the peace and quiet. They didn’t even deserve to be God’s chosen people.
But He still blessed them. And He blessed them a lot.
Okay, so this is getting a little murky – God will bless us if we obey, or we might just get lucky? I guess overall, this is still good, right? It makes enough sense.
But let’s not forget the Levites.
I think we can all agree that the Levites were good people. Many years ago, they had boldly stood on God’s side even as a huge chunk of the Israelites were worshipping a golden calf. They had committed to a lifelong service to God in the tabernacle as His priests.
Yet, when it came to the Levites, they got nothing. Nada. No inheritance for them. “The Levites received no share of the land” (verse 4).
Why? Explanations and answers are tucked into the Bible, but they all have one thing in common – God wanted it that way. God chose not to bless the Levites in the way they might have wanted, in the way they might have felt they deserved.
But they still had towns to live in. They had the joy of serving God in His tabernacle, coming closer to Him than any other tribe.
They were still blessed.
But be that as it may, it brings us no closer to answering our question. In fact, it drags us farther way. How do we get God to bless us, especially when one day He might just choose not to?
“I am your blessing, your very sweet reward.”
Maybe it’s easier than we think.
We can daydream, bargain, scheme, and beg for a blessing from God, but the truth is that our versions of what we want pale in comparison to what God knows we need.
At the end of the day, a relationship with Him is the most crucial, most satisfying blessing we could ever receive, not because of what He’ll give us, but because of who He is.
In all the many ways we see God choose to bless His people in this chapter and in life in general, we can see that He knows us and He knows how to deal with us.
He is straight with us, like He was with the Levites. He tells us the truth.
He welcomes our questions, our voices, like He did with Caleb. He tells us that if we come to Him, He’ll answer our questions.
And He’s merciful to us, like He was with the Israelites as a whole and like He is with you and me.
God is not a fairy godparent, a vending machine or an angry King. He’s a real God with a real relationship with the real us. That means that we can be real with Him. That means that we can trust Him. No games, no bargains, just simple faith.
And that is a blessing all by itself.
What do you think? Why do you think God blesses us in different ways?