The practice of blessings in our life has been pretty dramatic; although, in another way, it has been very subtle. I suppose the best way to describe it would be to say that the cumulative effect of the subtle changes has been significant.
The concept of bestowing blessings is incredibly old. The first instance we find that relates to humans is in Genesis 1:28, where it says,
“And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Isn’t it interesting that blessing is immediately tied with the idea of a commission or a charge to do something? Noah blesses Shem and Japeth and curses Canaan, God blesses Abraham, Melchizedek blesses Abraham, and another intriguing example is when Bethuel and Laban bless Rebekah before she leaves to go marry Isaac. The Scripture reads:
“And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister, may you become thousands of ten thousands, and may your offspring possess the gate of those who hate him!” Genesis 24:60
Isn’t it interesting that this blessing is also a prophecy? When Jacob blesses his 12 sons, the same thing is true; in fact, repeatedly in Scripture we find that the blessings bestowed upon people (and the curses) come true.
There are quite a few examples of the practice of giving blessings in Scripture, but one question we might ask is whether that practice continued into the New Testament, and we find that indeed it did.
Jesus blesses the children in Mark 10:16,
And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
This passage is also significant because it affirms that the “laying on of hands” is synonymous with the idea of giving a blessing. Acts gives us an interesting story that confirms that the giving of blessings is not restricted just to apostles or patriarchs. When Saul was in Damascus (Acts 9:17) recuperating from his experience on the Damascus Road, God uses the blessing of a man named Ananias to heal Paul of his blindness and to impart the Holy Spirit.
Paul instructs Timothy not to be hasty in the laying on of hands (1 Timothy 5:22), which indicates that while Timothy was to continue the practice of giving blessings, he was to take it seriously and not consider it something casual. Also, we see in 2 Timothy 1:6 that Paul gave Timothy his commission through a blessing and the laying on of hands.
The Jewish people have preserved this practice for centuries, and it seems that Christians probably ought not to have let if fall by the wayside either.
A couple of things to note here: 1) the Bible indicates we are a nation of priests or as the Apostle Peter puts it a “royal priesthood”, 2) for centuries the Jews have considered the family table to be a sort of mini-altar where the father of the family functions in a manner reminiscent of the Levitical priests in the Temple.
Just as the priests of old were also teachers, worship leaders, servants on behalf of the people of Israel, the husband/father of a family is to be the “head” or “source” of spiritual activity and awareness in the family. As part of that role, he is to blaze the path forward, walking always in the ways of God. Another aspect of that role is blessing his wife and children, providing both his direction (as discerned from his personal relationship with God and study of Scripture) and the benefit of his “blessing.” This blessing appears to be a unique method of direction and guidance which God desires to release into the lives of His beloved people through the leaders that He has ordained to serve those same people.
When I first began to contemplate that God might wish to speak into and transform the lives of my wife and children through the words that I speak over them, through the laying on of my hands, this seemed a very intimidating thing. In fact, for some time after I was convinced that we ought to be practicing something of this sort I procrastinated for some time until I felt very confident that the state of my life and walk with God was something that my wife and children ought to respect, but more importantly that didn’t cause me to feel like a hypocrite when laying my hands on them and trusting God to speak His words through me for and to them.
So the concept of blessing my family calls me as the husband/father to a very high level of faithfulness. Similarly, it has been fascinating to see the effects that viewing me in this role had on Elisa and the kids. This is difficult to describe, but I would say that beginning to observe the Sabbath and the practice of blessing my wife and children brought about the second most significant change Elisa and I have ever experienced in our marriage. It has been amazing.