“Thy blessing is upon thy people.”
“A happy new year to you” is the cry that rings out in every quarter at this dawn of the year 1964.
But how hollow is the sound of these words, how meaningless they become, how empty of genuine content, when uttered by godless lips, in a godless, essentially unhappy world, to godly and ungodly men alike, and without regard to the question what constitutes true happiness, or whether and how such happiness is possible.
For how shall a man be happy in such a world as ours—a world full of cursing and bitterness, a world at war against God and against man, a world which can know no contentment even in the midst of abundance of things, a world in which even natural joys are never unmixed and unspoiled by misery and fear and sorrow? How shall a man be happy in a world of sin and death? How shall a man be happy in a world that lives and moves in the vicious circle of vanity? How shall a man be happy in a world where the wrath of God is revealed from heaven over all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness?
And how mocking is the very sound of the words of him who shouts, “Happy New Year!”
Yea, and how, indeed, must a man’s own conscience from within testify, even as he utters these words, that he knows how empty, how impossible, how fundamentally vain his wish is!
For what is true happiness? It consists in this, that the blessing of Almighty God is upon a man.
What constitutes a genuinely happy new year? Only this, that in that year the blessing of Jehovah accompanies a man, step by step, throughout his way.
In what sphere is it possible truly to wish one another a happy new year? Only in the sphere of that blessing of Jehovah: in any other sphere that wish is absolutely vain! Happiness there can never be; except in the sense of the psalmist’s words, “Thy blessing is upon thy people.”
In the confession at the blessing of Jehovah is upon His people, they that fear the Lord may bid one another a happy, a blessed, new year. And their wish may be at the same time a prayer, “Let the blessing of Jehovah be upon us, His people.” And the wish and the prayer may both be uttered with the full and firm assurance that they are not and will not be in vain. For His blessing is upon His people! It always has been; and it always will be upon them. And it will never be on any other.
Thy blessing . . .
It is the blessing of Jehovah, the I AM, the eternal and unchangeable and ever-blessed God, the blessing of God who is really GOD, of which the psalmist is speaking here. God’s blessing is a word of God, a divine word, a word of the God Who speaks, and it is done, who commands, and it stands fast. For one who blesses, according to the original term in the text, is one who speaks a good word upon him that is the object of that blessing. Whether that good word is in the form of a mere wish, as is the case when you and I, mere creatures, bless one another; or whether that blessing is in the form of a prophetic reading of the counsel of God, as was the case when the old and dying patriarchs blessed their sons in the old dispensation; or whether that blessing is by God, as the psalmist acknowledges it to be in our text—such is the meaning of blessing: to speak a good word upon the object of our blessing.
But man’s efforts to bless man are all in vain. They are impotent. A man may bestow many gifts upon his fellow man; but blessing is not in mere things. A man may enrich his neighbor with all then abundance and wealth imaginable; he may free the world from the fear of want; but he is utterly powerless to bless his brother. He may express all good wishes of a kind and loving heart; And though it may feel rather nice to know one’s neighbor wishes him good, nevertheless all the kind sentiments of a man’s heart do not add up to blessing.
For man’s word cannot realize what it expresses. Man’s word cannot create that which it ardently desires. Man is only a creature, not the Fountain of all good. In the deepest sense, man cannot even provide gifts and wealth and abundance of good things much less, bless anyone.
God’s word of good-will, however, is entirely different: it is distinctively divine!
The Almighty makes no mere wishes. The Lord expresses no vain hopes.
To bless, really to bless, is a divine right and power. When God blesses, that blessing goes into action! God’s word of good-will is the Word of Him Who speaks, and it comes to pass! His Word is a creative speech. God speaks before things are, and He causes them to be. He calls the things that are not as if they were. When He speaks well upon a creature, that blessing comes. When He speaks ill, who shall prevent His certain curse?
Thy blessing, Jehovah, is upon thy people . . .
Thy powerful, almighty, creative Word for their good is constantly upon them, always accomplishing that which it expresses.
Ponder it, meditate upon it, embrace the truth of it. And then utter the prayer: “Lord, let thy blessing be upon us. For then only can and dare we wish one another a blessed new year.”
Thy blessing is upon thy people!
Nay, my brother, judge not of blessing and blessedness according to your own, human, sinful, this worldly criterion of blessing. For it is of blessing, genuine blessing, that the text speaks. You and I are inclined to judge all things in the light of this world and of this present time. Frequently we think of blessing only in terms” of the immediate present, the passing moment. Even as far as one year, the year 1964, is concerned, we are unable to discern what blessing might entail. And of ultimate ends, of eternal values, we are inclined to lose sight altogether. We are creatures of time, of the moment. Our human criterion of blessing is, in the first place, subjective: the fulfillment of our own desires we consider a good, while failure to reach a desired end we consider evil. That human criterion of blessedness is, in the second place, earthly: we confuse blessing with success and prosperity, and we can weep and wail when our chastisement is there every morning. Our own little criterion of blessing is, in the third place, short-sighted and foolish: we forget that what appears to be a good may be an evil in disguise, and that what seems to be evil may be very good for us. We are apt to inquire only whether the road is broad and smooth, without caring for the direction of that road. We foolishly would avoid the rougher and deeper and steeper stretches of the road, forgetting that without them we cannot reach the promised heavenly country. And thus we obtain an altogether warped and twisted view of things. A man prospers in his business, and he claims that a “kind Providence” is blessing all his efforts. We forget that the almighty word of God may be in all his goods, cursing him to damnation. A farmer’s fields yield abundantly, and he must increase his barns: it is considered a good, a blessing. We fail to consider that “this night” God may take his soul and cast him into destruction. And thus, a nation is blessed when it prospers and grows mighty; an army is blessed when it has the victory; and a church is blessed when it grows in numbers and in standing in the eyes of men.
But that crucial question concerning blessing cannot be answered thus.
Whether anything is a blessing or a curse—and, you understand, it is either a blessing or a curse—is a question that can be answered only in the light of eternity. And then, that only is a blessing which is conducive to our everlasting salvation. A blessing in time, but not for eternity, a so-called blessing of common grace, there is not: it is a contradiction in terms.
God’s blessing is the Word of His grace!
That blessing is upon a man when every word of God over that man flows from God’s everlasting good pleasure unto his eternal glory, from His counsel of salvation. That blessing changes every apparent evil into an eternal good. It is the cause, the reason, that all things work together for good. It is the irresistible operation of Gods grace through every means; through all the way, through every experience, every circumstance, leading inevitably and with absolute certainty unto the joy and the happiness of God’s everlasting tabernacle!
One, exclusive, particular, and therefore, sure, is that divine blessing!
Thy blessing is upon Thy people . . .
God’s blessing is singular, not plural, one, not many. To be sure, there is in that blessing of God a plurality of infinite and manifold riches. But there is only one blessing of God! It cannot be divided into a general and a particular blessing, a common and a special blessing. God is one; His counsel is one; His Word is one; and His blessing is one.
Upon Thy people is Thy blessing!
Thy blessing, Lord, is for Thy people only, and for all Thy people. The others it excludes; instead, the curse follows them to the grave and to hell. For this reason, we know, too, that Thy blessing is sure. For even as the blessing is Thine, so also we, Thy people, are Thine, Thine in the most absolute sense of the word. We are not self determined. We did not choose Thee. Thou hast chosen and ordained us, chosen sovereignly, ordained us in Thy eternal thoughts and purpose. Ordained, we are, to be partakers of Thy fellowship and of everlasting bliss in Thy tabernacle. We are in Thy counsel as the objects of Thy love, ordained to eternal glory in Christ Jesus. And from that same counsel Thy blessing proceeds: it is Thy Word toward the objects of Thy sovereign choice, Thy Word of good-will and sovereign grace. Thy glory Thou didst purpose to reveal in Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Head, and through the myriad of elect members of His body. And all other things in Thy counsel are but means to that end. Nothing is excluded. That counsel is all-comprehensive. Never is there a mistake; all is ordained in infinite wisdom. Everything, according to that counsel, moves and works around and toward that one purpose of the revelation of Thy glory in Christ and His church. All is subordinate to that one purpose.
Hence, Thy blessing must be upon Thy people.
And the central revelation of that blessing we behold in the gift of Thine only begotten Son.
Therefore we exclaim, too: “How shall he not with him freely give us all things?”
And thus, Lord, we look to the year 1964.
For we know not only that Thy blessing shall be upon us in the end. It is upon us now. The Word of Thy goodwill proceeds toward us continuously, surrounds us, meets us, guides us, watches over us, fills us, permeates our food and drink, wards off the enemy, guards us, strengthens us, comforts us, assures us, follows us all the way to the eternal inheritance.
Even though—because Thy ways are deep and inscrutable, and Thy paths unsearchable—even though we cannot always see and understand, we know. For we look not at the things that are seen, but those that are not seen. We regard not our experiences, in order then to judge of Thee and Thy work in the light of them. But we look at Thee in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord, in order then to look at our way in the light of Thy marvelous grace.
And, Lord, knowing that Thy love to us is unchangeable, that Thy blessing is sure and constant, we know that the year of our Lord 1964 will be a genuinely blessed one, whatever may betide. And thus, too, we confidently bid one another “A Blessed New Year!”