What is God like? Is he a smiling God or a frowning God? How does he look at you and me? Does he approve of us or disapprove of us?
The only place we can find a proper portrait of God is in the pages of Scripture. A classic example is the story of the prodigal son, given to us by Christ himself. In the story, Jesus effectively provides us with a snapshot of God, telling us what God is like. God is portrayed as a father who loves his children. We learn that even when we are sinning against him or running from him, he misses us and longs for our return. It is clearly a picture of a loving father.
Some would say that is the New Testament version of God, that the God of the Old Testament is entirely different. But the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. He is a God of love, a God of mercy and a God of grace. But he is also a God of justice, a God of holiness and a God of righteousness. And he is the same in both the Old and New Testaments.
In the Old Testament book of Numbers, God commanded Moses to have the priests pronounce a blessing on the people, who were wandering in the wilderness. God wanted this blessing pronounced on them again and again. God was essentially saying that he wanted it ingrained in their brains. He wanted it etched in their hearts. He wanted them to know this blessing from memory and be able to recite it at a moment’s notice. Why? Because this blessing actually showed them what God is like. It showed his nature and his attitude toward them – and, in effect, toward us:
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24–26 NKJV)
Some people may look at their lives and wonder whether these verses ought to say, “The Lord curse you …” because they feel as though they are cursed. They feel like they have been dealt a bad hand in life. Some even wonder about generational curses and whether there is a curse that can come upon a family and be passed from generation to generation. The short answer is no. But children often do the same, stupid things their parents did.
That is why we need to really think about our lifestyle and the value system we pass on to the next generation. We need to think about what we say and do, the way we live and the choices we make. That is why it is not uncommon for parents who are divorced to have children who go through divorces themselves. It is not uncommon for parents who have alcohol issues to have children with alcohol issues. If I had followed the pattern of my mother, I would have been a divorced alcoholic. But the good news is that even when bad behavior is being passed down, God can step in, interrupt it and change it. A new pattern can be started and passed on to children and grandchildren. That is what I have tried to do.
In addition to talking about being blessed, the Bible also talks about being cursed. For example, God cursed Canaan because of his disobedience (see Genesis 9:25). God said there would be a curse on the person who worships false gods (see Deuteronomy 27:15). The list goes on. There is a place in which we can be cursed.
God says there will be consequences to reap for the choices we make. If we make bad choices, then we will be cursed. We will have to face up to what we have done. God summed it up this way: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Numbers 30:19).
God was basically saying, “Here’s how it works. You have a choice in life. I have given you free will. You can be blessed, or you can be cursed. You can have life, or you can have death. The choice is up to you. And by the way … choose life.”
It’s like the teacher who announces that he is about to give a test, but then adds, “This is the question you will be asked. And, by the way, here is the answer to the question. …” In the same way, God is giving us a little hint for the tests we will face: “Choose life.” But he won’t violate our free will.
God loves to bless us. Jesus said, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
In the New Testament, we see that Jesus both started and concluded his ministry by blessing people. When children were brought to him, he took them in his arms and blessed them. When he saw the two downhearted disciples on the road to Emmaus, he joined them and blessed them. After his resurrection, Luke’s gospel tells us that “Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven” (24:50–51 NLT).
God loves to bless you. But also know this: God wants to bless you even more than you want to be blessed. Isn’t that great to know? But this applies to believers only. The reason believers can have God’s blessing is because Jesus took the curse: “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing …” (Galatians 3:13).
Jesus was cursed so that we can be blessed. Jesus died so that we can live. Jesus was forsaken so that we might be forgiven. He took the curse. He absorbed it for all of us. You don’t have to live a cursed life. You can live a blessed life. The choice is up to you.