How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in His commandments. Psalm 112:1
Blessed – Hebrew is a careful vocabulary when it comes to God. Some words are only used with God. Some words are never applied to God. If you were a Jew and you wanted to say, “God bless you”, you would never use the word found in this Psalm. ‘Ashre is used only for the inner state of bliss found in human beings, never for the condition of God’s heart. When God blesses, the verb is barak, never ‘ashre. Why? Because ‘ashre is a word about envious desire and human action. It is a word that describes a state that I wish I had or that I am privileged to have as a result of something that I do. What I do might be quite spiritual, as we see in this verse (I need to fear the Lord). But no matter what the action, it is in at least one sense earned. It requires my effort. Therefore, it does not come to me as the free gift of grace. So Hebrew distinguishes this word as a strictly human word. It’s good, but it’s not grace.
Human states of bliss are very different than God-granted grace. When God gives a blessing, it comes undeserved. God’s blessings are the result of His choice alone. They do not result from any actions on our part. We need to constantly remind ourselves of this grace-full fact. Nothing that we do obligates God. Don’t be misled into thinking that you can earn God’s favor by tithing, worshipping, praying or any other actions of spiritual or moral behavior. God gives without grades. How God gives is entirely up to Him. It is not influenced by your righteousness or lack thereof. That is cause for celebration because if God graded on the curve, you and I would fail miserably. Thank God (everyday) that He does not include ‘ashre in His vocabulary.
On the other hand, ‘ashre is a very handy word when it comes to understanding how the human world works. You see, there are things that we can do that will affect our lives. We do not passively wait for God’s grace. We act according to the way God has made the world and things happen. Paul summed it all up with “what you sow you will reap”. And if we sow the fear of the Lord and the delight in His commandments, we will reap ‘ashre – a state of bliss. That is also very good news.
Two kinds of blessing. One human. One divine. Don’t mix them up. But be sure both are present in your life.