“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.” Psalm 128:1
According to Psalm 128:1, those who “fear the Lord” will be blessed. But what does it mean to be blessed by God? There are four categories of blessing: Present physical, present spiritual, future spiritual, and future physical.
The focus in Psalm 128 is on present physical blessings. Verse 2 expands on the blessing of verse 1 to describe productive and fruitful labor: “You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.” Verse 3 describes the blessing in terms of a fruitful marriage and children. Verse 5 speaks of “prosperity” and verse 6 describes blessing as being able to “live to see your children’s children.”
The focus of this Psalm is typical of how blessings are described in the Old Testament. Blessings take the form of land, fruitful fields, prosperity, military victory, security, large flocks, good health, long life, a good spouse, and the presence of children and grandchildren. And, while the emphasis on this sort of blessing is lessened to some degree in the New Testament, it is not entirely removed. Proverbs instructs us to connect the dots between living in accordance with God’s law and experiencing some measure of present physical blessings from God.
But, this doesn’t always happen and there are many counter-examples. Psalm 129, the vert next psalm, is the first-person account of someone who has been beaten and oppressed. There’s no indication that such a person was in that place because they failed to properly “fear the Lord.” It’s usually wrong to look at a lack of blessing and infer a lack of faith. Instead, suffering and hardship are a “natural” part of living in a fallen and sinful world. If we limit “blessing” to physical blessings in this life, we will miss out on the much broader picture of what God has in store for those who follow Him.
God also gives present “spiritual blessings.” Examples abound but are several listed in Philippians 2:1
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion.”
These words describe gifts which we receive by being united with Christ. We can experience these blessings completely apart from our circumstances. Paul speaks of learning to be content in all situations. This, too, is a spiritual blessing. These may not be tangible, buy they are no less real. If pressed, it is easy to think of individuals who lack some of the physical blessings listed above but who are far more blessed in this spiritual sense. They are poor yet rich.
But even these present spiritual blessings pale in comparison to the spiritual blessings we can expect to experience in heaven. Even now we can experience the presence of Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But in heaven we will experience his presence “face to face”. We will go from seeing dimly to seeing clearly. Right now, we experience joy, but it is always tinged with some level of pain or worry. Then all our tears will be washed away. We will no longer experience pain in a way that diminishes our eternal joy in the presence of God.
Many of us will stop here. Given the experiential reality that sometimes those who trust in God do not experience material blessings in this life, or that those in open rebellion live in opulence, there is a tendency to spiritualize every blessing. When combined with a latent platonic worldview that sees the physical world with suspicion we get a purely spiritualized otherworldly experience. But this is not the biblical perspective. The glorious physical bounties of Eden will be restored on the New Earth. We will indeed experience physical blessings in our Resurrected bodies. The “prosperity gospel” gets it right that God wants us to be healthy and wealthy. They just get the timing wrong when they assume it will happen in this life. Those who fear the Lord will have never-die health and will be inheritors of the earth, it just won’t happen on this side of the resurrection.
Best yet, we will be able to experience the future physical blessing while also experiencing the future eternal spiritual blessings of being with Jesus. We get to enjoy both the gift and the Giver to the full.
If you’re in Christ, you are #Blessed