We read it in the Bible and we sing it often: “Bless the Lord oh my soul,” or “Blessed be the Lord”. But what does it mean to bless the Lord? How can we, as humans, bless an infinitely big God? In this article, we’ll get to the bottom of what it means to bless food, people, and God.
The Biblical definition of blessing
Let’s start with defining the verb “blessing”.
It might seem obvious what “blessing” means because most people experience blessings as good things that happen to them. Blessing someone then means wishing them well.
But actually, there is a bit more to it than that.
The Old Testament mostly uses the Hebrew word barak and its derivatives to describe the act of blessing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about blessing God, people, or things, nor who does the blessing.
Barak means to bless, but also to kneel down. This is important because by kneeling down, we make ourselves smaller; we humble ourselves. We’ll dig a litter deeper into this later.
Some translations use the word praise to translate barak when it comes to blessing God. That makes sense, but as you’ll see, that clarification does leave out some of the meaning of the act of blessing God.
The New Testament mostly uses the Greek word eulogeó, where the word eulogy comes from. Eu means good, and logos means word or speech. So eulogeó means to speak well of or to praise, and so by inference: to bless.
What does it mean to bless?
Knowing these definitions of the word blessing helps to give clarity to a lot of Bible verses. It helps to get a clearer picture of what actually happened when blessings were spoken over food, people, or God.
Blessings over food
We read that Jesus blessed food in for example Matthew 26:26 (ESV): “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it [eulogesas] broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”
And in Luke 9:16 (ESV): “And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing [eulogesen] over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.”
Knowing the definition of this Greek word, it now becomes clear what Jesus did: He spoke good things over the bread.
He might have given thanks for it on both occasions, as some translations suggest. He probably did, since we can read in John 6:11 that Jesus did give thanks in the same situation as described by Luke.
And Paul also talks about food that God created to be received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:3, Acts 27:35). So, it seems very likely that Jesus expressed His gratitude for the food towards God on these occasions too.
But I doubt that giving thanks was the only thing He did. Why otherwise would Matthew and Luke not simply state that He gave thanks as John did? They specifically used the verb eulogeó to describe His actions, which, as we’ve seen, is much broader than the act of giving thanks.
There’s no way of knowing for sure what His exact words were, but to me, it seems that He spoke good things over the bread while expressing His gratitude to God for His provision.
And remember that “blessing” originally implies a humble attitude? Maybe that was one of the reasons why Jesus had the people sit down before receiving the bread.
In any case, if we receive food with thanksgiving, the Word of God and prayer make it holy.
That means that it is sanctified, purified, and set apart. In other words, something that had no real worth to begin with, through thankful prayer becomes worthy and good, because of Jesus. It becomes blessed.
Similarly, we are sanctified, purified, and set apart by Jesus, the Word of God. And therefore, blessed.
Blessings over people
People can bless each other in various ways. For example by:
- Speaking a prophetic message over someone (Deuteronomy 33, 1 Timothy 4:14, Revelation 1:3).
- Asking God to bless the other person (Psalm 3:8, 2 Corinthians 1:11).
- Repeating God’s promises over someone’s life (Numbers 6:22-27, Deuteronomy 1:11).
- Imparting God’s gifts (Romans 1:11-12, 2 Timothy 1:6).
- Being a blessing by putting God’s love into action and serving each other (Galatians 5:13, John 13:14, 1 Peter 4:10).
But as the writer of Hebrews says: It is always the greater who blesses the “lesser” (Hebrews 7:7). This means that if you have something, like knowledge, a gift, money, or authority, you can bless someone who doesn’t have those things by using or sharing those good things for his or her benefit.
The rich (who have an abundance of something) give to the poor (who lack something).
And because the greater blesses the lesser, God is in the best position to bless anyone or anything. He owns everything, knows everything, and has all power (Deuteronomy 10:14, Jeremiah 32:17, 1 John 3:20-22). That is why He can give you whatever you need, whenever you need it.
He is the One Who blessed us first, and Who put us in the position to bless others (Deuteronomy 8:17-18, 1 Corinthians 4:7).
So, in all of the aforementioned examples, we act in a certain way to have something positive happen in someone’s life, by means of extending God’s goodness. We are merely messengers and doers. In Jesus’ Name, we declare, share, pray, and act, but God is the One Who orchestrates and provides.
In essence, that is also what we do when we bless our enemies like we’re supposed to (Luke 6:28, Romans 12:14, 1 Peter 3:9). From a place of abundance in Christ, we share and extend gifts like the love, knowledge, and forgiveness that we have received from Jesus ourselves.
Okay so if God is the Superior Who blesses us, and through Whom we bless others, how then can we bless Him?
While I was studying this topic, I counted over 60 times in the Bible where someone blessed God or commanded to bless God. You can find some examples in Psalm 103, Luke 2:28, Genesis 24:48, Exodus 18:10, Deuteronomy 8:10, 1 Peter 1:3, and Ephesians 1:3.
Of course, you could say that in each of those instances God was praised. But I think that, if we dig a bit deeper, we’ll see that praise was just a part of the blessing. Because why else would the writers of the Old Testament use forms of the word barak (meaning blessing) instead of Hebrew words to describe praise specifically?
When we feel blessed, we are glad and grateful because we have received something that we wanted, for instance when our prayers have been answered. It might be that we have received provisions, a spiritual gift, healing, help in a certain area, or a newborn baby, etcetera.
God also wants something from us, something that according to His Word, pleases Him. And that is that by faith in Him, we live God-glorifying, holy lives (Hebrews 11:5-6, 10:38, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3, 1 Corinthians 10:31). Lives that bless other people too, because if He gets the glory, we point to Him as our Savior, our Source, and not to ourselves. And as a consequence, other people might look in the direction in which we point, and turn to Jesus too.
So, God experiences pleasure in the one who lives by faith (Hebrews 10:38). And being pleased with someone means that you are glad, delighted, and proud of someone. Therefore, you could say that pleasing God by the way you live is, in a way, blessing Him.
The fact that we can bless God, is also confirmed by Jesus when He said that when we bless our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are blessing Him (Matthew 25:40).
That means that by faith we can bless God in all kinds of ways, with our whole being and our actions. And so also with words that flow from the heart (Matthew 15:18).
From our hearts then will flow words of praise, love, gratitude, joy, hope, and truth that lift up our God. We will hallow His name. We will boast in Him. We will proclaim: “Look what God has done!”
Or if we put it in more sober words: We will say good things about Him (eulogeó).
Interestingly, to be able to bless God in this way, we need to humble ourselves and see His superior greatness. We need to become less while He becomes greater (John 3:30). And this is also how the full meaning of the word barak is fulfilled: We lift Him up with bended knees.
In other words, we exult in the Lord and exalt Him while we do it.
Much like David did in Psalm 103, in which he commanded his soul to bless the Lord. With that Psalm, David:
- Commanded all of his thinking, feeling, and every cell of his body to see God as all-satisfying, praiseworthy, trustworthy, righteous, loving, merciful, etc.
- Ordered his mind to remember good things about God.
- Humbled himself by proclaiming the greatness of God in comparison to human beings.
- Sought to make his thoughts and feelings subject to the truth of God’s Word.
- Let his tongue worship God in truth.
And what motivated these actions? Yes, faith. The same faith that pleases God. And we can do the same!
Why we bless
We’ve just seen what blessing the Lord, blessing people, and blessing food look like. And when you think about it, it all comes down to this:
To share, carry out, and/or verbally express God’s goodness in faith and humbleness.
When we are humble enough and continue to see God’s goodness by faith, we can see how God blesses us even in the worst circumstances. God is good, God is love, and He only means good for us (Jeremiah 29:11, Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:8, 31-39).
As a result of our humbleness and faith, we will not take ownership over the blessings granted to us as if we have somehow caused them. Instead, we will understand that God’s gracious hand is at work in our lives. He gave us these blessings, not to greedily hoard them, but to fulfill His plan for us and to share what we have (Luke 3:11, Romans 15:27, Hebrews 13:16).
A heart that is truly humble and grateful towards God, will want to express gratitude and will want to tell of God’s goodness. It will want to share this goodness and demonstrate it; blessing others is pleasing to the Spirit-filled heart. Therefore, it will feel blessed when it blesses!
But that’s not all. The Bible teaches us that the more we bless, the more we ourselves will be blessed in return (Luke 6:38, 2 Corinthians 9:6, Acts 20:35).
So, don’t hold back, but bless!