Links Daily Devotional

Beyond the Platitudes

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us—so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. (Psalm 67:1-2, NIV)

Apparently, her husband didn’t get the memo.

My golf buddy and I often show up to the course as two. Sometimes we play that way, but typically we are paired with others. In this way, golf is one part sport and one part social engagement. This time, we were joined by a couple. He played something better than bogey golf, but she was newer to the game and had only broken 100 once.

As the round progressed, as you might expect from a relative newbie, the wife missed shots. And it was at one of these moments when the husband revealed his inadequacies as a teacher. He fell back on the standard refrain: “Gotta keep your head down.”

I was actually watching this very swing from quite close. She did not lift her head up. While many golfers peek too early when it comes to putting, it’s actually pretty rare that one “picks up” their head; if anything, the concentration is so great in a novice golfer that they will lock their head in a downward position or their swing is so wild that pretty much everything moves in a way it shouldn’t. “Gotta keep your head down” is a platitude, a nicety delivered when the speaker has nothing more meaningful to say.

When it comes to expressions of faith, “God bless you” is right up there in the hierarchy of platitudes. You can say it after a sneeze, before a wedding, or when someone pays you a kindness. It’s the Christian catch-all, and since we find a hope for it here in the Psalms, it fits the bill for our Jewish friends, too.

The beauty, of course, is that God does indeed bless us. Not just spiritually. Not just eternally. God blesses us every day, with his graciousness and presence, and also with his provision and mercy.

But here’s where the platitude gets it wrong: It suggests God blesses us because first of all he has us in mind. That’s not what the Bible says at all. And it’s not what our psalmist desired in today’s coupled verses.

We are not to desire God’s blessing chiefly for our sake (though we do not have to dismiss this aspect of his favor as though nothing comes our way or as though we’re spiritually above it all). Instead, we desire God’s blessing because in giving it he reveals the lovingkindness of his ways; he shows how much he has to give. When we push past the platitude, we find ourselves where we should be: in God’s camp. We worship his excellence and advocate for its open display. We want to be a blessed people, favored by God, but we want this for his glory far more than we want it for our comfort.

Jeff Hopper
January 25, 2017
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