This new article on "Blessing & Curse" is up at InTouch Magazine. You can read the full article here.
We all say “Bless you!” reflexively when someone sneezes, or “I’ve been blessed” as we pull into that prime parking spot at the grocery store. Nice sentiments, certainly, but what does blessing mean? While it’s certainly good to be thankful for God’s presence in the little things of life, there’s a danger that our focus on them can trivialize a bigger, more robust God-sized vision. To get a better sense of the word’s scope and meaning, let’s look at blessing (or barak, in Hebrew)—and its alternative, curse (qalal)—in their respective biblical contexts.
TWO MIGHTY MOUNTAINS
God set two paths before the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land: “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse” (Deut. 11:26). The blessing was theirs if they followed the ways of the Lord; the curse, if they turned to their own wicked ways and rebelled.
Visuals are helpful, so the Lord gave them a very striking image: two mighty mountains. The people were to pronounce the blessings on Mount Gerizim and the curses on Mount Ebal (Deut. 11:29; Josh. 8:30-35). Both were about the same height, and in a valley between them was located the major crossroads of Shechem.
If you were standing at this intersection, facing Gerizim would orient you toward Jerusalem, God’s dwelling place. And if you turned toward Ebal, you’d be facing away from the holy city, toward the land of exile and suggesting distance from God. Jewish tradition has it that Mount Gerizim (the mount of “blessing”) was lush with vegetation, while Mount Ebal was dry and barren…