It has been months since I wrote anything here, but this has been time where I have been seeking God’s leading and direction and I am at the verge of some exciting times in my spiritual walk I believe.
And so this week on Sunday I wrote to my home cell group in Hout Bay and told them we will be studying the Power of Blessing. I did not know why I felt this should be the topic, but I have recently been looking at the blessings Jacob imparted to his sons (found in Genesis ch 49 and 50). So then what happens as so often happens when you walk with the Lord, is I was looking for a software CD at home and found a DVD that my dad had given me years ago – a talk by Rick Godwin on the power of blessing. I had never listened to that DVD properly and lo and behold, up it pops out of nowhere.
My first thoughts turn to the way we use the words “Bless you” in English. We usually say “bless you” after someone sneezes. Or we say God bless this food to our bodies when we say grace before a meal. Why do we do this and has this anything to do with the Bible?
Well I looked up why we say bless you after a sneeze and this is what i found:
Wishing someone well after they sneeze probably originated thousands of years ago. The Romans would say “Jupiter preserve you” or “Salve,” which meant “good health to you,” and the Greeks would wish each other “long life.” The phrase “God bless you” is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great, who uttered it in the sixth century during a bubonic plague epidemic (sneezing is an obvious symptom of one form of the plague).
The exchangeable term “gesundheit” comes from Germany, and it literally means “health.” The idea is that a sneeze typically precedes illness. It entered the English language in the early part of the 20th century, brought to the United States by German-speaking immigrants.
Virtually every country around the globe has its own way of wishing sneezers well. People in Arabic countries say, “Alhamdulillah,” which means, “praise be to God.” Hindus say, “Live!” or “Live well!” Some countries have special sneezing responses for children. In Russia, after children are given the traditional response, “bud zdorov” (“be healthy”), they are also told “rosti bolshoi” (“grow big”). When a child sneezes in China, he or she will hear “bai sui,” which means, “may you live 100 years.”
For the most part, the various sneeze responses originated from ancient superstitions. Some people believed that a sneeze causes the soul to escape the body through the nose. Saying “bless you” would stop the devil from claiming the person’s freed soul. Others believed the opposite: that evil spirits use the sneeze as an opportunity to enter a person’s body. There was also the misconception that the heart momentarily stops during a sneeze (it doesn’t), and that saying “bless you” was a way of welcoming the person back to life.
This is interesting, because it pre-supposes a belief that sneezing means you are about to get sick. Jesus has already healed us by his stripes on the cross. Jesus died not only for our salvation but also to bring us health through his body broken. Well this is so, if you believe Isaiah anyway. And I do!
So I wonder if saying bless you after someone sneezes is contrary to holding faith that through Christ we have been healed? It makes me think anyway. But this is not the real use of the word blessing as I understand it in the Bible. Jesus blessed the food before he ate with his disciples, and this is why we say grace / ask God to bless the food to our bodies.
But there is sooooo much more to biblical blessing. Til tomorrow