Sermon: Leadership and the Covenants (Part Thirteen)
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 20-Aug-16; 71 minutes
I am going to be continuing the series of sermons that I began at the beginning of the year. The overall subject is leadership and covenants and I have a several very good reasons for giving them. Please turn to Proverbs 29.
Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law.
Proverbs 29:18 [King James version] Where there is no vision the people perish, . . .
And another Bible version says, “as a result of this the people run wild.”
What the scripture is basically saying is, if there is no revelation from God, if God does not open people’s minds to see where He is headed with His purpose, then they are going to do whatever comes to their mind and would please them to do at any given time. Most of the time it is not going to be the keeping of God's commandments; they are going to do whatever they good and well please to do. That is why it says, the people cast off restraint.
This has to say what it does because a revelation has to come from God, and as we will see before this over, He does this individually, purposely. He calls people into what the purpose that He is working out in order for those who He called out to fulfill a certain responsibility.
If we are going to fulfill the responsibility of our calling, we better be in alignment with Him. That is what our responsibilities are according to our Creator. This is one of the reasons why the covenants are given in the Bible. A covenant assigns the various responsibility of each party within the agreement that a given covenant contains.
You make a covenant with a bank—a mortgage—in which the bank says, you sign on this line and we will sign over here on this line, and as the bank we will put up the money to buy the house, and as for you, your responsibility is to give “x” number of dollars every month in order to pay off what you owe us. God does the same thing. He makes covenants with people, or groups of people, and He assigns responsibilities within those covenants. If we give ourselves to Him when He calls and chooses us to be part of what He is working out, then we are agreeing, just like a covenant with a bank, that we are going to carry out those responsibilities.
Another thing that the covenants in the Bible do is they assign penalties. If we do not meet the requirements of the covenants then we are going to be penalized. God has every right to do it because we voluntarily signed what He called us to do. Since our name is on the agreement we are going to be penalized if we do not meet the agreement.
There are covenants that appear throughout the Bible. The two best-known are ones that are nominally called the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Most people think that the Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant, and that the Old Covenant no longer matters. Not so. The New Covenant did not do away with the Old Covenant! It did modify it tremendously, but the apostle Paul makes it very clear in Hebrews 8, that it is becoming obsolete. The word becoming means that it continues on in certain circumstances, but it is not completely done away.
The covenant that God made with Adam and Eve is still in effect to some degree. What He assigned Adam and Eve and all of their children, meaning you and me, to do, some of that is still binding upon us even though it took place six thousand years ago.
An additional reason to pay a lot of attention to covenants is that the covenants reveal many of the promises that God has made to mankind, and that He will fulfill as we complete our part in the covenant that we made with Him. He will meet His responsibilities that He puts in those covenants and He will bless us, because we are faithful to carry out the responsibilities that come upon us.
We will summarize what we began with here. There are quite a number of covenants in the Bible, and those covenants outline what our responsibilities are, what God's responsibilities are, what God's promises are to us as well. If we misfire somewhere along the way they also contain the penalties that will fall on us because we did not meet the payment that is required of us. Covenants are very important to us.
What, in an overall sense, has God called us to, what has He invited us to? That is what the word called means, an invitation from Him to participate in what He is doing. God is recreating Himself, He is expanding His Family. He is the model that He is using for us to meet as He continues His creation.
I Corinthians 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?
Paul is describing the human body, which God designed, built. If the whole body was an eye we would not need the rest of the body, but we can look at our own and understand what God has made here. He is describing the church—it is a body of people. The description is in the form of and shape of something we understand or can visualize very easy, that is the human body. He describes here all different parts functioning in order to make that body useful.
I Corinthians 12:18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.
He is describing here the church, as though it were a human body and that each part of that body is filled by a human being. God is placing each one of us in that body where He knows we fit and can therefore carry out the responsibilities that He is assigning us.
This is awesome to say the least, that He breaks down what He is doing into something that we should be able to understand easily.
I do not want to allow ourselves to drift away from the central issue of this series of messages on leadership and covenants, and the reason is because the covenants tell us what our goal is. Our goal is to please God, our goal is to be in the Kingdom of God, our goal is to be in the Family of God. What we are training for—practicing for, schooling for—is that God is producing a leadership organization that will work under Him when Jesus Christ returns. That is very simple and easy to understand, and parts of it are scattered throughout this entire big thick Book.
If we are not careful it is easy to allow these things to slip away from us because there is so much going on in our life that we can possibly pay attention to. My job is to stir you up, my job is to teach you, my job is to correct you from time to time. My job is to make sure that I fulfill a responsibility under God by teaching you so that you are well-equipped and well-prepared to submit and yield to Him—not to me, but to Him.
Hopefully I will be teaching the truth as we go along, I do not want you to be able to come up with an excuse that dismisses what God has done—the fantastic things that He has done, merciful things that the world just calls salvation. One of the reasons that I went into I Corinthians 12 is because I want to make sure that you understand that you have no right before God to feel as though you are just one of the herd. God calls people, invites people, into His Family one at a time.
He personally chooses the person He wants in His Family. That is why the apostle Paul said there in I Corinthians 12:18, God places them in the body where it pleases Him, not where we want to be but, where He wants that person to be. He will put that person in a job they can do. He does not overload us by giving us a job that we cannot do. He is not in the business of killing people, of making them fail. He is a creator, He builds.
He creates, in a sense, almost something out of nothing, because when He calls us we are nothing. As He works on us, it may take a lifetime for Him to accomplish what He wants, but when we are done we will be in His image. Not that we will look like Him, but we will have character like Him—we will think like Him, we will know and understand the way He does. From the time He calls us until the time our salvation actually comes, it might be many, many years. It might take many years to make a God.
We are going to see that God is precise in everything that He does. All we need to do, if you want proof, is just look at the awesome creation that there is out there! Everything that He made is done with precision, It works because He made it so that it works, and what He made He made to serve us, so that we can live on this earth and meet the criteria that He lays down for us to do so that we will be like Him.
Do you think that God is going to pay any less attention to us than He took to the earth? He is going to pay more attention to the making of us into the image of Himself than He ever paid in creating the earth! It is awesome all by itself—what a place He made for us to live! That is His handiwork, that is an indication to us: If He made this place beautiful for us to live in, just think what He is going to make us into. This is why we cannot let slip through our fingers what an awesome thing that He has done for us.
The book of Hebrews shows briefly that God did not create the earth and all of the universe out there and just walk away. He is on the job, right now. Please turn to Hebrew 1.
Hebrews 1:1-3 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in theses last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds [Jesus Christ is our literal Creator]; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Are you aware that Jesus Christ upholds all things by the word of His power? He did not just create the earth and then walk away. That term uphold, means that He is tending it, He is taking care of it, right down to this very moment, in order to maintain it as the home for those He is preparing for His Family’s expansion. The creation of His Family and its members is the greatest and most important of all of His creations. Is He going to be less precise and more general in His Family’s formation than He has already displayed in the provisions that He made in this environment? The place of His preparations?
I hope that we do not ever allow ourselves to slip into that line of thinking, because then that unappreciative approach blurs, it makes any vision that we might otherwise have to motivate us to be indistinct and vague, rather than sharply defined and purposeful. We are called purposely, individually, to prepare for leadership within the family that God is creating. This creation of His own Family Kingdom. We are being prepared to share life with Him and Jesus Christ forever, as He prepares for what lies beyond the times following the creation of the New Heaven and New Earth.
The leadership term broadly defines the overall need established by Him to meet our calling, and the covenant terms defines the responsibilities we are to meet and achieve as we travel through the schooling and exercises of our preparations.
What we have been seeing here in the early chapters of Genesis is what God has been working on within His purpose from the very beginning of that purpose. He has always done things right, from the very start. Jesus said, “My Father works, and I work.” They work, that is something that we need to be very set on.
God has created us to use our time working within His purpose, even as He does. I remember reading an article of a financier, very wealthy person, who visited a project that was being built with some money that he put up. He was walking over the area, observing the project, and he chanced upon a man who was laying bricks. He asked this man what he was doing. The answer that he got back was, he was laying bricks. A bit later the same financier saw another man who was also laying bricks. The answer’s purpose was enhanced whenever he asked that person what he was building. The man said, I am building a building.
One said, I am laying bricks, the other said, he was building a building. You might think the guy who is just laying the bricks had a dumb answer because it was so obvious, but that is not the way the financier looked at it at all. He said the reason he asked the question is because he needed to understand that both focuses are needed.
In other words when anybody really tackles a job, he has to focus on what he is doing at the moment, and at the same time he has to have a vision of what it is that he is completing.
You need both. You might wonder, how does this apply to me? It does apply because there are things that we need to focus on in a daily way, and on the other hand there is a great goal that is before us that needs to be what we are aiming for in the long run as well. It takes both focuses in order to do a really good and acceptable job. You have to have both, that is the point that the man was making.
The conclusion the man reached is that both focuses were necessary to the whole of the project. We need to know where we are headed without losing sight of the fact that we need to do good work as we are going along.
When I gave my last sermon on this subject we spent a great deal of time examining Noah. My purpose was not merely to extol the virtues of the man, my purpose was to feed your understanding of God's operations in fulfilling His purpose. I want you to understand. God was the invisible force inspiring, guiding, and directing Noah, but Noah was carrying out the actual operation on the ground. Noah was a tool. This is the aspect that I want you to hang on to today. He was a tool that God used. We can learn a great deal more, not just about Noah, but ourselves as well.
God was the one operating invisibly to bring about a record that is now in the Book, so that we might live our lives by faith operating at the very highest level possible for each of us, and He showed us how through Noah.
Where did we begin with Noah? Noah had a great deal to do when he was building that ark in order to go through the Flood. But when we look at the record in the Bible, we find out that God precipitated the whole thing. Noah never would have built the ark if God had not got him started, if God had not chosen him to be the one to build the ark. He appointed Noah to carry out that responsibility. As we are going to see all along the way He empowered Noah by gifting him so that he was able to do it.
Why am I going into this? Because as God did with Noah, He also does with us. What I want you to see here is that God is the Creator, we are what He is working on. That is the way it was with Noah. God was the Creator, He was creating Noah in the way He wanted him, and during the carrying out of this responsibility Noah built the boat. Do not ever lose sight of the actual fact: Noah would have never built that boat if God had not made him do it and given him the ability to do it.
Do you see the big picture here for you? Not a single one of us are ever going to be created in the image of God unless He gives us the tools to be able to yield to Him as Noah did. We are not going to build any ark, but we are going to build what it takes to be in the image of God, under God as He creates.
A brief summary here. It was God who enabled Noah to accomplish what he did. It is He who will enable us to accomplish what He assigns us to do, so do not over look that as this thing was going on it took one hundred and twenty years for Noah to build that boat, and all the while this was going on, Noah was gaining too as God worked in and through him.
A review here on Noah: It was God who ensured that Noah had family roots, in preparation by that family for the job that he was going to carry out. It was important. Do you remember me giving you the names of all of those predecessors of Noah throughout chapters 5 and 6, leading up to Noah? Noah was the last of nine people named. God does not make mistakes. He gave those names for a reason because He wants to show us the family that Noah came from. It was a distinguished family! Do you realize that that family is the one that eventually produced Jesus of Nazareth? The same family that Noah came from.
This shows you how far ahead God is planning, how far ahead God is preparing for His Son to show up upon this earth. It was God who made it possible for Noah to come build the ship, come through the flood, and then with his family Noah becomes the father of every human being who has ever lived since that time. This was no little accomplishment.
What is God going to do through you? I do not know, but He is giving us an understanding so that we realize the magnificent thing we have in our hands. If this is possible with Noah, why is it not also possible with John Ritenbaugh, or Richard, or Kim? We have to think big and realize that we are not dealing with little issues here at all. Nothing more important has ever happened in your life! Are you ready to face up to it?
That is why I am going through this with you, so that we can see Him going through one person and realize that we have, in a sense, the same potential as Noah. We will not be doing exactly the same job that Noah did, because there is not going to be a flood. God has already promised that. We do not have to build a boat, but we do have to build a life, and that is big all by itself. We are not playing with nickels and dimes here; we are in the big pot stage.
God ensured that Noah had the family roots and the preparation from that family history that he was born into, so that they provided a backdrop for Noah's life. I am sure that Noah appreciated it. He could look back on Enoch, and he was a descendant from other great personages during that period of time, Noah could say, “That is my family.”
Remember this. God told the Jews in Malachi 3, “I am God, I change not.” God establishes patterns in what He is doing. He is invisible but He is there. He establishes patterns that we can see, we can learn, that we can understand, and our faith will be built because we see, as it were, His hand in the operations that are going on. He acts as He did one thousand, two thousand years ago.
Please turn to Romans 1. I want it burned into your minds, because the big push in our time by those who hate God, is that they are trying to convince you and me that He does not exist.
Romans 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
That is what is being done in our day. The truth about God’s existence as Creator is being suppressed. They can make all the noise that they want that God does not exist, but the creation is out there shouting to them, I have a maker and He is God.
What God is creating now is far bigger and far more important than the earth, the moon, the sun, the stars, and this awesome universe, because He is creating children in His image. “I’m going to be like you Dad,” should be the cry of our life.
At the close of that age prior to the Flood was coming to its deadline, Noah was preaching. It tells this very plainly in the New Testament, in I Peter, that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. I have no doubt that before the Flood actually arrived (this is my privately held belief and I will share it with you), that Noah was the best known personality on the face of the earth, I am basing that on just before Jesus Christ returns. Who are going to be the best known personalities on the face of the earth? The Two Witnesses.
In other words what I am saying is, God follows patterns so that we can see His hand in there. Before Jesus Christ returns the two best known personalities on the face of the earth are going to be those men who are making the witness that Jesus Christ is ready to come to this earth. I feel, because that is the pattern that He established—that Noah was the best-known personality on the face of the earth, warning people there is a flood coming and they laughed. They knew who he was. That is why God says here in Romans 1 that they are without excuse.
God leaves a witness that when push comes to shove it cannot be denied. He did that through one man, his wife, his three sons, and his three daughters-in-law. It took him one hundred and twenty years, but the job was done, and God saw to it that it was done. Noah was the personality that the Bible focuses on just before the Flood. We see there a clearly established pattern that since Jesus Christ (in the prophesies there in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21), used the Flood as a pattern for that prophesy that He gave—and a couple of different times there He said, “As it was in the days of Noah.”—we are seeing a pattern established there. God will not deviate from that because He wants us to have faith, and that is the way He gives us the information that guides our life if we are yield to Him, and we will make use of it.
Before we leave Noah, I want us to take a little bit more focused look at the ark. There are some things that we can learn from it. Even as we learn from Noah, there are things that we can learn from the ark as well.
There are some lessons and some types that are connected to it that are important to us. First of all, most obvious is that the ark was the sanctuary for Noah and his family’s escape from the violence of the age and of the Flood. Here is one thing that we can learn: it took all eight family members to work in harmony to build the ark. You can be sure that they all contributed—the wives, sons, Noah, Noah's wife. There is a lesson there that is important to us. Since the church is our ark here in these last days—it is our spiritual ark, we are all a part of this, contributing to its building—we too have to work at building our spiritual ark.
God's calling is not a free ride any more than Noah's calling was a free ride. He had to work through the job that God assigned for him to do. Our assignment from God is to build the spiritual strength of the ark that He has made available to us, and that ark is the church.
What is the biblical use of the term ark? I think it is very easy to grasp from the terms Biblical usage, an ark is simply a container holding whatever one puts into it, or them. Are you aware that Noah and his family were not the last persons saved by an ark? Please turn to Exodus 2.
Exodus 2:1-6 And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months. [If you remember the story, the Pharaoh decreed that all boys born to Israelitish women were to be put to death. Here was an Israelitish woman who saw that this boy that she gave birth to was unusually handsome.] But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river's bank. And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him. Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river. And her maidens walked along the riverside; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it. And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold the baby wept. So she had compassion him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”
We all know that this was Moses. In the Kings James Bible you will find that word ark, as it is translated in the New King James, is translated as a basket. Either term is correct. An ark is a basket, but not exactly as we are going to see in just a little bit. It is the exact same Hebrew word from which Noah's ark was translated from. Moses was drawn from the waters of the Nile. The Nile had a history of frequently flooding, especially in the spring time.
What happened to Moses? He became the human savior of the Israelitish people and he became the father of that nation. Again we begin to see a parallel. Noah's was certainly greater at this point; he actually became the father of all of mankind.
There is yet another parallel to our life and the term ark. How about the ark of the covenant? We are so familiar with this because it is used throughout the Old Testament, in fact over 200 times in the Old Testament alone and 20 times in the New Testament. However, that ark is not translated from the same Hebrew word. It is translated from a word that more specifically indicates a chest, something in which you would put jewels, or anything that you would store within it.
Genesis 50:26 So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin [ark] in Egypt.
This particular usage of it appears in the New Testament, different language, but remember an ark is a coffin as well. Please turn to Romans 6.
Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life.
You probably never thought that this word coffin had any connection at all with either ark or being buried, but it does. In our baptism, baptism portrays us dead to sin. We are buried in a watery grave and then we are symbolically resurrected from that watery grave in order to walk in newness of life.
God specifically says Joseph was put in a coffin. Joseph specifically commanded that when the Israelites left Egypt that they take his coffin with them. They did, and they buried it in the Promised Land, where is Joseph going to be resurrected from? His coffin, his ark, which kept him, as it were, secure until the time that God is ready to raise him. We know of course that he is not really there, but symbolically you get the figurative use of these terms so that we understand them.
I am trying to impress on you that God does things so that we will recognize them, recognize His hand in things, and make connections so that we have a clear understanding of what is He is doing. He is making it so that we can grasp it and make use of it in our life. We can carry this one more step further, it is a symbolic use. Turn to Ephesians 1.
Ephesians 1:20-23 Which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body [the church is figuratively the body of Jesus Christ, the church is also figuratively the ark for the people of God], the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Where is the church? Where are the church members being held till the time of the resurrection of the dead? Symbolically, figuratively, inside the body of Jesus Christ. What safer place could there possibly be than right in the body of our Maker and our Savior? It is awesome, to show the length that God is going to, to teach us how secure we can be in our faith in Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:19-22 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God [Now we are getting to a structure, before a human body, now a solid structure.], having been build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
How many places have I shown you where the church is being protected within something that is spiritual, or using physical things so that we will understand how safe our life is. He is doing that so that we feel confident in Him and that we will live our life by faith.
Back to my original point on this. Noah's family all had to work together in harmony in order to make sure that the place within which they were going to be physically safe through the Flood, the ark, would be completed by the time that God was ready to put them inside and seal the door. Spiritually we have seen the parallel here where we are put within the body of Jesus Christ. There is no safer place anywhere in the universe, so that we would understand.
As far as I am concerned Noah is the Bible’s first real hero, he was an unusual person. Turn back to Genesis 6. I read through here specifically looking for something that I felt would catch the essence, for me anyway. I am going to present this essence to you of what I feel that this verse describes Noah as.
Genesis 6:22 Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.
What more can a father say, in the way of compliment to a son? “He did what I told him to do.” It is awesome to have God say that to you, because man loves to argue with God. You cannot find one cross word from Noah. He simply collaborated with what God told him to do. Can you image this: God comes up to Noah and says, “Noah, I want you to build Me a boat.” Nobody has ever built a boat before. There is a possibility that it never rained until then! The Bible talks about moisture coming up, heavy dew every morning to keep the ground moist. Noah could have said, “What’s rain?” “What’s a boat?” “What do you mean, an ark?” “That big?” He probably did ask some questions but one thing is for sure, from what He said, God describes a man who cooperated with Him to the nth degree without arguing with Him one bit—he just did what God told him to do.
I do not think that the verse that we just read regarding him is intended to convey the idea that Noah was absolutely perfect in his conduct, at all times, and under every circumstance that he faced. He lived a tremendously tumultuous life. He was not Jesus Christ, but I believe that the verse is intended to convey the truth, that he was a very unusual person, one among billions. He was, in short, humble before God, and very dependable in carrying out responsibilities assigned to him as well.
The wording indicates that what God meant is that he did not deviate and add his own thoughts about things in any way—“Well here’s the way I see it.” He just went and did it. Not only that we see that in the way that he did it, he did it with class, he did a good job. The boat did not sink.
The literal Flood proves to us that we are experiencing times similar to what he had to go through just before the Flood. We can see after the Flood was over that the Flood did not solve the problems. What it did was clear the deck so that God could begin the next step.
We have to get ready because the flood is building here in the United States of America. It is not limited to us, the flood is rising, as it were, in Europe as well. The Flood portrays, pictures, the rising flood of the immorality that is building all over the world. If we do not watch out we could get swept away by it and become part of the scene that is going on. That we do not want to do! We have to float through the flood as it is coming on us.
Here are the qualifications that Noah set for being on the ark when the Flood came. We want to be in our ark, we want to be part of the body of Jesus Christ, we want to be part of the temple, we want to be preserved. Please turn to Genesis 7. Here is where it says why Noah and his family made it on the ark.
Genesis 7:1 Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.”
That is the qualification for being able to be in the spiritual ark. Noah did it, he was a righteous man.
Genesis 7:5 And Noah did according to all that the Lord commanded him.
Can we meet that qualification? Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.
Genesis 7:16 So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in.
That is what we want to experience. That was just a type. The spiritual things that face us are invisible, but the qualifications are very clearly seen, Noah did what God told him to do and he did not argue with God, he just went and did it. Do you know why? He trusted God. It is not complicated, he trusted God. There is no indication, anywhere, where Noah actually, literally saw God. It says in Hebrew 11 that Noah walked by faith. He did not see God. Somehow things were communicated to him and he did it, because he believed the Source. That is the challenge for you and me.
We do not see God either. We know He exists because He made everything around us. He made us, and everything that He tells us to do is possible to be done, because He ensures it can be done before He gives you and me the job.
God willing this is what we will go into in the next study because that is what separated Noah from everybody else—he simply did what God said to do without arguing with Him for thinking that it cannot be done.
I said, he is to me the first real hero in the Bible. We have other ones: Abraham, David; in their own way they trusted what God said to do and they did it, and that is what set them apart. They did not see God either. He demands that we live by faith, and not by sight. Those who obey without ever seeing Him, those are the ones that are going to be blessed.