Bow Your Knee: You Have Two Options
God has decreed a word that will not return unfulfilled, “Unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (Isa. 45:23; cf. Rom. 14:11). Paul quotes this as specifically applicable to the person and name of Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:10). That makes it very clear — we will all bow before God. The only question remaining is the circumstances of our bowing, for there are two ways in which we bow before God.
The word translated bless in Scripture is barac,which means to kneel. For man to bless God, as in “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Ps. 103:1), is for man to kneel, to bow in submission before Him. Man blesses God by obeying Him in word, thought, and deed. To bless God involves a recognition of who God is and our place before Him.
When God blesses man, He does not kneel in submission to man, but He does condescend to man. God condescends to man in that He waves the right of His status and descends to us in grace. We tend to be egalitarians and so use the word condescend only in a negative sense. We do not want to think of anyone as having right or rank above us. God has all right and status above men, however; grace is His merciful descent to us.
The opposite of a blessing is a cursing, which is also making light, low, or small. God’s curse on man was his humbling. God’s curse on the creation was its lowering — thorns and thistles made it less productive. Likewise, God called Noah’s Flood a curse He would not repeat (Gen. 8:21). The Flood destroyed the original creation God called good; what we see in the world today is the aftermath of destruction.
All men will bow their knee to God in one of two ways. The man who will not humble himself to God by bowing his knee, by blessing God, will be lowered by God’s curse. Either God blesses us and makes us submissive to Himself by grace, or God curses us, He brings us low. In reality, man is already cursed in Adam. Man stands before God as low as he can get, already condemned to death by a just God
Man’s purpose was to bless God, to submit to Him. We can never view man’s rebellion in Eden as even for a moment successful. Man never became autonomous; man was never removed from a total submission to a sovereign God. Man only moved the nature of his submission from the realm of a blessing to that of a curse.
The curse of Genesis 3 was not vindictiveness by God, but justice, because He is just. Likewise, His redemption is spoken of in Scripture in legal terms: pardon, justification, atonement. The sin of mankind is paid for by the atonement of the incarnate God-man, Jesus Christ. Our salvation is our restoration to blessing, and both Isaiah and Paul looked forward to the time when all men would acknowledge their submission to God, when “every knee shall bow” and “every tongue shall swear.” The only question then is whether our submission shall be in the blessing of faith by God’s grace or in the judgment of the full weight of His curse.