For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield (Ps. 5:12).
We show someone favor when we treat them with special kindness, granting them a blessing or improving the quality of their life. The Bible speaks both of divine and human favor. Human favor may be either just or unjust, depending on whether God approves. Just human favor is shown to those who have wisdom (Prov. 8:33-35; 14:35), who diligently seek goodness (Prov. 11:27), kindness and truth (Prov. 3:3-4), and who provide service others (Gen. 39:3-4). David was shown favor because of his service to Saul (1 Sam. 16:21-22), Jesus found favor among God and men (Luke 2:52), and Christians in the early church found favor among men (Acts 2:47; Rom. 14:18). Unjust favor can be shown to someone because they are poor (Ex. 23:3; cf. Lev. 19:15), wealthy (Jam. 2:1-4), or wicked (Prov. 24:23-25). God condemns unjust favor.
God’s favor refers to the goodness and blessing He shows to others. God’s favor is based on His sovereignty, for He is under no compulsion to act, but does so according to His good pleasure, freely, from the bounty of His own goodness. His favor is often accomplished through the agency of other people as well as through circumstances.
God shows a certain amount of favor, or grace, to everyone, including the righteous and the wicked. Jesus revealed, “For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). This is the goodness God shows to all mankind regardless of their character. However, though the evil and unrighteous encounter God’s favor, it does not change them. Isaiah explained, “Though the wicked is shown favor, he does not learn righteousness; he deals unjustly in the land of uprightness, and does not perceive the majesty of the LORD” (Isa. 26:10). Apart from the general favor God shows to all mankind, there is a special favor He shows to some. In the case of special favor, God either directly blesses someone, or creates a favorable disposition in the hearts of others, even unbelievers, so that they treat His people with exceptional kindness.
The Bible reveals “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8), so God saved him and his family from the destruction of the flood (Gen. 6:10-8:22). Abraham found favor in the Lord’s sight (Gen. 18:3-5), and God promised him a son within a year (Gen. 18:10; cf. 21:2). Lot was granted the Lord’s favor (Gen. 19:19), and was spared the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24-25).
Joseph had been sold into slavery by His brothers to Midianite traders (Gen. 37:28), who took Joseph to Egypt and sold him to an Egyptian official named Potiphar (Gen. 37:36). However, even in slavery, “The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man” (Gen. 39:2). God’s presence with Joseph led to God’s blessing. It was God Who granted Joseph favor in the sight of Potiphar, his Egyptian master, and the Lord even blessed Potiphar’s house (Gen. 39:4-5). Later, when Joseph was betrayed by Potiphar’s wife and sent to prison (Gen. 39:7-20), even there “the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer” (Gen. 39:21).
Later, when God called His people out of Egypt, He again caused others to treat His people favorably. Before the Exodus, God promised, “I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed” (Ex. 3:20-21; cf. 11:3). And God’s Word came to pass, as Scripture states, “Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians” (Ex. 12:35-36).
Moses, while leading God’s people in the wilderness, requested of the Lord, “let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight” (Ex. 33:13). More so, Moses knew that God’s presence would lead to His blessing; therefore, he said, “For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” (Ex. 33:16; cf. 34:9). The Lord granted Moses his request, saying, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name” (Ex. 33:17).
Ruth found favor in Boaz’ sight and this resulted in many blessings (Ruth 2:2, 10, 13). Daniel had been taken into Babylonian captivity (Dan. 1:1-4) and was subjected to a pagan reeducation program (Dan. 1:5-8). However, “God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials” (Dan. 1:9), so that Daniel could maintain his integrity (Dan. 1:9-16). The Lord’s favor led to Daniel’s promotion within the Babylonian kingdom (Dan. 1:17-21). Later, toward the end of the Israelite captivity, God moved the heart of the Persian king, Cyrus, to show favor to the Israelites by supporting their return to Jerusalem and rebuilding the temple (Ezr. 1:1-8; 7:27). It was during this time that God caused Esther to find favor in the eyes of the pagan king, Ahasuerus (Est. 2:17; 5:2), who helped save Israel from a holocaust (Est. 8:1-17).
Those who love God’s ways and seek His wisdom open themselves to His favor. The psalmist writes, “The LORD favors those who fear Him, those who wait for His lovingkindness” (Ps. 147:11), and Solomon states, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man” (Prov. 3:3-4). And finally, “Blessed is the man who listens to me [wisdom], watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD” (Prov. 8:32-35).
Steven R. Cook, D.Min.
- The Sovereignty of God
- The Providence of God
- God’s Great Grace
- Spiritual Blessings in Christ
- Enjoying the Spiritual Life
 God, Who controls the hearts of others, opens their hearts to view His people favorably and to provide blessing. The hearts of kings and rulers are in His hand to direct as He wills (Prov. 21:1). All good things ultimately come from God, involve Him, glorify Him, and benefit others.