Sermon on Numbers 6:22-27
Text: The LORD said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 “‘“The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’
27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
It was often the custom, perhaps more so in the upper Midwest, that, when you went to someone’s house for a meal, the host would send some of the leftovers with you. It was a great thing. You just had the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful meal. Now, you could enjoy some of that food later in the week. When we come to worship on Sunday mornings, we can say that we also enjoy a feast. We have the opportunity to hear God’s Word read and proclaimed. Our souls are fed through the various parts of the liturgy. On Communion Sundays, we have the privilege or receiving our Savior’s body and blood with the bread and wine. Indeed, it is a feast for our souls. Our loving God, being the gracious host that he is, wants to make sure that we continue to enjoy what he offers. As a result, THE LORD GIVES YOU SOMETHING TO TAKE HOME: 1. The Promise Of His Care, 2. The Joy Of His Grace, and 3. The Comfort Of His Peace.
The words of our text are quite familiar to us. They are proclaimed at the end of nearly every one of our worship services. On this Trinity Sunday, we have the opportunity to be reminded of what the various persons of the Trinity, working in perfect Unity, gives to us. While the teaching of the Trinity is not explicitly taught in our text, we see hints of this teaching. We note that the name “LORD” is used three times. This gives us a hint of the Trinity (Three Persons, yet one God). This teaching is taught more clearly in the New Testament. However, there are many places in the Old Testament where this teaching is hinted at.
Our text begins with the LORD coming to Moses with a command, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites.’” (Verse 23) The words of blessing that follow came from God’s own mouth. It isn’t the invention of Moses. He did not consult with Aaron and the elders of Israel. The blessings that were to be pronounced by Aaron and the subsequent priests were not just pious wishes. ‘I hope that this happens for you.’ Rather, the words of blessing were sure because they came from God himself. This is how he would bless the people of Israel. As believers, living some 4,000 years after these words were first spoken, we have the assurance of these blessings, as well.
The first part of the blessing that God wants to give is “The LORD bless you and keep you.” (Verse 24) The words of this blessing remind us of God the Father’s work in our lives. “The LORD bless you.” This part of the blessing reminds us of how God continues to provide for all of our bodily needs. He gives us the food that we eat. He gives us the clothes on our backs. He gives us a place to live. He gives the ability to go and earn our wages. He gives us our bodies, which are testimonies of his love and wisdom, as we marvel at how wonderfully everything works together. All that we need to live is graciously provided for us by our heavenly Father. As the psalmist reminds us, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:15,16)
“The LORD . . . keep you.” This portion of the blessing reminds us of how God protects us during our lives. He keeps bad things from happening to us. How many times in your lifetime haven’t you marveled at the fact that you could have been seriously injured, but weren’t? That was God’s work in your life. When we do run into problems, the LORD delivers us from them. He, also, assures us that whatever might happen in our lives, whether it be bad or good, it will always work for our benefit. He cares so much about our protection that he assigns his angels to watch over us. We are reminded of the LORD’s protection in Psalm 91:9-11, “If you say, ‘The LORD is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” God the Father richly blesses us in more ways that we can ever imagine. “The LORD bless you and keep you.”
The second part of the blessing reminds us of God the Son’s work in our lives: “The LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.” (Verse 25) “The LORD make his face shine on you.” Perhaps, the best way to see the picture that is being described here is to think of someone breaking into a smile when they see someone they love. Think of the way a grandparent’s face smiles when they see a grandchild that they haven’t seen in sometime or the way a soldier and his family are beaming when they are reunited after he has been deployed. That is the way that God looks when he thinks of you. His face reflects the attitude of his heart toward you.
This phrase would have meant a great deal to the people of Israel. All too often, they had seen the Lord’s face full of anger against them. The reason for this anger was the many times that they had turned their backs on God and sinned against him. When Moses was on Mount Sinai, receiving the law from God, what were the people of Israel doing? They were at the foot of Mount Sinai, worshiping a golden calf, saying that this was the god that had led them out of their captivity in Egypt. God provided food for the people as they traveled in the form of manna and quail. Each and every day, God provided for them. What was their response? They grew tired of what God was giving them and complained again and again. As a result, they had experienced God’s anger against them. Many of them perished.
Are we any different from the ancient Israelites? While none of us has ever bowed down and worshiped a golden calf, have we ever elevated something in our lives, making it more important to us than God is? It may have been wealth or possessions or family or a host of other things. Earlier, we noted that God continually provides for us. Do we ever complain about what we have? Do we look at what other people have and say that it’s not fair? We do not deserve to have God’s face shine upon us. We deserve to see God’s face in anger forever in the punishment of hell.
Yet, the LORD makes his face shine on us. Why is that? It certainly isn’t because anything that we are or do? Rather, we are reminded of the reason why the LORD makes his face shine on us. It is because of the second part of this blessing, “The LORD . . . be gracious to you.” It’s all about God’s grace, his undeserved love, that his face breaks out in a smile. God’s grace saw us in our ruined state and did not want us to remain there. He did not want us to spend our eternity apart from him. So, in his grace, he sent his Son into the world to be our Savior. Jesus Christ was our Substitute. He lived as we cannot. He always gave all glory to his Father. Never once did he complain about what was happening in his life, even when he was being mistreated at his trial and crucifixion. He willingly endured it all, so that our sins might be paid for. That is what happened on that cross. Jesus was being punished for every one of our sins. He paid the debt that we owed his Father. In his grace, the Father raised Jesus from the dead so that we might know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that our sins have been paid for. The blessing of the LORD, the grace of the LORD, is Christ. He is the smile of God toward every sinner. Because Jesus suffered the penalty for all sin, God smiles on the world. “The LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.”
This brings us to the third part of the blessing that God wanted pronounced to his people. “The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” “The LORD turn his face toward you.” When God turns his face toward you, he is giving you his full attention. He is not distracted by all of the other things in the world. You are what is important to him. The only way that we would know about God’s loving attention is through the work of the Holy Spirit. Before we were brought to faith through the working of the Holy Spirit, we were God’s enemies. We wanted nothing to do with God. However, when we were brought to faith, most of us through the washing of Baptism, we became a part of God’s family. God said, “So they will put my name on the Israelites.” (Verse 27) This that, when we were brought to faith, we were adopted into God’s family. We received his name. This is through the work of the Holy Spirit.
What is one of the blessings that we receive through this working of the Holy Spirit? “The LORD . . . give you peace.” We have a peace that the world can never understand or achieve. The peace that the world offers is, often, temporary. It depends on both parties living up to their end of the bargain. The peace that we receive through the Holy Spirit is completely different. This peace does not come to an end. It is an eternal peace. The peace that God offers doesn’t depend on both parties keeping their end of the bargain. The peace that God offers and gives depends only on him and his grace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, we live in peace. We have the peace of knowing that God loves us and will take care of us. We walk the road of life in peace, knowing that God is guarding and directing every step of our lives. We have the peace of knowing that our sins are truly forgiven. We never have to wonder if there is still something that we have to do or if God will change his mind about the sufficiency of Jesus’ work on our behalf. We are forgiven. This gives peace to our troubled consciences. Finally, because we have been brought to faith through the working of the Holy Spirit, we know that we have an eternal peace to look forward to. We don’t have to wonder what lies on the other side of the grave. If it should be that the Lord is calling us home, we can close our eyes in peace, knowing that the eternal peace of heaven waits for us. We will be free from all of the difficulties and sadnesses of this life. How we long to experience this eternal peace, that we know is ours. “The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
There’s one more word that I would like to highlight. That word is “you.” It is used six times in these three verses. Why does God repeat that word so many times? Because he wants to assure you that all of these blessings are yours. He doesn’t just give a general blessing to the whole group. He comes to you, individually, letting you know that this blessing is intended for you. This reminds us just how much God loves us. He wants me to have and enjoy all of these blessings. The thought of this makes are hearts swell with love and thanksgiving for a God who wants to bless me in this way. He says, ‘This, my dear child, is for you.’
We usually hear the words of our text at the end of our worship services. When you hear those words, do you ever think, ‘We’re almost done. There’s just this and the last hymn and then we’re done?’ It is my prayer that we think something else. Your God knows what you’re going to be facing during the week. He knows that there will be plenty of good times. He also knows that you will face heartache and disappointment. He knows that you will face temptations and failures. He wants to give you something to help you during the week. He wants to give you the promise of his care. He wants to give you the joy of his grace. He wants to give you the comfort of his peace. With that, hear the blessing that God wants to give you, that you can take home with you: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Amen.
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