Sunday, June 19, 2011

Numbers 6:22-27 "Go, My Children, With My Blessing"

NUMBERS 6:22-27
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”’ So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”

- His name
- His blessing
- Our response

THE INTRODUCTION: (at the beginning of the worship service)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen

Have you ever become so familiar with something, that you loose sight of how great it is? This being Father’s Day, one example that comes to mind immediately is our Christian fathers. Men who not only cared for our physical needs - they worked hard to put a roof over our heads, clothes on our back, and food in our belly - but our Christian fathers cared for something even greater. They cared for our souls. They made sure we were baptized in the name of the Triune God after we were born. From infancy, they brought us to church. They led table prayers and family devotions.

And yet, we became so familiar with the things our Christian fathers did for us, that we easily lost sight of how great these things were that he was doing for us. Seldom did we thank our Dad’s when they came home after a hard day of work. Work which they were doing to care for us. Seldom did we thank Dad for bringing us the word of God in our family devotions. Seldom did we thank Dad for taking us to church and making us do our memory work. These were just things that Dad did, which we became familiar with, and took for granted. It usually took days like the third Sunday in June or even the death of our father to make us pause and consider all the amazing things our father’s did for us. May our father’s forgive us for our thanklessness and thoughtlessness!

We all have experienced that feeling of being so familiar with something that we loose sight of just how awesome it is. I want to point you to another example this morning. It is a part of a worship service that we are all quite familiar with - the Benediction. I have seen elderly women mouth these words along with me as I’ve given them. I’ve seen youngsters in the pew mimic my hand gestures as I give the benediction. From the pastor standing up front, to the members in the pews, we are very familiar with the words of the Benediction.

And yet, how many times have we glossed over the words of the Benediction? To my shame I confess that sometimes I say the words without thinking about what I am doing. And I there were times, probably too numerous to count, when I was in your position and I didn’t really pay attention when the pastor was giving the Benediction. I imagine that most, if not all of you, know exactly what I am talking about. May God have mercy on me for taking for granted the amazing words of this blessing.

On this Trinity Sunday we want to remind ourselves of just how awesome this Benediction is. These are not words well-wishing, that some man decided would be a nice way to end a worship service. The words of the Benediction were divinely inspired - given by the Triune God Himself. He commanded His priests to bless His people in this way. We use these words of the benediction as we leave the Lord’s House and return to our lives in the world of sin and evil. Our theme is taken from that beloved hymn based on our text, “Go, My Children, with My Blessing.” Our text is taken from fourth book of Moses, Numbers, chapter six, beginning with twenty-second verse. Please rise for the reading of our text.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23 "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, 'This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 "The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace." ' 27 "So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them."

This is the Word of God. Amen.

Last Sunday we were privileged to attend my brother’s installation and ordination service at Ascension Lutheran Church in Batavia, IL. When it comes to the installation of a pastor, one of the neat traditions we have in our circles deals with the giving of the Benediction. You may remember from the various pastors you have had installed over the past decades, that the first words the pastor speaks to his new congregation after his installation are the words of the Benediction. And what better words are there a pastor can use to begin his ministry, then the words of the Benediction.

The giving of the Benediction has long been an honor for preachers of the word. It was an honor for the Old Testament priests since the days of Aaron and Moses, and continues to be a high honor some 3500 years later. One reason it is an honor is because of what the priest or pastor is doing when he gives the Benediction. The LORD says in the last verse of our text that in giving this Benediction the priest or pastor, “shall put My name on the children of Israel.” Let’s first remind ourselves of what this means, that in the Benediction the LORD’s name is being put on us.

First of all, what does it mean to “put one’s name” on something or someone. Well, when I was confirmed my parents got me a Bible as a gift with my name engraved on the front in gold letters. Why did they do that? Why put my name on a Bible? So that everyone would know that Bible belongs to me. It is my possession and no one else’s. Couldn’t we say the same when the LORD puts His name on someone? That person becomes His own special possession. We were purchased with that priceless blood of Christ. We were bought back by God. We are His own. He puts His name on us and blesses us.

What name is used in the Benediction? The name LORD, in all capitals. This is the unique name of our God, like Allah or Baal are unique names for two false gods. Any time you see the name “LORD” in all capitals, this is the great “I AM” who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. He is not “I was” or “I will be,” He is “I AM.” He is the eternal, unchangeable God. He is the Covenant God who makes promises and sticks by them. The God who promised to send a Savior to rescue us from our sins and has done just that in Jesus.

The fact that the name “LORD” is repeated three time in the Benediction is of great significance to us, especially on this Trinity Sunday. He is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One God, three separate, but equal persons. The God who created and preserves us, the God who died to save us, and the God who converts us and makes us His children. It is this God who commands this blessing because He wants to put His name on His people to bless us.

In verse 23 He commands Moses to tell Aaron to bless the Children of Israel in this prescribed way. Think of that! The great “I AM,” the unchangeable covenant God, desires to bless His children! He wants to bless YOU! And He wants you to know that with these words He is blessing you. “I will bless them,” the LORD says at the close of our text.

This is His blessing. First of all, with these words He is blessing us and keeping us. To bless means to shower favor upon. The Triune God wants to shower His favor upon us. And He has done just that, hasn’t He. Think of all the countless ways God has given you. All you need to do is survey your bedroom at home to see all the ways the LORD has blessed you.

But the LORD blessing you goes far beyond showering favor on you with material blessings. The LORD has showered many spiritual blessings on us. Paul writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph 1:3) He has given His one and only Son to die for us and take away all our sins. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, our huge debt of sin has been paid for and removed forever. By the work of the Holy Spirit we have been adopted into the family of God. He is our Father and we are His children. By the faith the Holy Spirit has worked in us in Christ Jesus, we have become heirs of eternal life.

The LORD also keeps us. That is, He defends us from all danger, He guards and protects us from all evil. It is true, He may test our faith from time to time by causing hardship to come into our lives. And even when those trials come, the God who keeps His promises tells us that He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Cor 10:13) He keeps us. We leave God’s house knowing He has put His name on us and will continue bless us and keep us in Christ.

But the words of blessing continue from our Triune God. “The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.” It is a terrible thing to have the Triune God turn His back on you. He is the worst enemy any one can have. And because of our sin, that is the relationship we have by nature with the LORD. But all that changed on the cross of Jesus Christ. There God forsook His Son, on whom He had laid the sin of us all. There Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt 27:46) There God turned His back on His Son. Because Jesus endured the suffering of separation on account of our sins, the LORD face now shines upon us in Christ Jesus. Just as the sunshine after a storm brings us joy, even more so the face of the LORD shining on us brings even more joy as we hear how He has been gracious and merciful to us in Jesus.

“The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” To lift up ones countenance upon someone else, is to look with favor on someone. In the Benediction, the LORD is looking with favor on you. This is only be possible through Jesus Christ. Only cleansed in the blood of the Lamb, can the LORD possibly look with favor on us wretched sinners. But He does! And He wants to! And He wants you to know that because of Christ and in Christ He looks on you with favor. You are His own beloved child!

The result of the LORD blessing and keeping us, making His face shine upon us and being gracious unto us, and lifting up His countenance upon us, is peace. He gives us peace. Peace for our troubled consciences in the knowledge of sins forgiven. Peace with Him because we have been reconciled unto Him in Christ. Peace with our brother and sister in Christ. This is the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. Peace is the culmination of Christ’s redemptive work, the culmination everything you have heard in the worship service, and the culmination of everything said in the Benediction.

How do we respond to this amazing blessing? In our liturgy we sing a “triple amen” to the LORD who wants to put His name on us and bless us. And that is the perfect response to this amazing blessing. Contrary to what our little ones think, “Amen” does not mean “all done” or “the end.” “Amen” means “YES!” Or as our catechisms explain it, “Yes, yes, it shall be so.”

So when we sing our triple Amen after the Benediction, we are saying, “Yes, LORD, bless and keep us! YES, LORD, make Your face shine upon us and be gracious to us! YES, LORD, lift Your countenance upon us and give us peace!” “YES, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit put your name on us and bless us!” What a fitting response to this amazing blessing!

It is true that familiarity breeds contempt. That is, the more familiar we are with something, the more we take it for granted. We must confess that has been true when it came to our Christian fathers. But just because that is the case, doesn’t mean that is right. Even more so with this blessed Benediction which we get to hear every Sunday. Let us rejoice and cherish the Benediction as the Triune God puts His name on us and blesses us as we leave His house and hear Him say, “Go, My Children, with My Blessing!” Praise be to God the Father, praise be to God the Son, praise be to God the Spirit, great Jehovah three in one! Amen, that is “yes, yes, it shall be so!”

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