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Worship Theme: The God of Your Salvation Is the Holy Trinity
Sermon Theme: The Lord Bless You
The words found in Numbers 6:22-27 have been proclaimed over the people of God for around 3,500 years. An unchanging promise from an unchanging God. Those words are to proclaim the Lord’s blessing upon you. “The Lord Bless You.” June 12, 2022.
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.
I’m glad that you didn’t get up and walk out of here, although I do think that I caught a person or two here who almost instinctively stood up to leave out of habit. You hear those words often when you worship here. They are the blessing that draws our time of worship to a close as the pastor stands at the front of the church with outstretched hands and announces this promise of God upon you. If you’ve ever wondered where in the Bible that came from, it’s found in today’s reading from the Old Testament book of Numbers chapter six.
This is much more than just a phrase that signals the end of a service like the announcement of, “Two minutes, two minutes remaining,” at a basketball game. It is filled with meaning, truth, promise, hope, and joy. It’s one of my favorite parts of the service! Let me share with you why I love this blessing and I think you’ll love it too!
In the worship folder, the heading is simple – Blessing. But do you know what it’s more technical, official name is? It’s called the Aaronic Benediction. Benediction means to offer a blessing, and Aaronic, from the name Aaron, because of this - The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites.” Aaron was not only brother to Moses, but also the Lord’s High Priest for the people of Israel. God gave him the instruction to bless the people of Israel with these words. What’s really cool is that these same words have been proclaimed over the people of God for around 3,500 years. An unchanging promise from an unchanging God. Those words are to proclaim the Lord’s blessing upon you.
So, let’s talk about blessings for a moment. If someone sneezes you might say to them, “Bless you.” It’s a polite sentiment that people say when someone sneezes, I guess with the idea that you might feel better, be blessed with good health. What is exactly is a blessing? It’s something good that happens to you that brings you happiness and joy. In a biblical sense, a blessing is anything good that comes from God for your benefit.
How do you want God to bless you? Think about that for a moment. What’s on your list? Do you want to be blessed with health, wealth, a better job, a spouse, a child, nice weather, gas prices that you can afford, a new toy or video game? So often when we think about blessings that we want in life, we go to the everyday, physical, material type blessings that we want. That’s not wrong. We largely need those things. But when you don’t get those blessings or those things are taken from you, it’s very easy to accuse God of being unloving and incapable and you grumble, complain, and even turn from God with a discontent heart. Most importantly, you miss the things with which God really wants to bless you that are far bigger than this earthly life.
Do you deserve to be blessed? In the context of Numbers chapter six, the people of Israel were getting ready to leave Mount Sinai, where they had camped out for about a year while God gave them his law and commandments, and were heading on their journey to the Promised Land. They had already complained that God didn’t care for them. They had already created and worshiped a golden calf as their God. As they would journey, they would have many other doubts, failures to believe, and sins. Did they deserve to be blessed by God? No chance. The same is true for you and me. We’re not deserving of anything good from God. No matter how good you think you are or how entitled you might feel to receive blessings from God, the reality is that you fall well short of the standards that God has set to have a relationship with him. You complain to God, you put your trust in the powers of this world rather than God, you set up idols that steal your worship, your time, your efforts, your devotion from God. That describes not just the people of Israel, but every single one of you here.
And yet, do you know what’s going to happen in just a little bit? Pastor Huebner is going to stand in front of you, raise his hands above you, and announce the words of God’s blessings upon you. It’s not because you earned it by being here or as your reward for staying awake through the service or because you lived a good enough life last week. You’re a sinner. Yet, the blessing of the Lord will still be announced to you and still stand true. God doesn’t bless because of what you’ve done. He blesses you because of who he is and what he’s done for you. It’s a gift of his grace.
Who he is and what he’s done for you is found in his name, the Lord. This special name is often set apart with all capital letters in Bible translations and describes him as the God of free and faithful grace. Free in that God’s blessings costs you nothing, and have no strings attached. Free in that God gives it willingly out of his own love for you. Faithful in that God is unchanging, you can’t add or subtract from his love and he alone is able to make a promise and have the ability and the desire to keep it every single time. That name of the Lord is repeated three times – the Lord, the Lord, the Lord – to describe the wonderful mystery of the fullness of who God is as one God with three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The way that God truly and most importantly wants to bless you is unique to each aspect of his persons.
The Lord bless you and keep you. This first phrase starts off a bit general in nature, but it does remind us right off the bat of where every good thing, every blessing comes. They come from the Lord. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17). God provides you with what you need for daily life in this world and with him. The sun to shine. The rain to fall. The air to breath. The people to enjoy life with. The food to eat. The shelter to live in. But also, his holy Word to know God. The church to gather in. The Sacraments to grow with. This is the work that God the Father does in preserving and protecting you, both physically in this life, but even more, spiritually against Satan, temptations, and the wickedness of this sinful world. The Lord keeps you. Think about how you might keep a pet. It means that it belongs to you and you’re going to care for it, provide what it needs to live, you’re going to love it and guard and protect it. You are more dear to God than a pet. You are his own dear child. He keeps you as his own. This is God’s promise to you as you go out into the world this week.
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. If you were to picture someone’s face shining on you, what do see? I’m imaging a bright, full smile from ear to ear with wide, welcoming eyes. You know, the face that just glows with joy and happiness. The glory of God shines on you as the Lord turns to you not with the stern glare of anger, but with the joy of love and forgiveness. God loves you so much that he was pleased to rescue you from your sins and to bring you to him through faith in Christ Jesus.
Our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come for you out of God’s graciousness and mercy to rescue you from sin and death by his saving life, death, and resurrection. Because Jesus lived and died in your place, for your sins, you are forgiven and God is able to smile upon you. Go forth today knowing the blessed reality that you are truly forgiven of all your sins and that you are welcomed into the eternal presence of God today and always.
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. In the ancient time of kings, if you came into the presence of the king and his face was turned from you, that was bad. It meant death. If his face was turned towards you, you were welcomed in his presence. Maybe today it’s like being called into the room by your parent. You’re not sure if you’re in trouble or not, but the first sign is to look at their face. That tells you a lot. God turns his face to you because you are welcomed in his presence to live with him. God the Holy Spirit works that faith and understanding into your heart and the Spirit of God blesses you with peace. This is not world peace or peace with your neighbor or peace with your siblings. It’s bigger. It’s peace with God. It’s knowing that with God on your side, no matter what evil rages around you, what troubles may storm in this life, it’s the peace of knowing that not only God is with you, but your eternal life is secure and nothing can steal that from you.
These are tremendous blessings that God announces to you. The best part is that his blessing is for you, personally. This is not a general, catch-all “you” like y’all. This is look you right in the eye, the almighty God of the universe is talking to you.
The Lord bless you and keep you. You, with all your joys, hopes, dreams, goals, hurts, and disappointments. God speaks to you with his word of blessing.
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. These are the very words that God wanted proclaimed over the one diagnosed with cancer, to the widow who just buried her husband, upon the young father who lost his job, to the mom who is overwhelmed, over the teen who made a really bad choice in life, to the sinner who is buried in guilt, to the one who has wandered from the Lord.
The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace. They are the words of God’s free and faithful blessings that he wanted announced to you to know of his free and faithful love for you. The Lord bless you. Amen.
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