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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Matt's Messages - I Will Bless Them

“I Will Bless Them”
Life in the Wilderness
February 18, 2007
Numbers 6:22-27

I’ve been looking forward to this message in the book of Numbers. There are a few famous mountain peaks in the book of Numbers that I’ve been looking forward to viewing with you, and this little 6 verse text is one of them. It’s beautiful and life-giving.

For the last two months, we’ve been watching as the men of Israel are counted, organized, structured, and mustered into an army ready to march towards the Promised Land.

The camp has been purified and consecrated. Preparations are fully underway for Israel to leave Mount Sinai and march towards Canaan.

And one more thing they need before they go is to receive the blessing.

God talks (again) to Moses and tells him how Aaron and the priests are to bless the people from now on–and I would say, especially as the people are obediently preparing to march into battle.

And He says this–Numbers chapter 6, verse 22:

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. 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 turn his face toward you and give you peace.’

‘So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.’’”

This is a beautiful passage of Holy Scripture, isn’t it?

It’s a lot more beautiful than the censuses and laws of Numbers so far, isn’t it?!

It’s beautiful, I think because it’s full of God and full of God’s blessing.

Verse 22.

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites.’‘”

And this beautiful blessing that I have been speaking over you every Sunday this year.

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 turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Five quick points this morning:

#1. GOD DESIRES TO BLESS HIS PEOPLE!

I love this. I never noticed this until this week.

Whose idea was this blessing?

We normally refer to this blessing as the Aaronic (or Aaron’s) Benediction. Or the Aaronic Blessing. Because Aaron and the other priests were the ones who were supposed speak it over the Israelites.

But it wasn’t Aaron’s idea, was it?
And it wasn’t Moses’ idea, either, was it?
Even though Moses was supposed to train Aaron in it.

No, this blessing is God’s idea.

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron and his sons, “This is how you are to bless the Israelites.” Verse 27, “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

What a promise!

This is God’s idea–to bless His people.

The Lord takes the initiative in blessing.

It’s not something (contrary to popular belief and our twisted way of thinking, it’s not something) that we have to beg and scrape and earn and pry out of God’s stingy hands!

God desires to bless His people.

That is God’s gracious disposition towards those of us who bear His name.

Isn’t that good news?

If you understand what blessing is, it is.

Blessing is getting God’s best.

It may or may not have a physical dimension to it. In the Old Testament, blessing was illustrated again and again by wealth, possessions, military success, growing families, healthy crops, etc.

But all of that was mainly a picture of what blessing is at heart: Getting God’s Best.

And if somebody was “blessed” that meant that they were in a state to be congratulated because they had received God’s best.

All of the good things, the gifts, the blessings that God had to offer.

And this passage shows us that God desires to bless His people.

We don’t have to trick Him into it.
We don’t have to talk Him into it.
We don’t have to earn our way into blessing.

God’s gracious disposition is to give it!

God desires to bless His people.

Notice what this blessing consists of.

#2. GOD BLESSES HIS PEOPLE AND KEEPS THEM. V.24

“The LORD bless you and keep you.”

A blessing is a unique kind of prayer.

It is a prayer that asks God to do something, but it is worded in such a way that the words directed towards the person or people you want God to bless.

We’re not used to talking this way very often.

But these words were spoken to Israel by the priests for God and in such a way that God would hear and do what is said.

“The LORD bless you and keep you.”

This talks about God giving His best to His people and protecting them.

That would be very important, especially as they headed into war.

Isn’t it good to be “kept?”

I think of Psalm 121 when I think of God’s keeping me.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you–the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

Isn’t it good to belong to a God who blesses and keeps us?

Does that mean that bad things don’t happen to Christians?

No. It means that even those bad things that happen to us are ultimately turned to our good and that God will keep us through them all for Himself.

Like everyone else the last two weeks, our family has been besieged by sicknesses. Actually, Heather hasn’t been able to come to worship the last 3 out of 4 Sundays due to sickness in our family.

What sustains you when you are sick?
What sustains you when troubles come your way?

“The LORD bless you and keep you.”

#3. GOD MAKES HIS FACE SHINE UPON HIS PEOPLE AND IS GRACIOUS TO THEM.

This is what blessing looks like. V.25

“The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.”

Don’t you just love the figurative language here?

God’s face shining on you?

Like He shone on Moses back in Exodus?

But here it’s not the afterglow of His back, it’s the full shine of His face!

“The LORD make his face shine upon you [what does that do?] and be gracious to you.”

This is the language of personal relationship.

When God delights in His people, His face shines on them. And then He gives them good things, His best, which they do not deserve.

That’s grace!

Grace is undeserved blessing.

“How are you today?”

“Better than I deserve! I’m blessed! The LORD is shining His face upon me.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some sunshine!

It seems like February is the darkest month of the year.

I can’t wait for the sun to come out and burn off all of this snow.

Don’t you just love the feel of the hot sun streaming into a room this time of year?

“The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you!”

And notice, there are three parts to this blessing. It reminds us of the Trinity.

You know, the name LORD (for YHWH) isn’t grammatically necessary for this sentence to work in Hebrew. But God tells Moses to tell Aaron to say it three times.

LORD, LORD, LORD. V.26

“The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

#4. GOD TURNS HIS FACE TOWARD HIS PEOPLE AND GIVES THEM PEACE.

Here the idea isn’t so much the shining as the happy personal gaze is directed at the people. The King James had “The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”

Many commentators say that this is the equivalent of God’s smile!

I almost titled this sermon, “God’s Smile.”

God smiles on His people and gives them...shalom, peace.

Shalom is more than just the absence of hostility. It is the presence of wholeness, health, goodness, well-being, and peace. Shalom.

And shalom is God’s gift. It is the gift the comes from God’s Smile.

Can you have shalom even in the midst of trials?

When you lose your job?
When your relationships are falling apart?
When you are tempted by a powerful addiction?
When you run out of money?
When your health fails?

Absolutely.

Because you know that God’s smile is on you, you can have peace.

“The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

This is what it means to be blessed.

To experience the keeping of God.
To experience the grace of God.
To experience the peace of God.

To experience the shining smile of God!

And God desires to bless His people!

#5. THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BEAR HIS NAME! V.27

“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Aaron’s blessing somehow put the name of YHWH on the Israelites and through that they experienced all of the blessing that God had for them.

This is what it means to bear God’s name: blessing!

Now, they didn’t always experience all of the blessing that they could have.

Disobedience brings danger and there will be plenty of disobedience in the book of Numbers.

Right now, however, we see only obedience. Everything that YHWH asks, Moses and the Israelites are doing.

And with obedience comes blessing.

But for those who truly bear the name of the LORD, even disobedience isn’t the end of the story–blessing is.

Because that’s what it means to bear the name of the LORD!

“I will bless them.”

And for us today, this blessing ultimately comes through Jesus Christ.

He is the Lord whose name we bear as Christians.

And it didn’t come easily.

It came through a Cross.

Did Jesus experience this blessing on the Cross?

The LORD bless you and keep you?
The LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you?
The LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace?

No! He experienced the exact opposite.

He experience the wrathful frown of God so that we could experience His smile!

Therefore, let me give you three points of application.

#1. Bear Jesus’ Blessed Name.

The Gospel of John 1:12 says that to all who received Jesus, to those who believed on His name, He gave the right to be come children of God.

All of God’s best, God’s blessing comes to us through God’s Son, and we must bear His name to receive His blessing.

Have you received Jesus as your Rescuer and King?

If you have, you have the smile of God–even when it doesn’t feel like it.

If you have not, you need it.

Or you will experience the wrathful frown of God for all eternity.

I challenge you today to receive Jesus Christ as your Rescuer and King and begin to bear His name by faith as a Christ-follower.

You will never regret it and you will experience God’s smile.

Application #2. Enjoy Jesus’ Blessing.

Everything we read in verses 24, 25, and 26 is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.

Because of Jesus the LORD bless you and keep you.
Because of Jesus the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
Because of Jesus the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.

That is yours to enjoy!

Enjoy Jesus’ Blessing!

Sometimes I feel like my job as preacher is to show us where we go wrong and try to get us back on the right path.

But I love it when I get a passage like today’s to just bask in and enjoy the sunshine!

Enjoy Jesus’ Blessing!

He is the smile of God for you.

And application #3. Bless Others In Jesus’ Name.

Israel was blessed to be a blessing.

We learned that back in Genesis when the word “blessing” first came on the scene (chapter 12).

Israel was blessed to be a blessing.

And so are we.

We need to think of ourselves as priests like Aaron and his sons helping others to bear the name of Jesus and enjoy the blessings that come from Him.

Bless Others in Jesus’ Name.

I’ll bet if you spent just few minutes thinking about it, you could come up with a practical list of 10 things that you could do by Wednesday that would be a blessing in someone else’s life.

“I Will Bless Them.”

And you could be the conduit of that blessing to someone else.

We aren’t supposed to be cul-de-sacs of blessing but conduits of blessing.

And one way of doing it is to actual bless people.

Fathers and Mothers blessing their children, maybe with these exact words.

Friends blessing each other.

Brothers and sister in Christ blessing one another.

My wife and I like to sing a blessing song to our children by Michael Card that is based on this passage:

The Lord Bless You and Keep You
The Lord Make His Face Shine Upon You
And Give You Peace
And Give You Peace
And Give You Peace Forever

The Lord Be Gracious To You
The Lord Turn His Face Towards You
And Give You Peace
And Give You Peace
And Give You Peace Forever

One time I was away when Robin was a baby and she wouldn’t calm down and go to sleep, and Heather just kept singing that song to her until she finally had peace and went to sleep.

We need to bless others in Jesus’ name.

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