160522 Numbers 6:22-27

Last Updated on Sunday, 22 May 2016 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Numbers 6:22-27
Theme: We Are Blessed By The Lord

How are you? I don't have any statistics to back this up, but my guess is that this is one of the most asked questions in the English language. And when people ask it, they expect certain responses, like "Fine" or "Okay" or "Good. How are you?" If you're like me, you might be tempted to not pay attention to the response...unless it is something that is way out of the ordinary.

I can remember having an experience like that at my previous congregation. Thursday was printing day at the church, and for the thirteen years I served there a volunteer by the name of Ed came in every Thursday morning to print and fold the weekly service folders.

One day I came out of my office while he was at work and without a whole lot of thought I asked him the question: "How are you?" I will never forget his reply. He didn't say: "Fine." He didn't say: "Okay." He didn't say: "Good. How are you?" Without any hesitation this was his response: "Blessed by the Lord."

There is a part of me that misses hearing those words every Thursday, but they don't apply only on Thursdays. Any Christian can make the same confession on any day of the week, and those words have special significance for us on this Trinity Sunday.

Today we marvel at the mystery that is the Trinity, the truth that God reveals himself as three distinct persons and one indivisible God. Today we thank our triune God for everything he has done for us and for the many things he continues to do for us. And this morning the inspired instructions God gave to Moses will help us remember something about ourselves too. We are blessed...

We Are Blessed By The Lord

It isn't too difficult to find evidence of the Trinity in the Gospel lesson for today. Speaking to his disciples in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday, Jesus told them about the coming of the Holy Spirit and the glory he shared with his Father. You don't have to look too hard to find references to the three persons in the second lesson either. In fact, the names "God" and "Jesus" and "Holy Spirit" almost jump off the printed page.

Another divine name, "LORD," is prominent in today's First Lesson recorded in Numbers (four times in six verses), but there are no direct references to the Trinity. No Father. No Son. No Spirit. But what may not be explicit in the text is embedded in the three part blessing. And as we take a closer look at this special blessing the Lord gave to Moses to give to Aaron and his sons (that's why it is called the Aaronic blessing) to give to the children of Israel, we will see how blessed we are too.

"The LORD bless you and keep you" (24) brings to mind Luther's explanation of the first article of the Apostles' Creed: "I believe that God (speaking of the Father) created me and all that exists, that he gave me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my mind and all my abilities." Our long list of blessings begins with life itself, with our ability to see and hear and walk and talk and think and reason, but the blessings don't stop there. God heaps blessing on top of blessing in the form of the food we eat and the clothes we wear and the work we do and the family we love.

Look in your pantry. Look in your closets. Look in your garage. Look at your lifestyle. Every so often we need to take a closer look at all of our possessions and then look up to acknowledge the One from whom those blessings flow. And when we are finished, then we can get on to the important work of giving thanks for the greater blessings God gives us.

The Lord not only blesses us. He keeps us too. He defends us against all danger. He guards and protects us from evil. Sometimes he puts a shield around us to keep danger away. Sometimes he takes a dangerous situation and makes it work out for our good. Sometimes he sends his invisible angels to keep our enemies at bay. We may not be able to count every blessing. We may not be able to see every blessing, but this we know: thanks to our Father in heaven, we are blessed!

"The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you" (25). The second part of the blessing draws our attention to the work of the second person of the Trinity. Picture Jesus in your mind right now. What is his facial expression? My guess is that many of you saw a man who was smiling, and that's a good thing. In fact, that is the English equivalent of the Hebrew expression to make one's face shine. Right now our Lord is looking down at us, smiling down on us. The question we need to ask ourselves is: why?

It isn't because he always likes what he sees...because he doesn't. It isn't because our words and actions always make him happy...because they don't. Think of the many times you misused God's name. Think about how often you neglect God's Word. Think of all the times you knowingly and willfully ignored God's will. With every sinful act we commit, with every hurtful word we say, with every selfish thought we conceive, we do our best to wipe that smile off God's face.

But instead of wiping his rebellious creatures off the face of the earth, the Lord is gracious to us. When our Lutheran ears hear the word, "gracious," we can't help but hear another beautiful word, grace, God's undeserved love poured out on undeserving sinners. And we can see God's grace on display for the whole world to see in the final hours of Jesus' life.

We see the look of anguish on his face as he prays in the Garden. We see him wince with every lash that stripes his back. We see the compassion in his eyes as he asks his Father to forgive his enemies. We see all expression disappear from his face moments after he gives up his spirit. When we see how much our Savior loves us and how much he endured to save us, a broad smile forms on our own faces because we know that we are blessed!

"The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace" (26). The third and final part of the blessing shines a spotlight on the work of the third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit turns spiritual corpses into living beings, sworn enemies of God into God's dearly loved children, sinners blinded by their sin into saints who see and confess that Jesus is the Light of the world. The Spirit gives us the faith to believe that our Savior lives, that our sins are forgiven, that our final destination is heaven. And because we know where we are going, we have peace.

The peace the Lord promises is not freedom from every trouble. The peace we enjoy is not the complete absence of trouble. One of the hymns in the "Trust" section of our hymnal (CW 431) expresses it perfectly in memorable poetry. We walk in danger all the way, but we never walk alone. We walk with Jesus, who has defeated our enemies, who gives us his Spirit, who guides us into all truth (John 16:13), who makes us appreciate what it means to be truly blessed!

You might not know a whole lot about the book of Numbers, but you are probably familiar with the Aaronic blessing. Because it is spoken by the pastor at the end of most of our services you might even be able to recite it from memory. But what about the words in the text that come right after the blessing, where the Lord tells Moses: "So they (Aaron and his sons; the priests) will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them" (27). How does God put his name on his children? When did that happen to the Israelites? And does that still happen today?

The answer to the last question is "yes." It does happen. In fact, you witnessed it when it happened at the beginning of this service. The parents were the ones who brought their baby up to the font. I was the one who sprinkled the water and spoke the words, but the triune God did the important work.

"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." With those words Lucas Connor Schwefel was given a new name, Christian. Through the water and the Word that little child became God's child. Any every Christian who has been in his position, every believer whose sins have been washed away in Holy Baptism, every person who has received the gift of saving faith through the miraculous working of the triune God, we all have something very special in common. We are blessed!

Most of us can anticipate what happens at the end of a regular worship service. After the final prayer the pastor turns around up at the altar and raises his hands and speaks the familiar words of the blessing. We have come to expect that. Perhaps you even look forward to that.

But what would you think if I came down the steps this morning and approached you and spoke the blessing about three inches from your face, almost touching your nose as I made the sign of the cross? Would that make you a little uncomfortable? Would you wonder if I had become a bit unstable?

You don't have to worry about that. I am not going to do that (we are actually singing the closing blessing this morning). But standing directly in front of you would capture the meaning of the Hebrew text. "You" isn't very specific in English. "You" can refer to one person or to a whole group of people. But in Hebrew every "you" in this blessing is singular.

So why do I point that out? Why is that significant? What does that mean for you? What might sometimes feel like a blanket blessing the pastor throws out over the entire congregation is much more personal than that. In this blessing the Lord is speaking to you. He isn't distracted. His attention is not divided. He isn't talking to the person sitting next you or in the pew ahead of you. He is looking you directly in the eye, and with a smile on his face he says: "You are safe in my keeping. You are the object of my grace. You have lasting peace. You are blessed. You are blessed by the Lord." Amen.

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