Numbers 6:22-27 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.”
The Triune God bless you
- The Father’s care
- The Son’s grace
- The Holy Spirit’s peace
We just confessed, “Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all else, hold to the true Christian faith. Whoever does not keep this faith pure in all points will certainly perish forever. Now this is the true Christian faith: We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God, without mixing the persons or dividing the divine being.” Our God – the only true God – is triune, three in one. We call it the mystery of the Trinity because we can know what the Bible says about God but we can’t fully understand the Trinity. But while we can’t fully understand God, we can understand what our God does for us. The Triune God will bless you.
You will notice the three parts to this blessing, each beginning with “the Lord”, reflecting the Triune nature of God. It uses the name of God that in Hebrew is Yahweh. God explained the name to Moses when he said, “I am who I am.” That means he needs no one else. He is self-sufficient, independent of all, free to act according to his good pleasure. He just is. It also means that he is constant. He doesn’t change. He doesn’t go back on his word. He is faithful. He is. The same God who kept his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, will keep his promises to you. He is constant, unchanging, faithful, so his promises are sure and certain. His promises do not fail. His name guarantees it.
How does he bless us? The Lord bless you and keep you. What we can’t tell in English is that the “you” is singular. Although Aaron, the High Priest, was to speak this blessing to the whole community, God thought of them as individuals. God is thinking of each of you individually when he speaks this blessing through his called servant today.
The Lord blesses you, each of you, by keeping you. If I keep a garden, that means more than I have a garden. It means that I care for it. I put a fence around it to keep the rabbits out. I feed the plants and water them. I weed it and watch for bugs that might eat the leaves. I take care of it.
That’s how the Lord blesses you. Luther said it well in his explanation of the first article of the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe that God made me and every creature and that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my mind and all my abilities. And I believe that God still preserves me by richly and daily providing clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, cattle, and all I own and all that I need to keep my body and life; and by defending me against all danger and guarding and protecting me from all evil. All this God does because he is my good and merciful Father in heaven, and not because I have earned or deserved it. For all this I ought to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
The Lord, God the Father, blesses us with his care. The Lord, God, the Son, blesses us with his grace. The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. Sunny, warm days this week have been a joy. It has been too cloudy this spring for me. I want to see the sun, feel its warmth, enjoy the brightness. I want to wear shorts and sandals, sunglasses and sunscreen. With the sun shining on us we are happy. We feel better.
So it is when God’s face shines on us. But how can God shine his face on us? Remember how Moses wanted to see God’s face and God told him that no one could see God’s face and live. In order to shine his face on us, God must hide his face from us. His uncovered glory would destroy us sinful creatures. So the Lord put on a mask of flesh and blood and shined his face from the manger and the cross. Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”(John 14:9) Jesus became man in order to show us God’s face and be gracious to us.
He is gracious to us by redeeming us from sin, death and the devil with his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. Martin Luther explained:
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. All this he did that I should be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from death, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
What sins stick in your mind? What did you do in anger that you regret? What sinful habits have you fallen into? What nasty thoughts slimed your mind? What harmful gossip passed over your lips? When the pain of our failures and the guilt of our sins blacken our souls, we can bask in the sunshine of God’s grace and forgiveness. The Lord, God, the Son blesses us with grace.
And the Lord, God, the Holy Spirit, blesses us with peace. The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. When someone is excited and happy to see you, we say their face lights up. This line says the Lord lifts his face, that is, he smiles on us and gives us peace. It’s not peace from trouble or having an easy life. It’s peace with God given by the Holy Spirit through Word and sacrament. It’s the peace that he daily and richly forgives all sins to me and all believers. It’s the peace that he will raise us on the last day and give us eternal life. Martin Luther explained:
I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all sins to me and all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
God told Moses, “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” Johnny Cash sang a song about a boy named Sue. Life was hard for a boy with that name. We have the Lord’s name on us and we may feel that it can be a hard name to live with, too. But carrying the Lord’s name on us is not a burden, but a blessing.
With his name on us we can walk out of here with confidence in the Lord’s care, grace and peace no matter how Satan and the world will attack us. God is on our side and God will make all things work for our good. We can be at peace.
Wouldn’t you expect God to send us on our way as a teacher might? “Ok class, here is your assignment for tomorrow: read pages 30-35 and do the worksheet.” Shouldn’t God’s last word to us be an assignment, too? “Be good. Love one another. Share the gospel.” No, the Lord doesn’t burden us as we leave, but blesses us.
May we, in faith, say “Amen” to this blessing. Amen Lord, God, the Father, bless us and keep us. Amen Lord Jesus Christ, shine your face on us and be gracious to us. Amen Lord, Holy Spirit, lift up your face toward us and give us peace. Amen.