LORD -- Fill Our Lives with Your Blessings!
Lord God, our good and gracious heavenly Father, as we enter a New Year, we come before Your presence to secure Your blessing. We recognize our dependence upon You for our spiritual and physical welfare, and we rejoice in Your mercy bestowed upon us so graciously through our Lord Jesus Christ. May we ever prove faithful to You, our loving Savior. Amen.
Paul here introduces his epistle to the Romans, emphasizing the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Though Jesus we receive God’s grace and are by faith His saints!
When Jesus was eight days old, He was circumcised and given His name, which means "Savior!"
Text: 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.”
In Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior through whom we seek every blessing, dear fellow redeemed:
It generally does not take too long when speaking in light conversation with people at this time of year for people to ask, “Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?” Many people make such resolutions—some rather seriously with every intention of keeping them, and others with a light heart and no real serious intentions. Such resolutions, however, do reflect a desire to change at least some of the past habits we have had or past choices we have made with the hope that we might be more successful in the future.
This morning I do not intend you ask you about your New Year’s resolutions, but I would like to ask you to reflect for a moment on those things you absolutely need for a successful future in 2004 and beyond. Someone might immediately quip—a big, fat raise would help! Upon further reflection, however, we might come up with a list that would include things like good health, a good marital and/or family relationship, better financial management, or perhaps different employment. Our individual lists would vary somewhat, but I would imagine that most of the things on all of our lists would be the same. There is one thing, however, that we all need more than anything else on our list of things we need most for a successful future, and that is the blessing of the LORD. The apostle Paul once told the Athenians, “In Him (that is, in God) we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We are all created by God and would cease to exist without God. Consequently, we are completely dependent upon God and without question need His blessing, if we are to enjoy a successful future. The wonderful truth we want to explore this morning is the simple fact that God eagerly desires to bless us. Let us, therefore, consider our text while sharing this simple prayer—LORD, FILL OUR LIVES WITH YOUR BLESSINGS!
Our text takes us back to the foot of Mount Sinai after Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. The LORD God had given Israel His law, complete with instructions regarding the building of the Tabernacle and the way they were to worship. Everything had been completed just as God had stipulated, and the people were about to depart for the Promised Land. Before they left, our text tells us, “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.’”
It is interesting that the LORD commanded that the Aaronitic Benediction, as we have come to call it, be used to end the Old Testament worship services. The LORD was and remains so serious about blessing us, that He commanded His Old Testament people to use this benediction, not only to remind them of their dependence upon Him, but also to assure His people every time they worshipped of His good and gracious desire to help them.
Let us examine this blessing together. You will notice, first of all, that it uses a Trinitarian format. The name “LORD” is used three times, which certainly makes reference to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Beyond that, however, the content of each of the three phrases relates directly to the work of each of the three Persons of the Trinity as revealed in our Bibles.
“The LORD bless you and keep you.” The word “bless” means "to cause to prosper," while the word “keep” suggests watching over, guarding, and preserving. The thoughts behind this statement are very broad, including all of the blessings we need for our bodies and souls. These blessings flow from the hand of God our heavenly Father. Luther in his explanation to the First Article writes so beautifully of the Father’s work, when he says, “I believe that God has created me and all creatures. He has given me my body and life, eyes, ears, and all my bodily members, my mind and all my senses, and still keeps them for me. God also preserves me by richly and daily providing clothing and shoes, food and drink, house, and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all my property and all I need to support this body and life. He protects me from all danger. He guards and defends me from every evil.” When God commanded that this first portion of His blessing be pronounced, He was reminding us that our earthly success is not primarily the result of our own efforts. While we certainly want to work hard and use the gifts God has given us, our success is ultimately dependent upon God’s blessing. The Psalmist, perceptively, writes, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guard the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
“The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.” When we speak of God’s grace, we are to think of Jesus. It was Jesus whom God sent into the darkness of the world to shine with the light of salvation. It was Jesus, who in love for us offered Himself up for our sins. Luther again puts it so beautifully when he writes in his explanation to the Second Article, “He (Jesus) redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sin, 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. He did this that I should be His very own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and joy, just as He is risen from death, lives and reigns in eternity.” When God commanded this portion of His blessing to be pronounced, He was reminding us of the fact that without Him we are lost spiritually and would have no future at all beyond this life. As most if not all of you are aware, the LORD took Marilyn Hagen home earlier this week. The final devotion that I was privileged to have with her focused on the joyous anticipation we can have for our futures in view of the grace and promises of Jesus Christ. God wants us to know this, so that we can live every aspect of our lives here in this world with confidence, even as we look ahead to the blessings of heaven!
“The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” The countenance of God refers to the way He views us. To “lift up His countenance” means in effect “to smile” upon us. The LORD bestows upon us His marvelous message of grace through the gospel, and He gives us peace as His Spirit works saving faith within our hearts. This is the work and blessing of the Holy Spirit, whom God sends to sanctify us. Again, if we turn to Luther we can capture the ideas God would have us remember as we hear this portion of His blessing. Luther writes, “I believe that I cannot by my own reasoning or effort believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, nor come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified, and kept me in true faith.” It is when we are brought to faith and are led to lay out all of our cares and concerns, our aspirations and our plans before the LORD, that the Holy Spirit can and will work His absolute peace within our hearts. We can rest secure knowing that the LORD is watching over and will bless us. Thus He has commanded us, and so we say LORD, FILL OUR LIVES WITH YOUR BLESSING! We will joyously fulfill Your command!
The final verse of our text, however, reveals a most precious and comforting thought. We read, “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” Notice, that God combines His command to use the Aaronitic Blessing with His promise indeed to bless His people when it is used. God only commands us to do that which in the end will bring us blessing. We see that, for instance, in His Fourth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). Here the LORD God commands us to pronounce His blessing—something, which we as believers are only to happy to do, while at the same time He promises actually to bring blessing into our lives!
My dear friends, this is what can and ought to give us hope for success in the future. God promises to bless us as we willingly and joyfully entrust ourselves to Him and follow Him. God cannot and will not fail to fulfill His promises, but rather will keep them all. We do not have to look into the future in fear or uncertainty in spite of the fact that our futures may pose many questions and even some problems. Our LORD God is a great God, who created and now controls heaven and earth. With Him all things are possible. Under His guidance everything that is necessary for us to accomplish as individuals and as a Christian congregation will be done, as we faithfully carry out our duties under the guidance of His hands. Let us, therefore pray: LORD, FILL OUR LIVES WITH YOUR BLESSINGS! We will joyously fulfill Your command, even as we confidently trust in Your promise! Amen.
Soli Dei Gloria!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting