A sermon based on Numbers 6:22-27 for Trinity Sunday, June 13/16, 2019.
It is everyone’s favorite part of the service. Everything has been building up to this climax. From the moment they first sit in the pew, every Christian cannot wait to hear those words. It finally comes: the benediction. All of a sudden our minds go to what needs to get done when we get home, if we can beat the line at Walker’s, or we try to plot the quickest exit so as not to get caught up in too many conversations, especially with one of the pastors. We quickly, almost automatically say “Amen” and sing a final hymn, then we put our plan into action. We might chuckle, but how many times does this play out? The words of the benediction start, and our mind checks out. We only think of the end. If we think of the benediction this way, we miss some very important words and promises God desires for us to hear.
The Triune God Goes With Us
- To bless us.
- To save us.
- To grant us peace.
The Israelites camped at the base of Mt. Sinai. Two years had passed from the time they left Egypt. They would soon make their final push up to the Promised Land. Before all this happened, God wanted them prepared for what would come. The Lord took a census of the people. The people staked their tents around the Tabernacle. Soon spies would go out to explore the land of Canaan. As they waited, God reminded them of his will for them.
Much of the life of the Jews centered around their relationship with God. God ruled them. They witnessed the pillar of fire and smoke leading them on their journeys. They saw the Glory of the Lord descend upon Mt. Sinai as God gave his laws to Moses. All of this was from a distance. Now, the Lord would come to them individually. The Lord would put a very special blessing upon the nation. The Lord told Moses to give this blessing to Aaron and his sons to proclaim to the nations. This would not be a onetime blessing. The nation would hear these words every time they would come for worship. The people would receive words of comfort and joy.
We still use this blessing today. At the end of the great majority of our services we hear these words of the very same comfort and joy. These words do not simply tell us the service ends, and God is done with us. This blessing proclaims to us the Triune God goes with us out in our life. Three parts make up this blessing, which make it fitting for us to use on this Trinity Sunday.
The first part of the blessing spoke about God the Father providing blessing upon the nation. “The LORD bless you and keep you” (Numbers 6:24). They would think how God kept them safe in the land of Egypt. With a powerful hand God displayed his power ten times in various plagues inflicting harm, destruction, and yes even death. However, he kept his people safe. He remembered his promise made to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob to deliver their descendants.
Over the past two years the Israelites saw the great providence of a loving heavenly Father. God rained down manna every morning for the people to make bread. Soon he would provide quail on a daily basis in the evening. Water gushed forth from rocks in the middle of the desert.
The Lord would continue to provide for the people. Soon they would see the wonderful riches of the Promised Land. God the Father is so good to them. Unfortunately, they would fail to see many of those blessings. They rebelled. They grumbled and complained about having the same food. They spoke against their God and his leaders.
Their ignorance of the Father’s goodness never negated the goodness of the Father. God would continue to bless them. God would continue to keep them in his tender care. Throughout all the years of wandering in the wilderness, which this nation would soon do, they would be blessed by God.
Blessings might be the last thing we think about when it comes to the words of the benediction being spoken. How can we not think about those blessings God gives to us? For the last hour or so we sat at the feet of God listening to his Word. We have been reminded about the great blessings our heavenly Father gives to us.
Our sinful nature blinds us to many of those blessings. Instead of recognizing and praising God for blessings, we grumble and complain about what we do not have. Jealousy and greed fill our hearts rather than thankfulness for our blessings.
We need to open our eyes and see the blessings that God gives to us. The Psalmist puts it well when he tells us, “The eyes of all eagerly look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. He opens his hand, and he satisfies the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15-16). God blesses us. He keeps us in his hands protecting us from all harm and danger. It does not matter whether they are physical or spiritual dangers, God will keep us. The greatest blessing that our Father bestows upon us comes with the forgiveness of sins.
The second part of the blessing focused on the work of the Son, “The LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you” (Numbers 6:25). The worship life of the Jews centered around Jesus. The sacrifices made them look to the future for the sacrifice to end all sacrifices in the Lamb of God. The festivals focused their attention on the sinfulness of humans, but also the grace of God as he comes to sinful people to rescue them.
God made a very special covenant with Abraham that all nations on earth would be blessed through one special descendant of his. The promise was passed down from generation to generation. The Lord even had a special name to convey that covenant with his people. The Old Testament signaled it with the special name, “Yahweh”, the LORD in all capital letter. This name of God focused on his covenant. This is the God of all grace. This is the God of all mercy who would continually make his face shine upon the people of Israel.
Was Israel perfect? Soon the nation would rebel against God. When the spies came back from the Promised Land, they said they could not take the land. The people were too numerous. They were too strong. They wanted to turn back and return to Egypt. Many times throughout their history the people would continue to show their weaknesses of their sinful flesh in their sins against God.
God would never turn his face from the people. He would keep the promise of the covenant. The serpent crusher would come into the world. His grace and mercy would go out to this nation and to all the world with the Son’s work of reconciling the world done.
The Lord should rightly turn away his face in horror from our sins. God cannot stand sin. Sometimes, we try to down play this. We think of sin as no big deal. God doesn’t care. God will not punish sin. These thoughts only try to calm our own troubled conscience. It doesn’t matter whether I hate, abuse marriage’s blessings, drink too much, don’t use my money to honor God, or do anything else. If we think God does not care, sin will not bother us.
God does care. Sin angers God. However, God sent the Son into the world to do away with sin. Jesus died on the cross to pay the punishment that sin deserves. God’s anger burned against Jesus. God turned his face away from Jesus in his greatest hour of need. Now, God will turn his face toward us.
Our sins have been paid for. The punishment, which our sins deserved, has been taken away. He shows us his grace. Our consciences are calmed for we know that Jesus has done everything so that we might be free. God’s forgiveness gives us the certainty that we have won the victory.
God’s face shines upon the faithful. He looks at us tenderly as his dear children and gives us his peace. “The LROD look on you with favor and give you peace” (Numbers 6:26).
Last week on Pentecost we heard about the peace that God brings to us. Jesus proclaimed peace to his disciples on the very first Easter evening. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to pronounce this peace and all the work that has been done.
This blessing spoke about a very special peace. In the Hebrew it is the word “Shalom”. This was the common greeting for meeting people. In the biblical language it closely mirrors the Greek word for grace. This is the peace with the complete absence of strife. No more anger. No more fear. No more work needs to be done. Jesus has accomplished it all.
We come into a peaceful relationship with God. We can approach him in confidence. We approach him knowing that we have peace. The most important part of the blessing comes last. God’s peace continues in our life each day.
With this blessing the Lord places his name upon us. His name placed upon us at our baptism continues to go out with us. We leave in confidence that all the things spoken about in our worship service will remain true as we leave. God is with me. God will continue to be with me. God places his mark on me to keep me safe. I am his child at peace with him. The Triune God Goes with Us. Amen.