Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

12-10-05

Title: The Lord Bless You and Keep You

 

Text: “The LORD bless you and keep you.” (Numbers 6:24)

Call to Worship:

Behold, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD...Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD (Ps.134:1–2).

Introduction

At the beginning of the twentieth century, we didn’t have any ancient copies of the Hebrew Scriptures.

The oldest existing copy dated back to about A.D.1000.

The critics of God’s Word, therefore, questioned the accuracy of the translation of the Bible.

But, in 1949, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, pushing back the date of our oldest existing Hebrew Scriptures by 1,000 years.

When these Scrolls were compared to more recent translations, the translations proved to be very accurate.

Then, in 1979, an even older fragment of a biblical text was discovered by Dr. Judith M. Hadley of Villanova University in a burial cave in Jerusalem’s Hinnom Valley.

Two tiny silver scrolls were found.

It took several years for Israeli scientists to clean and unroll them, but when they did, they found the oldest known fragment of Scripture, dating back to the time of David, Israel’s second king.

Inscribed on those scrolls, which are now in the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem, is our text for today, which has been given the name—the Aaronic Blessing.

Aaron was the one who announced it to the people, and that is how the Aaronic Blessing got its name.

Let’s begin the year on a positive note, with a timely blessing and a timeless benediction.

Numbers 6 gives various instructions to Israel’s priests.

In verses 22–27, they are told how to bless their people.

We call this the Priestly Blessing, or the Aaronic Blessing or Benediction. 

Aaron, Israel’s chief priest was to pronounce it on ancient Israel.

But in a special way, it’s for you and me at the beginning of this New Year.

Let me read these verses to you; Numbers 6:22-27.

22 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:
24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’
27 “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”

This is first of all a— 

A Blessing in Triplicate.

Notice the threefold use of God’s name: The Lord...the Lord ...the Lord ....

This represented the fullness of God’s blessing. 

He was blessing and blessing and blessing again.

It reminds us of the three fold angelic song in Isaiah 6: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

The triple use of the word intensifies the reality of what the Lord is saying.

As Ecclesiastes puts it: “A three-fold cord is not quickly broken.”

But there may be a greater significance to this triune pronouncement.

The Israelites didn’t understand the doctrine of the Trinity as we do; but the Book of Numbers wasn’t written just for them.

These passages were written for God’s people of all ages.

They were written for you and for me.

You and I actually know more about the Trinity than they did, because we have the advantage of several thousand years of history. 

We can look back in time at the Cross, and we have the New Testament. 

We can look through the lens of fulfilled prophesy, and the revelation of Jesus Christ; we know the result of the Cross.

It seems natural for us to understand that the three-fold blessing of Numbers 6 suggests the Trinity. 

Compare this blessing with the Apostle Paul’s Benediction found in 2 Corinthians 13:14.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

He concluded this letter with a benediction where he not only invokes the fullness of God’s blessings on behalf of the Corinthian believers, but also in passing, provides one of the clearest expressions in the New Testament on the doctrine of the Trinity.

 

The deity of the Son, of the Father, and of the Holy Spirit are acknowledged by virtue of their relation to one another.

 

The unique personality of each is implied by the independent activity referred to in the threefold operation of grace, love, and communion.

Paul’s benediction sounds very much like Aaron’s Blessing.

And, you know something, I think that Paul must have been a Southerner, since he used the phrase “you all.”

Some feel that the Aaronic Blessing should be read with the Trinity in mind:

God the Father bless you and keep you.

God the Son make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

God the Spirit lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

This then is a blessing in triplicate, and it is also a—

A Blessing from Christ.

While the blessings are from the Triune God, the Blesser Himself is the Lord Jesus.

This was a priestly blessing, given by Aaron to the people of Israel in his capacity as the high priest of Israel, representing God.

According to Hebrews 5, Aaron was a foreshadowing of Christ, our Great High Priest.

Our Lord’s last act of ministry before returning to heaven was to bless His followers. 

This blessing is found in Luke 24:50–51.

50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.
51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.

His nail-pierced hand is lifted over the heads of His children in continual blessing, even today.

The ascension of Christ occurred near Bethany, on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives.

 

He ascended in His physical bodily form, and Acts 1:11 assures us that “this same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

 

Christ’s return will not be in a secret spiritual form as some cults want us to believe, but He will return bodily.

 

Christ had a blessing to give His disciples and they worshiped him.

 

Jesus is entitled to our worship, because He is Almighty God, the eternal, omnipotent Creator of the universe.

 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ begins by angels announcing good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people, and it ends with disciples who are filled with great joy watching the Lord ascending up to heaven. 

 

Just like those of old, we should be ready to carry this joy to others all around us.

 

Let us imitate our Lord, who “came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk 19:10).

 

There is no reason to be silent!

 

When we experience joyful worship, we will have little problem giving the world a joyful witness.     

 

Notice that “He lifted up his hands, and blessed them.”   

 

He did not go away in unhappiness, but in love.

 

He left a blessing behind him; he lifted up his hands, as the high priest did when he blessed the people of Israel.

 

He blessed them as Jacob blessed his sons.

 

Jesus blessed His disciples as one having authority, announcing the blessing which he had purchased with His own blood.

There is another yet quality to this blessing; it is a—

A Blessing with Authority.

It is the Lord Jesus Christ who pronounces on His children the richest gifts of God.

He constantly holds His nail-scarred hands over our heads saying, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon You and give you peace.”

If we could realize that, what a difference it would make every day.

That’s why we say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

That’s why we say, “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Christ conveys this blessing to us with authority.

This wasn’t just an expression of good will or a simple prayer.

In Old Testament times, Aaron, endued with the authority of Almighty God and using the Divine Name and the appointed words of God Himself, conveyed God’s blessings on the congregation.

It was a blessing from Christ, it was given with authority, and it was also—

A Blessing According to Our Needs.

I can say that, because the six components of this blessing correspond to our needs:

The first component is: The Lord Bless You.

“Bless” is a common Old Testament word, occurring about 415 times.

It implied life, health, and prosperity.

These blessings are spelled out for Israel in Deuteronomy 28 and for the Christian in Ephesians, Chapters 1—3.

Listen to the words of Ephesians 1:3.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”

Who is it that has blessed us?

 

God is the great giver, and the blessings are already ours.

 

He blesses us with every kind of spiritual blessings.

 

They are spiritual in nature.

 

They are the opposite of earthly and material blessings, and they are the products of the Holy Spirit.

 

Spiritual blessings are the best blessings.

 

God blessed us with all spiritual blessings when he gave us Jesus, and now He freely gives us all things.

 

That is not the way it is with those outside the family of God.

 

They may receive temporary, earthly blessings.

 

Some are favored with health, and not with riches; some with riches, and not with health. 

 

But, where God blesses with spiritual blessings, he blesses with all things.

 

They are spiritual blessings in heavenly places; that is, they come from heaven, and they are designed to prepare us for heaven, and to insure we are received into heaven.

 

We should learn to think of spiritual and heavenly things as the most important things, and of spiritual and heavenly blessings as the best blessings. 

 

Doesn’t it say, “Set not your affections on things on the earth, but on those things which are above?”

 

God blesses us in Christ; when all our services and prayers ascend to God through Christ.

 

And, all our blessings are passed on to us in the same way, since He is the Mediator between God and us.

 

Still someone may ask, “Where is it we are blessed?”

 

We are blessed in heavenly places with heavenly things, which are different from earthly things.

 

Since the saints, who are you and I, are in Him, nothing is too good or too great for God to bestow upon us.

 

Paul wrote the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; for, as Mediator, the Father was his God, and, as God, and the second person in the blessed Trinity, God was his Father.

 

It speaks of the mystical union between Christ and believers, that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is our God also, and our Father, and that in and through Jesus we are blessed.

 

All blessings come from God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

There is no way sinful creatures could expect to receive good from a righteous and holy God, except by Christ’s mediation.

Now, let’s go back to the six components of the blessing that Aaron gave.

The second component is: The Lord Keep You.

“Keep” conveys the idea of protection.

It was used for a shepherd’s keeping watch over his flock.

Its root meaning is “to hedge about.”

The “Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament” defines this term, this way; “to exercise great care over.”

Hasn’t He kept us all these years up to this present time?

Can we doubt that He will stop now that we are almost ready to go to our heavenly home?

The third component of the blessing is The Lord Make His Face Shine Upon You.

Here the idea is sunshine.

We’re to soak up the light, joy, radiance, and enthusiasm of Almighty God.

We need to be close to Him, and in His Word, and worshiping and loving Him.

As we absorb His light, we begin glowing in the darkness like the signs posted along the highways glow in our headlights.

The forth component is: The Lord Be Gracious to You.

Gracious here means “kind and helpful.”

Foremost in this is the idea of forgiveness.

God was gracious when He forgave our sins and saved us.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!

The fifth component to the blessing is: The Lord Lift Up His Countenance Upon You.

In the Bible, relationships were often expressed in terms of facial expressions.

When Cain became angry with Abel, his countenance fell.

When Laban became frustrated with Jacob, his countenance was not favorable toward him.

The Lord’s lifting up His countenance implies His fellowship and smile.   

Matthew Henry said that the idea of lifting up His countenance is that of sensing God’s smile.

When a person had an audience in an ancient Middle Eastern court, the monarch might not even look in his direction.

Or he might look at the claimant with an expression of wrath.

But how pleasant it was, when the monarch looked with pleasure, on the one who had come to his throne.

The sixth component of this blessing is: The Lord Give You Peace.

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom.

The promise that Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace literally reads “peace, peace” (shalōm shalōm).

 

This double emphasis indicates a peace that goes beyond human comprehension.

 

It is a peace that really is a peace.

 

When you trust Jesus Christ to save you, your sins are forgiven, and you have peace with God.

 

He will never call you into judgment for them.

 

You may also enjoy “the peace of God” in your heart and mind as you pray and fix your mind on Him.

 

“The peace of God” is not the absence of problems; it is the presence of divine sufficiency in the midst of problems.

 

George Morrison said, “Peace is the possession of adequate resources”; and those resources come from the Lord when you yield your heart and mind to Him.

Aaron’s blessing was a blessing from Christ, it was given with authority, it was a Blessing According to Our Needs and it was a—

Blessings Equated to the Name of God.

This Aaronic benediction was equated to the Name of God in verse 27 where it said, “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”

 

The blessings of Christ indicate He has put His name on us; we are called by His name; we are Christians.

Conclusion

This blessing was given to Israel during the 40 years of wandering through a wilderness. 

 

But it was given only when the camp was in order and they were prepared for the march. 

 

Then God give His blessing of protection, presence, and peace through this benediction that was pronounced by the priests.

 

By this blessing, God linked His name—that is, His character—with the people of Israel.

 

What a privilege it was for the priests to bless the people, and what a privilege it is for us to share God’s blessing with others.

 

He blesses us so that we may be a blessing.

 

The people were about to enter into war, yet God told them how to have peace.

 

No matter how trying your circumstances may be, you can have God’s peace as you live under the blessing of His smile.

Do you need His blessings?

Are you ready to turn from sin and Satan, to give yourself wholeheartedly to Him?

Here at the beginning of a new year, may the Lord bless you and keep you.

May He make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you.

May He lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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