December 31, 2017

Pastor Bernt P. Tweit

Gospel Lesson; Luke 2:21

Epistle Lesson; Philippians 2:9-13

Sermon Text; Numbers 6:22-27

The Word of God we focus on for today is taken from Numbers, chapter six, looking at verses 22 to 27. This is in Jesus' name.

The LORD told Moses to speak to Aaron and to his sons and to tell them to bless the Israelites with these words:

The LORD bless you and keep you.

The LORD make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.

The LORD look on you with favor

and give you peace.

In this way they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

These are your words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


Being just one week after Christmas, we are focusing on God's name. We are focusing on the name of Jesus. If you recall our Epistle Lesson for today, which is from Philippians, it says,

“ the name of Jesus every knee will bow...”

We sang a hymn about that.

In our Gospel Lesson for today we recalled what had happened eight days after Jesus was born. He was circumcised, and He received His name, Jesus.

Today, as we focus on our Old Testament Lesson we are talking about God's name, the name He wanted to be placed on His people. These are some old words we are focusing on for today, and yet even though they are old words, they are words we can carry with us into the new year. They are old words that have blessings, as we go into the new year.

Moses wrote these words about 1,500 years before Jesus was born. Here, today, we are worshiping about 2,000 years after Jesus. So, these words are about 3,500 years old. And yet, they are just as meaningful to us today, as they were the very first time that Aaron and his sons, the priests, spoke these words to God's people.

-The Children of Israel were just about ready to leave Mt. Sinai. That is where they had received The Ten Commandments.

-They were on their way to The Promised Land.

-They did not yet know they would be spending 40 years in the wilderness. That would come later, because they rebelled against God. They would spend a year in the wilderness for every day the spies had been scoping out the land.

-A census had been taken, and there were about 2,000,000 Israelites who were walking through the wilderness.

-They were told exactly where they would be in correlation to The Tabernacle. The Tabernacle would always be at the center of their camp.

-There would be three tribes on the north, three on the west, three on the south, and three on the east.

It was a very orderly procession they were to take.

That is when God told Moses to share these words with Aaron, and his sons. “This is how you are to bless the people.” Sometimes, we refer to this as “The Priestly Blessing”. Sometimes, we refer to this as “The Aaronic (after the name Aaron) The Aaronic Blessing”. Sometimes, we just simply refer to this as “The Benediction”. The word 'benediction' is a Latin word. 'Bene' means 'well'. 'Dictara' means 'to speak'. And so, it is just simply this speaking of wellness, or this invocation of divine blessing and protection God wants you to know about because you are His people.

Now, each of us have probably heard these words so many times. So, this past week I sat down, and tried to calculate how many times maybe I have heard, or read these words. I came up with five thousand. And, you have heard these words probably thousands of times, as well. This morning I would like to dig deep into these words, to truly understand again what it is they are saying.

From a Hebrew perspective it is pretty simple. The first phrase is three words, and twelve syllables. The second phrase is five words, and fourteen syllables. The third phrase is seven Hebrew words, and sixteen syllables. Somebody said that if you take out the word, 'Lord', which is the Hebrew word 'Yahweh', you are left with twelve words, which would be words spoken to the twelve tribes of Israel. But, now they are words spoken to the entire Christian Church on earth, the invisible church, here on earth.

As The Benediction begins, it begins with the phrase,

“The Lord bless you and keep you.”

It doesn't come out this way in English, but it does come out in Hebrew. The word 'you' is singular, not plural. It is singular. Even though there were two million Israelites, as God shared this blessing through Moses to the priest, to share with the people, God wanted His people to know these words apply to each and every one of you. Not just as a corporate group, but you as an individual. That is why, when I say The Benediction, at the end of the service, I try to look at as many faces as possible so you know these words are referring to you, personally.

Let's look at The Benediction, and look at how in each of the three phrases we are going to see our Triune God, who has come to us to bless us. We are going to see Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in these three words, The Lord. Also I want to share with you the explanation Martin Luther has in each of the three articles to The Apostle's Creed, as well.

Let's look at the first phrase.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

In this phrase we see God, our Heavenly Father, who is personally speaking to you as your protector, as the One who wants to provide for you. Now, we just said this in our confession, just a moment ago, but I am going to share it with you, again. This is Martin Luther's Explanation to The First Article.

“I believe that God has made me, and all creatures, that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all of my members, my reason and all of my senses, and still preserves them, that He richly, and daily provides me with food and clothing, home and family, property and goods, and all I need to support this body and life. He protects me from all danger, guards and keeps (there is that word 'keep') keeps me from all evil. All of this purely out of Fatherly divine goodness, and mercy without any merit, or worthiness in me, for all of which I am in duty bound to thank, and praise, and to serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.”

And so, as we hear that phrase, “The Lord bless you and keep you”, we are reminded that not only did God create us, but He is also there as our Father to protect us.

Psalm 121 sometimes is referred to as “The Travelers Psalm”. In that Travelers Psalm part of what the psalmist wrote is,

 “The Lord will keep you from all harm.”

That is what we pray that God would do for us, during our journey through this life, that He would keep us, and He would keep us safe.

The second phrase of The Benediction.

“The Lord make His face shine upon you

and be gracious onto you.”

It is in this phrase, the second phrase of The Benediction, we see Jesus. It is through Jesus we receive God's grace. The Explanation to the Second Article of the Apostle's Creed, Martin Luther wrote,

“I believe that Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true Man, born of the virgin Mary. He is my Lord, who has redeemed me a lost, and condemned creature, 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 with His innocent suffering, and death, in order that I might be His own, live under Him in His Kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He has risen from the dead, lives, and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”

As we hear the second phrase of The Benediction, it reminds me, and it should remind you of who God's grace is for. Who is it that needs God's grace? Well, it is sinners who need God's grace. I am a sinner who needs God's grace. You are a sinner who needs God's grace. And, here in this blessing we hear God, in His graciousness to you and me, sent Jesus to be our Savior.

Just a week ago, we heard about that grace, when we heard the familiar words from John's Gospel, in John, chapter one, in which it says,

“We have seen His glory,

the glory of the One and only,

who came from the Father,

full of grace and truth.”

And so, as Jesus is born, He is born to give us God's grace. As Jesus dies for us, and says,

“It is finished”,

He dies to give us God's grace so that we, who are sinners, receive God's grace, which simply is His undeserved love for us, who are sinners.

The last phrase of The Benediction says,

“The Lord lift up His countenance upon you

and give you His peace.”

Martin Luther, when he wrote The Explanation to the Third Article of The Apostle's Creed, talked about the Holy Spirit as The Comforter and the Peace Giver.

“I believe I cannot by my own reason, or strength 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, just as 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 me, and all believers all of our sins. At the last day, He will raise up me, and all of the dead, and will grant me, and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.”

It is the Holy Spirit who is your Comforter. He is the One who is there to bring you, and me peace. Here is what God's Word says in Romans, chapter fifteen.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy,

and peace as you trust in Him,

so that you may overflow with hope

by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Here, the Hebrew word for 'peace' is 'shalom'. Sometimes, today, we even use that in our greetings with one another. “Shalom”, or “Peace”.

In the simple blessing we have maybe heard thousands of times, we see our Triune God as our Father and protector, as our Savior, and as our Comforter. Be looking for those words, as we sing our closing hymn, Go My Children with My Blessing. Some old blessings we can take with us into the new year.

Two last things I want to share with you today, are these. Recently, I borrowed some books from a member. I read them, and when I get done reading them, I will return them. Inside the front cover of those books is the name of the individual. Every time I see her name, it is a reminder to me of who those books belong to. The day will come when I will return those books.

That reminds me that you have an owner. It reminds me of who it is you belong to. God is your owner and you belong to him.

In thinking about that, I couldn't help but think of the movie series, Toy Story - Toy Story One (try saying this three times fast!), Toy Story Two, and Toy Story Three. Almost in each of those animated movies, there is a character who is dejected, who is despondent, because they don't know if they have any belonging.

That is when another character will say, “Look at the bottom of your foot to see who it is you belong to.”

So, they pick up their foot, look on the bottom, and there is a name. It is a boy's name, Andy, It is a reminder to them of who it is they belong to.

You have an owner. There may be times in your life when you are feeling despondent, and you are feeling dejected. Well, what should you do? Don't look at the bottom of your foot. But, know this. God has placed His name on you. He is your owner. You belong to Him. You hear that every time you hear The Benediction.

“The Lord bless you and keep you.

The Lord make His face shine upon you

and be gracious onto you.

And, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you

and give you peace.”