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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
Title:The Blessing
Text:Numbers 6:22-27 (View)
Occasion:New Years Eve
Topic:Administering God's Blessing

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs - Hymn 42:1,2,3,8; Psalm 63:1,2,3; Psalm 67:1; Hymn 63

Reading - Psalm 67; Luke 24:44-53

Text - Numbers 6:22-27
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Every Sunday (usually at the end of the morning service) you are blessed by way of the priestly blessing as you find it in Numbers 6. With these words, the LORD God blesses you. For 1000s of years, since the time of Moses, these words of blessing have been spoken over God's people.

We need God's blessing. We stand at the end of one year; soon another will begin. As we travel along, we do so, we need to do so, under the blessing of God. The LORD God will bless us. The last words of Num. 6 say it all: "And I will bless them." Beloved, God will bless you in the upcoming year of the Lord, 2003.

I preach to you the word of God:


1. The mediator of the blessing; 2. The words of the blessing; 3. The effect of the blessing.

1. The mediator of the blessing was the priest. The LORD told Moses that Aaron and his sons (they were the priests in Israel) were to bless the people. The office of mediating between God and His people was given to the priests. The priests had to bring the sacrifices for the people of Israel. (For the forgiveness of their sins.) And it was their task to pray for the people and bless the people.

In Lev. 9 we read about the priests beginning their ministry. Aaron brought various sacrifices to atone for the sins of Israel. When he had done that he turned toward the people (v. 22), lifted up his hands and blessed them.

The blessing followed the sacrifices. First the sins of the people had to be covered. Covered by the blood. Atoned for by the sacrifices. Then the blessings of God could shower down upon his people.

That sacrifice for sin had to be brought before God would bless his people is not because of any weakness in God. It's the fault of man. Man put up the barriers. Man made the problem. Man sinned and put up a wall between himself and God. But, in his grace, God gave a way out. He gave the priestly sacrificial ministry. He provided a way to cover the sin, to remove the barrier, to make things well between himself and man. Once the sacrifice has been brought, once the blood has covered man's sin, then God blessed his people. The blessing would flow.

Think also of the priest Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. The people were waiting for him to come out of the holy place, where he was bringing the incense offering. They were waiting for him to come out to bless them.

It is rather interesting that we find the words the priests were to use when they blessed the people in Numbers. Not in Leviticus. Why is that? It's the book of Lev. which has all the laws for the sacrifices-the sacrifices upon which the blessing is based. It's Lev. which records all the different things the priests were to do. Numbers, on the other hand, is the book that tells us about Israel's wandering through the desert. It records the 40 years of trekking through the wilderness. It's Hebrew name translates into English as "In the Wilderness."

Why do we find the words of the priestly blessing in Numbers and not in Lev? We cannot say exactly why. But we can be glad that they are where they are. We can be glad the priestly blessing is recorded in Numbers.

As I said, the book of Numbers gives the history of Israel's journey to the Promised Land. God had delivered them from Egypt. He had set them free. He met them at Mt. Sinai. There he (re-)established the covenant with them. He gave them his law (incl. the laws about the sacrifices). Then he proceeded to lead them to the Promised Land. They began that journey under his blessing. Sins forgiven by sacrifice, in covenant relationship with him, surrounded by his blessing, his care and his peace, they journeyed towards the Promised Land.

All the priests of the OT (Aaron and his descendents) stood in the shadow that the great, perfect and final priest Jesus Christ cast backwards from his position in the NT. The Lord Jesus is a prophet, a king, and also a priest.

We read the last part of Luke. After he arose from the dead, the Lord met his disciples. He spoke to them about the forgiving power of his sacrifice on the cross. About how the sins of the nations were to be forgiven by his death on the cross. And about how the gospel of the cross was to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. Then he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.

As the high priest, Jesus Christ could bless the disciples. He had brought the sacrifice for sin. He had suffered and died for the forgiveness of sins. Just as the priest of the OT blessed the people after he had brought the sacrifice, so Jesus Christ reached out his hands over the heads of the disciples and blessed them after he had given himself as a sacrifice for sin.

While he was blessing them he was carried up into heaven. Today he continues as our high priest, blessing us from heaven.

Today the good news of forgiveness by the blood of Jesus Christ is proclaimed. Then, after we have heard and embraced the gospel, after - as John Calvin said - after the blood of Christ has once again been sprinkled upon us by way of the preaching of the gospel of salvation, then we are blessed. The blessing of our Triune God is laid upon us. And we leave in peace. The blessing strengthens us to continue as we travel towards the Promised Land.

2. The words of the blessing.

The blessing consists of three lines. There is a wonderful symmetry, balance, in the blessing. This comes out in several ways

The name of the LORD is mentioned in each line. YHWH, the personal name of God. The LORD who was, and who is, and who will be. The eternal, everlasting God - He is the One who blesses his people. The Church Fathers (early years of the church just after the apostles) saw an allusion to the Trinity in this threefold reference to the LORD. If you look at it from a NT perspective, you will be inclined to say that they had a point. In the NT not only is God the Father called the Lord. So is Jesus Christ. Rom. 10:9 ".... if you confess ... that Jesus is Lord .... you will be saved." 1 Cor. 12:3 "Jesus is Lord."

The Holy Spirit is also called "Lord" in the NT. 1 Cor. 3:17,18 - twice the Spirit is called "the Lord." Nicene creed: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life."

So looking at the blessing in Num. 6 from our NT perspective (and we cannot help but do that) we can see a reference to the Triune God in it.

I was speaking about the balance and symmetry in the benediction. In the Hebrew, it starts with the word "bless" and ends with the word "peace." God approaches us with his blessing. He comes to us and draws us unto himself. He comes to us with his words of blessing, and this results in peace. The peace of God is what we are left with. That is the climax of the blessing.

The blessing builds up to this peace. The lines get longer. First line, short. Second, a little longer, Third, yet longer.

The first line (in Hebrew) has three words. The second, five words. The third line, seven words. 3,5,7. It slowly builds up.

First line - 12 syllables. Second - 14. Third - 16. 12, 14, 16 - again, building up.

First line - 15 letters. Second - 20. Third - 25.

The Hebrew letters, syllables and words reflect this building up to a climax from the initial blessing of God to the climax of peace.

Let's look at the three lines, one at a time.

Each line has two parts (separated by the word "and"). The second part of each line further explains the first part.

i. The LORD bless you and keep you.
The LORD comes to his people with his blessing. He seeks them out and speaks to them with kind and gentle words. Because he blesses them they are kept - well kept, kept safe.

Israel was going to travel through the wilderness to the Promised Land. There would be many dangers. Wild animals, enemy people, attacking them. But the LORD who called them to himself and spoke to them his kind and gentle words would keep them. The word "keep" means to exercise great care over. To guard and to give great attention to. It is the fruit of God's blessing. The outcome, the benefit of God's blessing is safety.

The LORD keeps us as well. He has come near to us through his son Immanuel and through the Spirit of Pentecost. He has spoken to us his words of blessing. He has shown to us his love and care. And so we can be confident that he will keep us. As we travel onwards to the Promised Land (through this life that can be such a wilderness), he will watch over us. He will make sure that we reach the Promised Land / our destination.

ii. Second line: The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
You can tell what a person thinks about you by looking at his face. If someone glares at you, furrows his brow and frowns, you can be pretty sure that he's not too happy with you. But if he smiles, you know that he's happy with you. Facial expressions speak volumes.

The LORD's face shines at us. His face is not dark, somber, hidden by shadows. It shines.

And the result is grace. The grace of God comes shining towards us. The free grace of God radiates towards us from the brilliant, shining face of our God.

iii. Third line: The LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace. Not only do we enjoy the benefit of the shining face of God. Even more - he turns his face toward us. He looks directly at us. Like fathers and mothers look carefully at their children, so God the Father looks at us. He wants to see us. He gives us his full attention.

And the result is peace. The LORD who lifts up his face upon us gives us his peace. Things are well. He has made things well. We broke the relationship by our sin. But God, who blesses us and who showers us with his free grace in Jesus Christ, restores peace. He makes things well.

The LORD blesses us. The LORD makes his face shine upon us. The LORD even turns his face toward us.

These three actions of God result in protection, pardon and peace. The LORD keeps us as we trek to the Promised Land. In his grace we live in peace with him.

Protection, pardon and peace. Three great works of the Triune God. The Father protects us; the Son pardons us; the Holy Spirit fills us with peace.

This is what has been pronounced to you every Sunday during the past year. These are powerful words. Not powerful in the sense of magical. But powerful because they are the words of God. They are powerful because God will do what these words say. He will bless you. He will keep you. He will make his face shine upon you. He will be gracious to you. He will turn his face toward you. He will give you peace.

Accept these words in faith - each of you. They will strengthen you and encourage you - each of you.

I say "each of you" because the word "you" is in the singular every time. All six times.

That means, first of all, that the blessing is for the whole congregation of God's people. As a unit. As a body. The body of Christ.

But then also for each individual in the congregation/body. Every Sunday the blessing comes to the congregation as a whole and then also to each individual member of the church. You may, in your mind, take out the word "you", and replace it with your personal name.

3. The effect.

The effect / result / outcome of the blessing is that the Name of God is put upon us. The priests put the name of the LORD upon the people of Israel. They even had to raise their hands to symbolize the flow of blessings and the placing of the LORD's name upon the people.

Christ, the final priest, also raised his hands over the heads of his disciples when he blessed them (end of Luke). It is Jesus Christ who has finally and perfectly put God's name upon us. It is through him, through his sacrifice, that we become children of God. Adopted children. But children nonetheless. An adopted child receives the name of his new father. So we, adopted by God through the work of Jesus Christ, receive the name of God the Father.

In the name of Jesus Christ, the minister raises his hands and puts the name of the LORD upon you. Upon your heads. You leave bearing the name of God. You are the people who wear the Name of the everlasting LORD. It's like it's been stamped on your forehead.

Will we understand that? Will we live accordingly? Will we, in this new year, makes sure we do not disgrace the name we bear upon our heads? That we not dishonour the name of God?

We do well to listen carefully to the benediction each time it is spoken. They are solemn words. Climactic words. They are good news. Receive the gospel flowing forth from them. Let the name of God be put upon you. And know that God will bless you.

Last words: "And I will bless them." God will bless you. There's no question. He will bless his people. He will bless us in this new year - at school, work, home, in our congregational activities.

Receive the blessing of the LORD. Receive it every Sunday. Receive it today. Receive it in faith. Leave the old year and enter the new enjoying the protection, the pardon and the peace of God. Protection, pardon and peace for God's people in the year of our Lord, 2003. AMEN

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2002, Rev. George van Popta

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