2019-12-08…And Give You Peace

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          December 8, 2019

“…And Give You Peace”
Numbers 6:24-26

In 1979, tiny silver amulets were discovered in Jerusalem.[1]  They date from the 500s B. C—a momentous century in God’s Old Testament Church, including the threatened and actual fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, exile in that foreign land, and return from that land to its ancestral home.  On these amulets, the oldest artifacts that preserve a text of Scripture, is inscribed today’s text.

Today’s text has blessed readers for over thirty-four hundred years, and it blesses us today as we continue in our Advent sermon series.  Last week, we saw the blessing that comes from God’s good hand as we wait for (or hope in) Him in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Today we see, in God’s gift of His Son, peace given to our needy souls as we trust in Him.  Hear, once again, the reading of God’s powerful Word in this place.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Moses, in this section of the book of Numbers, enumerates the several duties that fall to the priests.  We have in today’s text one such duty incumbent upon the Aaronic priesthood, namely, to bless the people in the Name of the LORD.   This duty points forward to Jesus’ high-priestly ministry among us.  Just as He prays for us (Hebrews 7:25) and laid down His life as the once-for-all sacrifice in our steads (cf. Hebrews 10:1-18), so also He—the living Word (John 1:14)—pronounces good words over us.  Let us now look more closely as this blessing from our three-in-one God.

We read from God, through Moses’ Spirit-led pen, these words, “The LORD bless you.”  We may read these words as, “The LORD surely bless you,” for the Hebrew verb rendered bless occurs in emphatic form.[2]  David, through the Spirit, urges us to bless the Lord in one of his seventy-three canonical Psalms:

“Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless His holy Name!

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all His benefits,

Who forgives all your iniquity,

Who heals all your diseases,

Who redeems your life from the pit,

Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

Who satisfies you with good,

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Psalm 103:1-5

 

Look at the several representative blessings from the Lord listed here: forgiveness, healing, redemption from the pit, steadfast love, mercy, and good things.  These are excellent things each and all, to be sure, but when we recall that this list is nowhere near exhaustive, then we have cause to rejoice before our King for His blessings bestowed so lavishly upon us.

Here is the next part of God’s good word to us: The LORD keep you.  By keep we also may understand guard, watch, and preserve.  Our God, in Jesus Christ, His Son, does all of this for us.  The unnamed Psalmist, in Psalm 121, declares, “The LORD will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life.  The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (Psalm 121:7-8).  Notice that the Lord watches over our lives, and the activities that constitute our lives, without fail.  He also guards us from all evil.  Granted, we find plenty of it ourselves when led astray, but it is owing to the Lord’s great mercy that no further evil befalls us.  Furthermore, God’s peace, availed to us in Christ, guards our hearts and minds from fears from within and attacks from without (Philippians 4:6-7).  We praise the Lord for His good safekeeping of us.

Next, Scripture blesses us, saying, “The LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.”  As the Lord’s face shines upon us, may we both see the brilliance of His being and feel the warmth of His love.  When we think of the Lord’s graciousness to us, we think us His great favor extended unto us—a favor wholly unmerited on our part.  That favor implies goodwill toward us.  Certainly God extends this goodwill toward all in Jesus (“Peace on earth, goodwill to men,” Luke 2:14), but He extends this grace, this goodwill, especially toward the household of faith—to those redeemed by faith in Jesus.  Without God’s grace extended to us, we have neither the next breath nor the next heartbeat, but by His grace we live—and both abundantly and eternally at that.

The Lord concludes this good word to us with these words: “The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”  Indeed, as the Lord lifts up His countenance—His face—upon us, may He look upon us with favor and may His eye ever be upon us for good.  Then we read of the closing gift in this Aaronic benediction: the Lord’s peace (Hebrew shalom).[3]

The Hebrew word shalom has many senses, and, surprisingly to me at least, peace is not the chief sense of the word.  Shalom entails completeness and wholeness; safety and soundness; welfare, health, and prosperity; peace, quiet, tranquility, contentment; and peace, friendship, and absence of hostility.  Look at all the good entailed in shalom.  A loose translation of this word, which I heard so many years ago that I can remember no longer its original source, is it is well with me.  Indeed, having all we have in Jesus, it is well with us.

Recall just now all the senses of God’s peace—His shalom.  Do you lack any of these?  If so, then ask the Lord for the senses you lack.  If the Lord tarries before He supplies your lack, then wait for Him to bring His full shalom to your soul: increasingly in this life and beyond measure in the next.  Rest, furthermore, in God’s precious promises concerning His peace.  Jesus promises to give us His peace—not like unto the world’s poor imitation of it (John 14:27).  The Lord promises that He will keep us in perfect peace as we trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3).  Recall once again that the peace of the Lord will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).  Therefore, because the Lord extends peace unto us, let us comply with Christ’s injunction, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

AMEN.

[1] For this narrative I am indebted to the Academy of Ancient Languages.  The fuller narrative than cited here occurs in aoal.org/Hebrew/blessing.html (accessed December 6, 2019).

 

[2] The tense of the Hebrew verb is Pi‘el, which indicates an intensive active rendering of the root verb.  See J. Weingreen, A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew, 100.

[3] See Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1906.  Reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2001), 1022-23.