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What does it mean to be blessed? When someone sneezes, we say “bless you.” What do we mean by that? Well, if you have a German background you would say “gesundheit”, loosely translated, “may you have good health.” So, in that context, bless you, means we are asking that the person who sneezed would be blessed with good health.
In response to a compliment that someone gives you about something you have accomplished or something you have you might say, “I am truly blessed.” As a Christian, you intend to communicate that what you have accomplished or what you have is not the result of luck or the result of your hard work, but a gift from God.
As Israel’s stay at Mt. Sinai was coming to a close and the Tabernacle was about to be finished and dedicated, God gave Moses the words that Aaron and priests, and pastors still today are to use to bless God’s people. We should not lose sight of the fact that these same words have been used to bless God’s people for over 3,500 years. As our theme for the next few Sundays reminds us, “God’s words possess God’s power.” The words of this blessing are not the words of man. They are the powerful words of God.
What a wonderful thing it is that God’s wants to bless his people! Remember, these were the same people who had not long before grumbled against Moses and God about bitter water, and lack of food, and who had made a golden calf idol. But God still wanted Aaron to speak his blessing on his people.
What a wonderful thing it is that God still wants us to be blessed! Think about the grumbling you have done since that last time you were at church, maybe about gas prices, maybe about things that are happening in your family. Think about the things that you have made more important than God, if only for a few minutes or hours. But God still wants you to be blessed. Through the Holy Spirit he preserved these words that he gave to Aaron so that worship leaders still today could speak a blessing that consists in the very words of God.
The blessing of God comes to us when he puts his name on us. You know what that means. When you put your name on something you are claiming it as your own. When your child is born, or you adopt a child, you give it your family name, you claim that child as a part of your family. You are stating that you have every intention of feeding and clothing this child. You are stating that you will do everything you can to protect this child from harm and to teach them all them need to know for life on earth. As Christian parents you are stating that you will raise your child in the training and instruction of the Lord. You bring them to baptism where God puts his name on them and makes them a part of his family.
God had promised Moses in connection with people gathering to worship him, In every place where I cause my name to be remembered, I will come to you and I will bless you. In baptism, and every time we gather to worship the one true God and hear his name proclaimed, he promises to come to us and bless us.
God’s blessing has to do with his name, with who he is. He revealed that to Moses as he allowed Moses to see a portion of his glory as God. He proclaimed: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and overflowing with mercy and truth, maintaining mercy for thousands, forgiving guilt and rebellion and sin. He will by no means clear the guilty. He calls their children and their children’s children to account for the guilt of the fathers, even to the third and the fourth generation.” He is the God of justice, but also the God who is compassionate, gracious, patient and forgiving. There is nothing better, no greater blessing, than to have this God, the one and only true God, put his name on us and make us a part of his family!
As he puts his name on us, he reminds us that he is our loving Father who blesses and keeps us. Think of the first article. He is the one who made us. He is the one who has given us body and soul, eyes, ears, and all our members, our minds and all our abilities. He makes sure that we have clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, land, cattle, and all that we need for our body and life. All of us here today confess that we have much more than we need for each day.
But our loving Father doesn’t stop there. He keeps us. He guards and protects us. The Psalmist reminds us that he neither slumbers nor sleeps. He sends his angels to watch over us. He is always on guard. He will keep us from all harm. He watches over our life now with the intention that we will live with him forever.
As the one true, triune God puts his name on us he reminds us that he smiles on us and is gracious to us. Here we think of the second article. We are reminded that he should not be smiling at us. Like Israel we are a stubborn and rebellious people. We sin against him every day, not just in the sinful things we do, but in the good things we fail to do, not just by our action or lack of action, but in selfish and hateful thoughts, and unkind and hurtful words. How could he ever show us his glorious smiling face?
You know the answer. It is only because the eternal son of the Father volunteered to come to earth as your substitute. He was the subject of hateful thoughts and hurtful words, but he never had such thoughts or spoke such words himself. He willingly allowed himself to see the Father’s angry face, to allow his father to punish him, not for anything he had done, but for everything we have done or failed to do. It is because of what Jesus, the Son, did in our place that God can smile on us and be gracious to us.
As he puts his name on us, he reminds us that he turns his face toward us, not his back, and because of that we have peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding, a peace that nothing worldly could ever give us.
Here we think of the third article and the work of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. It is the Holy Spirit working through the powerful word of God that proclaims good news to us. He works in our hearts to enable us to believe that because the Father turned his back on Jesus on the cross, he will never turn his back on us. He assures us that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Whoever comes to him he will never drive away.
As the Holy Spirit reminds us through the word that God is our loving Father who provides for us richly and daily, and who guards us with his almighty power and sends thousands upon thousands of powerful angels to watch over us, and that Jesus is our redeemer who came as our substitute to pay for our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness so that the Father doesn’t see our sins but only the righteousness of Christ that covers us, we can’t help but have a wonderful, indescribable peace. He says to us, I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine. I am your creator, preserver, redeemer and sanctifier. Therefore, we can say with Paul, I know the one in whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
As we live our lives each week it’s so easy to get caught up in the things of everyday life. It’s so easy to get distracted by our own trials, troubles and temptations, and the horrible things that are happening around us in the world. It’s easy to forget whose we are, that the one and only true God has put his name on us and wants to bless us not just today and tomorrow, but for all eternity. How important it is then that as often as possible, at least weekly, we hear that God has put his name on us to bless us. How important it is that we hear God say to us in his own words through his called servant, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace. For God promises, In this way they will put my name on my people, and I will bless them.