Preached: May 26, 2013
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit pours out the Father's blessings on us through Jesus Christ our Lord is Numbers 6
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. (Numbers 6:24-26).
This is the word of our Lord.
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
The triune God. Does that term codger up an abstract definition from your days in Catechism class? “The triune God is three persons yet only one God.” Yes, that's an important definition to know and confess, but the words triune and Trinity are to bring so much more to our hearts and minds.
You see, dear friends, the triune God is the only God who blesses. I know the other religions claim that their god or gods bless. But first of, since those gods do not really exist, they cannot bless. Secondly, if you listen closely, the blessings they claim come from their god are not truly gifts freely given but rather awards merited at least in part. Even some who confess the triune God may fall into that thinking, imagining that we can try to merit his blessings.
But despite what others may claim, the only God who blesses -- who freely blesses because that is who he is and that is what he has gladly chosen to do according to his good will without any merit or worthiness on our part -- the only God who so blesses is our God, the triune God. His word of blessing is spoken over you at the close of each service. That's the blessing he himself gave in the days of Moses. For thirty-five centuries, that triple blessing from the LORD, the LORD, the LORD, has been spoken over his people. Every time you hear it marvel at, cherish, and be assured of what the triune God has done and continues to do for you. Then the words triune and Trinity won't seem so dry or abstract. For he is the only God who blesses. The Father keeps us under his care. The Son shines on us with his grace. The Spirit grants us peace. They are the triune God, the holy Trinity, the one, true God.
“The LORD bless you and keep you” (Numbers 6:24). How the Father lavishes his love on us! He keeps us under his care. Every good gift comes from him as he opens his hand to satisfy the desire of every living thing. For he is the Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth. He gave us this world, creating it out of nothing in six normal days. He made each of us, knitting you together in your mother's womb.
The blessing points us forward to our heavenly Father's ongoing care. He continues to bless you and me, each day giving us our daily bread, and he continues to keep us safe, guarding and defending us day after day. What care that provides and protects! What fatherly care! His mercy and compassion are new every morning. “The LORD bless you and keep you.” That's his promise. The Father keeps us under his care.
Then why do we worry? Why do we complain? Why do we brag about what we have or take pride in our accomplishments as if I achieved it by my own power, skill, and determination? Why do we doubt his lavish love and continual care when life gets tough and the road is rough?
You have the promise of the LORD, the faithful, unchanging, eternal I AM. You have his blessing. He keeps you under his care, for he is good and merciful, kind and compassionate. Through Jesus Christ he is your dear Father. He's at work even in our heaviest adversities and deepest troubles. He's at work with his discipline drawing us to himself and destroying all earthly props that we so often lean on instead of on him.
Trust him, dear Christian. Trust your heavenly Father. Face each day confident of his fatherly care, no matter what joy or sadness the day brings. Each day dare to boldly live for his glory, knowing that his everlasting arms are beneath you like eagle's wings. Continually give him thanks by using all his blessings to serve him and your neighbor. Trust your heavenly Father. He is the LORD who keeps you under his care.
But you and I, dear Christian, would never have known the Father if he had not sent his Son, Jesus Christ.
The blessing points us to God the Son as he hear, “The LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you” (Numbers 6:25).
God is holy. No one can see his face and live, certainly not sinners like you and me. God is just. Sin must be punished. He will not sweep it under the carpet or say, “There, there now, just try better next time.” Sin brings only one possible verdict: Death. Damnation. Hell. God made that clear from the very beginning. Each of us began life as a slave to sin, unable to escape or win our freedom. God's face shining down on our dark deeds is not a pleasant thought for sinners
But what wonders of his love! The blessing does not speak of God's face shining down on us with retribution against our sin but with grace. What wonders of his love! We could not rise to God to see his face, so he became one of us -- conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. In Jesus we see the face of God, for Jesus is God the Son. In Jesus we see God's face shining with grace, for Jesus came from the Father full of grace and truth.
Ponder his grace in action! Jesus toke our place under the law. Though sinless, he carried our sins for us and paid the full penalty for every last one of them. Under Pontius Pilate he suffered the punishment we deserved. Crucified, he, instead of us, was forsaken by God. He died our death and was buried in our tomb. What grace! What love reached us toward us, who deserved only his anger, hatred, and punishment! What grace, for he redeemed us, freeing us from the power of sin, Satan, and death and purchasing us with his holy, precious blood! What grace, for he ransomed and redeemed us to be his very own, so that you are his people and he is your Lord. He didn't do any of this for himself, but for you, dear sinner, for you. What grace shines from the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now risen from the dead and ascended to the Father, he reigns over all by the power of God's right hand. He reigns over all until he comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead at the Last Day. He reigns over all for the good of you, his blood-bought, redeemed people. What grace shines from the face of our crucified and risen Lord!
Live each day with faith in his grace. Do not waver at his word of promise. Through the Scriptures, through Baptism, through the Lord's Supper, you see his face. Through them his grace shines on you. Faith looks and believes, leaning its full weight on his grace alone, depending only on his undeserved love. Into the darkness of our unbelief, the light of his gracious promise has shown. Faith basks in that gracious light.
But how can we know Jesus and grace? Why don't we reject him and his outlandish promises as foolishness? That's the natural reaction of our human wisdom and power. So why do you and I know Jesus and his grace? Not because of any choice or decision on our part, but rather because he has sent the Holy Spirit to testify about him. Through word and sacrament the Spirit shatters our darkness and kindles faith, so that we have peace.
“The LORD look on you with favor and give you peace” (Number 6:26). How does the Holy Spirit grant us peace? Through the holy Christian Church. For the holy Christian Church proclaims God's pure word and rightly administers his sacraments, namely, baptism and the Lord's Supper. Those are the Holy Spirit's tools to grant us peace.
For you see, dear friend, “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7 NIV84). Each and every one of us began life at war against God, total war. We were hostile toward him, unwilling and unable to obey him. How could there be peace?
The Holy Spirit, though, grants us peace, not by God comprising but by changing you and me. That's why he gave his word and sacraments to his people, the holy Christian Church. His word and sacraments proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through that Gospel, the Good News that reveals our Savior who redeemed us to be his very own as we heard in part two, through that Gospel the Holy Spirit has called us out of our warfare against God and brought us into his holy Christian Church at peace with God. Through the Gospel in Baptism you were reborn as a citizen of God's kingdom, a member of his Church, no longer at war with him but at peace.
And because sin daily troubles our heart and our conscience accuses us, the Holy Spirit continues to bring you the peace of forgiveness. Through words of absolution shared by fellow Christians and through the Lord's Supper distributed among us in the holy Christian Church, the Holy Spirit brings you the forgiveness of sins to grant you peace. Be at peace, for your sins are forgiven. Be at peace, for Jesus sacrificed his body and blood on the cross once and for all for you, who eat and drink it. Be at peace, for your warfare is ended.
And though we struggle with sin throughout this earthly existence, we look forward to the heavenly peace when our bodies are raised from the dead and we will live with our God forever. What peace, what everlasting peace the Holy Spirit grants!
So dear Christians friends, when you hear of the triune God or the Trinity, let that fill you with great joy and amazement. For he is the only God who blesses. The Father keeps us under his care. The Son shines on us with his grace. The Spirit grants us peace. They are the LORD, our triune God.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.