He tried planting. But it rained for three. days. Eventually, the fields were alright— soggy, but manageable. So, he loaded the planter and hopped on the tractor, but it did not start. A pin broke— and of course it was stuck. So, he pounded. He heated it. He drilled. Two hours later, he got it replaced. The tractor roared to life and he sped off to make up for lost time— but he sped too much. He sunk right into a lowspot, like buried the tractor. So, he ran the quarter-mile back to the barn, brought out the chains, hopped on another tractor, sputtered out, hooked up the chains, tugged and pulled oh-so-gently, until everything was free. That took all afternoon. Soon, darkness came. Rain was forecast for the next four days. He could not plant and he was already behind. He kept wondering: ‘Did I break down because God is angry with me?’
The results? Broken ankle. It should have never happened; she walked to the garden just like she did every day. Today, she stepped on the dogbone hidden in the grass. Of course, her foot twisted cockeyed. She heard the snap. She felt the searing pain. Now her ankle is broken and she is laid up for eight weeks. She cannot shake the guilt. ‘Did this happen because of the argument I had with my sister?’
Do you ever feel that God afflicts you because you failed him? …You did not obey him enough? …You do not love him perfect-lier? We may link bad events to our bad behavior. Yet, we could not be more wrong. As God’s child, he does not come at you in revenge. Instead, God comes with blessing. This morning God speaks in order to silence once-and-for-all every single fear we might have about his view of us. Receive the Triple Blessing of Your Triune God. The Father keeps you. The Son shines on you. The Spirit gives you peace.
In the book of Numbers, The Lord [speaks] to Moses. God speaks! Do you grasp the significance of that simple phrase? What follows is not my interpretation (which may or may not be wrong). What follows certainly are not your unfounded opinions about God’s actions. No, God speaks for the same reason we do: to clearly communicate intentions.
The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites.’ ” To ‘bless’ means to ‘give the power to prosper,’ to ‘give good.’ God wants his people (that includes you and me!) to know him as the Giver of good! Again, God has to say these words because he knows our human hearts will doubt that he says such kind things. So, here, in Numbers, you can point and say, “God tells me what he is doing.”
He tells some very well-known words. The Lord bless you and keep you… Your God ‘blesses’ you, he gives you ‘good’— and the ‘good’ he gives is ‘keeping’ you. Imagine the little child who just caught a lightning bug. His curled fingers hold this bug in his hand. His eyes tracks its movements. He does not squish the bug; he keeps it safe and alive. Your heavenly Father keeps you. He holds you. He wraps his powerful fingers safely around you.
That is ‘good.’ Farmers might struggle during this wet planting season, but your Providing Father says: I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit (Leviticus 26:4). Even in this slow start, you’re not worried about your next meal; we do not have food rations. Your heavenly Father has made sure to feed you. He still provides farmers with income; even in tough seasons you have not seen farmers shrivel up, starve, and die. Your Father in heaven keeps you. He provides for your stomach and health, your bank accounts and life— and so much he does even without your asking!
That is not always easy to see, is it? Many times the troubles we face block that image from our minds and hearts. We either forget to turn to God because there is nothing to remind us of his presence. We even wonder if the troubles we encounter come because of something we have done wrong.
That’s why, in the midst of trouble, in the frustrations of schedules, in the aching pain, we do well to turn to God’s Word. In this ancient blessing God plainly tells you: ‘I, the Father, keep you.’ He makes that clear in order to drive away fears. In order to wipe out self-trust. In order to see him as he is: The Father who keeps you.
Receive That Blessing of Your Triune God: A Father who keeps you. As if that was not enough, your God attaches still another gift. (1) The Lord bless you and keep you. (2) The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
That might be a strange phrase: The Lord make his face shine on you. Yet, picture it literally. If someone is looking at you, that is good. Attention is set on your wellbeing. That person will respond appropriately to your needs. You are not ignored. Your God turns his face to you; he looks at you. Not just that, his face shines. That describes a cheerful face, a smile. A face that ‘lights up’ because it sees what it likes. The Lord likes looking at you because of the work of God the Son.
On the cross, God the Father gave Jesus no good. In fact, he took good away. He took away respect. He took away health. He took away life. The Father did not randomly do this. No! Jesus endures the fearful, frightening wrath of God Almighty because you (and I) doubt really cares for us, that he really gives good for life. Your God makes explicitly clear: The reason you see a cross is because this is what was needed to save you.
Dear friends, the sight of the cross means The Son shines on you. Yes, you might have skipped worship. You know you could have come, you know you did wrong. That does not mean God fills your day with trouble. No. The Son shines on you. He has bleached out that lazy-stain forever. Yes, the fields might be soggy. That does not mean God is getting revenge for something you did. Holy Scripture plainly says: The Son shines on you.
Yes, you (and I) do not deserve good things. Yet, God is gracious to us. He gives us good even though we do not deserve it. Yes, accidents stop life. God did not hide a dogbone in the grass because of a selfish argument. Even though you stood completely out of line, God has erased the record of that conversation. He will never bring it up again. He will not dust off your past when you stand at heaven’s gates. The Son shines on you.
You can be absolutely sure because your God attaches yet another blessing: the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Or, as you have heard it: ‘May the Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.’) God looks at you because he has accepted you. Imagine sitting on a bench at a playground. Children swarm this jungle-gym. You hear screams and shouts, crying and laughing. You see children your face literally turns to them, but you do not know them. Yet, one voice stands out from all the rest. One sight makes your heart leap with joy. Your eyes see your child. Your mind zeroes in on your child. Your heart loves your child. God blesses you, he gives ‘good,’ by promising: ‘You belong to me.’ He made that promise at your baptism.
When you were baptized, you were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). That little word ‘in’ teaches a spatial concept, like painting a big circle on the ground and you standing inside it. When you were baptized, God took you out of the billions of people and put you in this special circle. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27). You became God’s child at baptism.
That is the Holy Spirit’s work: he makes you God’s child. Because you are God’s child, you have peace. Understand, God’s peace is different from the world’s peace (John 14:27). The world’s definition of peace means: no problems, no violence, no tensions; the absence of trouble. God’s peace means: unhindered relationship.
God’s definition is best because you will have trouble in this world (John 16:33). Even though storms rage around you, you have peace. So much of the news is meant to stir emotional reactions of fear and dread. The world’s only hope for comfort is prevent World War 3. Yet, even if World War 3 ended life tomorrow, you lose nothing. You will be in heaven. That is not scary. That is comforting.
Bad things do not happen because God afflicts you. Your spouse did not die because you were unkind. Even though you were not ready, God called your spouse into heaven. That is ‘good.’ In loss, God points you to Jesus who died for you, to the Spirit who carries forgiveness into your heart, to the heaven the Father prepared for you. So, even in sadness, you have peace because God makes eternity perfect.
You have peace even in injury. If you are a child of God, then it means God is your Father. As your Father, he uses doctors to heal you. Still, injury demonstrates how little control we have over life— and that purges self-reliance. Our trust in the One who holds control over all things only grows stronger. As you rely on him, you worry less about your own limitations. You have peace.
When you (and I) take our eyes off of this clear blessing, we will wallow in fear. You may think God afflicts you because you failed him. That you did not obey him enough. That you must love him better. Yet, we could not be more wrong.
God does not come at you in revenge. Your Triune God makes clear: ‘I have put my name on you.’ He has brought you into his ownership. God the Son paid the penalty for guilt. God the Holy Spirit took that payment and applied to you, personally, at your baptism. God the Father reached into those waters and pulled you up as his adopted child. Receive the Triple Blessing of Your Triune God. The Father keeps you. The Son shines on you. The Spirit gives you peace.