Sunday, March 30, 2008

Numbers 6:22-27 - The Blessing of Peace

Opening thought: Nicholas Ridley was born into a wealthy family and educated at Cambridge and the Sorbonne, after which he taught at Cambridge. Well versed in Scripture, Ridley influenced the university to adopt a resolution that the Pope had no more authority in England than any other foreign bishop. Later he became one of the King’s Chaplains and Bishop of London, but when Catholic Mary Queen of Scots came to the throne, he and the Bishop of Worcestor, Hugh Latimer, were condemned for treason.

In 1555, Ridley and Latimer were burned at the stake because of their witness for Christ. Because of the green wood, they suffered greatly as the fire burned extremely slowly. At the execution, Latimer is quoted as having said to Ridley: “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” They became known as two of the three Oxford Martyrs with Cranmer. Today a metal cross in Broad Street, Oxford, marks the site.

What I want you to get is that on the night before Nicholas' execution, his brother offered to remain with him in the prison chamber to be of assistance and comfort. Nicholas declined the offer and replied that he meant to go to bed and sleep as quietly as ever he did in his life. Because he knew the peace of God, he could rest in the strength of the everlasting arms of his Lord to meet his need. So can we![1]

Pray and Read: Numbers 6:22-27

Contextual Notes:

Probably the best known lines from Numbers are the priestly blessing found here in Numbers 6. This blessing is, with the Nazirite, at the head of a new section on the Tabernacle’s operation and the sanctification of the priests. It gives us a picture of the Gospel in which the Nazirite (one set apart for a special work, i.e., Jesus Christ) must come first, then the blessing comes (Numbers 6:22-27), then our gifts are acceptable to God (Numbers 7), the light shines forth (8:1-4), the way for sanctification and consecration is opened (8:5-26), the celebration of Christ’s redemption and presence (chap. 9), and the sending forth into the nations (chap. 10; Matthew 28:18-20).

In Leviticus 9:22 a blessing is mentioned that is pronounced by Aaron, but no words are given. The blessing was for all God’s people. Jewish tradition states that it was pronounced at the close of the daily sacrifice. Why at the end of the daily sacrifice? I would submit that the time of day would have been about noontime, the time at which Christ was crucified on the cross. It takes a Nazirite, a type of Jesus Christ, to make access to blessing possible.

Now let’s get a picture of what is going on when this instruction is given. This blessing was probably given in the first week of April 1461 BC, just after Israel had celebrated their first Passover and new year in the Wilderness, when the Tabernacle was put into service and the tribes of Israel brought gifts, perhaps on the day Aaron and his sons were consecrated as priests.

Notice that the blessing is framed with the word bless (v. 23, 27). The Lord commands a blessing, and then He says He will bless them.

Key Truth: Moses wrote Numbers 6:22-27 to teach the Israelites that the LORD gives blessing, protection, favor, grace, and peace.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what the Bible says the Lord will give to us through Jesus Christ.

Sermon Points:

1. The LORD gives you blessing & protection (6:24)

2. The LORD gives you favor & grace (6:25)

3. The LORD gives you peace (6:26)

Exposition: Note well,

1. THE LORD GIVES YOU BLESSING & PROTECTION (6:24).

a. “The Lord bless you and keep you.” Note that no one is left out of this blessing. God’s love and blessing reaches to every person, no matter whether you think you deserve it or not. His blessing is for you.

b.“And keep thee”: This speaks of protection from evil. This verb, shamar, means to stand guard, to stand watch, to watch over. Picture of temptation and eternal security. Psalm 121:4: The Lord is Israel’s keeper.

c. This blessing points to Jesus Christ. It is a type of Christ's reason for coming into the world, which was to bless us (Acts_3:26), as the high priest of our profession. The last thing he did on earth was with uplifted hands to bless his disciples, Luke_24:50-51.[2]

d. APPLICATION: What about you? Do you ask the Lord each time you leave home to protect you and your children, to protect your home, while you travel? Do your children or grandchildren know that you as the Lord for His protection of them each day? Do you ask the Lord to protect you from temptation? You know it’s coming. Let me encourage you to appropriate the protection that Christ affords you each day.

2. THE LORD GIVES YOU FAVOR & GRACE(6:25).

a. “Make his face shine upon you and be gracious toward you.” This speaks of pardon of sin and the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. This means, “may his loving care be directed toward you.”

b. Just as the light of the sun brings blessing, the face of God brings grace and favor (Proverbs 16:15; also see Psalm 121; Deuteronomy 28). When He hides His face, it is a bad thing (Psalm 30:7). Remember God hid his face from Jesus on the cross (ref). Psalm 27:1; 43:3; Malachi 4:2

c. ILLUSTRATION: I was seven years old when I received Christ, and I knew what I was doing then and remember clearly right now walking down the aisle at Bush River Baptist Church in rural Newberry County, SC, and Mr. Thomas Daum stood at the front and smiled. We had talked the previous Wednesday at my house, and he had led me to Christ there. Now it was time to make it public. And we did. It was Easter 1977.

d. APPLICATION: Has your sin been pardoned by the Lord? Have you found the favor and relationship of Jesus Christ through having the gift of cleansing and salvation through Him? Today is the day to receive that free gift. You may be a young man or a young lady. Others may think you’re too young to understand what salvation is all about.

3. THE LORD GIVES YOU PEACE (6:26)

a. "TURN HIS FACE TOWARD YOU AND GIVE YOU PEACE.” This speaks of relationship with Jesus Christ. His pleasure and acceptance and favor will turn toward you in salvation through Jesus Christ.

b. SHALOM carries the idea of completion, the sum of all blessings God bestows on His people. We began with general blessing to favor to the peak of peace. God’s name is repeated in each of these three verses – His personal name. He wants a personal relationship.

c. Jesus Himself is our peace: Ephesians 2:14

d. Early Christian writers also saw in the repetition of His name three times a picture of the Trinity. Each time YHWH is used here, it is accented differently, showing three distinct persons in one being.

e. What did Jesus always say in His resurrection appearances? “Shalom!” Peace be with you!

f. Philippians 4:7 – Peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Paul takes the priestly blessing and returns it to “keep thee.”

g. In verse 27 the Lord uses an emphatic “I.” “I myself will bless them.” A man speaks it, but God does it.

h. Notice the progression from protection (v. 24) to grace (v. 25) to peace (v. 26). This is a picture of salvation. First it is to keep and protect you from eternal separation from God. Second it is to give you what you do not deserve, eternal life both now and forever. Third, it provides you with a deep, abiding peace that transcends understanding.

h. APPLICATION: Are you in the midst of constant turmoil in your family? Christ offers you his peace. Is your workplace full of bickering and complaining? Christ offers you his peace. Do you have that peace that passes understanding? Has Christ turned his face toward you and given you peace?

Invitation:

There is a peace that passes all understanding, a peace that Nicholas Ridley had the night before he was martyred. You can have that kind of peace through Jesus Christ today. Would you receive it now?

[2] Matthew Henry, Numbers 6:22-27.