I rarely see him smile. He is usually too busy for chit-chat. However, today a waiter at one of our favorite restaurants stopped. A big grin came across his face as he said, “Happy new year!” His smile made me smile. His kindness brightened my day.
“Happy new year,” is a pleasant greeting, but oh how I wish we could make it happen! In reality, this year will be filled with joys and sorrows. Our bodies will continue to decay in a world of suffering and sin. Happiness will threaten to flutter away with every new wind of worry.
This makes me wonder. Is wishing someone a “Happy new year,” just a momentary flight into fantasy? Or, is it possible to face the future knowing you will be blessed by the Lord?
Perhaps we can find an answer in the Desert of Sinai. Israel was living in that strange and scary place, but they could face the future with confidence because God promised, “I will bless you.” This is the historical setting for some of the most memorable words in the Bible.
22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22–27)
Where Do Blessings Come From?
The problem with well-wishes is the one who speaks them has little power to make them happen. Not so with this promise! This is no generic, “Bless you.” It emphatically states, “The Lord bless you,” three times in fact, and once again at the end! Blessing comes from the able and willing Lord (James 1:17).
Yet, we tend to look for contentment from candy machines that run empty. We define our blessings in terms of possessions, circumstances and relationships. So, we think the person who “has it all” is the most blessed. Nonsense!
Being blessed doesn’t mean you possess all your wildest dreams. It means you know the Lord. His blessings are not affected by plunging stock-markets, fickle friends, or aching bones. We need to start looking for our blessings from the Lord.
What Do Blessings Look Like?
Yet, many of us are like a blind squirrel sitting in a field of acorns—we are starving to death because we do not have the eyes to see how blessed we are. The Lord’s blessings are described in three couplets written in poetic form, so we won’t forget.
The Lord’s blessings come in the shape of provision and protection, “The Lord bless you and keep you” (Num. 6.24). Similarly, Jesus taught us to pray, “Father, give us this day our daily bread and deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:11,13). Such a promise fills the future with an air of confidence.
Astonishingly, the Lord also promises his favorable concern toward his people. The Lord’s face beams with love as he looks at you (Num. 6:25). He turns his face to see your needs (Num. 6:26). What can compare to the joy of having the Lord’s compassionate attention?
What if the CEO of the world’s largest company made you his special concern? He promised to activate all the resources of his company to meet your needs. Would you face the future with more peace? Sure! Well, that is nothing compared to the attentive concern of our Heavenly Father. We are never a moment outside his compassionate attention.
The Lord then uses his resources to give us what we need the most, “grace and peace” (Num. 6:25,26). Through Jesus we have grace that exceeds all our sins and a peace that can bloom in all circumstances. No earthly blessings can compare to the boundless riches we have in Christ. We really do “have it all” if we have eyes to see (1 Cor. 3:21).
Who Is Blessed?
However, the most shocking thing about this prayer is not its content, but its context! The Lord places this promise at a key location in the book of Numbers.
The first four chapters of Numbers describe how Moses took a census of the people and organized the camp so that every tent “faced the tent of meeting on every side” (Num. 2:2). The point is clear, these are the Lord’s people, known by name, and the Lord was at their center.
Numbers 5 and 6 describe those who do not belong in the camp. God is inside, they must go outside.
Do you have a skin problem? Outside the camp!
A flow of blood? Outside the camp!
Touch a dead body? Outside the camp!
At some point every person spent time outside the camp to remember God is holy (Num. 5:1-4).
Next, those who sinned against a neighbor were “outside the camp.” They “broke faith with the Lord” and had to confess their sin, make restitution and offer sacrifices to be restored (Num. 5:5-10). Again, every person did that at some point.
Likewise, adulterers did not belong in the camp (Num 5:11-31). This is a term used to describe all of Israel in the years to come (Jer. 3.6-10).
Finally, the Nazirite vow is described, where a man or woman could, “separate themselves to the Lord” (Num. 6:2). At last, someone is separated “to the Lord,” not “from the Lord.” But, even they fail and have to start all over again (Num. 6:9-12).
The Lord is supposed to be at the center of his people’s lives, but their physical and spiritual weakness thrusts them from his presence. Outside the camp! This is where the people belong. Yet, six chapters of frustrating inadequacy ends with, “The Lord bless you and keep you! His face shines upon you to give you grace and peace.” What marvelous grace!
Who is blessed? You are. Yes, sinful and weak you. Jesus suffered outside the camp, so you don’t ever have to leave the Lord’s shining face where grace and peace is abundantly provided.
May the Lord Bless you.
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
God, the Evangelist!
In my daily Bible reading I came across the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew’s gospel. I was struck by the fact that the original evangelist was God, Himself! At the end of Matthew Jesus instructs his disciples to “Go preach the gospel,” but at the beginning of the book, God preaches the good news! We can learn wonderful lessons about sharing the good news from watching how God does it in Matthew 2:1-23.
The Gospel Is for All! “Wise men from the east came…” (Matt. 2:1). Luke tells us the lowly shepherds in the field came first to worship the incarnate Son. Matthew adds, the noble men from the east later joined their worship. Between the two accounts we see how the gospel was preached, “the Jews first, and also to the Gentiles.” The gospel is for all. Common and noble, educated and uneducated, poor and rich, near and far.
The Gospel is Declared by Creation. “We saw his star…” (Matt. 2:2). Creation is the first to sing in the choir of salvation. It sings of God’s power and wisdom to the ends of the earth.
This is my Father’s world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker’s praise.
Those who do not know the Lord, are acquainted with his benevolent character and exacting laws by looking at nature (Rom. 1:20-22; Acts 17:22-31)
The Gospel Is Presented in Scripture. “it is written by the prophet” (Matt. 2:5, 15, 17, 23). The book of Creation is like a coloring book that reveals God’s beauty from a distance, but the book of Revelation is a careful character study of the nature of God and man. In Scripture we learn of a holy God, our sinful condition, and the hope of eternal salvation. The choir of salvation becomes most understandable when the Scriptures are heard. So, we go “preach the gospel.”
Some Will Accept the Message. “We came to worship him” (Matt. 2:3, 10-11). Even the world’s finest bow in humble honor before their king. They bring him their gifts and they rejoice! The saved are similarly characterized by a humble, joyful generosity.
Some Will Reject the Message. “Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Matt. 2:13). Some will not accept the gospel. Their response will not just be passive, but destructive. From Cain and Abel onward, righteousness is murdered. Biblical and world history bears out the truth that the message of the gospel is not just ignored, it is the object of hate and violence. Evangelist beware of the nails of persecution.
God Will Preserve His Message. “The Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream” (Matt. 2:13, 19 (also, 2:12)). While people threaten to destroy the gospel, it lives on. God took his Son to Egypt and then to Nazareth where Jesus lived in safety until the Light of the World was revealed.
The Hammer and The Anvil
Last eve I passed a blacksmith’s door
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime,
When, looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers worn with beating years of time.
How many anvils have you had, said I
To wear and batter all these hammers so?
Just one, said he, then said with twinkling eye
The anvil wears the hammers out you know.
And so, I thought, the anvil of God’s word
For ages skeptics blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed; the hammer’s gone!
Still Looking for a Bible Reading Plan?
Life needs regular instruction from God’s word. This reading plan helps you develop the habit of reading your Bible regularly. Five days a week you read…
one chapter from the Old Testament;
one chapter from the New Testament; and
one Psalm or chapter from Proverbs four times a week.
After your reading you’ll have time to think and pray! Click on the links below.