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The Total Blessings

The Total Blessings

| On 11, Jun 2015

Scripture Reading: Numbers 6:22-27

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.”

Before this blessing was given, the children of Israel were assembled, getting ready to leave on a dangerous journey across the desert. Many of them were going to die in the wilderness. They were going to be assaulted by enemies. They were going to face thirst and starvation. They were going to face division and dissention, and before they begin this arduous, dangerous, adventurous journey, God goes before them with a blessing. And there is nothing more comforting to them than the guarantee of God’s sovereign blessing. Because in the midst of the journey they will doubt God’s purpose to bless them. That is similar to our journey in life. Before we ever set out in this journey called life, God makes it perfectly clear and He pronounces the blessings. Why? Because in the midst of the journey called life, you are going to doubt God’s purpose to bless you. Before you begin on a hazardous journey across the desert of life, some would even die in the wilderness of life. Some would be attacked by enemies, face hunger and famishment, separation and rebellion. They would face all that life would throw at them. Before you begin this difficult, perilous, adventurous journey, God goes before you with a blessing. And I assure you, it will be your source of comfort, focusing on the guarantee of God’s sovereign blessing And of course there is a precondition. Numbers 6:22-27 is the climax of chapters 5 & 6; the result of Israel’s removing defilement from their midst (chapter 5) and of dedicating themselves to the Lord (chapter 6:1–21). You must be dedicated to the Lord and remove defilement from your life. As an individual I felt God dealing with me the same way. He pronounces a blessing upon my family as a whole; I just have to dedicate my life and serve the Lord and remove defilement in my life. What can we learn from this portion of scripture?

1. The Priestly Blessing

The importance of this priestly blessing in Ancient Israel has been confirmed by recent archaeological findings from the First Temple period in Jerusalem. Two tiny strips of silver, each wound tightly like a miniature scroll and bearing the inscribed words, were uncovered in a tomb outside Jerusalem and initially dated from the late seventh or early sixth century B.C. – some 400 years before the famous Dead Sea Scrolls (see Pictures). The blessings of Number 6:24-27 was written on the two silver scrolls, or to put it correctly amulets. On this amulet the Name of Yahweh could be clearly read in the original Hebrew language. This archaeological discovery confirms the antiquity (olden times) and prominence of the priestly blessing in the religious life of Israel. I also made the discovery that this priestly blessing was given at Mount Sinai, on the first year out of Egypt, after the construction of the Tabernacle, before they actually begin their journey in the wilderness. So God has always intended blessings for the people of God, before you begin your journey of life with God.

Numbers 6:22 “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel.’ As a high priest Aaron has the power to bless the people of God. Not only Aaron was given this privilege, his sons were empowered likewise. The LORD has placed the communication of this blessing in the hands of the priest. The priest is the chosen and constant mediator of the blessing of His grace. It is imposed upon the priest as one portion of their official duty. To put it simply, it is the office of the priest to bless. If there is a group of people that is ear marked for blessing it is the people of God. And the priest are to ensure that they are blessed. Aaron is recognized as the high priest of the Tabernacle. Aaron’s 4 sons were assisting him in regards to the responsibility as overseers of the Tabernacle. We know that the Tabernacle points to the Temple of God, the Synagogue and the Church. The high priest points to the leader of the Church, which is actually the Senior Pastor. Pastor Lily and I are Senior Pastors of this church. We don’t have sons in our family, only daughters but as I told the Leadership Advisory Team (LAT) God has given us spiritual children; which are definitely our Staff, the LAT team, the DJ Cell Leaders, the Leaders and Mentors of the Youth Church. I believe God has given the Senior Pastor and his spiritual children the power to bless the people of God. Not only the Senior Pastors are given this privilege, his or her spiritual children are empowered likewise. And God has place the message of this blessing in the hands of the leadership in this church. We are the chosen and continual in-between of the blessing of God’s grace. We are not special; as a matter of fact, we are totally human. But it is a calling that God has place upon us. Aaron honestly failed miserably at times; he gave in to the congregation of Israel to make the golden calf and celebrated and worship it. He and his sister Miriam were involved in murmuring against Moses. His two children, Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire at the Tabernacle. This introduces us to Jesus. Jesus is ‘the Church’s blessing Priest’. How did this come about? He came–He lived–He worked–He died, that He might bless. He gave Himself–the price of blessings. He rose–He took His seat on high, that He might reign a Priest, forever blessed, and forever blessing. He died for our sins, even for the earthly priests that are found in the church so that we are not only forgiven but able to perform the priestly function. But God doesn’t take away the authority, function and role that he has empowered his priest and his children. The gifts the calling of God are without repentance. Can you remember the 12 dead rod or sticks that were placed before everybody? And only Aaron’s rod bud. Imagine a dead stick birthed forth flower. But not every rod. Only Aaron’s rod. God backed Aaron up. Those whom God calls he equips, empowers. So I would say that when the DJ Cell leaders gather his members, goes into the house of people in the community, you are given the priestly blessing, empowered to pray for the sick, prophesy over them, counsel and bless. Some bible commentator titled Numbers 6:22-27 as the Priestly blessing to the community. I believe that is the role that God has imputed upon the leadership. The community is not just the community within the church but the community of the society we are in. Please understand that there are around 2.5 to 3 million Israelites at that time. So it is a large community. When the priests invoked the name of God on the people, God blessed the people. Speaking blessings is so important for priests of God to do for the people of God. God has promised a supernatural blessing upon His people when the priests are faithful to speak this benediction to His people. I just came back from conducting a wedding in Singapore. The couple are Joy’s friends. They are very new in the Lord. They saw that I conducted the wedding of Joy in 2012. They like the way the wedding ceremony was conducted and were ministered by it. Then they started attending the church of Joy. Slowly they were taught the salvation message and received Christ and partake of the communion. That was only 2 years ago. And they requested that I conduct the wedding ceremony. There is one part at the end of the ceremony which I find Number 6:22-27 most appropriate. That is the benediction just before the pronouncement of husband and wife. I mean they have just about to start on a journey in life as husband and wife. And imagine the priest proclaimed ‘The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.’

The blessing invokes the power of the divine name Yahweh three times. In pronouncing God’s favour on the people, the priest was to use a formula for blessing. It means God gives Moses a form of words by which the priests may bless people. The beautiful blessing is a model but its purpose is clear: to communicate the desire of the LORD to invest His people with His name. (Go to Pastor Lily and speak; ‘God’s wants me to communicate the desire of the LORD to invest in you (Lily) with His name (Yahweh); to put the name of Yahweh upon you (Lily). The name of Yahweh is to be put upon you. Numbers 6:28 says ‘And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.’ Putting God’s name on the people (supremely by means of the word) emphasizes the divine source of all blessings. It is as if the people now wear God’s name, and that it should be worn so that all will see and believe. Putting the name of God on the people may have been understood literally, given that the blessing is inscribed on two cigarette-sized silver plaques. That is to say you acknowledge your consecration to him as His accepted flock and thus the enjoyment of His grace. I have this witness of the LORD that the name of Yahweh is of special significance to Etab and of course to Pastor Lily and myself. Of course the name of the Lord is tantamount to the Lord himself so that this blessing becomes a petition that God might live among His people and meet all their needs. He alone (note: I say He alone) can bless His people, keep them, look on them, work favour (make His face shine and turn his face toward them), be gracious to them, and give them peace. God desire to bless us in good times as well as bad times.

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When I bless the people, the blessing I pronounced is a reminder that God alone provided us with health, prosperity, protection and safety. In His grace and mercy he would be patient with their] failures, correct their weaknesses and give them the full enjoyment of his unlimited blessings. They were God’s own people.

2. This blessing invokes the power of the name YAHWEH.

a. ‘The LORD bless thee and keep thee. It has two parts: Yahweh bless thee; by granting fruitful harvests, increase of cattle, and success in all undertakings. And keep thee (guard thee); the same wish expressed negatively. Yahweh guard thee from everything, such as drought or hostile invasion, which would prevent the blessing. In the ancient world, amulets were taken quite seriously. Dr. Zuckerman said. “There’s evil out there, demons, and you need protection. Having this around your neck, you are involving God’s presence and protection against harm.” And Yahweh is the rebuke of evil. Here we have some of the rabbinic interpretations collected that are interesting. One says, “Yahweh bless thee with possessions and preserve thee in possessions. Rabbi Nathan said: ‘Yahweh bless thee with possessions and guard thee in body (means bodily health)’. Rabbi Isaac said: ‘Yahweh guard thee from the evil nature’. Pr. 3:26 says, ‘For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.’ Another interpretation: ‘Yahweh guard thee, so that others may not rule over thee.’ Of course the phrase ‘keep thee’ describes the blessing as coming from the LORD and setting forth preservation from the evil of the World. If we are preserved from the evil of the world, it is the work of God. The blessing of the LORD is the goodness of the LORD. In action by which a supply of all good pour down to us from His good favour as from their only fountain. ‘Keep His people’ signifies he alone is the defender of the church and it is He who preserves it with His guardian care.

b. The LORD makes his face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee. Again it has two parts. The word ‘shine’ of course refers to the face of the LORD. The shining face is to be contrasted with the hiding face of God. You get to see God’s face glowing, not glaring! This is a gracious move on God’s part to those who are undeserving. Pastor Lily shared one experience, when she was at the lowest point of her life, when she was all alone by herself in Lyon, France. Everything seems to have crumbled and constantly she was in tears. One Sunday morning, as she was having her devotion, she felt the awesome, solemn presence of God as God literally came down. Then she felt the face of God, coming down on the same level as her face and looking at her face to face. She felt the warmth of God’s face shine upon her. We can define this blessing more closely as the manifestation of the favor and grace of God. The face of God is the personality of God as turned towards man. Fire goes out from Jehovah’s face, and consumes the enemy and the rebellious. It means that God’s face will consume our enemy and the rebellious. God’s face is also a sunlight shining with love and full of life and good. This light sends rays of mercy into a heart in need of salvation, and makes it the recipient of grace. I believe at that moment, God was saying to Pastor Lily that He will consume her enemy and the rebellious. Also He is shining with love, full of live and goodness upon her. Rays of mercy is upon her heart that need deliverance and surely she will be the recipient of grace. A bible commentator says perhaps this metaphor of the ‘face of God’ was only used of Yahweh after a person has ceased to believe in the possibility of seeing the actual face of God, because of the extreme trials of life. I think it should be that case with Pastor Lily at that time. Why? Because when Yahweh hid His face His creatures were troubled (which some of you are experiencing now at this moment); but when He turned it towards them their welfare was secure. I believe this is the message that God manifested to Pastor Lily that when His face is turn towards her, her welfare is secure. She went through the extreme trials of life and in a moment ceased to believe in the possibility of seeing God’s face but God had to come down and tell her, his face is turned towards hers.

c. The LORD lift his face to thee and set thee peace. Countenance and Face come from exactly the same Hebrew word. The difference is between “making the face shine” & “lifting it up”. ‘Lifting it up’ is the opposite of God “looking away” in displeasure. It’s the picture of a drowning victim looking to shore and crying for help; when finally he sees the lifeguard “look up”…help is on its way! God look up, lift his countenance and help is on the way. It set forth the blessing of God as a manifestation of power, or a work of power upon man, the end of which is peace. Peace or shalom in Hebrew means “completeness, security, health, tranquillity, & peace with God & man.” No matter how trying your circumstances may be, you can have God’s peace as you live under the blessing of His smile! When Jesus came the song was, “Peace on earth”; and When He left His farewell speech was, “Peace, I leave with you.”

3. The Priestly blessing for the community

Please note that this priestly blessing is for the community. As I said earlier, some bible commentator titled Numbers 6:22-27 as the Priestly blessing to the community. I believe that is the role that God has imputed upon the leadership. The community is not just the community within the church but the community of the society we are in. It is corporate as well as personal. God gives blessing to us so we can be a blessing to others. The exercise of benevolence is that which every child of God should cultivate to the uttermost. Under the law it is a very important part of the priestly office to bless the people; corporate or personal. The word “bless” in 6:23 testifies most basically to the work of God, both within the community of faith and beyond. It signifies any divine gift (spiritual, earthly, and bodily) that directly or indirectly serves the life, health, and the well-being of individuals and communities. The verb covers the spheres of both creation and redemption, from gifts of fertility and posterity to spiritual and bodily health. No conditions are attached. When you bless it means God’s sheltering the people from evil and its effects, especially on the people from wilderness wandering. The whole community is brought into view to experience the effects of God’s shining face. In today’s idiom, we might say on God’s shining face: God smiles on you; God smiles on the community

It is said that in the traditional priestly blessing, when the priest has finished his invocation, as the blessing concludes, a sense of rapture envelops the congregation, and many communities break out in joyful song. Somehow they sensed that they had just been especially blessed by Yahweh the Bestower of all blessings. Somehow the communities felt elated, lifted to a higher plane, almost as if Yahweh had just reached down from His celestial throne, scooped them up and drawn them close.

The kohen, a descendant of Aaron, inherits Aaron’s spiritual qualities. Aaron was famous for his loving character. Indeed, the Hebrew name “Aharon” is an abbreviation of two Hebrew words, ahavah rabbah—“great love.” Aaron loved Yahweh and he loved people. When he prayed for people, he reflected on the two objects of his love. On the one hand, he thought of the people and their needs. On the other hand, he thought of Yahweh’s love for the people and of how much Yahweh enjoys giving to them.

Aaron prayed completely without guile, in absolute devotion and love. His loving fervour, in turn, aroused Yahweh’s love. Yahweh would listen attentively and say, “You desire for me to provide, and I desire to provide for you.” The Kohen, who inherits this quality from Aaron, is endowed with the ability to do the same

What a joy to abide under the divine blessing! This puts a gracious flavour into all things. If we are blessed, then all our possessions and enjoyments are blessed; yea, our losses and crosses, and even our disappointments are blessed. Isn’t this so true for our church the last 3 years. When we are blessed, then all our possessions and enjoyments are blessed; yea, our losses and crosses, and even our disappointments are blessed.

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