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Sermon24-5 Num6 Guide

Numbers 6:22-27, theme verse Numbers 6:24-26

The praise and honor and glory be to our heavenly Father who seeks true worshipers who worship Him with the Spirit and truth.

Today is the last day and also the last Sunday of 2023. Reviewing and thanksgiving God for His grace this year, I hope you could prepare also new year of 2024 with new plan and wishes. Especially in 2023 after we started with Russia – Ukraine war, continued from 2022, last Oct, the Hamas-Israel war broke out again. In addition, while Eastern Africa was devastated with long-running civil war and outbreak of famine and disease, the famine in Afghanistan and Haiti has been driving people to starvation so that the entire earth is suffering from war and famine in addition to abnormal climate cause by global warming. Thinking what we really need most in these situation, we would like to meditate on the priestly blessing in Numbers 6 to learn few lessons together.

1)    The name of the Book of Numbers is “בְּמִדְבַּ֥ר"(ba midbar)” in Hebrew which means “In the wilderness”. This name perfectly represents the Book of Numbers which tells the story of Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, between receiving the law at Sinai and arriving in the plains of Moab—right across the river from the promised land.

2)    Yet, the English title “Numbers” comes through the Vulgate from the Septuagint LXX which used the title “Numbers” first. The reason why this Book is named as “Numbers” is that there are two census in this Book, I mean, the first census in the Mount Sinai which was done just before their march to Canaan, and the second census which was done after they arrived at Moab plain, after their sin in Kadesh-Barnea and 40 years’ wandering in the wilderness as its consequence. Yet, two numbers were very similar, I mean, 600 thousand some, which represents that even in the wilderness, God kept the Israelites.

3)    The Numbers could be divided into five paragraphs, as follows; a) The first paragraph from chapter 1 verse 1 through chapter 9 verse 14 records how the Israelites were established as a holy community, b) And the second paragraph from chapter 9 verse 15 through chapter 12 verse 16 records their itinerary from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea, c) And the third paragraph from chapter 13 verse 1 through chapter 20 verse 21 records their wandering in the Paran wilderness for 40 years, d) And the fourth paragraph from chapter 20 verse 22 to chapter 22 verse 1 records their itinerary from Paran wilderness to Moab plain, e) And finally the fifth paragraph from chapter 22 verse 2 to chapter 36 verse 13 records the preparation of New Israelites to cross the Jordan river to conquer and live in the promised land.

4)    Especially the first paragraph where today’s text is included describes how God established His holy community who enters and lives in the promised land; At the outset, the community are established through the census at chapter 1 verse 1 through 46, and its character as a priestly theocracy is affirmed in 1:47 through 4:49. Then threats to its purity being identified in 5:1–31, and procedures for dealing with them are set forth in 5:1-31, the ways in which laypeople can share in higher levels of “consecration” are described in the vow of the nazirite  in 6:1-21, while the priestly blessing brings security and well-being to the community (6:22–27). And then locating the sanctuary at the community’s center in 7:1–88, the roles of Moses as supreme recipient of the divine word, and of the lamps, which perhaps symbolize the light the word brings to the community, are stressed in 7:89–8:4, and the consecration of the Levites for their new role within the theocracy is described in 8:5–26. And then the keeping of the Passover, the community’s foundational rite, is recorded in 9:1–14.

5)    And in Today’s text, the Aaron’s blessing, or Priestly Blessing is surrounded by a framework that identifies the divine author of the directive and the human mediator of it in v.22 and states the priestly duty to pronounce blessing on the people in v.23 and then tells the outcome of such a blessing, I mean, God’s Blessing in v.27.

6)    And this priestly Blessing itself is provided as a prayer that God would grant His gracious presence and watchcare to his people, etc, based on the three poetic lines of unequal, increasing length which is used as the benediction of worshipers as they go into the world, as follows;

“The LORD bless you and keep you;

the LORD make His face shine on you and be gracious to you;

the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.” 

7)    First v.24 prays that “The LORD bless you and keep you”. Here, the blessing that the LORD gives can be understood as one of the six blessings, but also it can also be understood as a term encompassing the remaining five blessings. About this blessing. we can understood it as the totality of the blessings found in Deuteronomy 28 and blessings found in Ephesians 1:3-14 and also the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, as the blessings in Deuteronomy 28 includes material wealth and success, protection from enemies, being superior to all nations, and becoming holy people of God, and Ephesians 1:3-14 includes, as a spiritual blessing of heaven, I mean, through election and predestination, we receive forgiveness of sins in Christ, become holy and blameless sons of God, and being sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, we will inherit God’s eternal inheritance after restoring God’s reign in Christ, and also Matthew 5 by the Lord speaks of the blessings of becoming sons of God and receiving comfort, mercy, and protection, as well as becoming citizens of heaven, inheriting the earth, while seeing God.

8)    And after declaring this blessing, the priests pray the first blessing of being kept, I mean the protection. Since we human beings were faced with the hardships for eating and living, experiencing the destruction of relationships with others, while suffering under the power of sin, death, and Satan, after the first sin, so that the providential protection from these difficulties should come first, I believe. And that’s why the Lord taught us to pray in the Lord's Prayer that He told us to pray for daily bread, restoration of relationships, and protection from evil spirits.

9)    And then secondly, in verse 25, they continue to pray that “The LORD make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.” Here, as Revelation 21:23 says, “The city did not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God shines on it, and the Lamb is its lamp,” the phrase “make his face shine on you” means the shining the light of the face of God, in order words, His glory. I mean, as plants that do not receive sunlight gradually wither and die, we human beings actually come to true life when we receive the light of God, I mean, His glory. So, that’s why 2 Corinthians 4:4 says that the gods of this world have blinded the minds of unbelievers so that the light of the gospel of Christ's glory cannot shine to them. In this way, this blessing is to pray that the light of the gospel of His glory is given to His covenant people through which they can reflect it to the world. Not only that, but as 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, this blessing includes a blessing in which His people gradually reach greater glory as they see the glory of the Lord.

10) And then they continue to pray that the LORD give them grace. Here the word grace actually refers to receiving something for free that cannot be received through our actions or good deeds. So as 2 Timothy 1:9 says “God saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace,” Grace refers to the grace that leads to salvation and calls us as His ministers. And also this grace includes general grace that allows everyone in this world to make a living if they work hard and even enjoy wealth and glory by their efforts as God makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust as Mt 5:45 says.

11) And then finally, in verse 26 they bless that, “May the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Here the word, “the LORD turn his face toward you” is a prayer that God may be with them. As Psalm 105:4 says, “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” In other words, the face of the LORD symbolizes His presence, and His presence stands for “His power” which results in “victory,” “protection,” and “guidance” of the LORD. So, our prayer for seeking His face means the prayer for His presence.

12) And finally, they are praying for God to give peace. Here the Hebrew word “Shalom” which was translated as peace means in fact, the eschatological peace in which everything is in an orderly and harmonious state, in which all things are restored to their original being and purpose in creation, so that through this prayer, they pray for such eschatological peace to come to the community and also to each individual life. But, this peace does not simply mean a state in which there is no war or nothing bad happens, rather Shalom means a peace of mind that is unwavering in any situation instead. So, that’s why David prayed in Psalm 16:8, when he was being chased by Saul, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” Therefore I pray that the peace that comes from God's presence and companionship will be with all of us, now and forever.

13) Through today's passage, we would like to learn few things. First, among six blessings – blessing, protection, glory, grace, presence, and shalom (peace), the blessing of protection, the blessing of grace and the blessing of peace are really required to us who has been suffered with war and famine and disease in this end era. Therefore we as His people have to intercede for the world. Secondly, it is said in v.23 that this priestly blessing is not only the privilege of the priests, but also the duty of the priests. But since Ex 19:6 says that the Israel is the nation of priest, as the priestly blessing to the Israelites is the duty of the priest, the priestly blessing to the world is the duty of the nation of priest. So in this sense, in this New Testament era, when Jesus died, as the veil of the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle was torn from top to bottom, now all the elect in faith could enter God's Holy of Holies directly and became His priests to bless the world, as Martin Luther said and also we, the chosen people are His priests as 1 Peter 2:9 says, that “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a special possession,” we are those who have the duty to proclaim the priestly blessing to this world as Num 5:23 says. Therefore, I pray that as we say goodbye to the year 2023 today, taking time to count how many blessings we have received from God, while we give thank God, at the same time, thinking about how many of these priestly blessings we have proclaimed to the people in the world as His holy priests, we give thanks to God for giving us this glory to be His instrument to bless others

Key Questions as Small Group Activity

Q1 Six blessings – blessing, protection, glory, grace, presence, and peace, which was blessed in the priestly blessing, after reviewing what kind of blessing you received this year, I hope you could share grace each other, while sharing your life blessings.

Q2 And secondly, in today’s text, the priestly blessing is the blessings which the priests blessed His people. Yet, as Ex 19:6 says the Israelites are the priests of the world, the Israelites have the duty to bless the world too. As such, we as a member of church are also the priests of God so that we also have the duty to bless the world. So reviewing your life and checking whether you lived the life as His priests, I hope you could share your experience and thought with your team members.

Q3 And finally after thinking what kind of prayer list in 2024, I hope you could pray for and bless each other.

Love you. Thank you. God bless you.

Prayer Note

Dear ( God’s attribute which you found Today ) God!

Thanks for ( something you received through the sermon or  even during the week )

Praise, gratitude and glory be to You, Lord!

Today, I realized my sin (pains) that ( the sin God reminded through the sermon ),

please forgive (or heal) me and help me not to repeat ( the sins you recognized   ).

I learned that ( something you learned through the sermon                                    )

Please help me to live in that (  learned way of life                                                )

I pray in ( Jesus’ attribute you find ) Jesus’ name. Amen.

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