Lord Bless Us With Your Name
W e all make assumptions. Years ago I watched a movie. And in that move one of the characters said to the other, “Do you remember that one time we went to that one place and did that thing.” And the joke, of course, was that they knew each other so well that they didn’t even have to give details. They could make assumptions. But very often we make assumptions and we realize later that maybe we should not have. Days ago in bible study we talked about the heavenly host that surrounded the shepherds, announcing that Jesus was about to be born. And I asked the question, “what is a host?” And nobody knew. A host is an army. You see, one of the areas we make assumptions is biblical language. So, if I asked two questions, what answer would you give? First, what is a blessing? Second, what is a name? Both of these words we hear and read in a church setting all the time. But what do they mean? Some might say that a blessing is to think kind thoughts toward someone. Others might say that to have a name is to have an identity. But there’s more, so much more to those words than that. In these words that we hear at the end of most of our worship times, the Lord blesses us with his name. And we have the privilige of looking at that in detail. And so, in Numbers 6, we read: “22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 “ ‘ “The Lord bless you and keep you;” (Numbers 6:22–24 NIV11-GKE)
In these words the Lord commands the priests to bless the Israelites. To bless is more than to think good thoughts toward someone. In ancient societies they wouldn’t do much of anything without seeking and securing the blessing of their pagan god. So, for every agreement, whether big or small, animals had to die to get on their god’s good side. They really, sincerely thought that unless Molech or Baal blessed them and was on their side, then everything would fail. The irony is that we fail in the completely opposite way. They prayed to pagan non-existent gods for blessing that would never come. We forget that blessing only comes from our Lord, The Triune God. And that’s exactly the point that the Lord is making in these words. In these words three times the Lord blesses his people. The first is the blessing from God the Father for protection. Notice here how blessing isn’t some vague, worthless emotion. Instead, it’s a concrete reality. If God the Father blesses us, then we have his protection. And and this is so vitally important for us to understand when we realize that there are so many dangers out there. When you drive out there on the snowy, icy road what is it that keeps you on the road and not in the ditch? Our knee-jerk answer might be to say, “good tires.” But really, truly, the first and biggest answer to that question is God our Father. He blesses us and gives us good things by protecting us.
And how he does this is important too. The Lord’s name is on us. We belong to the Lord. And since we belong to him he sends his angels to watch over us and protect us.
So the Lord blesses us with his name by protecting us. In the next verse we find another way that the Lord blesses us: “the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;” (Numbers 6:25 NIV11-GKE)
In these words Jesus forgives us with his name. The Lord is gracious to us.1 Grace is this undeserved love that God showers on us in Jesus. He forgives the sins we commit that we cannot erase and get rid of. Notice again how blessing is not some vague, wispy abstract thought. The Father protects us. The Son forgives us.
And again, how does he do this? He protects us with his name. We read these words from Luke 2 and conclude that not much is being done. Jesus is just being named, right? No, there’s more to it than that. Jesus is named as the one and only one who could and will obey God’s commandments in our place. For all the times we should have called on God’s name for protection and forgiveness, Jesus did that in our place. We are forgiven with Jesus’ name. And that forgiveness comes to us through Jesus’ name too. For in our baptisms God places his own name, the name of the Triune God on us. And so, the forgiveness that is won there on the cross is hand-delivered to us in baptism.
The Father protects us with his name. The Son forgives us with his name. Maybe you can guess who we’re going to be speaking about next. We read: “the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ’” (Numbers 6:26 NIV11-GKE)
The Holy Spirit gives us peace with his name. In Christ your sins are forgiven. All those times you were worse than a pagan godless unbeliever because at least they prayed to some made-up God for blessing and you went down your own path forgetting to pray at all—those sins are forgiven by Jesus. But here is where the Holy Spirit gets to work. Because if a person, indeed, if the entire world is forgiven and yet doesn’t believe that fact, then what good is Jesus’ work? So the Holy Spirit gives and brings to us peace. First, he tells us that we are forgiven. Then, he gives us faith to believe that we are forgiven. And through that we have peace. We have peace with God above. And we have real concrete and complete peace in our hearts too.
The Lord blesses us with his name. The Father protects us. The Son forgives us. The Holy Spirit gives us peace. Now then, my brothers and sisters, what do we do with all of this? In our final verse, we read: ““So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”” (Numbers 6:27 NIV11-GKE)
The Lord blesses us with his name. First, I invite and encourage you to sit back and appreciate this fact. God blesses you with his name. That’s the sort of fact that is good to chew on when you’re falling asleep at night and driving through the snow. And second, call on the Lord’s name. When you need protection, forgiveness, and peace, call on him. And out of his grace he will give you all these blessings. Amen.
This is the audio from our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. There are sermon introductions to six bible readings.
Why Was Jesus Born?
We deliberately make mistakes. In our catechism class we are walking through the gospel of Matthew. And there’s this part when Jesus is speaking to the crowds where he asks them about John the baptizer. What did you go out to see? And sometimes teachers face that. They ask a simple, direct question and what is the answer they receive? Silence—pure and absolute silence. So he helps them along. He says, “did you find a guy in fine linen?” That would have made them laugh. For they all knew that John wore a robe made of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist. Jesus makes a ‘mistake’ to teach them. Tonight I’m doing the same. Tonight we are reading the wrong words at the wrong time. We are supposed to be preparing for Jesus’ birth. But here in these words in John 18, we see Jesus on trial before Pontus Pilate. And you might be asking yourself, ‘Why is Pastor Bauer making this mistake?’ We find the answer to that question in these words: “33 Then Pilate went back into the headquarters, summoned Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you asking this on your own, or have others told you about Me?” 35 “I’m not a Jew, am I?” Pilate replied. “Your own nation and the chief priests handed You over to me. What have You done?” 36 “My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here.”” (John 18:33–36 HCSB)
Notice what the context is in these words. Jesus is on trial. And the question that Pilate is asking himself and Jesus is: who are you? But notice that Jesus doesn’t really answer that question. Instead he makes Pilate deal with a different question: why am i here? In verse 37, we read: ““You are a king then?” Pilate asked. “You say that I’m a king,” Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. ”” (John 18:37 HCSB)
The question is not, “who are you?” No, instead, the real question is “why am I here?” And what is the answer Jesus gives? He tells Pilate that he was born for this reason: to testify to the truth. Notice how in a very beautiful and amazing way, Jesus takes Pilate back to Christmas. People might ask themselves the question, “why was I born.” And they might never be able to answer that question in a way that satisfies their curiosity. But Jesus knew. He was born to testify to the truth. Jesus came to testify to the truth that we are all liars. You see, during this time of the year we think warm and happy thoughts because God comes to earth. But before we go there we should stand in the sandals of the shepherds. When the angels appeared and the Glory of God filled the sky, did they sing and dance in joy? No. They fell down in fear. You see, they recognized that they were sinners. They mourned over the fact that they were liars. Liars don’t get to be in the presence of holy angels. And even more so, liars don’t get to be in the presence of God.
But it’s not just the shepherds who need to recognize that they are sinners. We too need to do the same. God came to earth. And we see our sins by contrast. In the same way that you really don’t see the moon in the day, even though it’s there sometimes, so also, the sinless Son of God comes down to earth. And in the burning bright light of his truth we see our lies. We see the times we have lied to get an advantage. We see the times we have lied to avoid embarrassment. We see the times we have said the truth and proven ourselves liars with our actions. And how much worse is this for us as Christians? For we call ourselves ‘followers of God.’ But in our every day lives we show those around us that we are really just followers of lies.
Jesus was born to testify to the truth that we are all liars. And when we see this real fact then we are ready to see the next truth. Jesus was born to testify to the truth that we are liars. But he was also born to testify to his Father’s love. These words drive us to ask an important question: how do you know that your Father in heaven loves you? The Father loved you so much that he sent his eternal son to take on the same flesh and blood as you. How do you know that Jesus loves you? Jesus came to do his Father’s work and will. And he did so joyfully, willingly and perfectly…in your place. And the result of this is very clear. Since Jesus was born to speak the truth in your place. And since Jesus was faithful to that work all the way till his death, your sins are forgiven. The times we lie to get ahead—they are forgiven. The times we lie to avoid embarrassment—they are forgiven. The times we speak the truth and then prove ourselves to be liars by our actions—those too are forgiven.
And so, Jesus testifies to the truth to show his great love for us. But there is one last reason why Jesus testifies to the truth. We read: “Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”” (John 18:37 HCSB)
This is a tough verse to translate. What does it mean to be “of the truth?” It means that who we are, our essence, our being, is tied to the truth. If a person is ‘of the truth’ that person belongs to the truth and the truth is now in that person. And in these words is this amazing truth that Jesus was born for yet another reason. Jesus was born so that we would belong to the truth. Jesus was born so that we would be born again. And through water and word that is exactly what has happened. Through this great gift of faith now we both know the truth and follow it.
My dear friends in Christ, that is not a small gift. Years ago there was a dear lady, who at 80 years of age, went through instruction class and joined our church. Then a year or two later she got cancer and then eventually died. Out of all the people in her family she alone was the Christian. And on her death bed in one way after another they showed that they were not ‘of the truth.’ For they were absolutely unable to acknowledge the fact that their mom, grandmother, and great grandmother was about to die. And I tried to gently but truly lead them to this truth. But they refused to listen.
You, my brothers and sisters in Christ, are the opposite of that. Through this gift of faith Jesus loved you so much to give you a new person alongside the old. And this new person faces the truth with courage and hope. This new person doesn’t just know the truth. This new person in us takes its stand on the truth. That is what Jesus means when he says that everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.
And so, tonight we make a deliberate mistake. But it’s a mistake that Jesus deliberately draws us into. Hours before Jesus dies, he speaks about his birth. And with these few, small statement we are reminded once again why Jesus was born. He was born to testify to the truth that we are all liars and the truth that out of love for us Jesus was truth in our place and gave us his truth. Amen.
God Is Able To Establish You
Look at the churches. If you haven’t realized it, you are living in an immensely beautiful part of the nation. Now, when I say this I’m not speaking about the land—though that’s pretty too. What I am speaking about is the churches. Whenever I have to drive around what impresses me is the churches. For, in so many towns, there are these churches built on the sides of hills. And some of them seem to be built on the sides of cliffs. And what is amazing and impressive is not just that they are built there, but that they last. Year after year of frost and humidity wage war on those buildings. But yet they remain. When you drive around, look at those churches. Look at them because they are like you. Paul makes that point in these closing words in the book of Romans: “Now to him who is able to establish you” (Romans 16:25 NIV11-GKE)
If you think it’s impressive to look at those churches that weather the elements generation after generation, just look at yourself. For God is able to establish you. Day after day, decade after decade, Satan and your own sinful self try to wear you down and break you down. The pain of what you did in the past; the worries about the future; the stresses of the present—all of them weather your outside and threaten to erode your foundation of faith. And, as Paul closes off his letter to the Romans, notice what he says. He tells them that God is able to establish them. And as these words continue he reveals more details about just exactly how our God does this: “25 in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 16:25–26 NIV11-GKE)
God establishes you with the gospel. God does not use brick or stone to establish you. He uses his word. He uses the good news about Jesus. And for us, as Gentiles, this is really good news. It is really good news because for many, many generations Jesus was hidden. For generations upon generations all the believers knew was that there would be a “he” who would crush Satan. Later on they learned that this “he” would be a prophet, a priest, and a king. And they learned hints of how this messiah would save the world from its sin. But what was hidden to many generations of people is revealed to you. In those generations they knew that God would send a savior. You know that this savior is God’s son. You know that his name is Jesus. And you can read his word to know everything you ever wanted to know about him.
And that, my dear friends is what gets you through. When you look at the past and there all you see is pain—the pain of stupid sins you should have never done, you can look to Jesus. When you endure one temptation and trial after another in the present, what will get you through? Look to Jesus. When you confront the future and all the unstable uncertainties that lie ahead, what will make you firm, established and solid in your faith? Look to Jesus. For through him God forgives your sins in the past and establish your faith in the future.
God is able to establish you. The weathering and beating that church buildings face year after year is nothing to the weathering and beating that you face. But your God promises to establish you through his gospel. But there is one last detail that Paul adds to this: “to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.” (Romans 16:27 NIV11-GKE)
God is able to establish you through his gospel. But here we learn that God is able to establish you because of his wisdom. Your Father in heaven is wise. And maybe the best way to see this is for us to put ourselves in Satan’s shoes for a little while. Satan wants more than anything to make us share hell with him. But yet he knows that God has a plan to deal with him. And what’s his great, amazing plan? God has his son be born as a human? Jesus’ birth must have been one of the strangest moments for Satan. He expected powerful, heavenly armies. What happened was the birth of a baby boy. And so the solution was simple: kill the child. But when he has Herod try to kill Jesus, the Father hides his son. And then, at just the right time, after Jesus has finished fulfilling every promise and keeping every commandment in our place, what does God do? He puts his son to death! At every single moment, at every single stage, Satan was put off balance. And then, finally, the Father proved that he was the only one who was wise by rising his son from the dead. Because Jesus was born, died and then rose thepainful sins of the past are forgiven. Because Jesus was born, died and then rose, the fears of the future are set at ease. Because God is wise.
God is able to establish you. He establishes you through the gospel. And he establishes you because he is wise. And so, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what is our reaction to all of this? Let us learn from humble Mary. She is told that she will be the one who will give birth to the Christ. And what is her reaction? Does she say to the angel, “I’m going to climb a mountain for you” or “I’m going to make you the best apple pie?” No, she simply and humbly says, ““May it be to me as you have said.”” (Luke 1:38 NIV) You could boil those words down to one: amen.
You see, there are times that God’s word moves us to action. On Wednesday night God’s word moved us to cling to the truth. But there are other times God’s word simply moves us to acceptance. The holy spirit moves us to say, “amen.” And that’s what Paul is doing here. He says, “May there be glory to the only God that is wise…forever!”1 This morning we prepare our hearts for Christmas not be being busy, but instead, by simply accepting the amazing truth that God establishes us through the gospel. We prepare by giving the praise and glory to God our Father. For he is the only God who able to establish us through is gospel and because of his wisdom. Amen.
1 “ⲙⲟⲛⲱⲥⲟⲫⲱⲑⲱⲇⲓⲁⲓⲩⲭⲩ· ⲱⲏⲇⲟⲝⲁ” (Romans 16:27 GNT-ALEX)
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