22The 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,
24The LORD bless you and keep you;
25the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26the 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.”
Theme and Parts:
“The Triune God Blesses His People”
I. With Protection (22-24)
II. With Grace (25)
III. With Peace (26-27)
Dear fellow redeemed,
The Holy Trinity is a profound mystery. There is only one God. One divine, indivisible essence. Yet, there are three distinct persons. There are not three parts of God. The Father is God, the Son is God , and the Holy Spirit is God. Yet, there are not three gods, but one God. If you cannot fully comprehend this, if you cannot draw a picture, or come up with a mathematical equation to fully illustrate this, you need not worry. No mere mortal has ever been able to do such things. Fully comprehending the Trinity is far above us just as God Himself is far above us. We have nothing to compare the Trinity to so that we can say, “it’s just like this…” Since we cannot fully comprehend God, does it matter then what we believe and teach about God? Yes! There is a reason that our Lutheran Confessions state, “We believe and teach that there is one divine, undivided essence. Yet, there are three distinct persons, of the same divine essence, and co-eternal.” The doctrine of the Trinity is the teaching concerning the one true God, in whom alone there is eternal salvation. We rejoice to learn in our text this morning that the triune God blesses His people.
In our text, the LORD gave a specific blessing to the priests through Moses. “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel.’” Who is the LORD? He is the one true God. God is a triune spirit being. Those who do not worship the triune God, worship a false god, whatever name they may give it.
“LORD” is the way our English Bibles translate the personal name of God, which in Hebrew is “Yahweh.” In Exodus 34, the LORD explained His name to Moses by describing Himself as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (verse 6).
There is only one God; one essence. With the word “essence” we refer to God’s “oneness,” or what is common to the three persons and is present in its entirety in each one. This one true God, the LORD, blesses His people. The priests were to use this blessing. We continue to use this blessing in worship today, a reminder that our liturgy is rooted in God’s own directives.
“The LORD bless you and keep you.” The triune God blesses His people with protection. This first line especially refers to the work of the First Person of the Trinity – God the Father. The Father is a distinct person; as the creeds say, He is unbegotten. By the word “person” we mean that which exists of itself and is not merely a part of another. Remember, the Father is not a part of God; He is God.
Preservation, protection, and every good gift is included in this blessing. To “bless” is to “endure with power for success.” To “keep” is to guard and protect. Think of the First Article of the Creed and Luther’s explanation. “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. What does this mean? …He richly and daily provides me… guards and keeps me from all evil…” Think of all the blessings you have received from your Father’s hand. Your body, food, clothing, home, family, and property are all gifts from Him. He keeps evil from you; both the evil of this life He has protected you from and especially sin, death, and hell which He delivers you from through the Gospel. The triune God blesses you with protection.
The second line of the blessing reads, “the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.” The triune God blesses you with grace. The face reveals personality and emotions. You can often tell by the look on someone’s face if they are pleased with you or not.
If God’s face is set against you, you will be condemned. This presents a very great problem for man. We are by nature objects of God’s wrath. His holiness would consume us. God Himself is completely holy. Consider the angels’ threefold praise from Isaiah 6:3, reflected in our opening hymn this day, “holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.” There is no sin or corruption of any kind in God. God has absolute ethical purity.
God’s holiness terrifies the sinner. God is the standard. What He does is by necessity right. You can argue with God, but you are guaranteed to lose. God is intolerant of evil; He hates it. Psalm 5:4 says of God, “evil may not dwell with you.” We are full of evil. The sin of both wrong actions and wrong attitudes clings to us.
The very fact that man would ever argue on this point proves man’s lack of holiness. The reaction of anger, frustration, exasperation, or indifference when you hear the law of God is evidence of your failure to be pure. If you have ever broken even just one of God’s laws just one time, you have failed to be holy. You have broken God’s laws many times. We deserve to be cast from the holy God’s presence into everlasting hell.
We are therefore in need of grace. The blessing of the second line especially leads us to think of God the Son. He is distinct from the Father. He is begotten of the Father. With such words as “unbegotten,” “begotten,” and “proceeding” Scripture helps us to see the three persons as distinct and helps us to see a little into their relationship, but it does not fully define such terms for us.
Grace is found in Christ Jesus. Consider St. John’s description of God the Son’s taking on our human flesh. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The fullness of God’s glory is far too much for sinful man to handle. So God hides His full glory, especially in the person of Christ. He became like us, took on flesh, that man might see God. God shows Himself to us and comes to begin the work of redemption as a little child in the manger at Bethlehem.
In human flesh, He lived a life of holiness. Not one law of God was broken even one time by Christ Jesus. Not one sinful attitude was ever present even one time in Christ Jesus. He has been your holy substitute.
God hid His glory in suffering. In the unlikely package of a beaten and bloody Nazarene, we find God on the cross. Christ has bridged the cap. Think of Luther’s explanation to the Second Article of the Creed. Christ “redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death.”
God is gracious to you. In the place of man, Christ offered to God satisfaction which changed His wrath to grace toward us. In Christ, God is gracious to you. He has undeserved favor for you because Christ has lived and died in your place. In Christ, the warmest rays of light and salvation come to you from God’s face.
The third line of the blessing reads, “the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” To “lift up the countenance” is a Hebrew expression which means to “view favorably.” It has the idea of the corners of the mouth turning upward in a smile. The triune God blesses you with peace.
With this work, we especially think of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son; He is sent out by the Father and the Son. What does He do? Again, think of the explanation Luther gave to the Creed, this time the Third Article. The Spirit has “called me by the Gospel.”
The Spirit is at work in the Word and Sacraments to deliver to us the benefits of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit reveals the things of Christ. He is the Comforter. He delivers the purchased peace of Christ. Do you want peace? Not peace that is merely an emotional feeling or peace based on earthly circumstances, but peace that is the rock solid certainty of a right standing with God? Of forgiveness? Of eternal life? The Spirit gives you that in the Word and the Sacraments.
It does matter that we believe in the triune God. As our Catechism explanation states, “The doctrine of the Trinity is so important because it is the teaching concerning the one true God, in whom alone there is salvation.” One who claims to believe in God but rejects the Scriptural definition of the Trinity does not have the right God.
Concerning this blessing, the LORD said, “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” This blessing was no mere wish. The triune God truly blesses His people. The blessing as the Word of God actually transmits the power of the blessing to the people. This was true when the priest spoke these words at the end of the Service to the Israelites. It is true today when your pastor speaks these words to you at the end of the Service. You are given protection, grace, and peace.
The LORD has set His name upon us; we belong to Him. The name of God was first applied to many of you in your baptism. You were baptized in the “name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” You now bear that name as the mark of God’s ownership, blessing, and protection. Invoke that name. Call on that name. Live as one who bears the name “Christian.”
Dear friends, Praise be to our triune God for His blessings of protection, grace, and peace! He has made us His own; we bear His Name. And so we pray that ancient Trinity prayer which tradition holds was written by St. Patrick the missionary to Ireland, “I bind unto myself today, the strong Name of the Trinity, By invocation of the same, The Three in One and One in Three. Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. I bind unto myself the Name, The strong Name of the Trinity; By invocation of the same. The Three in One, and One in Three, Of Whom all nature hath creation, Eternal Father, Spirit, Word: Praise to the Lord of my salvation, Salvation is of Christ the Lord. Amen.”
 Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article I, Paragraph 1.