Archive for the “Treasure Seeking in God’s Word” Category

Today we’re continuing with the gem found in the book of Numbers that we looked at yesterday. You can find yesterday’s blog here. We’re looking at this passage:

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;
25  the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26  the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.’
27  “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Numbers 6:22-27 (NIV)

Today I want to look at the specific elements of the blessing. Remember it is the specific instruction God gave to the priests about how to bless the Israelites. And God promised that when the priests blessed the people in this way, God would bless them. As I wrote yesterday, there’s nothing “magical” about the words, but they are instructive about how we are to bless others. So let’s look at each element.

Verse 24: “The Lord (Yahweh) bless you and keep you.”

“The Lord bless you” – may He bless you as He desires to bless you. Let’s let Him decide how to bless, rather than being more specific and praying that He would bless them with __________ (fill in the blank). God knows the needs of the person being blessed better than we do, and I sometimes think we are working against the purposes of God when we are overly specific in our prayers. I’m not saying it’s wrong to pray “Lord, my friend needs a job, we ask that you would bless her with one.” I am saying that this passage encourages us to pray “Lord, bless my friend where he or she is right now” – because God knows each of our needs beyond the obvious we may see or feel.

Notice that the object of the blessing is “you.” In the original language, it is a singular “you.” It is a personal blessing for the one being blessed. It’s not a mass-produced blessing that God just pulls off His shelf of ready-made blessings. It is a blessing unique to the needs of the person being blessed. Wow! God knows my name, He knows my thoughts, He knows my needs, He knows me – better than anyone else – and he has a blessing designed and created just for me. Again – wow! And Thank You, Lord.

A favorite verse of mine is Psalm 34:15 – The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry” (NIV). The verse says to me that He is always listening and ready to respond to my cry. He hears me. He is El Roi – the God who Sees, and El Shama – the God who Hears.

“The Lord bless you [wow!] and keep you.” The word translated “keep” comes from a root word that means to put a hedge around, to guard, to protect, and to attend to. Remember this is a blessing – we are not asking God to do these things, we are blessing the recipient with these things. We are giving them God’s hedge around them, His protection of them, and I love the last phrase – we are bringing God’s attention to them that He might attend to them. He will be attentive to those who are blessed, knowing even the number of hairs on their head (Matthew 10:30).

Verse 25: “The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.”

Notice the third word in that verse – “make”. The blessing invokes the Lord to purposefully make His face shine upon you. Just as I want to be intentional about my walk with the Lord, He is intentional about blessing me. May the Lord make the glory and light of His countenance shine upon you.

There are some who describe prayer as holding others in the light of God. It is a phrase often used by our Quaker brothers and sisters. Light blows away darkness. Light brings healing. Light leads the path before us. Light warms our bodies. May the Lord be purposeful in shining His light upon you.

The word translated “gracious” is almost equally translated mercy or merciful as it is gracious or favor/favorable. May God make His face shine with His glory upon you, and may He be merciful and gracious to you. There is only love in that verse. There is no condemnation, there is no judgment, there is no taskmaster-like ruler or kingship. There is love and compassion and a ready desire to bless.

Verse 26: “The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”

May God turn His face toward you, see you, and give you peace. Again, we have God being purposeful in turning toward us, looking upon us with His glory shining upon us (from verse 25), and “give you peace.” The word “give” literally means put or set upon you. His peace transcends anything happening in our lives – it is more like a blanket that covers and protects us, it settles on us and we can wrap ourselves in it. Even though all around us there may be chaos, His peace covers us. Peace is not the absence of conflict or chaos, it is God’s light covering us and shining on the things that are most important so that our attention is directed toward them instead of the chaos. It is also knowing that He will bless us and keep us, that He will be gracious to us, and that His solutions will prevail no matter what the day looks like.

The word is “shalom” and it means prevailing peace and well-being, and is the final phrase of the blessing that with which we are to bless the people of God. And God’s promise is that when we do so, He will bless them.

Our Powerful Opportunity

Friends, as I wrote yesterday, let’s not shy away from our authority to bless others. Know that you bless others with this blessing, you invoke God’s blessing upon them.

That’s a powerful opportunity. And dare I say responsibility. Go forth and bless, friends.

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I love finding gems in the midst of what might otherwise seem like fly-over territory in the Bible. I am reading the book of Numbers, and “buried” at the end of chapter about Nazarite vows and heads being shaved, I found this familiar gem:

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;
25  the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26  the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.’
27  “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Numbers 6:22-27 (NIV)

I noticed 2 things about this passage that I hadn’t noticed before: It is a blessing and it invokes God’s blessing upon the recipient.

It is a Blessing to be Given by Priests

It is sometimes translated as a “special blessing”, and it is the blessing that the priests were to say to bless the Israelites. As I thought about this, the Holy Spirit reminded me that as believers, we are part of the “royal priesthood”. The Apostle Peter wrote about in 1 Peter:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)             

While Peter’s letter is addressed specifically to the Israelites, it applies to all who have accepted Christ as their Savior – including those of us who are not Jewish but have been “grafted in” as the Apostle Paul described in Romans 11:17.

What does that mean? It means that we have the authority of priests to proclaim the blessing upon others. Did you get that? It’s a powerful statement – you have the authority to proclaim this “special blessing” upon others. Let me encourage you (and myself) not to shy from the authority God has given us.

Yes, I know, that this blog bounces back and forth between referring to “them” and “us”. I’m sorry. I can’t correct that – because what applies to “them” applies to “us.” So you will find that I write about the blessing that is given to them and then slip into how it is a blessing to you and to me. Remember, what God has done for them, He does and will do for you and me.

It is a Blessing with a Promise from God

The other exciting thing about this passage is God’s promise at the end – that when the priests proclaimed this blessing on the people, they “put God’s name on them” and God would bless them. Let’s look at each element.

When we pray this blessing, we “put God’s name upon them.” Oh my, there is so much in God’s name. It is His banner over them – His protection. It is His blessing over them. It recognizes a relationship with Him – that we are His and He is ours.

And then comes the promise – that God will bless them! That is so exciting to me – that when I proclaim this blessing upon others, God says He will bless them. My blessing on them – me praying these words over them – moves the hand of God to bless them. Is there anything magical about these words? While I would not use the word magical, of course, I would say that these are the specific words God instructed the priests to use when blessing the Israelites. I’ve checked many translations, and most say something like “this is how you are to bless the Israelites.” No, they are not magical words, but they are instructive words – words from God about how to bless others. Do I have to speak the words of the blessing exactly as they’re written? Of course not. But the concepts behind the words is how we are to bless God’s people. I’ll write more about those words – the actual blessing we’re to proclaim over others – tomorrow.

In the meantime, let me encourage you to spend some time today thinking about (that is, meditating on) the role of priesthood that God has given to you as a Child of the King. How does God want you to fulfill that role? And come back tomorrow to read more about the blessing God instructed the priests to use when blessing the Israelites.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, Friends. May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

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Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Proverbs 4:7 (NIV)

 If you are following the Treasure Seeking in God’s Word reading schedule with us, you are reading through the Proverbs this month. I have to be honest with you – I’m not a huge fan of the book of Proverbs. Yes, I recognize its value, but I don’t enjoy reading it – largely because of the writing style. The content is good (uh…it is the Word of God, perhaps I should say the content is inspired and holy and awesome – “good” seems a bit pathetic now that I think about it)…but the writing style is off-putting for me. I guess God’s Word has styles for everyone, right? Still, whether it’s my style of preference or not, I recognize the value of reading the whole Word of God, so I’m in Proverbs.

Just in case I didn’t recognize the value of reading Proverbs, the first four verses describe that value:

 1These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.
2Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline,
to help them understand the insights of the wise.
3Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives,
to help them do what is right, just, and fair.
4These proverbs will give insight to the simple,
knowledge and discernment to the young.
Proverbs 1:1-4 (NLT)

The purpose of the proverbs is to teach us wisdom and discipline. Who wants that? OK, most of us want wisdom, but most rebel at discipline. (Have you eaten healthy and exercised regularly this week?) These verses tell us the consequences of making the Proverbs part of our lives:

  • Gives us insight to the wise
  • Teaches us to live successful lives (yes, we learn that, it’s not a matter of luck)
  • Gives us insight to the simple – in other words, we can understand people, both wise and simple
  • Gives knowledge and discernment to the young – we don’t have to wait until we’re older and more experienced, the Proverbs can give us wisdom while we are still young

Those are pretty valuable benefits of embracing Proverbs – the Solomon, the writer of the Proverbs, says they are a source of wisdom and knowledge. In today’s reading, Solomon takes his discussion of wisdom further. While the first chapter taught the purpose of the proverbs, chapter 4 teaches us about the value of wisdom.

6Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.
7Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
8Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.
9She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.”
10Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many.
11I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.
12When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.
Proverbs 4:6-12 (NIV)

“Do not forsake wisdom” Solomon writes – because here are some of the benefits:

  • Wisdom watches over us – it protects us and gives us security
  • Wisdom exalts us – it will bring us success
  • Wisdom brings us honor
  • Wisdom will “set a garland of grace on your head” –our lives will be characterized by grace
  • Wisdom crowns our heads with beauty – our lives will be beautiful (to ourselves and others)
  • Wisdom leads to a long life
  • Wisdom keeps us from stumbling over the pitfalls of life

If you want security, success, honor, grace, beauty and a long life that avoids the major pitfalls this world would throw at you, what you really want is wisdom. The book of Proverbs consistently tells us that wisdom is something we must pursue, practice and guard. In other words, it doesn’t come naturally. It also tells us that wisdom is found at the feet of the Lord. “Fear of the Lord is the beginning [or foundation] of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10, NIV/NLT)

By pursuing God, we are pursuing wisdom. Let’s continue together.

You can download our Treasure Seeking in God’s Word from this blog – it provides a schedule for reading through the Bible in 2014. Starting late? No problem. Start today and read a little more each day and you’ll catch up to us, or use the schedule as is and finish a year from today. Either way, you’re seeking treasure – God’s Word is full of them!

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God’s Word holds the treasures of life. That’s why we’ve named our program for reading through the Bible in 2014 Treasure Seeking in God’s Word.

The only problem is I’ve fallen a bit behind…I expected to post the full schedule yesterday but about noon I got what I am hoping is a 24 hour bug. I feel much better today, but not quite good enough to get the schedule up. So I wanted to give those of you who will join us a glimpse at the first few days.

I’m breaking the readings into three columns: The Old Testament (minus what’s in the third column), the New Testament and the Poetry books and minor prophets. If you read all the readings for each day you’ll read through the entire Bible in 2014.

Here’s the scheduled readings for the rest of this week, January 1-3, 2014:

  • Genesis 1-8 (chapters 1-3 on Wednesday, 4-5 on Thursday and 6-8 on Friday)
  • John 1-3
  • Psalm 1-4

That might look like a lot of reading, but it’s only 15 chapters in 3 days…with two days to catch up if you fall behind. You’ll read the creation story and about the fall of Adam and Even (and all of mankind) as well as Cain and Able and Noah. As you read the creation story, you’ll read John’s description of it.

I hope you’ll decide to join us as we read through the Bible this year. Stay tuned for bookmarks that provide the schedule for the whole month and the rest of 2014.

Blessings, friends. May God reveal Himself to each of us as we seek the greatest treasure – knowing Him – in 2014.

 

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