Thursday, June 23, 2022

              Numbers is the fourth book of the Old Testament.  In Hebrew, the name for Numbers means “in the wilderness” or “in the desert.”  This book is the fulfillment of the story of Israel's exodus from slavery and oppression in Egypt and their deliverance journey to gain or to lay hold of the land God promised to give them as far back as the patriarchs.  But did you know that Numbers speaks of the coming of the Messiah?  Already, even before Israel entered the land promised to them, God has laid the plans or groundwork for the coming of His Son Jesus to be the Messiah.  We read in Numbers 24:17-19, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near.  A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.  He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth.  Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong.  A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.”  These words were a prophecy spoken by Balaam.  These words found their fulfillment in Jesus.    
            Many years before Bethlehem, there was a prophecy of Jesus’ coming.  The Father had put in place a plan to redeem the world through His Son.  For generations, this promise would be held on to by faith and the confidence that in His way and in His time, God would bring forth the Messiah.  He would crush the enemies of Israel but save all who received Him into His holy kingdom and family.  His coming was “not near” but it was promised and certain to happen.  These words from Balaam remind us to live by faith more than sight.  We often cannot see where God is at work or what He might be doing.  But we trust His Word and promises.  We trust Him to keep watch over us and to grant us a hope and a future. 
            A bit earlier in Numbers 6:24-27, we encounter the priestly blessing that the LORD gave to Aaron and his sons for how to bless Israel.  We read, “’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.’  So, they will put MY Name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”  This ancient blessing reminded the people of Israel that indeed they belonged to the LORD.  They were His people.  Today, this blessing is often used at weddings to place the Name of the Lord over a man and a woman who become husband and wife.  This blessing can be used at funerals and memorial services to remember that the one who has passed away has been raised to new life.  It also encourages those who are still alive to remember that they rest and remain under the care of the LORD.
            Numbers can often be a book that we rarely read and, even then, run through rather quickly.  But we can easily miss the enduring messages, encouragements and blessings that God has for us.  One faith-building exercise you could do each day is to read and recite this Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6.  Imagine the LORD speaking these words to you and over you.  Receive this blessing into your life.  Trust that God does make His face to shine upon you and to grant you peace.  Remember, God is for you and loves you beyond anything you could humanly imagine.  The prophecy and blessing we read is God’s invitation to us to know Him, to seek Him and to walk with Him.  This invitation remains real and valid for us even today.  There is not an expiration or use by date assigned to it.  While God was fulfilling His purposes long, long ago in Israel, His eye was on the future as well and the day that His Son would come and people like us would turn to Him in the twenty-first century.  Be grateful today for God’s work and promises across the spectrum of time, nations and boundaries.  And welcome this God into your life today.  Have a wonderful Thursday!  We hope to worship with you on Sunday.  Remember your sunglasses!!    

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