Circumcision and Name of Jesus, 2017
"From Blessings to Peace"
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Moses had been warned: God said "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live." (Exodus 33:20) That which is sinful and unrighteous cannot bear the sight of a perfect, just, and righteous God. "For our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:29) "Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD." (Leviticus 10:1-2) "The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth." (Psalm 34:16) To those that offered their own children to an idol God proclaimed: "I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name." (Leviticus 20:3) God showed his wrath towards his enemies as he protected the Israelites from Pharaoh: "... the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians.” (Exodus 14:24-25)
Are any of you now ready to meet God face to face? Is there anyone worthy of meeting God face to face? Often we hear these Old Testament stories of God's just and holy anger and we think that the God of the Old Testament was a mean and angry judge and jury. But the true God of the Old Testament is the true God of the New Testament. And that true God is both just and loving. "For I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments." (Exodus 20:5-6)
Is God just? Yes. Does God punish sin? Yes. But God is also love. He forgives. He strengthens. He saves. It is our loving God that proclaimed the words of our text to and through Moses to His people. It is our loving God that proclaimed these words to a people that complained, lied, pursued false gods, and rejected God as their leader. "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them." (Numbers 6:23-27)
That blessing first proclaimed to God's people through Aaron continues this very day. The Lord continues to bless you, His people with all that you need in this life and the next. The Lord keeps you, His dear children, and guards you from the evil one. When God set his face against His enemies and the enemies of His people those enemies were destroyed or put to flight. Now the Lord's face shines upon you, His people. God's face beams with gentle kindness and love so that you are not harmed but rather are blessed. The Lord lifts up His countenance; His love for you, His smile for you and give you peace.
Each and every one of you is a child of God. You are His people. We, like the children of Israel, are able to stand before God and see Him face to face by faith. We see God face to face as He forgives us our sins each Sunday. We see God face to face in His holy Word proclaimed. We see the Lord face to face as Jesus comes to us in His very body and blood in with and under the bread and wine. This we proclaim each Sunday as we joyously sing the song of Simeon in the Nunc Dimittus "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation: which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, A Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel."
And we "will see his face, and his name will be on [our] foreheads." (Revelation 22:4) God's name is still put upon His people. In Holy Baptism the name of the Triune God is placed on our foreheads and we are made His children; heirs of life eternal. Out of love God makes us His own that we may see Him face to face.
Face to face with our loving God. Face to face with God who holds us, leads us, carries us, disciplines us, and loves us as our dear Heavenly Father. Have a wonderful and happy new year...because it promises to be filled with God's richest blessings for you His beloved child. The Lord indeed blesses you...especially here in this place where you receive strength and forgiveness. The Lord continues to make His face to shine upon you as you see Him face to face in this place. The Lord gives you peace...in Christ our Lord. Peace that lasts all eternity. All these blessings are yours through Christ who died out of love for you. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.