Read This Page in My Language
Numbers 6:22-27 / Confirmation – Holy Trinity Sunday
Hello Maggie. It is good to see you today. That you are here at your confirmation means several things. It means you have been baptized. It means you have been brought up in the Christian faith. It means that you have now formally studied that Christian faith and shown that you understand it. But most importantly, it means that you believe it. Today you will confess your faith in Christ before God and before this congregation.
So, I thought I’d preach today on Numbers 6:22-27. For what we have here is a three-fold blessing from the Triune God. God had already saved the Israelites from the Egyptians. And now, like you, they are in the midst of their journey to the Promised Land. Except unlike you, there are going to an earthly Promised Land. You are going to a far better place. You are headed to the true Promised Land of heaven.
All of life is a journey to heaven. And because it is a long journey, it is good to have a blessing—in particular, God’s blessing. And that is why I chose these verses for your confirmation today. God is giving you his blessing. He is saying to you, “I will get you to the Promised Land.”
Let’s continue with this metaphor of a journey. Today you’ve reached another stage: confirmation. What is it? Confirmation is mile marker that one passes on their way to heaven. It means that the rest of God’s family is now saying you have grown up. What we are not saying is that before you were not a believer and now you are. From the moment of your Baptism, you have been a believer in Jesus.
But up until now, that baptismal faith has depended primarily on your parents. Now you take responsibility for your own faith. Now you say, “I believe not just because my parents believe. I believe because I have studied the Holy Scriptures and am convinced that they are true.” So, you can walk on your own now. Your parents no longer have to carry your faith. What I am encouraging today is that as you walk through life, you stay close to your Guide.
Who is your Guide? Well, you have two of them. You have your earthly father (your dad), and you have your Heavenly Father, God. The two are meant to be similar in that they provide for you, take care of you, and guide you on the right path. God is the primary guide, and your dad is his representative on earth.
Like God and Moses. Think of how God guided the Israelites through the wilderness. He did so via a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He kept them from getting lost. He protected them from their enemies. And he raised up Moses to speak God’s Word to them. Just as your father has spoken God’s Word to you ever since you were born.
But the greatest thing God has given you is what he gave to the Israelites in Numbers chapter 6. He gave them his blessing. He blessed their journey to the Promised Land, and in doing so, he promises that he will get them where he intends them to go.
Sometimes these words of God are referred to as the Aaronic Blessing. Aaron was a priest. The priest was the one who spoke God’s words of blessing on the people. Think of it as the pastor baptizing you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. God is baptizing you, but he does it through the human pastor. And once you are baptized, you are a child not just of Mike and Michelle Svehla; you become a child of God.
So, understand that God’s blessing here is not just a wish. God is not saying, “I hope this happens to you on your journey.” He is saying, “All of this will happen to you on your journey.” In essence, his blessing is a promise. And what does he promise you? That the LORD will bless you and keep you. That the LORD will make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. That the LORD will look on you with favor and give you his peace.
It is important to remember that this is the LORD who blesses you—all capital letters—L-O-R-D. Whenever you see God’s name spelled this way, he is using his personal name. In Hebrew it is pronounced Yahweh. In our English bibles, it is translated as LORD (all capitals).
This is God’s saving name. Whenever God uses this name, he is saying to us, “I am your Savior.” He is reminding us, “Not only have I saved you, I will continue to save you all the way until the end.” Just think of Jesus. The name Jesus means Savior. And you know all about Jesus, Maggie. That is why you chose as your confirmation verse John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Now, to be fair, you’ve known that verse since you have been able to speak. But now, having thoroughly studied the Bible in confirmation class, you have such a deeper understanding of what the cross means. God did not just say he loves you. He showed it. He sent his one and only Son to die for your sins. Jesus took all of your sins, Maggie—even the ones you haven’t committed yet—and paid for them on the cross. He paid for them with his own blood, not yours, so that you will never have to.
Which means that God’s face now shines on you. That phrase, along with “the LORD look on you with favor”, are my favorite words of this blessing. Because literally, what the blessing says is that God lifts up his face with pride when he looks at you rather than lowering it in disappointment. Your mom, dad, and grandparents’ eyes light up when they see you. So do God’s eyes. And that is such a key to getting through life.
Our eyes often don’t light up when we look at ourselves in the mirror, but every time God looks at you, Maggie, his heart swells with pride, because you’ve been washed clean, your sins are forgiven, and through faith all of Jesus’ holiness is applied to you. Indeed, we can even say that through faith you are so connected to Jesus that when God looks at you, he sees his righteous Son. This is why you can be certain that you will make it to the Promised Land of heaven. The journey doesn’t depend on your obedience, but on Christ’s obedience. And here is the good news—he’s already obeyed, and through faith, so have you.
I imagine that the Mayflower pilgrims had lots of anxiety as they crossed the Atlantic. We know that the Israelites suffered terribly from anxiety as they travelled through the wilderness. The stories of their uncertainty are provided for us in the Bible. But why did they have uncertainty? God promises in this blessing that he will bless them and keep them. He promises that he is not angry with them. And yet, for forty years the challenge was for them to believe it.
God-willing you will have more than forty years on this earth. How are you going to have peace of mind as opposed to anxiety? It is in this: that although you don’t know all the twists and turns, you do know where you are headed, and you do know who it is that is guiding you. The Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! He is the captain of your ship. He is the pilot of your airplane. And he has a steady hand on the rudder. So, you can go forward in life with peace as opposed to anxiety. And here is the thing: the more you trust God, the more peace you will have.
Because peace is a gift of the Holy Spirit and a byproduct of faith. When you are convinced that God is real and good, when you are convinced that Jesus obtained complete forgiveness—that even if you were to die tonight you would go to heaven—then you can relax and let God lead you through the wilderness of life.
But don’t ever mistake the word “relax” with the notion that you don’t need to be responsible for yourself on your journey. Remember that the majority of Israel fell away from the Lord on their journey, and you don’t want that. Why did they fall away? Because their hearts fell in love with other things in this world more than God. And so, the writer to the Hebrews says, “Therefore, we need to pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away” (2:1).
The good news, however, is that none of us need to make the same mistake. We are not destined to fail. No, the Holy Spirit is present with his power to keep us in the faith. But here is the key: he does this by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Savior.
There are three places in all the world where the Holy Spirit will keep your eyes fixed on Jesus: the words of the Bible, the words of Holy Baptism, and the words of Holy Communion. These are the places where God promises you the forgiveness of Jesus. You cannot find the forgiveness of Jesus in Walmart. You won’t be reminded of it at the movies. But every time you come to church, the Holy Spirit places Jesus front and center. You cannot come to this church and go away without hearing that your sins are forgiven.
So, come! We are here for you. We care for you and want to travel along with you. There is a long journey ahead, and it is a whole lot easier to travel with someone than by yourself. Let’s keep travelling together, Maggie. You and me. You and this congregation. You and your family. And as we travel, let us go with God’s blessing and promise.
Here it is:
The LORD told Moses to speak to Aaron and to his sons and to tell them to bless the Israelites with these words:
The LORD bless you and keep you.
The LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you.
The LORD look on you with favor
and give you peace.
In this way they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.