The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of God the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. In the name of Jesus our Savior, dear fellow redeemed by the blood of Jesus, do you know what a “cliché” is? I’m going to guess that everyone here except maybe the children have heard the word “cliché” but do you know what it means? Cliché is actually a French word that described the sound that a printing plate cast of moveable type made in printing. The plate itself was called a “stereotype” because back in the printing press days instead of rearranging the moveable letters on a plate all the time, certain phrases that were used repeatedly were cast into a single metal plate. But the word cliché describes an expression or idea or phrase that was originally creative or artistic but has been so overused that it has lost its original meaning or effect, even to the point of becoming rather trite or even irritating. A “cliché.” “Time flies, avoid it like the plague, at the end of the day, like a kid in a candy store.”
Has our text for this morning become like a “cliché” to you? The words of our text that we use at the end of almost every worship service go back thousands of years. In fact, around 3,500 years. We can’t even imagine how long a time that is. The OT people in the synagogue services used these words, the NT churches used this, and if you’re older you’ve probably heard these words thousands of times. But because they are so familiar to us perhaps we sometimes forget what they really mean or we don’t appreciate them as we should.
The first thing that we notice about these Words is the name Lord. You will also notice that it is in all capital letters. When you see that name – as we saw last week – it’s a special name for God, pronounce “Yahweh” in the Hebrew. And whenever it occurs God wants us to think about what it means. In fact, God gave a sermon on his name when he told Moses, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6). He is the LORD, the God of free and faithful grace. And we notice that His name is repeated 3 times. That isn’t a coincidence. One name, repeated three times. This is the blessing of our Holy Triune God. 3 persons, one God. And each phrase highlights the main work of each person of our Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of whom is the LORD.
“The LORD bless you and keep you.” Here is the work of the first person of our Triune God, God the Father. What is it talking about? What does it mean to be “blessed”? What are “blessings”? We talk about that quite a bit, don’t we? “I’m so blessed. I have so many blessings. Count your blessings.” What do you mean when you say that? Blessings are everything that God has given us and done for us. God our Father not only has given us life, but has given us everything that we need for life. God our Father has given me body and soul, eyes, ears, all my parts, my mind, all my abilities, clothing and shoes, food and drink, property and home, everything that I own. Everything that you have, everything that you are is a blessing, a gift from God.
As Americans we can be very individualistic and begin to think that we are who we have made ourselves to be. But the reality is we had very little to do with very little of who we are today. Think about all the things out of your control: you didn’t pick the family you were born into, you didn’t pick the place where you were born, the country you were born in, the time you were born, the physical health you were given, the innate abilities and talents that you have, and a whole bunch of other things. Each of us could have easily been born into a different family, with a different circumstance, in a different country at a different time. Everything that you have and are is a gift, a blessing from God your Father. “The LORD bless you.”
But God the Father doesn’t stop there. “The LORD bless you and KEEP you.” What does that mean? The word means “watch over, protect, preserve, take care of.” God our Father is constantly and zealously working day and night preventing problems and dangers from overwhelming us, He’s constantly keeping Satan and his temptations away from us. And even when God our Father allows trials and difficulties He gives us the strength to endure them and promises the outcome of being able to sustain them. And most of all God our Father promises to KEEP us faithful to the Gospel until that day when He finally delivers us from this world of sin and problems to perfection in heaven. “The LORD bless you and keep you.”
“The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.” Here is the work of the 2nd person of the Trinity, God the Son. This is astounding. This is not what we deserve. We were born into this world in rebellion against God. Our sins are a filth, stench, they wreak to God. If God should give us what we deserve, his face would never, ever shine upon us, it would never beam on us, he would turn his face away from us in anger, hide his face from us, reject us. But instead of anger and wrath God’s face shines on us. Why? Because He is gracious to us. He covers all our sins with the precious blood of Jesus. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities, rather, as far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our sins from us. As you go about life, your Savior Jesus goes with you, showers you with His forgiveness all the time, promises his gracious presence so that no matter what you face, with him- his love and grace- you have everything you need. Because of Jesus God’s face shines on you. I’ve visited quite a few new moms in the hospital – some of you more than once – and every time, every time the new mom is beaming, her face radiating and shining. Because of the work of God the Son, that’s how God looks at you and me. “The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.”
“The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Here is the work of the 3rd person of the Triune God, God the Holy Spirit. He looks at you and gives you peace. It is God the Holy Spirit who gives us real, lasting peace. How so? By giving us faith. It is the work of the Holy Spirit who takes rebels and enemies of God, like you and me, and brings us to faith in Jesus as our Savior and makes us God’s own children. He takes us people blind in the darkness of sin and leads us to see Jesus the Light of the world. He takes people who are dead in their transgressions and sins and brings us to new life. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the peace that transcends all understanding. The Holy Spirit comforts us and convinces us that through Jesus we have the forgiveness of sins, we have life eternal. So no matter what happens, whether we live or die, we know we are the Lord’s. “The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
How can God bless us and keep us, make his face shine on us and be gracious, lift his face on us and give us peace? As sinners we deserve the worst possible from God, we deserve his abandonment, we deserve his anger, we don’t deserve his protection, blessing or peace. We deserve just the opposite. How is it that God then can bless us like this? It’s because someone else lost all of this so we wouldn’t have to. Why can we trust God’s protection for us? Because Jesus lost God’s protection. He was delivered into the hands of sinners. Why can we trust God to be gracious to us when we deserve His judgment? Because God wasn’t gracious to Jesus, God gave to Jesus the punishment that we deserved. Why does God give us peace? Because Jesus lost His peace for us. Jesus cried out on the cross in absolute agony, and agony none of us could fathom, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” He lost His peace so we could have God’s peace forever. He was cursed so we may be blessed, blessed forever.
Because of Jesus you have a God who blesses you and keeps you, who makes His face shine upon you and be gracious to you, who looks on you and gives you peace. How’s that going to affect your week? Two people board an airplane. One sits down puts his seat back, reads a little bit, calmly puts his seat back and falls asleep. The other person sits next to him, shaking, nervous, anxious, scared, grips the arm rests, sweating bullets the whole flight. There’s turbulence, maybe a rougher landing. But both arrive at their destination safely. What’s the difference? When you ride in an airplane you have no control, if the plane goes down, you’re going with it. You can either relax and trust the plane and the pilot or be full of fear and fright and anxiousness. Well, that’s kind of how it is with life, isn’t it? God’s flying the plane. As a believer in Jesus you’re riding on that plane. The difference is how are you going to ride? Are you going to be full of fear and fright, nervous and anxious? Or are you going to relax, be still and trust in God?
You’re going to hear this blessing of the Triune God once again at the end of the service. Don’t let it be a cliché. Take it to heart. Your Triune God goes with you with His blessing, His protection, His grace, His forgiveness and His peace this week and always. Believe it, treasure it, relax in it. Amen.