Sunday, January 01, 2023

 The Power of the Name

  Numbers 6:22-27

22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 24 "The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."  27 "So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them."

 The Power of the Name

The Sunday after Christmas                       1/01/23

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ;

Cartoons, comic books, and super-hero movies all express the same basic thing; the very human longing to be in control, to be able to manage in the most difficult of situations, to be, as the devil tempted Eve in the Garden, "like God."  The desire to be like God is as old as mankind, but it is twisted by sin into wanting to be or making one's self into their own God.  It is probably the sin-contorted version of something God created in us to be good, the need and desire to be in intimate contact with our God.

Adam and Eve enjoyed something none of us have ever experienced, close communion with God.  He would come to them in the cool of the evening in the Garden to walk and talk with them.  No one since has been in that kind of communion with God, except Jesus.  Moses came close, being able to talk with God face to face in the Tabernacle, but that most basic impulse of the human nature has never been met since sin raised its ugly head among mankind.

The closest we come today is Holy Communion, and hearing His Word.  For men and women one of the most common and powerful ways of being in communion with God, aside from the sacraments, is the Aaronic benediction.

 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,  "The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 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."  2 "So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them."
A century ago a Lutheran scholar and commentator, the Rev. Paul Kretzman, described this benediction as follows:

The blessing, as spoken by the priest, was not a mere pious wish, but it actually transmitted the divine power of blessing to the people. Every Israelite that believed these words as pronounced upon him went to his home with the blessing of the Lord resting upon him. To this day the members of the congregation are dismissed with the words of this blessing, and should take home with them the merciful goodness of the Triune God, especially the assurance of the forgiveness of their sins.  

Placing the name of God on the congregation means imparting His grace and power.  That is so because The power of God at use among men is His name.  That truth is reflected in how many times God speaks of people relating to Him by calling upon His name.  It seems that the Bible doesn't talk a lot about calling on God, but calling upon His name.  That is reflected in the Second Commandment - that we do not take the name of the Lord in vain.  To use the name of God is to exercise, or attempt to exercise, the power of Almighty God.  This profound spiritual truth may lie behind the pagan belief that you can control someone, or their fate, if you possess their true name.  When Jacob wrestled with God, he asked God what His name was.  Rather than answer, God asked him why he wanted to know and gave Jacob a new name, Israel.

Names have meaning, and in the Bible, significance.  The word "name" appears in Scriptures 865 times.  Many of those are just used for names, but many of them speak of people coming to worship God as calling upon His name.  God even says, "in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you." Such is the significance and power of His name.  That passage from Exodus 20 is the reason I teach that the full, formal name of God among us is the Bible itself.

The name of God as revealed among us is not just a simple word.  The Prophet Isaiah said in chapter 9, verse 6, And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  And when God promised the birth of Samson He asked Manoah, Samson father, But the angel of the LORD said to him, "Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?"  The New Living translation translated that answer as, "you wouldn't understand it if I told you."  So we know the name of God as "I am who I am" Or LORD, and as Jesus, because the name is significant and powerful, Luke 2:21  And when eight days were completed before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.  

The name of Jesus will bring every knee to bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and to confess Him as LORD.  So when we deal with the name of God, we are dealing not just with a mere vocable, a spoken word, but with God Himself and with all of His power.  That is why the benediction is so much more than just a blessing at the end of the service.

The promise of God is that when we speak that benediction to the people of God, we place His name upon them, with all that power, and He will come to them and bless them. If you could feel what is happening, you would tingle all over at the invocation of the name of God upon you, but we walk, by God's choice, by faith and not by sight - or any other sensory input.

And the best blessing is that which we know comes with the name of God:  Acts 4:12 "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved."

The name of God brings us forgiveness, life and salvation.  It carries with it all of the blessings that Jesus has won for us – to be received by those who know it and believe.  For us, the name of salvation and the name of forgiveness and the name of God is Jesus Christ, but that name contains and conveys the name revealed on Mount Sinai, and spoken in the benediction.

This Sunday is celebrated in the Church  as the day of the Circumcision of Jesus, and the day on which He was formally named Jesus.  That is why this Old Testament Lesson is appointed for this day, that we may hear and remember the way that God has commanded that His name be invoked upon His people in the times before Christ - and that all His blessing be poured out upon His people - Just as we do when we invoke His name in the New Testament way – – the way I close ever sermon:

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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