One of the core blessings for God’s people, the nation of Israel and Christians through the blood of Jesus, is the Aaronic blessing.
It was given in Numbers 6:24-26:
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord smile upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show His favor to you and give you His peace.
God gave it as a direct instruction to Moses to give to Aaron to bless the people of Israel for it was a special blessing and he promised:
Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in My name, I myself will bless them.
That is an awesome promise.
I love the words, and the promise.
One of the pastors at my church gives the benediction. It is always powerful, but I especially like when he gives the Aaronic blessing in closing. I walk away knowing that I’ve been blessed and ready for my week.
I also love how it pops up here and there in secular culture. It was part of the marriage ceremony of Kate and William this past year. But I think one of the coolest stories of its integration into the fabric of our culture is Star Trek and Leonard Nimoy.
Mr. Nimoy is Jewish, and he related the memory of going to temple with his father and peeking out from under the prayer shawl and looking up to see the priest raising his hands over the congregation giving the Aaronic blessing.
As he was preparing for his new role of Spock, the Vulcan, in the Star Trek series, he took half of the blessing and posture and turned it into the iconic Vulcan greeting. One hand up in the position of the Priestly Blessing along with the words, “Live Long and prosper.”
Live long – May the Lord bless you and keep you.
And prosper – May the Lord smile upon you and be gracious to you.
It’s a cool thing, and it came from the impression made on him when he was looking up.
And I think David looked up a lot too.
We think of David as the great king of Israel, the Lion of Judah. The one who was given the blessing and promise that the Messiah, Jesus, would come from his house.
But this has always troubled me a little.Yes, he was a great man, but he also had some great big mistakes.
His actions were the cause of a devastating plague that swept across Israel.
He was an adulterer for which, according to Jewish law, he should have been stoned.
To add insult to injury, he ordered the death of the injured husband, Uriah the Hittite, so he wouldn’t be found out.
If that wasn’t bad enough, this man, Uriah the Hittite, was one of David’s Thirty, one of his “Mighty Men.”
These were the men that were with him when he was in exile and fleeing Saul’s army.
They were his core group, the most loyal, the most committed.
And this man that he betrayed was so committed that he wouldn’t even visit his own home when sent to court with a message from the front lines because his fellow men, his brothers, were still in battle.
This was the man that David betrayed and had killed.
How vile is that?
How could he possibly be someone who God said was “after his own heart?”
It was troubling.
If you’ve read the gospel of John and compared it to the other three, you know what I’m talking about. Over and 0ver, John unabashedly asserts that he is the one Jesus loves. Over and over he says,
Jesus loves me!
He was one of 12, the twelve disciples.
He was one of three, the three that were in the Garden of Gethesemane where Jesus went to pray the night before he was crucified.
And he was the one that Jesus asked to look after his own mother.
He always wanted to be with Jesus, to be near him, to be close to his heart and feel his love. He knew that Jesus loved him and he wanted to bask and dwell in it.
I think this is the reason he was the first one to believe in a risen Christ.
There were a lot of people who followed Jesus. There were the twelve disciples, the two Mary’s, as well as others. They all followed him. They heard the words. He told them what to expect. But for most of them, it was just words. They had no idea the reality of what was to come.
When they went on that Sunday morning, that third day, and they couldn’t find the body it was chaos. They were freaking out and thought his body had been stolen.
Except for John.
John 20:3-10 says that he and Simon Peter ran to the tomb. John got there first and saw the empty linen wrappings. It says,
. . . he saw and believed for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.
He was the first Christian. The first person to realize that Jesus had risen from the dead and believed.
I think he was able to believe before he actually saw the risen Christ because he had spent the last three years experiencing Jesus’s love.
He wasn’t for glory or position like some of the other disciples were before the resurrection. He was after the heart of Christ, he wanted the love of Jesus.
And I think he spent a lot of time looking up.
He looked up into the heavens when he was watching his flocks by night. I can imagine him looking up at the stars and playing his harp, singing to God and his sheep.
He was secure in the knowledge that God was with him and wouldn’t leave him. He knew God loved him. He knew God’s heart.
Before David was anointed to be the next king of Israel, he was just the youngest of eight sons and assigned to the job of shepherd. This job went to the low man on the totem pole. Since David was the youngest, a change in his circumstances wasn’t in the foreseeable future.
In the description of his brothers in 1 Samuel, it sounds like they were an impressive looking bunch. Samuel certainly thought so.
I wonder if David ever had feelings of futility, insecurity, and restlessness. I’m sure that he did.
He must have had a lot of conversations with God while looking up at the stars and worked it all out.
Because by the time he met up with Goliath and the Philistines, he was already secure in the belief that God would deliver him and that no one could prevail against the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
While he was out in the fields alone with his flocks, God had protected him against a lion and a bear, so what was this human, regardless of size or power, to compare?
By the time he was called to Saul’s court as a harpist and armor bearer, he had already learned how to actively wait in God’s will and for him to deliver his promise.
This was a boy who had been pulled out of the fields one day, anointed as the next King of Israel by God’s prophet, and then sent back out to tend sheep.
When he was called to Saul’s court, instead of taking matters into his own hands and striving to bring about that promise on his own like others have done, he actively waited.
He served Saul to the best of his ability. He did all he could do for him. Not only did he serve Saul, but he loved him and his family like his own. Saul’s son Jonathan was closer to him than his own brothers.
He served God, and in turn Saul, with all his heart. When Saul parted ways with God, David still served God.
When in exile and on the run, he looked up and cried out for deliverance. He knew from where his salvation came.
After his victories, David looked up and praised God in abundant exuberance.
After David became king and after his mistakes, his often huge mistakes, he looked up and cried out to God for forgiveness and thanked God for his mercy. He said,
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you.
He made mistakes. He did some of the worst things a person can do.
But God doesn’t require perfection from us.
He wants a desire after his heart.
He wants us to draw closer to him and to look up so that we can experience his love.
Because this little shepherd boy had his heart open to God and understood that his safety and his prosperity came from God and the true meaning of the Aaronic blessing, 1,000 years later some other little shepherd boys who were watching and waiting were the first to hear the news about the birth of the Messiah.
They looked up, saw the angels and the glory of the Lord and heard the words:
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
~ Luke 2:10-11