“The Blessing of His Name”
Circumcision and Name of Jesus, January 1, 2017
The Blessing of His Name
Text: Numbers 6:22–27
Today, as we begin a new year, think about the day you were born. You were completely dependent on your mom and dad for every aspect of your life. They did the work to provide food for you; they fed you. They changed your diapers, provided a home for you, comforted you when you cried, and protected you from harm and danger. It’s estimated that the cost of raising a child these days is two hundred fifty thousand dollars. Yet, you never received a bill for their work on your behalf. Why? It’s because you belong to them; you have their name.
It’s the same with you in your relationship to God. Think about the day you were baptized. Whether baptized as an infant or as an adult, you were and are utterly and totally dependent on God for every aspect of this new life that was won for you through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not only did God do all the work to make it possible for you to be saved; He does all the work necessary to make that salvation yours. He did the work of saving you by His death and resurrection. He does the work of delivering this salvation to you through the proclamation of His Word and the administration of His Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. He washed the “dirty diapers” of your sin in Holy Baptism and continues to wash them clean every time you return to those waters as you confess your sins and receive absolution. He hears your prayers and comforts you with His Word. He feeds you with His very body and blood. He has made His house your home.
The life with God and one another you now have in the family of God cost Jesus His life. Yet, you will never receive a bill from Him. Why? It’s because you belong to Him; you have His name. All this comes as a result of being given God’s name. That’s what we see on this day of the circumcision and naming of our Lord, that
God Blesses Us with Everything He Is and Has through His Name.
God gives His blessings through—and only through—His name. This day matters—perhaps more than we realize—and I’m not just talking about New Year’s. On this day, one week after Christmas, or, by Hebrew counting, eight days after Jesus’ birth, the baby Jesus was circumcised, as all good Jewish boys were. On that occasion, He was also given His name, also according to custom. That’s very significant, because He was given the name God had given Him, as His angel had instructed both Mary and Joseph (Lk 2:21). Jesus, God’s own Son, was given God’s name.
And remember what God’s name given to His Son means (Mt 1:21). Jesus means “Savior.” It’s no coincidence that on this day when Jesus was named, He was also circumcised; the first drops of His blood were shed, a sign (a foreshadowing) of the spilling of all His blood yet to come on the cross.
Having God’s name means having a special relationship with God, just as having our parents’ name means we have a special relationship with them. Let me try and explain this. Every religion in the world except Christianity treats God as if He were our employer. The idea is that we render our services to God and He pays us accordingly. At the workplace, you’re compensated for the work you do. In other words, you earn your pay. However, if you’re unable to do the work expected of you or if you do a lousy job, you’ll be demoted or even fired. If we treat God as if we expect Him to be our employer, we wouldn’t even qualify to “hire on” with His “company.” Why? Because of who He is and what He expects. Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). The apostle Paul reminds us that we are far from perfect when he says that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).
You don’t earn your salvation. You don’t earn it first and foremost because of the fact that the one true God revealed in Jesus Christ is not your employer; He’s your Father. As this year we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it’s worth noting that this is exactly what the Reformation was about. It was about how God loves you not because of what you do or don’t do but for who you are, His child. He has put His name on you so you are a member of the family of God and will enjoy the blessings of God in Christ throughout eternity (Num 6:27).
Looking back on the past year, we know how often we’ve been unworthy of this name. We’ve yelled at drivers who cut us off on the Broadway Raceway. We said bad things about the people who ran for president. We got grumpy putting presents together.
As a Father, God does not ignore His children’s sins, but exposes them, so that we not only see our need of forgiveness, but that we would look to Him to receive it. Through the shed blood of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, He forgives the sins of those who bear, who have, who carry His name. remember what Peter said, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
But “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Gal 3:26). God gives His blessings to us by putting His name on us. Last night, we all celebrated an ending—perhaps in some pretty festive ways—but today and every Sunday we’ll hear an ending even more worthy of celebration! You know the words very well: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (vv 24–26). In the wilderness, for the children of Israel, the Lord authorized Moses to deliver the blessings of His name by those words.
God authorizes His servants today to do the same thing, to put His name with all its blessings on us. The Lord tells us pastor type people to speak those familiar words of the Benediction, the way we end our service every week. And when a pastor does this, the Lord promises, “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (v 27). Did you catch that? “I will bless them.” When God’s name is placed on us, God himself blesses us: “I will bless them,” He says.
And when I, your Pastor, speak God’s name on you, this blessing is a certainty: “I will bless them,” God says. All of your sins of this past year are forgiven. The bad words in the car, the bad words spoken of the politicians, the grumpies whenever they happen. All the sins we’ll surely commit in the year ahead are forgiven. God will bless us! By His name!
Every time you call on the name of God, whether through your pastor in the Divine Service or in your daily prayers, you have God’s ear, and He gives the blessings of His name. The Divine Service today began in His name, and during this time that God has brought us together, our Lord Jesus Christ has served us the blessings of His name through His Word and will do so again with His very body and blood. These blessings include His forgiveness, goodness, His life that conquers death, and His peace that surpasses all understanding. Before you leave, He will bless you one more time as He sends you out so that the blessing of His name has its way in your everyday lives.
Sound good? In His name.