New American Standard Bible (NASB)
24 The Lord bless you, and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.’
The Message (MSG)
24 God bless you and keep you,
25 God smile on you and gift you,
26 God look you full in the face
and make you prosper.
There is a reason for posting two translations of this verse. I will make that point in a bit.
First, though, I want to make it clear that I now know why writers carry with them notepads, bits of paper, napkins and other material to which ink will adhere. Writing can be an immediate medium, a demanding voice that must be acknowledged immediately lest its message be lost in the fast-paced swirl of daily life. And this is how I learned that lesson.
If you have not read “Undaunted”, the story of Josh McDowell’s life, I urge you to do so. it is a very fast, easy read that tells the story of this apologist-author and his heart for young people. And it was this book…one sentence actually…that hit me in the gut. Josh tells the story of a man who came to speak at his church. In the message this gentleman asked everyone to come and offer themselves and what they have to God. Josh was unable to do this because he felt he had nothing to give God that was of any value.
Am I the only one who understands that feeling? I read that part over and over again. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I would have done the same thing. What have I to offer God? Certainly He doesn’t want my disobedience. My willful spirit. My cold, hard heart. I asked God to show me what He wanted. Nothing. There was nothing I could “hear” being spoken to my spirit. That, of course, confirmed to me that no gift of mine was really worth giving to my King. Honestly, what do we have that is?
It wasn’t until later that day that He spoke. My heart wasn’t hard. It was withered. It was dying. It was a dark, fetid mass that did little but take up space in my chest. And that worthless piece of flesh was what my God, my Beloved King, my Savior, wanted from me. I held my breath and pulled over to the side of the road. Seriously, having The Lord reveal something while you are driving is worse than texting and driving!
I looked for something to write on. I always have something. I was a journalist for eight years professionally and for two years in college before that. Paper and I are the best of friends. But there was none in the car.
I committed the moment to memory, knowing the odds of holding onto the emotions and the absolute astonishment of the moment was unlikely.
The next morning Gerry spoke on the above verses of Scripture – the Aaronic Blessing. He shared that, when the Scripture says “The Lord bless you,” it is written as if God is coming before us with a gift. Picture this…the God of Heaven’s Armies gets on one knee and, out of an indescribable love for us, reaches out His arms, in which He holds His perfect, sinless infant son, Jesus. “Here”, He tells us, “I ask you to accept this gift from me in exchange for you.”
Oh, beloved, my heart literally started racing. God spoke! He offered up His son, Messiah Jesus, for my sad, dead heart. By accepting the gift, the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life created in me a new heart. Hallelujah!
I couldn’t stop the tears. How can you not cry when you have the tiniest glimpse into the heart of God? The revelation of a love so intense that it can devour and consume you must generate a response!
Days later I went to serve at the local Community Thanksgiving Dinner. I confess that I am a snob. I will serve but it will be because I want folks who are less fortunate than I am to see what a gift I am to them. Ah, humility! But this day was different. I did not announce to anyone I was there. I walked in and started picking up trash and empty plates from the tables. The more I gathered, the more my heart ached. I have no problem cleaning up after people…gathering plates with bits of congealed gravy clinging to remnants of a roll, or picking up dirty napkins and cups, some of which must have served as spittoons from the looks of their contents. Typically I never feel much of anything.
But looking around, seeing those precious souls sitting along those lunch tables, God let me experience a human portion of His love for them. The thin, wiry man with gray hair standing on end had one good eye and a milky orb for the other. When he laid his head down on his arms, God showed me the sorrow that filled this man.
A tiny, bird-like woman sat at the long lunchroom style table behind him. Her gnarled, arthritic hands were carrying food to her mouth as quickly as they could, making me think she was afraid someone had placed a limit on the amount of time she had to fill her stomach. God showed me that she and hunger were intimate acquaintances.
Time and again God revealed to my heart that these children held His heart in a special way. Yes, the poor will always be with us, but God will take these who are last and make them first. Those who are poor in Spirit … and there were many of them in that room …will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3), provided they accept the gift that God offers them.
I had to step outside so no one would see me crying. My heart was breaking for these lambs. I went back in as the man with one eye was leaving. As he passed me, I thanked him for coming and told him that God had great love for him. He looked at me, then looked away and walked out the door. I pray he will find that truth in his heart. Just as I have in mine.