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Naso (Take) Num/B’midbar 4:21-7:89

 Naso (Take) Numbers/B’midbar 4:21-7:89

Haftorah Reading: Judges 13:2-25

Messianic Scripture  John 7:53-8:11, Acts 21:17-32

This week we read the portion named Naso. When you read this portion you will find it filled with details of the gifts brought by each family head. However, buried in these details we read the verses laying out a prayer. This prayer was given by G-d to Moshe to be used by the priests to speak over the people. This is what I want us to spend our time on today. The verses are found in Numbers 6:22-27.

First a little story of a discovery concerning this prayer made in Jerusalem in 1979. This also was the year Jean and I arrived in Israel and began our own discovery that still is going on today.  In 1979 during an archeological dig in Jerusalem, where today stands the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, a thirteen year old boy was helping a team of archeologist. As the group was packing up to leave the boy continued to explore. In his searching he found artifacts buried under the floor where they had been working. As a result the team found, among other things, two tiny silver scrolls measuring about one inch high.  It took the team two years of painstaking effort to find a way to unroll the scrolls without destroying the contents. When opened, they found the verses of the priestly blessing inside. These scrolls were written and buried around the time of Jeremiah the prophet, just before the destruction of the first temple. They date hundreds of years earlier than the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

The words found in these scrolls, the priestly blessing, are remarkable in themselves. The prayer consists of only fifteen words. Those words are precise. In the original Hebrew the first line has three words, the second line has five words and the final line consists of seven words. This prime number pattern has special significance throughout the books of Moses. Even the number of letters in each line are set out in much the same way. The first line contains fifteen letters, the second line has twenty letters and the final line twenty-five letters. This exact prayer is and has been in use for as much as three thousand years.

Now let’s look at the words to see what they say to us today. “The L-rd bless you and protect you.” This blessing was looked at as a blessing for material blessings. G-d created the material world and in it is where G-d’s blessings are to be found. However, material blessings can sometimes dull our sensitivity toward G-d. When we have more material blessings we often become less likely to see it as G-d’s blessing but rather as our own accomplishment. Deut. 8:11-17 speaks of this tendency in our lives. We become more motivated by wanting more and less compassion and concern for others. 

This brings us to the last part of this verse.  It seems G-d in His wisdom is warning us that this blessing can become a curse if we allow our eyes and spirit to be blinded to the source of our blessings.

Next we come to the second line of our text. “The L-rd make His face to shine upon you , and be gracious to you.” First let’s look at the meaning of grace. We see a good explanation in Proverbs 3:3-4. This word is used to stress the point of being able to see the best in others and to seek the best for them. It encourages us to think outside ourselves. The beginning of this verse speaks of the L-rd making His face to shine upon us. His presence should be evident in how we live and interact with the people we come in contact with each day. Our very existence should testify to our faith.

The third line speaks of G-d turning His face toward us and giving us peace. To project peace to those we see we must be at peace with ourselves. We must be able to understand the depth of G-d’s love for us and how much He values us. We are here because it is His will that we be here. Unlike the world, G-d never gives up on us. He never loses faith in us no matter how many times we fall. When we fall He lifts us up again. He believes in us even when we have given up on ourselves.

The most important recognition of value we have is how much G-d loves each of us. He loves us independent of any image the world expects from us. He knows us completely. He made us and put us in this world to do His will. With Him we don’t need to perform, for He made us. So when G-d turns His face toward us He sees His child and He gives us peace.

In the concluding verse of our reading we also see a profound truth. We must always remember that we have no power over G-d. He is not our puppet to invoke whenever we feel the need. We are to be G-d’s person wherever we are and do His will not being concerned about anything else.

In our verses today it is important for us to read these verses as G-d’s will for each of us as we live our lives as His people and He will take care of the rest. All He requires of us is to be His people. He has promised us protection, grace and peace. That is more than enough as we reflect His face to the people we meet every day. Bless each of you today and every day in the name of the L-rd.