Mr. Spock, of Star Trek fame, would raise his hand and say “Live long and prosper.”
This “Vulcan salute,” as it has come to be called, was invented on the set of Star Trek by actor Leonard Nimoy during the filming of the second-season opener, “Amok Time.” What the people didn’t know was that the Vulcan greeting came from Leonard Nimoy’s real-life Jewish heritage. He took it from the ancient blessing the Jewish Priests would bestow upon the Israelites.
The Bible says,
“Tell Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing: ‘May the LORD bless you and protect you. May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you. May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.’ Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them.” (Numbers 6:23-27 NLT)
The actual blessing is done with both arms held horizontally in front, at shoulder level, with hands touching, to form the Hebrew letter “shin.” This stands for the Hebrew word for “Shaddai”, meaning “Almighty [God].”
With the hand symbol, the priest was putting the name of God on the people, sealing it upon them.
This is a special blessing God wants all of us to receive. This blessing is so important because it covers us completely in every area of our life, spiritually and materially.
This blessing is so specific that God commanded the Priests to bless the people not using their own words, but rather using an exact formulation for the blessing, prefacing the instruction with the words: “Thus shall you bless.”
This reveals that the blessing comes from the LORD Himself; the priests were a means for transmitting His gracious will. Now that we have Jesus, our Messiah, our Savior, we know that He is The High Priest and that His sacrifice has made it possible for us to enter boldly before God.
So today we can pray, petition, and speak blessings knowing that our voice will be heard, and our words will be fruitful before the Lord our Creator, because of Jesus.
As we continue to study the Priestly Blessing we learn that the people accepted the blessing and responded. So how do we receive and respond to a blessing from our Heavenly Father? We anticipate His blessing with a thankful heart and declare that His Word is so. Here is the blessing that the priests recited, along with the response of the people.
PRIEST: May the LORD bless you and protect you.
PEOPLE: Yes, may it be His will.
PRIEST: May the LORD shine His face to you and be gracious to you.
PEOPLE: Yes, may it be His will.
PRIEST: May the LORD turn (or lift up) His face to you and give to you peace.
PEOPLE: Yes, may it be His will.
You may ask, what does a Jewish blessing have to do with me?
The Bible says,
“And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you” (Galatians 3:29 NLT).
So that means that all of God’s blessings are for us to obtain because Jesus paid the ultimate price. Everything he promised pertains to all of His children.
So let us expect the blessings from God and enjoy His goodness. Be thankful for the gift of His Son Jesus, which is His greatest blessing to us each day of our lives.
Job 42:5-6 5My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job had been questioning God, but now it is God’s turn to question Job. The substance of God’s questions asks Job that if he lives in a world full of things beyond his understanding, why should he not be able to figure out what God is presently doing in his life? Such a wonderful Creator should be trusted by His creation to do what is in their best interest.
Job entered into a new relationship with God. Up until that time he had heard of God through lives and stories of others. Now he saw God with his own eyes. He had the same reaction that everyone does. He saw the holiness of God and by contrast, his wretched condition. But didn’t God say Job was righteous? No, God said there was no one on earth like him (1:8). Compared to other men he is blameless and upright. Compared to God he is a sin sick man with a sin-infested nature. Job learned genuine humility from this encounter. The manifest presence of God blows away any deception ideas of our own goodness. We need God’s manifest presence in the church today to see our real condition.
God restored everything that Job had lost, and then doubled it. There is one notable exception. He had as many children as he originally had. Why is that? Why weren’t they doubled? Besides being hard on his wife, they really were doubled. He never lost the first set of children. They merely moved to heaven before Job died. He now has twenty children, even though ten are in heaven. Things are not always as they appear. The book of Job is an exhortation to trust God no matter what you are going through.
Consider: You may never know the reasons for certain trials and struggles, but you can be sure your Creator’s character is impeccable. God will see you through, if you will continue to trust in Him.
The God of Difficult Places
“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’” Genesis 16:13 (NIV)
I thought it was going to be a normal phone call.
The tone in her voice let me know this conversation was going to be anything but normal. We bypassed small talk about the weather and current events and took a deep dive into the primary reason for the conversation. “I have cancer,” my mom said.
Those were three words I did not expect her to say ever again. She was an eight-year breast cancer survivor and had been declared cancer-free. “This is not supposed to be happening,” I thought to myself.
It felt shocking and unreal to hear those words come from her mouth. My initial response was anger with God. How could You allow this? I said in my head. Then I reviewed the facts.
My mom needed support, but I am an only child.
My mom needed me to be close to her, but I lived in a different state.
And my mom was in her late 70s and still had a lot of life ahead of her.
The situation seemed so unfair. I felt alone, abandoned and betrayed as I grappled with the news of her diagnosis.
Everything in me wanted God to just make it go away.
In the Bible, there is another woman whose situation seemed unfair.
In Genesis Chapter 16, we are introduced to Hagar. She was the Egyptian maidservant of Sarai (Sarah), wife of Abram (Abraham). Sarai was battling infertility, and as a result, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her” (Genesis 16:2a-b, NIV).
Abram agreed to go along with Sarai’s plan, and Hagar conceived a son named Ishmael. Scripture says when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she despised her mistress. Some translations say that Hagar treated Sarai with contempt.
Then Sarai blamed Abram: “I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me” (Genesis 16:5b, NIV). Sarai then mistreated Hagar, and Hagar fled, attempting to escape the difficult circumstances in her life. As I faced my mother’s diagnosis, I could relate.
At this point, I imagine Hagar felt used, betrayed, isolated and mistreated. She must have felt that her situation was so unfair. Then in Genesis 16:7, “The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert …” (NIV).
Many theologians believe that the angel of the Lord was the Lord in angelic form. Hagar was so valued by God that He came and spent time with her. God did not have to look for her because we know that He is omniscient. I believe the pursuit was for Hagar’s benefit. He wanted her to know she was worth looking for.
He wanted her to know that she was seen and loved by God.
The angel of the Lord pursued, engaged and listened to Hagar. He then instructed her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her” (Genesis 16:9, NIV).
God did not rescue Hagar from her plight. He did not swoop down and remove her from the situation. This is an expectation I have had in my difficult places. I have longed for God to step in and save me from everything hard in my life, instantaneously making all things wonderful and new. Here we see that this was not God’s plan.
Sometimes God will rescue us from difficult places and sometimes He will sustain us in the midst of them. He is still a loving God in both scenarios.
In verses 9-10, the angel of the Lord says, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her … I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count” (NIV).
He is saying, “In the midst of the place where you feel broken, isolated, abandoned and afraid, that is where I am going to bless you.” As a result, Hagar says, “‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me’” (Genesis 16:13).
Hagar reminds us all of God’s tangible love when we are suffering, alone, broken or afraid. She reminds us to see God seeing us in our difficult places. I imagine her saying:
“Even though life is hard, I see God seeing me.”
“Even though I feel alone, I see God seeing me.”
“Even though I’m scared and broken, I see God seeing me.”
She knew God was El Roi, the God who sees.
He remains the same God today. He sees you and me as we walk through our difficult places. He is God enough to sustain us in the midst of them.
My mom continues to undergo cancer treatment. God did not swoop down and save her from her illness. He is, however, sustaining and blessing us both in the midst of this difficult place.