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Worship Theme: Picture-Perfect God
- Blessed Assurance
- CW 483 Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty
- VBS He's Got the Whole World In His Hands
- CW 930 Go, My Children, with My Blessing
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Message: Picture-Perfect God
Pastor Jake Schram
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s a cliché, but it makes sense because you can get a lot out of a single picture. Let me show you.
Sometimes a picture can remind you of someone who has been lost. This picture is from the youth group I attended in high school. I’m in the Cookie Monster shirt. Next to me was one of our adult chaperones named Corey. He’s in the Oscar the Grouch shirt. Corey passed away peacefully in his sleep around the young age of 40. Corey loved rock music, had tattoos up and down both arms. Needless to say, all of us teens loved him. Most importantly, he had an extremely strong faith and was a great example for all of us. It’s sad that he’s gone, but the memories I have of him are attached to this picture. Definitely more than a thousand words in this picture.
Sometimes a picture can be used as proof of something when people don’t believe you (show pictures of muscles, breakdancing, and monkey from the zoo pressing hand against the glass to mirror mine).
Sometimes a picture can be used to show something beautiful like this picture of the Grand Canyon.
Sometimes a picture can be used to show a person’s personality/identity. From these next three you can probably get a pretty good idea of mine (Funny Spoonbridge and Cherry picture, imagining an upside-down cardboard box as a car picture, and gorilla statue picture).
Sometimes a picture can be used to remember a special moment in time (friends picture during college years, MLC graduation, a date, marriage).
There are also things you’d probably never want to have a picture of. I doubt many of you keep pictures of the times life was overwhelming and you cried in a corner. I doubt many of you keep around the pictures of when you look your worst. And yet they too are a snapshot of real life, just as real as the good pictures.
The Israelites in the book of Numbers do not create a pretty picture. If you don’t know what the book of Numbers is, it’s the fourth book in the Bible. Before the book of Numbers takes place, one of the previous three books, Exodus, describes how God led his people out of slavery from Egypt. He did all sorts of miracles including parting the Red Sea. He led his people with power and wisdom through a guy named Moses. And when the people asked for God’s commands, he wrote out for them The Ten Commandments. You may have even seen movies portraying these great events. They were majestic acts of deep love by God on behalf of his people. The book of Numbers tells us how the Israelites react to all of this. You would expect love and thankfulness to God for all he has done for them. Instead, the book of Numbers portrays their grumbling and their rebellion against God as they break commandment after commandment. Like I said, it’s not a pretty picture. God knows ahead of time exactly what terrible things his people are going to do to him.
And yet, he gives them a picture of hope. Starting in Numbers 6:22, the LORD says to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:…” Before we go any further, I want to remind you of who is talking here. It’s the LORD (all capital letters). This is the name used for God when emphasizing his free and faithful love. God is still just, but look at the love involved in the name used here. Exodus 34:6-7 describes it like this: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” God is showing the Israelites love, even knowing the terrible mess ups they are going to have in the future. God’s next words are going to show that. Maybe these words sound mighty familiar to you. The words are:
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 turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’
Today is actually a day of the church year called Holy Trinity Sunday. It’s not usually a day where we light off fireworks or open presents, but it is important anyway because it shows us who our God is. Trinity is not a word found in the Bible, but we use it to describe what is found in the Bible. Trinity means three in one and the Bible shows us that God is three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in one God. In these verses God is going to give us a picture of this. We’re going to break these verses down into three snapshots to better see each person of our one God.
The first snapshot says, “The LORD bless and keep you;” When you look in the OT, blessings were often given by the Father to his children. And any good father should strive to bless and keep his children safe. So, it makes sense that we are talking about God, the Father here. And think of all the ways God, the Father blesses us. Martin Luther described it like this. God blesses us by, “richly and daily providing clothing and shoes, food and drink, property and home, spouse and children, land cattle and all I own, and all I need to keep my body and life.” The Bible says it a little more simply, “God opens up his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145:16).”
Think about how many blessings we have. Just this morning, I woke up from the alarm on my smartphone. That’s right. The device many of us have that can call anyone anywhere, entertain us, and look up information in a split second such as how to fix the kitchen sink. Then I picked out my clothes because I’m blessed enough to have multiple clothes to pick from. I didn’t have breakfast (don’t worry, I’ll make up for it later), but some of you might have had the blessing of food this morning. Then I drove in my car, this amazing contraption that allows me to travel at high speeds from one place to another to go be with people I care about. And we get to worship together in a country that gives us the freedom to do so. When you put it in the right perspective even our regular days sound incredibly blessed.
Let’s try something together. I want you to picture yesterday in your mind. It might have been a great day. It might have been an absolutely terrible day. Either way, let’s just take 10 seconds to see if we can find blessings in it. Go. Did you find any? I bet you did. We are given so much that often we forget the blessings we have because they are so common-place to us. God the Father continues to give us undeserved gifts like these simply because he is the LORD (all capital letters) of free and faithful love.
I want to tack on the other part quickly as well because it’s important to draw attention to. The Father also keeps us. He keeps us from evil, often in ways we don’t see. He sometimes even keeps us with tough times as he can use those things to strengthen us. He promises he will use both the good things in life and the bad things in life for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). On top of this he keeps many of us safe from this world into the picture perfect ending of heaven.
The second snapshot of our text says “The LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;” Do you know what grace is? It’s undeserved love. If you’ve ever been out buying groceries and you forgot your wallet or purse, that’s your fault. You forgot. If the person behind you says, “I’ve got you covered” that is grace. You didn’t earn it or deserve it, but someone did it anyway. Can you even imagine the wrongs God has seen each and every one of us do? I’m not talking about things like forgetting a wallet or purse any more. I’m talking about being selfish in your marriages. I’m talking about not respecting your parents. I’m talking about leading your kids down the wrong path. I’m talking about blatant and obstinate sins against God again and again. God can see all this. He sees we don’t compare to the perfection he wants us to have. God even said in the Old Testament, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God am holy (Leviticus 19:2).” In the New Testament he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).” God doesn’t owe us a single thing.
This is where grace comes in (this is the good part). We ascribe this grace to the second person of the Trinity, Jesus. On the first day of VBS we repeated something very important from 1 Timothy 1:15 again and again. We said, “Jesus came into this world to save sinners.” And thank God for that. How clearly we see God’s love for us in the work of our redeemer. He gave his life up in exchange for all of us. And then rose again to prove his and our victory over sin and death. This deep profound love reaches us even when we deserve it least. In this way God’s face shines upon you. His light covers every single sin. When he looks at you, he sees family.
The third snapshot says, “The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” In this third part we see the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit bring it all together. The greatest miracle is that the Holy Spirit can make spiritually dead hearts spiritually alive. This happens through hearing the gospel. This is how it all connects. Through his Word, the Holy Spirit creates faith that trusts the promises Jesus gives us. That’s why we want to hear as much of the Word as possible. It creates and strengthens saving faith. As our text says, it puts his name on us and blesses us.
And this will bring us peace. The Father blesses and keeps. The Son saves as his face shines and his grace is shared. The Holy Spirit turns his face towards people and creates faith. This faith latches onto the promises and blessings of God and we have peace. And this peace is more than just the absence of war. It is a positive state of rightness and well-being. Such peace comes only from the Lord. This is near and dear to our church. After all, one of the Hebrew variations for the word peace is pronounced “Salem.” This isn’t just some sort of wishful thinking like, “I wish these things happen.” All of these blessings we just heard are more than that. The Israelites believed these words and went to their home with the blessing of the Lord resting upon them. You too take home the merciful goodness of the Triune God.
God, in his Word, has painted us a picture, more vivid than the ones I showed you at the beginning of the sermon. In the beginning, I said a picture can be used to remember someone who’s passed. God’s picture shows us how through Christ we can be with our loved ones even after death. In the beginning, I said a picture can be used to show proof. God’s picture offers us proof that our sins are forgiven. That he tossed aside the bad pictures in which our morality was a bit blurry or maybe we had the wrong focus. Through Jesus, our bad pictures are deleted and remembered no more. At the beginning, I said a picture can be used to show something beautiful. What could be more beautiful than God’s kingdom and the paradise he shows in his picture. At the beginning, I said a picture can show someone’s personality or perhaps even identity. God’s picture shows us you are a redeemed child of God. Your identity is unshakable in him. In the beginning, I said how a picture could be used to capture a special moment. God’s picture creates special moments in you and one another as the Holy Spirit works on you through his Word. God is truly your picture perfect God. And he’s got a spot for you in the glorious picture he paints. Amen.