By Michael Smith
Reading from Numbers, 6:22-27
22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23“Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, 24“The Lord bless you and keep you; 25the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 26the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”’ 27So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
This week we will be reading from the book of Numbers, recounting the forty years when God’s people wandered in the desert between the time of their slavery in Egypt and their arrival in the land of freedom promised by God to Abraham and his descendants. It was a time used by God to purify and prepare this chosen people to become a blessing for all the peoples of the earth. Here the worship of the permanent temple in Jerusalem was begun in the temporary tabernacle of the wilderness sojourn. In today’s reading, Aaron the High Priest is instructed by God through Moses in the formula for blessing the Israelites in what has come to be known by us as the Aaronic or priestly blessing.
In these days of COVID-19 and racial unrest, we are well aware that we have not yet entered the Promised Land, but continue to struggle in the confusing and formative days of the desert wandering. Although we do not know what the future holds, we trust that God has not given up on us, but continues to purify us so that we too might become a blessing for all the peoples of the earth. Like God’s people of old, our ancestors in faith, we seek and yearn for divine blessings of protection, favor, grace, and peace.
Sometimes these blessings come from unexpected places. I personally encountered a word of practical wisdom for these days of purification from a Facebook meme: “Treat racism like COVID-19. Assume you have it. Change your behavior. And don’t spread the disease.” Let us press on with God’s help and blessing.
The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith served as Bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma. He and his wife, the Rev. Lisa White Smith, are the parents of three grown children and grandparents of nine.
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